Stories 2022


– My name is Dorel Pancaricean, born on 10 June 1980. I grew up here and I still live here. I live in the Serbian Banat and I am Romanian. Some people say when we go to Romania that we are Serbs. I feel Romanian. Here in our village there is a school that is up to four grades in Romanian. And that’s why some people went to university in Vârșeț. Those who wanted to study further, up to eighth grade, went there. I didn’t go, to tell you the truth, I didn’t go to the class where you learn Romanian, but I can read, I can write in Romanian, I understand everything very well.

– And how many generations from your family lived here in the village?

– In Hunedoara county there is the village of Panc and Panc Seliște. And they say that that’s where Pancaricean come from. I think they came here about 250 years ago. Yes, I am Romanian. My family, my ancestors, grandparents, great-grandparents came from those parts. Now some are from other areas, but that’s where we come from. 

– Were you born here?

– Yes.

– And your parents were also born here?

– Yes, my grandparents too. My great-grandfather was born in 1903. He’s buried in the cemetery here. My great-grandmother came from Giulvăz. 

– And why did she come here? To get married?

– Yes. She married my ancestor and stayed here. But there are many women  from Romania who came here and got married a hundred years ago.

– Do you know how the husband-wife bond was made? The lady was from Giulvăz and the husband from here. 

– I don’t know exactly, but I asked my grandfather. He told me that we had relatives in Giulvăz. Through relatives they got married. He’s good, he has land, he works the field…

– What were the conditions? The man had to have land? And the lady?

– 90% of the Romanians were engaged in agriculture. Those who didn’t have land emigrated to America. By 1965-70, many left, went to America, Sweden.

– Do you know where they went to America?

– To Florida, to New York, I don’t know where in America. Those who didn’t have a piece of land, those who once worked for the rich, they left. My great-grandfather had people from the village work for him.

– How many acres of land did your grandfather have?

– 45. He needed people for work. And then he had his friend from school, his father worked for us. 

– And after that how many children did they have?

– They had a girl and a boy. 

– And in general families had how many children?

– It depends.

– How many acres of earth you have…

– Some looked at not having two boys, so as not to split the fortune. 

– So boys are called children. And girls are girls.

– Yes. And I mean that was stupid. Now you share the wealth, you have to give the girl 4-5 acres when your daughter gets married. And then they’re left with one child. Or with a boy and a girl. 

– And what year was it? Grandparents were born in…

– 1927. 

– And do you have any family stories from the war?

– I don’t. None from my family went to war. My grandfather was born in 1927, after the war. About the time they deported the Russians, when Tito pulled them out of Yugoslavia.

– So your family wasn’t at the battlefront.

– No. But there are families who died there. 

– And your grandparents were both from the village?

– Yes.

– And they met here in the village… And they had a daughter and a son… And we come to your parents’ generation. 

– Yes.

– What year were they born?

– My father was born in 1947. And my mother in ’49. They are both dead now.

– What you remember about your parents? What was their relationship like, what do you remember about your life at home?

– I’m telling you about my family, I’m not talking about other families. My mother married my father when she was 16. 

– Young. 

– Yes. She didn’t have the proper age for marriage. And then she waited until she was 18. She lived with my father for 52 years. A lot of things that happen now with the wife, that she can’t stay, that she doesn’t get along with the mother-in-law… I’ll tell you the explanation in my house. In the house there lived the mother-in-law, the  great-grandmother and my great-grandfather. 

– So many generations in the same house. 

– Yes. Seven people. You need  to respect them all.

– Who had the most authority?

– My father. My old man, my grandfather, he didn’t have that kind of authority.  When my father was 18 or 20, his father  handed it over to him, to run the house. That’s when they started and they took up farming, because that’s how I lived. They kept livestock, bulls, sheep. But he was the authority in the house. In the evening they talked, tomorrow we have to work this and that, said and done. Oh, I don’t have time, tomorrow I don’t know what. And that’s what I got from my father. If I have to work, I work. But to be honest, I had  to respect him. He knew I smoked. He knew there was no smoking in the house. 

