Stories 2022


– I am Ana Bocea, 52 years old, economist, Slovak…

– Something about family, brothers, sisters…

– I come from a family of two brothers and one sister… three brothers, only two alive… Parents, father died exactly 20 years ago, on February 14. Mother will be 85. She has a very good memory.

– Yeah, that she’s had one job all her life, home and family…

– And the yearly, monthly, daily schedule, you knew it. With us unpredictable, we don’t welcome that. When you say it’s Friday afternoon at 4:00, you get an e-mail that by 5:00…

– And your whole schedule’s thrown off.

– That’s criminal. Maybe we should cut back a little.

– Maybe it’s the timing, too, because she lived her youth in a much simpler time.

– She’s forcing you now in a way. She’s forcing us or we’re getting carried away. Newborns are already born into an environment with technology, with information…

– With technology, with activities, take the child there to do that, do that, when grandma had a mega shock… “What? Well, I used to keep him swaddled until he was 6 months old”, or how long and he wouldn’t move…

– Or in barrel pens, I mean it had a radius of a meter  it would spin, if it was a meter , about 80 cm. Which was also lent  from one family to another. 

– Did you have one of those pens when you were little?

– No, I had a playpen.

– Another generation… I was talking about school, I wanted to bring up this topic… 

– Well, school was more colorful for me. Kindergarten, the first year of kindergarten, which I can’t  say I remember, but I know it was in Moldova-Nova. 

– Where were you born…

– Where I was born. Then kindergarten in Slovak, first grade and second and third in Slovak . Back then, for us, Romanian was a foreign language, so we actually had Romanian classes. Like French,for instance. We learned that  „Aschiuță has a pen. The pen is on the bench. The pen has a pencil or in the pen is a pencil”. When I reached fourth grade, at Romanian section in Moldova Nouă, I couldn’t speak Romanian.

– So Slovak was the first language you spoke?

– Yes.

– And kindergarten?

– I don’t remember. I woke up speaking only Slovak. I did my first three years of school in the Slovak section, with Romanian as a foreign language. We were all Slovaks, the teacher was Slovak. We were learning elementary things, like learning a foreign language. Well, moving to the fourth grade, I only had classes in Romanian in Moldova Nouă.. Luckily I had a teacher, she was Bulgarian. She used to talk to me in Bulgarian so that I can understand.  She used to come to our house. And at some point she decided that my best chance was to stay as much as possible with Romanian children, to make friends, on the playground, where there were slides and swings. In mathematics I used to go out to the blackboard, and mumble in my head „Say it out loud, say it out loud!” and it confused me, I couldn’t focus. But in fourth grade, you’re doing geography, you’re doing history, so I couldn’t understand anything.

– And new and more complicated concepts…

– So everything was new. Actually, it wasn’t really new, but I couldn’t understand any ot if. Eventually I think the first quarter was the hardest. After that, I started to feel more comfortable, and in fourth grade I even got a mention. (laughs). It was a surprise. 5th, 6th grade, Moldova Nouă, Romanian sections… 7th grade, 8th grade, back to Nădlac, but this time at the Romanian section. It wasn’t like I could go back to  the Slovak classes. But I was going back to school with some former colleagues, in parallel classes. I felt at home there, with them, but I knew that I must move on.

Then high school, Telecommunications in Timisoara, with adventures… I had a dream, I wanted to go to Pedagogic High School. 1983 was the first year that they didn’t make enrolments in Arad at Pedagogic High School, because that year a wing burned down. And that year they said that the 9th grade will only be in Timisoara. I went with my enrolment form to Pedagogic High School and when I got there, on the street where there were there Industrial 3, Telecommunications and Pedagogic, I was with my brother who had graduated from  Telecommunications… I said I’m not going to Pedagogic.And then I was a Telecommunications technician for 10 years. But I guess it wasn’t the right job for me.  

– Then you went to university? After 10 years?

-Yes, after 10 years. But, when I graduated from the 12th grade, I didn’t even think about not going to Telecommunications, at the faculty.. And the my former high school classmates, you could see it at the reunions, after 10 years, 15 years, they were all Alcatel, Vodafone. 

