Pavel David Spăriosu Secoșan
I met David at the church in Uzdin. A young, well-built, pious man, with a sweet voice and a permanent smile on his face. When he laughs, you laugh too. He has a little red car, a Zastava. He taught me how to open the church door. The key was the size of my purse. That’s where we agreed to talk. Openly and without a plan. That’s when I realized God was also with us, and the truth and pain of a young man’s life couldn’t be more heartbreaking anywhere else than in a church. As David himself said, you come to church for peace. Nothing should be done in haste on in a hurry.
I knew David would come towards me with great honesty. Just the way he is.
Some people who serve in church really are touched by grace. They have something, that je ne sais quoi, as we say in other contexts…
I was born in the maternity ward in Zrenjanin, but I’ve lived in Uzdin since the first days of my life. My mother is also from here, my father is from Torac, he was a gynecologist. There was a pause and he told me in a low voice: my parents did not live together, how shall I say this, I was not born of a lawful marriage, my parents ended up not marrying, my father married another woman and eventually he got sick and died. So we spent very little time together.
Minute 1:55 of the interview.
My mother was all alone. Doina. 67 years old.
I remember my father, but in fragments. I was about 7. He had a stroke. I didn’t see him again until I was 10. My grandparents came back from America and said it was better for me not to see him like that. That he had lost weight, that he had changed. I regret that I didn’t insist that they take me to see him.
My childhood up to that age was beautiful. Everything changed after that.
In 2003 everything changed. On January 18, my father passed away, and by fall, 10 more people in the family had died. Even on December 31, 2003, we still had a funeral.
The dearest to me of these people was my grandmother on my mother’s side with whom I grew up. Steluța.
My grandparents from Uzdin were called Steluța and Iova Spăriosu.
WHEN ARE WE EATING ICE CREAM?
I went to look for Steluța in the cemetery in Uzdin. Heat and a little of shade. All the thistles clung to my gypsy skirt. I looked at the crosses, many names were erased, many young people, many graves without death dates. I later found out that the company didn’t come to write their final emigration date. It looked like a cemetery full of living people. That is also the place where I hurt my back, nearly sprained my ankle, was told not to put my hand on everything I saw in the cemetery. Two children were riding their bikes. They were pedaling on the rims. The infernal noise of youth in the silence of undated graves. I couldn’t find Steluța. David helped me another time. Instead, we were invited to a funeral reception at Casa Românească. We had a very good soup in a plastic bowl and cozonac with poppy seeds. We couldn’t get away without having beer. I met Iulian David and his wife, Mircea Lupu and Vasile Barbu, aka Baronu (The Barron).
WHEN ARE WE EATING ICE CREAM?
I had been hearing that name ever since I first came here. I had even become afraid to meet him. I realized I had no reason. But I’ll come back to this. You have to meet Pavel David Secoșan. In the meantime, the night I have spent at David and Doina Spăriosu’s house has passed. I’m still smiling after a great night. The dowry chest, the chest of memories has opened. And I had the honour of wearing the clothes of David’s grandmother from Ecka, a village in Serbia, Vojvodina province, where I’ve been for almost a week now.
WHEN ARE WE EATING ICE CREAM?
My father had been married before. His then-wife had a genetic disease that never showed, and their child, my half-brother, inherited it. He was disappointed in life, in not having a healthy child, but God knows why he gives us what he gives us. His wife died, he was left alone with my brother, he met my mother and I came into the world. They really loved each other, but they didn’t get married, not because they didn’t get along, but because my half-brother didn’t care for me. My mother didn’t want to put me in danger. My brother was able to go and do things, he said he was going to kill me. And my mother chose me, at the expense of married life. My mother had me when she was 38 years old and saw me in a dream before I came into the world.
She had loved before, but it hadn’t worked out for her. She always suffered in love. The mentality in Uzdin and in other villages in the forest, as we call them, is of a different kind. They’re very backwards. As our great-great-great-grandfather lived, so we too should live, but that’s not true, the world moves on and progresses. We shouldn’t stick only to bread and lard. They haven’t kept up with the world. My mother was already 32 years old, she had studied technology in Novi Sad, she had already had a big disappointment in love, because she had loved and had been left by her lover. That’s why I said in the beginning, UZDIN IS NOT WHAT IT APPEARS TO BE.
Are you what you appear to be?
I asked David if his mother is ashamed of all these failures. I was thinking of how a woman is perceived in a village. He couldn’t have answered any better: What do you mean?
Not that he didn’t understand. For them, love is an important factor in the making and success of a marriage. But love marriages weren’t something that happened in this place, people looked at wealth, they knew the genetics well, the history of diseases in a family, the decision wasn’t made lightly. David’s grandparents fell in love in time, after they had entered marriage. My grandparents got married young, she was 18 and grandpa was 17, a year younger than her. They knew each other from a young age, from the school in Ecka. When they grew up, their parents talked to each other and the two of them got married. And they had a good life together. There!