Thirty years they’ve been dealing  tobacco. They grew tobacco and sold it. The state bought it from us, now I can’t tell you exactly what the price was at the time, because I don’t remember, I was a child. The state  came, made a contract with us and in November-December you had to hand it over. And then for that money, while you had tobacco from the first, second, third, fourth quality, that’s how the tobacco was graded. The better the tobacco, the higher the price. And  they also dealt with corn, wheat and sunflowers.

– So you had a large household. 

– Yes, we did. Let me tell you, after the war, in ’47, the war ended in ’45, after the war the state took 16 acres of land from us. Then that was the time in Tito, that you cannot have more than a maximum, 16 acres of land. The rest the state took away. There were those who had even more land, 150-200 acres of land. 

– And the difference from 16 to a hundred and more, the state took it?

– Yes. And cooperative farms were formed. In ’46-’47 they started making cooperatives. 

– And did you have facilities in the cooperative or did you have to give something?

– They took your land, some took your horses.

– Why did they take the horses?

– That’s how the communist system worked.

– Sobaveza was called?

– Yes. 

– And how did your family react?

– You can’t argue with the state. Then you weren’t allowed to talk about the communist system. Just like in Romania. When you got up, they hit you in the head. 

– And in the house you said someone had the authority and was making all the plans. What did the women do? 

– The women did the garden work, the kitchen work, took care of the children. If they had to go digging corn, sunflowers, then they went digging. Now you take the tractor, put the seed in and you’re off. They took me to dig the corn field when I was  12.

– Early.

– There was no choice. Daddy didn’t care, that you went to bed at three, that you went to bed at 12, in the morning you gotta go. In the morning you were on your feet! As the German says: Arbeit!

– And tell me, in  the family relationships, between couples, between grandma and grandpa, did you see a difference until your generation?

– Yeah, big difference.

– In what way?

– Let me tell you honestly, it was known who was old, they respected the old people. Now there’s no respect. My generation still has some.

– In what sense were the elders respected? Did they advise you, did they scold you, did they counsel you?

– If you did something wrong, yes. But you were never allowed to talk back. It was known in the house who the pillar was. 

– And the pillar also made decisions for the family? Decisions of what nature?

– Yes. Everything. If something had to be worked on, it was worked on, if he had to build a house… They sit at the table, they talk, everyone has their own opinions. We sell the corn, we don’t sell it, we keep the wheat, we don’t keep it.

– But the decision was made by the pillar of the house?

– Yes.

– And if the family quarrelled, who made peace?

– There couldn’t have been a quarrel.

– Why?

– They had nothing to fight about. Let me tell you. My father and my mother, they worked the fields, harvested,  then they went to the sea. You weren’t afraid to go to Croatia, to Bosnia-Herzegovina, like now. It didn’t matter  who was Croat, who was Serb, it was Yugoslavia, one country. I know from my father and my uncle, they went to Croatia. The water is very clean, the air is different. They didn’t know then about Turkey, Greece. They went to Croatia.

– How many Romanians are here now?

– About 200.

– How do you explain the fact that before, it didn’t matter who was Serb and who was Croat, how did the conflict started?

– After the Second World War, the population was divided between the Ustaše (nt: Croatian fascist and ultranationalist organization) and the Chetniks (nt: Yugoslav royalist and Serbian nationalist movement). The Serbs were Chetniks, the Ustaše were Croats. And then from those times it remained like that. Some Serbs went as Chetniks, that if they had stayed here, they would have been shot. They also emigrated to Australia, to America. You could see the changes everyday.

– What could you see?

– It was seen in the schools and in the army. In the army those conflicts started after Tito’s death in the 80s, maybe a little earlier. I have some friends in the army who were in Croatia at that time, they put another coat of arms instead. And that’s how it started, I’m Croatian, you’re Muslim.

– So after Tito’s death.