I got hepatitis in 12th grade, just before the Baccalaureate, so I didn’t get the approval for my medical record for university. I was going to get it after a year, because I wasn’t allowed to do intellectual effort… But I was forced to start working at the beginning of August, the same year. Such a silly thing… what did intellectual effort mean? You’re not allowed to go to college, but you’re good enough for work and commute.

– And did you have any problems with Grandma, with enrolling in high school, because she didn’t want to?

– She didn’t want Timisoara, she didn’t want Arad. I don’t know if it was my grandmother or my mother. I was a girl, I was 14, how can you  let her go… I think my grandmother was constantly buggering my mother,  so my mother’s reaction was „where do you think you are going,  you are only 14”. The truth is  we weren’t that open-minded back then. Even going to Arad… There must have been special occasions, You took the train for it, not going to the mall and Cinema City. We  lived mostly  inside our community, you didn’t have many opportunities to go out. 

On the first day of school, in Timisoara, the trams stopped because of a blackout and I had to walk from the Post Office to the dorm, which was  in Iosefin. I didn’t know how to get there. I only knew that I had to take a tram, I didn’t know which tram, I got lost. I asked someone how to get to Iosefin station and they told me to take „one black”. All the trams were yellow and I was waiting for a black one to come. And one passes, two… I didn’t dare to walk… At some point,  someone passed in front of the tram, without seeing its number, and asked: „What is it?”, wanting to know what was the number of the tram. Someone answered: „One black”. And then I saw, written on the side, 1, in black.

– It was the number 1 black!

– Yes, and that’s how I got home. Telecommunications was more a job for boys. There were a few girls in my class. When my brother graduated, it was an all-boys class, boys’ professional, later it became a high school and girls were admitted, but there were few positions suitable for girls.

– You took after your brother, deciding to go to that school…  He was older, it seemed interesting what he was doing…

– And later we became colleagues. For almost 8 years we were shift mates. Then the factory became modern, there was  digitalization…. The jobs were cut, I became unemployed after exactly 10 years and I saw myself like this… Alex was little, 2 years old in 1997. I got a job in Arad, but commute. My family didn’t like that. 

 And then I got a job at Club82, for administrative matters. The former owner needed some help and my husband said “Why don’t you hire my wife?”.  And so it began. I was disappointed, I had left on a salary of 4,200,000 at the time and I got a job for 700,000 lei. There was such a difference! There was also the lack of confidence, I didn’t know where to go, what to do, a totally different environment. Nobody taught me how to do the accountant work. 

Late in the evenings, I was trying to see how it’s done, I asked Vera, who worked in the financial department, to help me.  She was the only one who showed me how to write a receipt, a cash register… And after that, in the evening I would open a file and try to see what’s been done. And more intuitively I began to understand. After that I went to business school and I liked it. The math probably helped me too. But also while I was working in telecommunications, somehow I always ended up in the postal area,  to help the ladies there with counting money, doing the records for shipping. Paperwork, I loved paperwork. 

– You were born in Moldova Nouă. Then you lived  in Nădlac, then again in Moldova Nouă, and then in Timișoara…

– Yeah… I didn’t think I’d be going back to Nădlac. I was talking to my classmates back then, and we knew that if we got good grades, we had more chances to get a good job. We didn’t think about the REvolution and the collapse of the old systems. You graduated from high school, you never lose your job, the same for higher education, as engineers, they always got jobs in smaller towns or bigger cities. The telecommunications system was developing, there were no more switchboard operators making the connection. We were the new generation, who did maintenance on semi-automatic or automatic exchanges, but they were not digital. Today’s telephony is digital, but in the case of automatic telephony there were relays that, when you dialed, transmitted that signal, somehow developed from Morse code. They talked on the wire, And on relays, it wasn’t on antennas. 

But it wasn’t meant to be, me going to college. My first job after high school, I had a choice: Pecica, Fântânele, Tudor Vladimirescu. Of course I chose Pecica, because it was close. After that, I got Nădlac, almost 9 years of Nădlac.

