Stories 2022


– I am Pavel Pancaricean. In fact, I am the president of our village church, St. Dimitrie. 

– What does it mean that you are the president of the church?

– We have a small parish. First of all we have our village Sarcia, we have Romanians, about 250, the second part are Serbs, settlers who came here after the second war and settled here and got married, we have many mixed marriages.

– This is the Romanian part?

– Yes, from the church onwards there is the Romanian side.

– And from the church down the road, is the Serbian side. What do you call the Romanian side?

– The Sărcia.

– And the Serbian side?

– The whole village is Sutjeska. The first Romanians came here in 1770.

– Where did they come from?

– From Ardeal.

– And what did they do here when they first came?

– Shepherding, with animals. The first houses were here on the border, the first location was Șibova, but it was too close to Timiș river and they had many floods. So they came here, because it’s higher up. The name Sărcia dates back to 1333. That’s when the first people from Transylvania came here. And because there were many floods there they moved 25 km further here. And again they started with animals, they were busy with shepherding, not with agriculture, and the animals drowned, because they were close to Timiș. And they came here to this hill, it’s the biggest hill here.

– Big, but not that big. What do you call it?

– Mălăiște.

And in 1882, I’m not sure now, but it’s written in the church, the Germans came, the Germans, who started farming. They were much more advanced than us. Ours were shepherds and herders, but they didn’t work the land. But we came here first. And with them the village was divided in two. Here was the Romanian Sărcia , there the German Sărcia. And so little by little they came together, they lived, and culturally and all sorts of activities they had together. But we, the Romanians, had our community, and the Germans had theirs. This was until ’44, when the Second World War ended, then they chased them away, they left.

– Where did they chase them?

– Back to Germany, which is where they ended up. And they left everything here, what could they take with them. The Russians came from this side, the Red Army. And in ’45 after they left, settlers came from Herzegovina, from Bosnia. The Serbs had nowhere else to live, the war destroyed everything and they came here to live, they found empty houses, German ones. And then, as we did with the Germans, we gradually came closer, what to do, they came with their culture, with their own ways. We stayed with ours. From the beginning there were no mixed marriages, we didn’t know each other. 

– But with the Germans there were no mixed marriages?

– No, no, I think not, maybe one. 

– Did the Romanians speak German?

– Of course, they were servants. We had nothing. As I said, we had our commune, they had theirs. When the Serbs came, that’s how it started, until we got close. And then they started to have mixed marriages. How should I put it, not that we were second rate citizens, but they received all the subsidies. And so we helped them a lot. 

– The Serbs?

– Yes, the Serbs.

– Can we go back to the Germans a little bit? How many servants did a wealthy family have?

– Depends on how they were, which ones, some were poor, some rich.

– How much land did a wealthy man have?

– 50-60 acres. The Germans were wealthy. They had a different culture, a different order, as they say. We Romanians, what can we do, the servant is the servant. 

– When did the Romanians rise up?

– Late, after the war, when the communist regime came. From the 60s to the 80s. But they didn’t have a lot of land, because the state took it, they left only 10 hectares to their families, that’s all. As in Romania, as in the 40s and 50s, they made collective farms. They didn’t last long, three years and that was it, they saw that it didn’t work. In the 60s people started buying tractors and taking land that had already been given away. Now it’s good, and in our village there are wealthy people, they have a lot of land, they have 250 acres, about 150 hectares, they work with their families, they have tractors.

– Did people go abroad to work?

– Yes, many. From ’67 to ’69, three hundred went. There were 600 of us. There were more Romanians, we had 1800 in this village, only Romanians, until the Germans came. In the ’60s, when the liberation came, people went wherever they wanted. 

– Where did they go?

– Mostly to America. Germany. We had some German families who stayed here. We lived well with them, people are people. And then in the ’60s they left too. One of them, a neighbor, worked in the collective here, it was a land association. And they wanted to come back, because his salary was higher here than there. He was ready to leave, but he stayed there, he’s still alive, he’s 87 years old.