– Yes, I remember it very well, you could feel it here in ’87-’88. I was 7-8 years old and I liked politics, to tell you the truth, and then the problems started. In ’90 you could feel it even more. So in ’91 the war began. Tanks came, they passed, through the centre, they came from Vârșeț and went to Sombor, that way. I was in the center with my grandfather.

– And how was it, what do you remember? What did Grandpa say about it?

– What about it?! You see what’s happening in Ukraine now. Just like now, the old people said, let there be no war! Everything else passes, but when there’s a war, there’s no end. A flood comes, it passes, you fix your house somehow. But when they come with planes, with bombings, your house is destroyed… You see also in Ukraine, people leave, they go. That’s how it was with us in ’95, when they came from Republika Srpska Krajina. There the Serbs made a state of their own and on August 4, Croatia started bombing. People had to leave everything and come here, to our village, to neighbouring villages.

– And then they stayed here?

– Some did. They had relatives and they stayed. But with time they always distanced themselves, they went to Novi Sad, Belgrade.

– And there are still refugees in the village?

– Yes, there are. There are three of them from Bihac. They’ve come through my garden.

– And they get along well with the people in the village?

– Yes, they do. And with them who came to us from the village, we had no conflict. Now they say that the Romanians are this and that. No. We had no conflict. I went to school with them and I tell you, we had no conflict. I’m 42 years old, I had no conflict.

Let me tell you a story. In 2001 I was taken to the army, the Serbian army. I got there and they asked me: what nationality are you? Me: Romanian. And you came from Romania to serve here for a year in the army?

– They didn’t know.

– They didn’t know. And then someone explained to him that here in Vojvodina there are many minorities: Hungarians, Croats, Muslims, Slovaks, all nations. I was there for nine months, I had no problems with them, neither in the army nor in the village.

– And do you have any more memories from the army, funny ones?

– The army is a school of life, or so it was for me. They let me go home for 3-4 days, then I came back again. And they said to me, Dorele, where’s better, home or the army? Well, I think it’s better in the army. 

– Why?

– I don’t know, I liked the army. I was in border patrol. I was on the border between Croatia and Hungary for nine months. I had a dog and I walked seven kilometres on my feet and back again. Rain, rain, we go to guard the border. The Hungarians were sitting with the jeep parked, inside, but in the rain we went. I said, if the army had stayed on the border, you wouldn’t have seen me here. I would have stayed to work in the army. 

– And when you got home, how come you have a butcher shop?

– Before that, before I went to the army, I was a butcher in Zrenjanin. I liked butchering with knives. And then I went to the army in 2001, in 2002 I came back. And since 2002 I’ve been working that job. I had the opportunity to go to work privately for a Hungarian, about 20 kilometres from here. My father said, go Dorele, try it for a month, see how much the salary is, try it. Hey, I don’t want to. My father didn’t want me to be a butcher, I tell you. My father wanted me to be a barber. Leave me alone, I said, I don’ like to cut hair and shave. So I didn’t become a barber. I’ll open your private shop, you have your place, you stay washed, powdered… No. I am what I am, a butcher.

– But do you like your job?

– Yes.

– When do you work most?

– In winter, in November. From 20 November to 25 December, at Christmas. I have invitations from  other villages, but I don’t want to go.

– And what does your work mean during that period? Do people call you to cut up pigs?

– Yes. You only see them a week before, and they say, on that day I want to cut two pigs. I go, in the morning I work with my brother and my neighbour. If there are 3-4 pigs, I work with them. If not, I work with my brother. And I bring them home, cut them, make sausages.

– Tell me a good sausage recipe from this area.

– Look, let me tell you straight, there’s no recipe, it’s all up to taste.

– How do you like them?

– I’ve got a recipe where I put chicken in it. 4 kilos of chicken breast, white meat, 8 kilos of pork. And then I put in the perch, pepper, garlic, until it’s like this. But there is a company in Zrenjanin that does it, the spices are packaged for what you want. We call it “crainsca”. Kranjska comes from a town in Slovenia, Kranj, so the recipe comes from them. Only back then it was Yugoslavia. And I take those spices, I pour them in 10-12 kilos of meat.