– So in your family you were the first generation of women to work? Well, my grandmother worked in the fields and in the association, but they didn’t have constant work.

– They didn’t have the concept of women having a job. That’s what my grandmother used to say, not so much my mother, but my grandmother: „Forget it, you take her with you to work the field”. And by the time I finished high school, I was actually picking crops, going to the fields. My grandmother used to say, “She’s not going to be a writer.”

– Did your great-grandmother go to school?

– She couldn’t write.

– But did she go to school at all?

– I don’t think so. My grandfather, he had some schooling.And I remember he had a very calligraphic handwriting, I always admired his writing on postcards or church books.

– Did he have a trade? My grandmother said he was a carpenter, he worked with wood.

– Craft, mostly self-taught, he knew everything, but mainly he was good at carpentry. He worked with wood, with weaving, with sewing, from brooms, to baskets, straw baskets, for flour and bread. They were round baskets, with lids, on legs, sewn with wicker. I was there next to my grandfather,  making brooms, baskets, carpentry, hutches. He was ill with TB, for many years he was on a sort of disability pension. 

– He worked for people?

– For people, and for himself, and for the house. As for writing, I know when there was something to write, he wrote, grandma sat so quietly. Or she would read his letters, because letters came from the Czechoslovakian people.

– She couldn’t read.

– No, she couldn’t. But she had a fancy signature, I think Grandpa taught her to sign… when there was something to sign. But writing and reading, no. My mother, she only had two grades, she was an only child.

My father used to make jokes like that, that I had two classes like a train: first and second. But my mother was alone with her parents and my father kept blaming his  in-laws for having only her and not sending her to school. Especially at the time when there was tension in the house about me going to school, the whole family, the females mostly, was against it. And  he used to say „You couldn’t send your only daughter to school!” There was no question of not having conditions, school was already free for everyone, up to a level. Not to go to higher education, but to learn a trade or something… At least to be a seamstres… But no, she only had to work the fields. 

– Probably because she didn’t have a father, it wasn’t easy…

– Orphan. Four brothers, one unborn. They were small children and I know they gave him away from infancy to some workhouse. And he had quarrels with his sister, from the Czech Republic, until now, because she stayed against the communists and my father kept saying „Man, they weren’t so bad”. Even after the Revolution he said: „You were still a servant, since you were a little child, in one place or the other”. And they treated him or the children who were there badly.

– Well, they did, because they were people from a higher class and they could afford it. So, when did you start doing chores around the house, sweeping, ironing?

– For as long as I can remember. I mean, I got handkerchiefs for ironing. There were piles of handkerchiefs: men’s handkerchiefs, women’s handkerchiefs and children’s handkerchiefs. So also my aunts, my mother’s cousins who came from Czechoslovakia… every year, 2-3 rounds of guests would come, there was no way we wouldn’t get shoes, those white tennis shoes with elastic. The women in the house, older women, all… those felt shoes or something, felt boots, chewing gum and handkerchiefs. Handkerchiefs with flowers, with or without  stripes, piles of them. At least 30 men’s handkerchiefs you had to iron every week. Once a week, you did the laundry. And then they were hung out to dry in the attic, in the yard, depending on the season, and then you had a huge pile of them and you had to iron them.

– Did you use the coal iron?

– No, but I remember how heavy it was the one I used back then.  I actually witnessed a couple of times, the sole would come off and it had an actual metal resistor with little beads like beans, which were sort of insulators between that resistor. I don’t know what their role was and they would rebuild that resistor. I mean the man of the house, my father for example, replaced some of those  and… it would start again. Not steam. And everyone was obsessed with starching.. So there was no bed linen that wasn’t starched, shirts, pijamas, especially men’s pijamas, so it was like an armour when you ironed it.

– Was it soaked afterwards?

– Yes, because you did the starching.. When there wasn’t starch or cornstarch, you mixed water and flour.

– And then you sprinkled the garments? 

