I got myself four paintings. I got the Bride in the Mirror and the Woman in a Coat. In the room where we sat, there were two large portraits hanging from the wall, other heirlooms for the grandchildren. They depicted a woman and man dressed in traditional costumes from Uzdin, with all the details carefully represented. The Bride and The Groom. I gave Sofia time to think about whether she wanted to sell them, she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to remake them, but she finally decided to entrust them to me. I’m not going to talk about the prices, they were neither big, nor small. It was the best memory I could have from here. I left Uzdin with two paintings in my trunk. I was going to come back in September for The Bride and The Groom.
It wasn’t easy to cross the border. In fact, I couldn’t cross. I didn’t have an invoice for the paintings, I also had Gustav, the 4-month-old cat in the car, and it was not possible to reach any agreement with the gentlemen at the Jaša Tomič customs. Pets can’t pass through this border point. Go to Vrșac. Not to mention that I was late, I had a show that evening. I was told, elegantly, that it was my problem. I never knew how to slip the custom officers money. And the trouble I caused was considerable. It’s hard to get up from your desk when you’re 200 kilos and still be polite.
The irony was that they had already stamped my passport. But just as easily as they had raised the barrier, they also lowered it. What can I say, I was naïve to have two naïve paintings visible in the trunk. I hadn’t thought they would pose a problem. I also found it funny: since I had another option to get out of the country via Vrșac, why would they deny me here? Only to make me drive there? Were they going to call Vrșac? Tell them I had two illegally purchased paintings and an orange cat named Gustav? I didn’t know what to think.
I turned the car around and, just before leaving, I noticed on the other lane, the one entering Serbia, two cars, one with German plates, another one with Ukrainian ones. Two young men and a young woman were standing next to the cars, it was still very hot outside, and, at their feet, a red pet carrier box, with the biggest, most beautiful fluffy grey cat inside. It was staring at me wide-eyed, meowing lazily.
I stopped the car, walked over. I wanted to know what was going on, maybe I could help. Yes, they had passed the Romanian customs, cat and all, their guide was from Germany, hence the plate numbers, but the Serbians at this border point wanted $100 for the cat. Interesting! I advised them to return to Romania and enter Serbia via Vrșac, Stamora-Moravița. Who knows, maybe we would meet there too. They didn’t seem convinced. I left and drove to Vrșac speeding. We crossed the border without any problems, with paintings and cat.
Today, as I write this, it is Ukraine’s birthday, August 24. I happen to be wearing a blue dress and yellow sneakers. I hope the Ukrainian cat is well, I hope we humans will be better too.
Yes, I will manage to get the last two paintings from Sofia Ionașcu in September.
In the meantime, it’s 15 September, I’m on a remote island in Greece, Skyros, I’ve seen dozens and dozens of paintings by Faltaits here, but I’m holding back from purchasing any, The Bride and The Groom are waiting for me in Uzdin. There’s a sunset waiting for me at the Aegean and Alina. See you soon!
Credit foto: Ionuț Suciu
English translation: Cristina Chira