– And do you go or do they come with the pigs?

– I used to work in the village, I went to them in the morning, I told them I’d be at your place at 7 o’clock. Since I don’t want to work in the village any more, I’ve made my own place at home, in a garage. I make sausages, I still cut them and I make schnitzel if they want me, but I don’t melt the fat.

– So you make all the products?

– Yes. If he wants 60 kilos of sausages, I make 60. If he wants 100 kilos, I make 100, it doesn’t matter. So far I’ve worked in the village. But if you think, to go somewhere and they have no proper place, they put you in a small room, where you wouldn’t even keep the dog. 

– So it’s hard work.

– Yes. And there are people who say: look how much you got me for an hour and a half! Depends on the size of the pig, how heavy it is. But you think that I work with my hands and I get rheumatism in time, as years pass.

– So you have a recipe of your own.

– Yes.

– As for your clients, are they mostly Serbian?

– Yes.

– How do you explain that? Do they eat more meat?

– I don’t know how it is in other countries. I keep track of how many piglets, rabbits, lambs, pigs we cut in a year. About 60 pigs. But piglets, I cut 130-140 heads. Until this pandemic started, this stupid thing they did, there wasn’t a week that somebody didn’t tell me: Dorele, are you home? Yeah, I’m home. Can you cut up three piglets for me? 

– Piglets… What is it?

– How to tell you, they are up to 40-50 kilos. And they call me on the phone: when can you? Here now, in half an hour. When someone died, they didn’t go to Zrenjanin to buy packages to give away. Only now they do that. Then they bought or cut a few piglets, depending on how big the family was. Arbeit! 

– Do you have more customers from the Serbian side?

– Yes But they eat more lamb and mutton. They like that kind of meat more than the Romanians.

– And then you said you have more customers from the Serbs. How do you explain that, they keep more pigs?

– They do here. But Romanians call their relatives to help them: I come to you, you come to me, no money. They don’t want to bother anymore. If you come to me, you bring the money, that’s all it costs, hello, no discussion. And when they hear that butcher’s foreman is the first, ready! When they hear a good butcher, there’s no talking. Before me there were older people who worked as butchers in the village.

– Are you the only butcher in the village? 

– The only one, to tell you the truth. There’s another one, but he doesn’t work as hard.

– Do you also sell meat products, or do you just go in for butchering?

– Only butchering. I don’t bother with that. I cut, I work for you, if you want to sit next to me and dictate to me, talk to me. If not, I’ll write it down and work it all out. If you trust me, I won’t steal your meat. If you don’t trust me, stay here. 

– Are you married?

– No, I’m not married.

– Why not?

– It’s the problem, to tell you, that the girls here say: Don’t marry after that one, he has land, he has bulls, I mean, you have to work there. That’s the situation.

– They don’t feel like working.

– And second. The girls in the village didn’t have those issues before, but now they have bigger issues. What issues? They shouldn’t live in the village, they should go to the city. That’s the problem.

– And other men from your generation, I think some are married. Did they marry girls from the village or from other villages?

– From other villages. 90% of our girls are married in other villages. 

– Why?

– Because they don’t want to get married here. And then when they marry after others and then they regret… Too late. 

Let me tell you something else, since the 90’s there were girls coming from Romania, until 2000 – 2003. Many came from Romania to get married here. 

– And since 2003, none of them came?

– None.

– And you haven’t thought of going to Romania to look for a lady?

– As they say, you don’t know where your fate lies. 

– Tell me about Suceava.

– Yeah, well, I’m going to get baptised now.

– What denomination?

– Word of God Church.

– Maybe you’ll find a lady there.

– If I haven’t found one yet, I’ll leave it in the hands of God, he’ll sort out my life. I was a member of the church here.

– The Orthodox Church?

– Yes, I was. And I didn’t do anything. It’s no good. Now I have another plan. Now we let God sort out life, not me. If he gives me a wife, he gives me a wife, if not, I have to do something else.

