There were options, but the mentality at the time was that the woman had to follow her husband. In the meantime, that mentality has changed a lot. I would have had other options, but I was naïve back then. I thought I could move mountains. I decided to get married and come here to Uzdin. This was home to him. He immediately got a job as a veterinarian.
At twenty-something, nothing is hard. At least that’s what I thought, that we could move mountains. From ’92 to ’95, for three years I visited my husband and met his friends. I met a lot of students from here, many of them studied in Timișoara and we knew each other, I knew the customs… But when you move somewhere, there’s a shock. The mentality is different…
I also grew up in a village
Still, the years that I spent in Timișoara after the Revolution were more liberal. The city had left its mark on me, and it was a blow going back to living in a village, among more conservative people.
I was born in Satu Mare county, in Romania, in Cămârzan commune. It’s near Negrești Oaș. I studied in Timișoara, I studied horticulture at the Banat Agricultural University, and that’s where I met my husband who is a Serbian citizen of Romanian ethnicity, who had come to study veterinary medicine. We dated, and in ’95 he finished 6 years of veterinary medicine, I finished 5 years of horticulture and we decided to come here. This is where his parents were – his mother taught Romanian, his father, who died in ’81, was a biology teacher, both intellectuals. So we finished our studies and came to Uzdin.
Whenever we talked about Romania, we used to say: ‘for us, here’ and ‘for you, there’. Where is ‘here’ and where is ‘there’?
I didn’t know either. At first, I used to say “we, in Romania” and “you, in Serbia”. And after a few years, it turned into “us, here, in Banat, in Serbia, in my house”, and “you, there, in Romania”. So home is now here. And when I went abroad, to Switzerland, I said: “I come from Romania, but I live in Serbia”. I still wanted people to know I’m Romanian…
It wasn’t easy coming here, especially not knowing the language. I didn’t know anything, I hadn’t studied Russian, I had taken French and German in highschool. At the time, there was a Spanish TV series called Kassandra. It was a big hit. I liked it too, I watched it. I understood what they said, Romanian and Spanish are Latin languages, and they are similar. This is how I started learning Serbian, but they use the Cyrillic alphabet, so it was very hard. Then my mother-in-law gave me the third-grade textbook, which children used to study in school, and I slowly started learning the Cyrillic alphabet, which I knew nothing about. And from watching that series I learned how to read Cyrillic a bit.
I had a period when I wanted to work in the field I had studied, so I grew champignon and pleuorotus mushrooms, allegedly. Unfortunately, it was a pretty bad time in Serbia. Romania was starting to rise a bit by then, but Serbia was going downhill, and I had nowhere to deliver them to. It was very difficult, so I gave up after a few years, when I saw that it wasn’t working.
Then I managed to do my internship and I got a job at an agricultural cooperative, “Jednota”. It no longer exists, it has closed, it was in Covăcița. It dealt with large crops, vegetables and cereals. For a very short time, I also worked at a raspberry and blackberry plantation in the neighbouring village, it was owned by a company in Blegrad that also went bankrupt. So I didn’t have many chances of working in the field…
In the meantime, I had started making cakes as a hobby. People saw that I was good at it, that I had a gift for it, so they said: “make me one and I’ll pay you”. And so I went into a completely different field, pastry-making. I used both Romanian recipes and local ones. I worked from home. I can show you my facebook page – Daniela Radu. I’m not bragging, but you can’t imagine what I can do. I mean, you have to do everything there is. But I often sit and think, all this work, all this trouble, and for what? I would finish one of these cakes and bring it to the wedding and it would be eaten immediately.
Look, I even got a scar!
I was on the phone with a woman who was asking me about Romanian citizenship. It was one of those phones that opens, and I held it to my ear like this. In the meantime, I was making cake, I was making the icing. Can I do two things at a time? No, I can’t. My spoon slipped, the icing fell, and I got this mark here. The hazards of the job. Quick, go make cakes, go for projects, talk to people, organize meetings for the festival. I was involved in everything and at one point I said to myself: “hello, what’s going on, where are you in all of this?” What are you getting out of all of this? The years go by. So I just stopped. And in February I went to Switzerland for four months.
I went to work at a tourist resort, at a hotel. I took what I could and worked remotely. I continued working on the projects I had been managing for years. I stopped making cakes because I wasn’t physically there. And for meetings, invoices, I had the help of Casandra who was there. I think we did a good job together. The projects have been approved, the money keeps coming in, we implement the projects and carry on.