– You put water to boil and it looked like semolina with milk or, when you pour the starch, a very thin pudding. To 10 liters of water you add half a kilo of starch. And you’d get some milky stuff, which you’d pour into a little pot and dilute with a little more  water. And the washed clothes, cleaned, soaked, cleaned a third time in that pudding, wrung out, dried, and by the time they were dry, they were like wood. So you couldn’t bend it. Then you’d wet it, splash it with water and fold it so that it would soften, and by the time you came with the hot iron, the shirt sleeve, it had hold. The whole thing was to have a hold, that is, not to be seen with your shirt wrinkled. Only single men, or men who were married to women who didn’t bother that muc about the house, or men with older mothers… alas, the poor thing can’t iron or starch the clothes anymore.

– Ah, it reflected the status of the man…

– On the furniture were the macramés. More recently they specialized in Moldova Nouă, but from early childhood and in my grandmother’s house there were the ones sewn on some kind of.. .not even etchings, some kind of cotton. Pillowcases and tablecloths, the coloured ones, with all kinds of flowers, on the walls there were those rugs with writing, days of the week, I don’t know, with all kinds of holiday greetings.

– Is that what my grandmother used to make?

– Yes, Grandma used to make them.

 – Did you have a loom or…

– No. They sewed them by the hand. Even the one we have in the kitchen is made that way. Scraps of material, of cloth.

– I thought it was bought to look like that. Nothing goes to waste.

– No, it’s done that way. Scraps of material, of cloth… They had a certain way of tearing them. 

– They made strips…

– And they’d make balls. They had balls of colors, to draw a red stripe, there was also on the design, a bit, which was more colorful and beautiful.

– I don’t understand this Czechoslovakia thing that they still use…

– She still doesn’t make the distinction between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. I mean for her it’s the same thing. They came from Czechoslovakia, whatever she says, she’ll say Czechoslovakia.

– Do you have family in the Czech Republic?

– In the Czech Republic. After the split we didn’t even have any in Slovakia, we only had friends. Our friends were in the Slovak part, but all the relatives were in the Czech Republic. Somewhere close to Brno, Prague, Karlovy Vary, her cousin, everyone was on the Czech side.

– I noticed that for her it’s a kind of promised land.

– If you had spoken to the sister-in-law you mentioned before, they left right after the war, 47-48, they were deported. She was still a child  and her mother had to give her consent to leave with that aunt. And all the same, the family was saying, „Beta, why did you let her go, where is she going?”. 

She was very determined, she said she doesn’t want stay here. After about 10 years, with her husband, they came to Romania, they were envious of the standard of living in Romania. I mean, she told me in front of my father, the standard of living was much better, there were roads, highways… 10 or 15 years after she left, she didn’t recognize the area anymore, she came by international train to Budapest, to Curtici, to Arad, that’s how long ago it was. She got off in Arad and took a bus to Nădlac. It was already a bus. When she left, she left in one of those army trucks… so she traveled to Czechoslovakia by truck. There were no paved roads. They took them by wagon to Pecica, from there those trucks with the deportees left. 

– But why did they go back from Romania? 

– They weren’t back. They were leaving as a Slovak minority, somehow a repatriation, that country received them, but they had no connection with Czechoslovakia whatsoever.

– They were born here…

– Born here. And our roots, if you search the documents from the Evangelical church, in 1802, we  came from Hungary, we are not from Czechoslovakia. Who knows how many years ago they came to Hungary and then they came here, in this plain area. They said there were many lakes. That Nagylak means „big lake” in Hungarian. And they started digging canals and making these areas drier, better land for farming. The Slovaks came to wasteland. They settled here and started to build houses.

– From what I’ve read so far, there were offered some conditions: tax exemption and they came to work other people’s land. They were somehow welcomed, „come and work for me and you’re ok, you can stay with us here”.

– This was exactly in 1800, when did they come?

– Yes, in that period. That’s how I read that they came to Hungary, after that to Tótkomlós, Békéscsaba and after that….

– They got lost like that, because there are Slovak communities everywhere.

– Yes, my grandmother said that my great-grandmother was actually born in Hungary and came to Nădlac.