– Where in America did they go?

– New York, mostly. Some also went to Florida, where the living was better. But they never went back, definitely, they came all year round when they had holidays.

– And what did they do with the houses here?

– They sit empty. There’s nobody who needs them.

– And does anyone guard them?

– Yes, those who are relatives and stayed here. Or some brother, one stayed here, one went there. And some of them have sold them. The ones who left didn’t have big houses, that’s why they left, because they didn’t. In fact, interestingly, they invested here – they made new houses, they bought land, but none of them came back. 

– Do you have anyone in America?

– No. No relatives, just friends. My folks didn’t go, they stayed here to work for Tito. And I could go wherever I wanted, with that passport of ours, you could go to the moon, as long as you had something to go with. 

– Have you been to Europe?

– I’ve been to Austria, to Romania, the mother country. My mother fled there, around the time of the Second World War. She ran away, married after my mother and they stayed. I have cousins in Timișoara. We as a church are twinned with Reșița, with Bocșa, with Săcălaz, here nearby. We go to them, they come to us, a beautiful collaboration. 

– What did you do in Austria?

– Nothing, my father was there. It was a long time ago. 

– And what did you like there?

– Everything. When you are a guest, you like everything. I didn’t stay long, a month I think.

– Where?

– I think in Badesee, about 70 km from Vienna.

– How did you get there? 

– By train.

– Was there a station here?

– Sure there was! The first station was around eighteen hundred and something, the train passed through here, Timisoara – Zrenjanin. We were modern even then. Now there’s no railway, they’ve all taken it away. 470 km of railways have been removed, from the border with Romania to Zrenjanin. And they sold it for scrap. And all the rails were cast in Resita. Reșița were the main ones, when Maria was queen. That’s how it was. It’s a small village, but a lot happened here too. And changes go on.

– Where in Romania have you been?

– Timisoara, Arad, I didn’t go far. I went by bike. 25 km to the border. And my folks were all there, in Crai Nou. Grandma, grandpa, they were all there.

– Grandma and grandpa came here to visit?

– They did, but only in 1967-68, that’s when they were given passports. I went for the first time in ’61, I was 9 years old, I went with my mother. For 16 years she didn’t see her parents, because the border was closed, like it was with Russia in 1948. 

– Did you have relatives in Timisoara?

– Yes. Right now they live in Cebza, not Timisoara. My cousin’s niece, they come here too, we meet.

– Do you know stories about Romanians who crossed the border before 1989? Romanians from Romania.

– Yes, I heard stories when there was the communist regime, I was young and I had friends there. They could only tell bad things about the country, nothing else. 

– But people came here?

– Of course they did! They came here to sell goods at the market. 

– What did people bring to sell?

– Everything. Clothes, rags, as they say. 

But I have my profession, we were in our family bricklayers and constructors, our company has been around for ninety-something years – my father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather.

I took to Romania what was required there, Vegeta, jerseys for clothes in order to sell them. 

– And you made good money?

– Sure, I did! Vegeta, that’s it! And Italian cigarettes, Vikend. I went with packs. What did the gypsies do? They put money, 100 lei on top and inside they put bills of 5 or 10 lei. Here comes the militia! They gave you the money, they took the stuff to go, but not the money. You don’t know how it was, the militia is the militia, you could bribe them, give them some cigarettes and they closed their eyes.

– Gasoline was good?

– Sure! Especially when there was that crisis, when it was the embargo. 

– How did they carry the gas?

– In canisters, in tractor and truck gums, they filled it with gasoline. They crossed the border freely, nobody controlled us. 

– I heard that they modified their car in the trunk to put petrol in.

– Sure they did! 

– And what did they pay with, what did people pay with? 

– Marks.

– The mark was the best then. 

– Who needs dinars? That there was an embargo, a crisis. 

– And where did people get marks?

– They bought. 

– When the revolution took place in Timisoara, did you hear anything?