I don’t know now, but maybe in a while I’ll know if I’ve left a mark
I can’t say that I’ve brough anything specific or out-of-the-ordinary to Uzdin. At one point, in the 2000s, there were about 40 Romanian women, from Romania, married to men in Uzdin. Some of them I knew from university, they were friends of mine, acquaintances. Little by little, as the situation got worse economically, people started looking around and if they didn’t find anything here… People still ask me: “how could you, Dana, how can you still stay here?” It was maybe fate, or I don’t even know what to call it…
Anyway, we weren’t Uzdin’s first contact with Romania. We were just in passing. They had been going to Romania for years, for business and to see their friends in Timisoara and elsewhere. We, the Romanian women who came here and married men from Uzdin, we weren’t the first impact. There were quite a few who got married and left with the whole family, they went to America. Even a small village like Uzdin is said to have a community in America, in Detroit, a lot of people migrated there. They were in Havleton, Detroit, and they continued to come here while their parents were still alive or they had relatives here, then they came less and less… But there were many years when people kept leaving Uzdin. That explains the abandoned houses. And it was usually the capable people who left… There’s not much to do in the village…
I’ve thought about moving to a different country
Not necessarily Romania. Lately, I’ve even been considering Romania… There was a time when I gave without looking back, without looking at what was happening around me. I’m going to stay here because this is where my family is, this is where I had my son who was born in ’98, this is where he goes to school. Maybe he was another goal of mine.
I gave him a Romanian name and spelled it the Romanian way – Sergiu. The Serbs spell it Serghiu. And then I said to myself “I made a mistake, why didn’t I call him Daniel? A universal name”. At one point I wanted to name him Bogdan, and my husband said “Bogdan? That’s ‘God’s day’ in Serbian”.
My boy graduated 8 classes here, in Uzdin, he studied in Romanian. Then he moved to Covăcița, where he studied in Serbian. Then he applied for “Romanians Everywhere”. There was no student exchange, but the Romanian government grants some scholarships for students who are of Romanian ethnicity, and he attended the Polytechnic in Timișoara and studied IT.
He has been working in Novi Sad for a year now. He had many opportunities to work in Romania, in Cluj, but this is what he decided.
Life often takes you where it pleases, you don’t always make good choices or maybe you do
Life moves forward, and you shouldn’t look back and regret the choices you’ve made. He chose to go to Novi Sad and has been working there for a year. That doesn’t mean he’ll stay there, especially since IT people can work from anywhere. He’s just getting some experience.
This is one of the reasons why I stayed here, I didn’t want to move around. My brother is in London, married since ’96, my sister is in Rome with her family, and my parents are in Romania. I’ve been to London a few times, I’ve even done some paperwork to get a pre-settlement status, but I didn’t have the heart to say I’m done, I’m leaving Uzdin for good…
Life follows its course and you either break away or simply submit
You’re asking me if I had more courage in my 20s than I do now? I don’t know… I mean, I have more problems now, including my husband who got sick in the meantime… That’s why I couldn’t give it all up or leave together with him.
If I would take the same life path now?
God, I don’t think so, I don’t know, I just let life take me where it pleased…
I definitely wouldn’t move back here. I don’t know if it was fate or what it was. I can’t say that I regret or that I have a guilty conscience about anything I’ve done. But I’m unfulfilled professionally and this is what I feel right now, that’s what’s on my mind. Maybe if I had taken a different path, I would have had other problems and I would still be unhappy…
I never thought I’d turn fifty among strangers, that I’d celebrate half my life
There is a saying: “man makes the place” – an old, but wise saying. A lot of times you feel like you belong to the place, you try to give your best in that moment and naturally it all comes back to you, it’s a kind of karma, or how shall I put it, the boomerang effect. You take care of the sowing, and the universe takes care of the harvest. And I think wherever you are in the world, be authentic, do good!
I often get a guilty conscience and I feel upset about my parents being all alone in Romania. All the siblings are away. I try to help the old people who live here, my neighbours. If I can cook them a meal or help with something, I do it. I also taught my boy to do it – “let’s take them or bring them from church.” Maybe someone else will take care of my parents too….
My name is Daniela Radu
I have lived in Cămârzan, then Halmeu, and when I was 18 years old, I moved to Timișoara. It’s been 27 years since I left Romania. I have my husband’s name. I am secretary of the Uzdin Regional Office of the National Council of the Romanian National Minority in Serbia. I manage several projects, I organize various festivals, I am President of the Red Cross in Uzdin.
Yes, I’m involved with a lot of things, but do you know what it’s like when you do ten things at once? You are both here and there, you waste away… Just like that, like a handful of flour you’ve thrown in the air. You try to collect it again, but you can’t get everything back. Well, the moment you put that flour down properly, it starts to rise.
And I’ll tell you something else: “I feel at home here. But I think I would have got more work done in Romania…”
Photo credit: Ionuț Suciu