– Yes, she had the birth certificate of Mezőhegyes. Mezőhegyes is straight from Nădlac across the border. It’s closer to Mezőhegyes than Pecica. I had mentioned Czechoslovakia, that Romania was an enviable country, in the 70s, that they came every year, my father was already working  at the mine, he was a miner, he also worked in the gold mine in Brad. Even my mother says, you could buy a turkey with 25 lei, and there was food for one week. Their salary was thousands of lei, they lived very well and they managed to put money aside, that’s how they managed to build their house. They started building when I was 3 years old, so around 1972. It wasn’t a house there, it was still a garden.

– You kept moving. What Slovak traditions did you take with you?

– All of them, but mostly the holidays. Oh, and in Moldova Noua, we were a lot of Slovaks. My father’s sister was Slovak, married to a Slovak, with two Slovak daughters, there were 2-3 cousins from the Lavrinecz family, married to Czech penoaice from the Caras-Severin area.

– Yes, my grandmother said there were some Slovaks there.

– They speak some kind of Czech. There are still Slovaks in the Caras area, but they speak more Czech than Slovak. Where they come from and how they got there… that’s why I say that even uncles, aunts, even if they weren’t Slovak-Slovak, they were still peni, penoaice, they spoke Slovak, the children spoke Slovak, so we were only speaking Romanian at school. We were always celebrating. There was always some sort of celebration: holidays, birthdays, name days.

– The food, everything was in the same style.

– The same style. Even the pig was sometimes butchered behind the block, by butcher uncles, with the same traditional products. That’s why I say we spoke Slovak with our brothers and cousins.

– Oh, so you didn’t miss it so much.

– No, I didn’t.

– Nor in Timisoara… did you miss it?

– Homesickness… I didn’t even realize if I missed it or not. We didn’t come home much. One, for financial reasons, that we couldn’t afford to go out much, until after retirement. It was a rule. Instead we would walk home from the train station, there was no way I could let them know every time I was coming home on Saturday, we didn’t even have a phone, we would write postcards to each other or call when we were on practice week, to the neighbours. At Hajduk or somewhere in the neighbours we would call, they went to get my mother and I would call her again. On Griviței Street, do you know where Griviței Street is?

– Yes, yes.

– Coming on foot, about that corner, I’d start to see the house. And all the time it was changing seasons. I didn’t come very often. In spring the trees were in bloom, or it was winter, it was autumn, everything was cold or the leaves were falling, but it was always different when I came. I would come with a heavy bag, but there, from the corner, I would catch the momentum and the joy I actually felt there, from that corner until I got home. Then I’d realize that I still missed it.

– The scenery always got to you…  Already in  school, classmates, other habits, other schedule…

– I was discovering another world. There were 8 girls in the dorm, from 8 different areas. Each one was… you discovered another world, from stories, from customs. There were also people from Oltenia and Arad.

– How did the pure Slovak family react to you coming home with your man from Oltenia?

– Bad… Both families reacted badly. Bad… my father not so much as my mother. And not that she had anything against him, coming from Oltenia. But he was Romanian and that could mean one thing: that would simply take me from Nădlac. Being a border guard, he’d surely go to the border and take me with him. The family in Oltenia, the same. Mihai’s grandmother,and then my mother-in-law… I don’t think showed herself so much, but my father-in-law showed himself to the fullest. The only one who stood by us was Mihai’s grandfather. And this is not just a story. He was wounded in the war, in Banská Bystrica. And  he said: „Fine ladies, the Slovak women”. But his grandmother, when she caught Mihai alone, told him: „My dear, you’re going away to those Hungarians”. And he replied, „No, Grandma, they’re not Hungarians, they’re Slovaks.” „It’s the same thing”.

Even the dog suffered a lot… A nice puppy, we took in, they were small children and went to Craiova. Whenever my father-in-law got drunk, he was like „Fucking Slovak”, that poor dog didn’t even know if he was Slovak or not…

– He couldn’t get along with him because he spoke Romanian and the dog didn’t react. My grandmother said that there was a very clear demarcation, here Slovaks, from here Romanians, you’re not allowed to go, did you get that?