– Yes, there are people who were caught there. Who thought of that? I was at Hotel Continental in Timisoara, a month before. When I was young I stayed there, because I had money. All the young people went there, so I went there too. There are people who were caught there during the Revolution. And luckily they managed to escape through Iasa Tomic, there’s a crossborder point here, for local border traffic. The fight started in Romania, on TV it was shown everywhere. And we watched all day long, to see if they caught Ceausescu or not.

– Do you know anyone else from the locality who was in Timisoara during the Revolution?

– Many are no longer here, and many have left us. There are few people here now.

– How few are you now?

– Romanians, without mixed roots, without mixed children, there are about 210. That’s all. But we have good activities and we had, we were also cultural society, church.

– What’s the name of the cultural society?

– Brotherhood and Unity.

– So it’s a Romanian-Serbian or Serbian-Romanian cultural society?

– No, it’s one. Brotherhood and Unity. They don’t attack us, we don’t attack them. And it’s nice, it’s beautiful, all together, everyone singing. Unfortunately in the last two years they don’t want to, I don’t know what wrong with the youth, they don’t want to. And I’ve been an actor for years. I’ve been very active. 

– So you’ve also had a theatre group?

– Sure I have! I was an actor for ten years.

– What year did you start acting?

– In 2001-2002, I think, until 2010-2011. Then it stopped and that was it. 

– How did this theatre company come about? 

– We have here in Vojvodina the theatre days of the Romanians in Vojvodina. 

– When is that?

– It finished last week. 

– And where is it held? 

– In every town. 

– So in every town in June? 

– In about ten localities, which have been doing it. Uzdin, us, Sălăușu, Alibunar, Straja, Coșteiu…

– And in all these localities there’s a theatre group? 

– Yes, there is now. Apart from us, there’s nobody else.

– When was the troupe founded?

– In 1973. And there was a 20-year break. 

– Who made the theater company?

– Romanians. The Romanian section. The Serbs didn’t. They weren’t interested in culture, they probably don’t like culture.

– What was the name of the Romanians who founded the company? 

– Director Pancaricean Iancu. He’s still there, 82 years old. 

– He lives here?

– Yes.

– Is he related to you?

– We’re of the same blood. 

– So you’re several Pancaricean.

– Yes. Nelu, Jivăin…

He was our director for ten years. But the plays were written by a local man, he’s dead. I don’t remember. He wrote our plays for ten years. And we put them on stage.

– And what plays did he write?

– Only comedies. He was a lawyer, and his name is linked to the village, because he lived here.

– Mr. Lepădat is married to Mrs. Marica Lepădat?

– No. 

– Do you know her?

– I know her very well. (laughs) I know her because we grew up together. We haven’t seen each other for years. She went to Bucharest. In the ’80s she was in commerce, then she went back and got married.

– In Bucharest?

– Yes. And she came back in 2016. She called me on the phone. Lonti (this is how they call me), do we have to die to meet again? But I’ve forgotten about her. I want something with you, she says. Well, here I am. I’ve been watching you. You followed me? I mea, your activities. Look, I’m in business, I’d like to invest in Sarcia, in my village. Oh, I say, God help me, someone wants to. She’s got money and either she doesn’t have enough sense of what to do with it or this is the way it should be. And she’s built three houses here, like you only see in movies

– Are they cool?

– Sure they are. I went, they grabbed me by the armpits, I walked through the park, there it is. And she says, let’s sit in the park. I say: it’s too late, my Marica.

– I got it. 

– We’ve been in the same generation. 

– You were schoolmates?

– Yes, we were. Only she left. Her parents didn’t want to let her finish school in Serbian, so they took her to Vârșeț, because there are eight classes there, and we only have school in Romanian up to four classes. 

– Does she live here now or in Bucharest? 

– In Bucharest.

– And who lives in her house?

– Nobody. She pays a neighbor to take care of it. 

I went with her to all the rooms, something you can only see in movies. 

– Who did the houses with? Who worked on them?

– A firm in Zrenjanin. Then the husband came. She’s married, only they don’t have kids. Husband’s a good man.