– I get it, God’s plan…

– And I don’t want to argue with Him.

– And tell me, do you have your own house now? Does the family still live together, like before?

– Nowadays everyone is separated. Everyone has horns. 

– What do you mean?

– Well, let me tell you. Dad can’t sit at the table with the kid. But let’s not talk about the old days. That time will never come again, it’ll get worse. Let me tell you, God created man first, not woman. Now the woman is greater than the man. Before, everyone knew who is the pillar of the house.

– And why do you think that happened?

– That’s why Satan keeps making people sick.

– By what?

– By disobedience. Let me tell you, 90% of people don’t read the Scriptures. When you see Solomon’s proverbs, that he talks about the wife, what the wife should do, when I tell somebody, they don’t want it.

– I get it. They’re emancipated.

– Ah, you’re good, extra, bravo, only sorry, I can’t marry you.

– I’ve been told by several people that there’s a problem with marrying or getting married in the village, in the area. Do you have any other colleagues or people of your generation in the same situation? Are many men like that?

– Well, there are quite a few who are single. They are even older than I am, around 60.

– And the younger generations are still here? You said you are 42. Younger generations, 30 years old, like that… are they still alone?

– Yes, still alone. 

– But these younger generations stayed in the village?

– Yes, there are those who stayed. But most of the girls married before.

– They married local men?

– No. They found someone and went to live with them in the city. Because if you live in the village, you have to work. But what do you do in town, eat stones? Until Mom and Dad are in the village, it’s fine. But when Mom and Dad are gone, you go to the store and buy a piece of meat. 

– It’s complicated.

– It’s very complicated. That it’s time for the devil to poke you in every way. And people say: what, I have to listen to him, who is he to me? Look, to tell you the truth, in 2019 my mother died. I didn’t know what it meant to make my own food. I didn’t know how to make a soup. I didn’t fall into depression, that I’m not married, that there’s no one to cook for me.

– You did all right.

– Yeah, I did. A neighbour from across the street, she’s Serbian, married to a Romanian, said: get married, what are you waiting for! I tell her: yes, I’m getting married. Tomorrow I find a wife, I have to buy her cigarettes, I have to give her coffee and bring it to bed, and then she says: go and make some food. Then I stay as I am.

– I understand. Tell me, why Suceava? Didn’t you find a church in Serbia? 

– When this pandemic started, I left the Orthodox Church. On the one hand, I was interested in the word of God, I read the Scriptures, it attracted me, to see, to find reality. This pandemic started and on the internet I went to an Adventist church about 40 km from here in Lokve. I went a couple of times, but I wasn’t too convinced. Then on the internet I kept searching, on youtube I found “Word of God Romania”. I liked those posts, and then a woman from Botosani contacted me. Dorele, do you want to go with us, at our church “Word of God”? Our pastors are mainly from Odessa, Stanislav and Yulia Sautalenko. At first I wasn’t too thrilled, because I saw that there was music, like in a disco. And she says to me: Dorele, do you want to make the book of repentance? Yes, I do. And so, somewhere in February, March, I started the book of repentance and I’ve been with them ever since. Today I have “the last shall be first”. Thursday we have what was Sunday at church, we repeat. And now I’m going to get baptised. But in the morning, from 3am to 6am our time, 7am Romanian time, until we leave for work, we have prayer. Then we go to work. And then nothing is hard, when you have someone to support you. I tell you, I had big problems with my spine, my hand hurts, hard work, butchering. I went to see the doctors, everything, but until I started with them, at  the church… You can see how Christ works when man opens up. 

– Does it hurt anymore?

– No. But I told you, I was a member here in the church committee of the Orthodox Church, we went through Bocșa, through Reșița, we had close contacts with the church from Govândari and the church from Săcălaz. Only when you want to seek God in a greater sense, you seek Him, because God is alive, He is in everyone. We just have to go back to where we have to go back to. When someone tells them of repentance, they say: just leave me alone with repentance.

Photo credit: Diana Bilec