Memories with my father, I have too few of those. He came to see me on weekends, he told me stories for hours, I was loved by him, but he wasn’t with me for long. He was respected by the community, he was a doctor. Ion. My father’s name was Ion and my mother’s name, Doina. His parents went to America in the ’60s, they worked there so they could put my father and his brother through school. They both studied medicine in Sarajevo and specialized in Belgrade. In order to be able to support them, they went to America. And they never came back. They would have probably never come back, but since my father died before them, they wanted to be buried next to him, in Torak.
WHEN ARE WE EATING ICE CREAM? Doina asks us.
My half-brother died three years ago. He was sorry after my father died, about what he had said to me, that we didn’t grow up together, but nothing could be made right anymore. I was 4 when my parents wanted to get married and he behaved like he did, he rejected me. But I don’t blame him. He was influenced by others in his family, on his mother’s side, they taught him to be like that. I can’t understand why they would teach him to hate his brother. Afterall, they were from a family of priests, of intellectuals.
I had a great childhood, I had love from my mommy and her parents, my grandparents Steluța and Iova. I still love them now, they never left me, even if they are no longer with us. I was very close to my grandmother. When I remember how she passed away, I still get teary-eyed. I felt the same way, thinking about my grandmother. When grandchildren love their grandmother so much and they’re too young to understand why she’s gone or where she’s gone to.
Were you with Steluța when it happened?
Yes, it was really sudden. It was corn harvest, a Thursday, she made lunch for us, waited for us and everything. On Friday morning, she got sick, and no one realized she was deathly ill. We wanted to take her to the doctor in Covăcița, but she said she would die before she got there. What had happened though, we had sugar in the garage by the sacks from the previous year, when we had had a sugar beet harvest and we had received money for one half of it and sugar for the other half. It was chaos, we didn’t know how to get rid of all that sugar. She wanted to make us some coffee, we had run out of sugar in the house, so she went into the garage and there was the smell of petrol, diesel and everything, and she got sick. The doctor came on Friday evening, and said it was nothing, maybe her nerves, she had had high blood pressure all her life, he told us she needed to relax.
On Sunday it was worse, the ambulance came, the doctor from the village and the doctors from the ambulance didn’t know what to do, because her blood pressure was 116 over 60. She was hypertensive and now her blood pressure was normal to low. They kept telling her that it was a gull bladder problem, a liver problem, but she said to them: Look at my nails, they’ve turned blue, I’m going to die. They took her to the hospital. She was very conscious and alert. When she came out of the house, she looked towards the east, she crossed herself, and when she came down the steps of the house, she looked at Doina and said to her: My daughter, give this child some money, let him go, because I won’t see him anymore, I’m going to die. She sat for a while on the steps, then she said: Let’s go! And the last thing she said from the car was: I’m not sorry I’m dying, I’m just sorry for you. And by morning she was dead.
Were you with her?
No, I wasn’t, I stayed home. Mom called Pančevo hospital, Steluța hadn’t wanted to let her come with her to the hospital, she said she would feel worse with her daughter there. My mom was told that she was feeling fine. We were getting ready to go see her when the postman arrived to our gate, I went over to tell him that we were going to see grandma, that Steluța was in the hospital and mother had called and she was fine.
The postman: She’s dead!
I don’t remember how I got back to the house, I screamed that she was dead, I even went to my cousin’s house, I raised hell. My mother had called the wrong hospital in another town. My grandmother had died at 2:30 that morning. It was a shock to me. Doina still hasn’t forgiven herself for not going to the hospital with her mother. When my grandmother died, a school colleague of my mother, a surgeon, stayed with her until the end and said she was conscious until the last moment.
WHEN ARE WE EATING ICE CREAM? Doina asks us.
Does she still talk to you sometimes? Do you still see her?
You mean grandma, Steluța? She never left, not even now.
How old were you?
I was younger, 6.
Yes, I was very close to her and I loved her, it’s like I was a granddaughter, not a grandson. My father died soon afterwards. She was like a pillar in our family. My grandfather was no longer the man we all knew. Then he got sick too. He suffered for 4 years and then he died too.
That’s how I felt too when my grandmother died. Omama, as I called her. The whole family fell apart.
My mother lost a lot of weight, 6 weeks after grandma’s death, I thought she was going to go too. I pulled her by the sleeve and asked her what she was planning to do. I buried grandma, are you going to leave me too? And she gradually came to it.
I had a grandmother who was very attentive, whole evenings she would hold me on her lap and read me stories, fairy tales. She granted my every wish. She had the gift of storytelling and talking. When she told stories, I could see it before me, I could imagine it.
Do you have a favorite story you remember?
Ileana Cosânzeana, The Story of Țila, Tana Căpitănia ….
And how did she tell you the fairy tale?
She spoke in a different manner, she changed her voice depending on whether it was an old man or an old woman. That was until I was about five. When I grew up and I started remembering things, then it wasn’t fairy tales anymore, it was her childhood and she passed EVERYTHING on to me.
Write them down, okay? So they don’t get lost.
I can help you with that… anything for grandma.
Well, I might need your help.
A new episode is coming sometime of Stories with a Heart.
Photo credit: Răzvan Popa
English translation: Cristina Chira