In fact, I’ve worked with her quite a bit around here. I’m president of the church, the main thing was to invest there. In fact, she did everything, also the cemetery looks neat. 

– I’ve been to cemeteries here and they’re made of black marble. Where’s it from?

– From Zrenjanin

– And that’s how everyone has to do it, with black?

– No, whatever you want, you can do white, red, green, only if you have money. 

– Is it expensive?

– It depends. 200 euros is cheap, it’s 500-700-1000. 

So the lady invested here. She called me once, I went to her and we remembered many things from our youth. Let’s start. What’s the main thing? The church, I say. I promise we’ll change its face. In seven days, as she said, made it so beautiful. I told her, this is not about me or you, it’s about the village. She didn’t like some things, but I told her: wait a minute, who asks you why you like it or you don’t like? Suit yourself. She’s changed…

– Is the church old?

– 1896.

– Is it a monument?

– No, we didn’t want to sign it up on the list of monuments. It’s under state protection, but otherwise, they don’t care much.

– And who painted it?

– The painting wasn’t done until ’67. A priest from Arad did it, I think.

– And where’s the priest from now?

– From Torac. He comes once a month. 

– When’s his turn now, what Sunday was it?

– Yesterday. 

– Is the priest Romanian?

– Yes. Romanian from Torac. There’s about six of us, that’s the average.

– Who go to church?

– Yeah, it’s a small village. We have icons from 1836. They need to be restored, but we couldn’t find the money. They said they know who can do it, only money is needed. 

– And where could you take them to restore them?

– We don’t give them away, he comes here. They’ve been here since 1836.

– Almost 200 years.

– It’s very damp. But she did a nice job on the inside, my Marica put in the tiles. And it’s still painted inside and out.

– What was it before the tiles?

– Concrete. I mean, first it was brick. 

– Stone.

– Yes, I am. Well, the woman invested. 20,000 euros. We quarreled. She wanted to do it differently. I told you to leave it like that.

– Did you work there too, or did you just coordinate?

– No. I’m president.

– You weren’t working, of course, sorry.

Did you build houses in the village? 

– Yes, we did.

– How many?

– I think about twenty. Only on Saturdays and Sundays, because I was employed by the state, where the money and the work were.

– And you worked for the state?

– Yes..

– And where did you work, only here?

– No, in Zrenjanin, here was the company. And later on in the maintenance of the houses, if a tile fell.

– You’ve done that too.

– Sure you did. They needed someone who knows everything. 

– And what were the houses made of?

– Blocks, brick, but before that, dirt. 

– And where did they get the earth?

– On the edge of the village. But on the big ones, they dug a hole. And then they filled in the hole.

– With a foundation?

– No. Just from the face of the earth they put planks and made them. 

– Did they put anything down when they started building a house? A rooster’s head…

– Yeah, some people put. They cut off the rooster’s head so the owner wouldn’t die. Who knows what else they put in. When I was there, it wasn’t done.

– But you’ve heard that from the elders?

– Yes, of course. 

– Do you go out in the evening?

– Yes, here. And my neighbor goes there, at the pub. He brings me news that I don’t go there anymore. 

– So he comes with news from the pub. And they speak Romanian at the pub, there are many Romanians drinking?

– There are Romanians. And Hungarians, and Serbs, they all drink beer.

– Do you have children?

– Yes, of course. And grandchildren. 

– Are they here?

– Yes, the baby’s here. The grandchildren speak Romanian, when they come home they talk to their mother in Romanian. Here, who is in a mixed family, does not know Romanian, in the house speaks only Serbian. A mistake, but what can you do, that’s it.

– And your wife?

– She’s Romanian from here. Where are you from?

– From Timișoara.

– My beautiful city. I spent my days at the Cina restaurant there. 

– When were you last in Timisoara?

– Before the revolution.

(Speaking on the phone, with the church administrator) Look, I have some guests here. Go to the church with them. They are people from Timișoara and you give them some data, some information, photos, if you have any. Only those four icons, don’t give them. (laughs)

Photo credit: Diana Bilec