– Yes, I did. It’s not that you weren’t allowed to go, but friendships were not well seen, nor girls with girls if they were Romanians, let alone with boys. There were fights even in my time if the boys from Bujac came to our Slovak area or our Slovaks went somewhere to the girls’ area around Bujac. Not so the Viile-Vechi, who were Slovaks from Bihor. A Slovak from Nădlac will never see one from Viile-Vechi, who came from the Bihor area, as a Slovak. He will not call him a Slovak from the Bihor area, he will call him a Bihorčania, Bihorean. They don’t see them as Slovaks…

– Yes, but look at the president of the Union, Merka, isn’t he from Bihor?

– As an organization, the UDSC Union was in Nădlac. And they did a trick because they are many and united. They’re quite mischievous, they said „How many of you are there? 3-400 active members”. The statute of the association or foundation was somehow made on the number of members, on the number of votes, and then they took all the villages from everywhere, from all over Bihor, Sălaj, not only Bihor county, they also have them in Sălaj. In the county of Sălaj there are a lot of Slovak communities, they are not Czechs, they are all a kind of Slovaks. They speak a much more broken Slovak than we do. Ours is also a bit more broken, it’s colourful. Slovak – Slovak, when he hears you speaking, he says it’s the language his grandmother spoke 100 years ago. But he recognises it and I’ve met people who love our way of speaking, and they „Don’t bother, speak like you speak to your mother, that’s exactly how my grandmother spoke to my mother”. That’s how I heard them talk, exactly like that. The words, a lot of Hungarian words that have nothing to do with Slovak…

– Okay, but Slovaks were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at one time…

– Even here in Hunedoara, in Coroiești, I hear a lot of Slavic or Hungarian words, they can’t explain them. Mihai doesn’t understand them, I understand them and I have always guessed them correctly, by hearing and by association. He says “But how do you know?”. I know, because in Slovak they say it like that, that is more towards Slovak than Hungarian.

– What were the specific Slovak dishes? Because now they’re lost, you don’t know what’s Romanian, what’s Slovak.

– When I was a child, my grandmother was still cooking everyday. My mother cooked more on Sundays. She knew what she was going to cook the next week. There were rules. On Mondays, you ate the leftovers from Sunday. Sundays we always had soup with noodles, meat, sauce, tomato sauce, compote sauce, that’s what it was, or roast beef with compote. Only in the summer, they ate it, but very rarely, with cucumber salad or lettuce. 

– They didn’t make salads?

– Not so much… Everything was on compote. And if it was freshly cooked apple compote, with plums or something, everything was compote. Compote or sweet sauce of something or dill. Tuesday and Friday were bean days. Dried beans, green beans, that’s what they used to say: on Tuesdays and Fridays they ate beans. With sausage, it wasn’t always sausage. Wednesdays and Saturdays were dough. Haluske with cheese, cut, dosed, but generally haluske, 90% of Wednesdays and Saturdays or at least Saturdays were haluske. Being a big family or when there were guests from Czechoslovakia, we were I don’t know how many at the table.  In the big kettle in the courtyard, that’s where the pasta was boiled. 2-3 women were spreading the sheets…

– And always freshly made, not kept like this…

– No, just fresh. Thursday was stew day. And if it was plain, but on Thursdays it was stew. 

– What do you mean plain?

– With potatoes, onions…

– Oh, no meat. They didn’t make soup…

– No, soup doesn’t exist in Slovak cuisine. Soups were made as they went to work, soup was for breakfast. Not fancy soup, tomato soup, cumin soup, potato soup, soup. And in the morning, first thing in the morning, they ate soup with bread and went to work.

– Is this cumin soup specific?

– With egg rags. That was the standard menu. So, on Thursdays, generally stews. And in the day of dumplings, haluske, cut noodles with cheese, poppy, cabbage…

– And desserts?

– On holidays…

– And what was it like?

– On New Year’s Eve it was always cream puffs, made with walnuts, with poppy, a kind of sherbet. And the occasional pie spread. 


– Not cake… only for dead people or for weddings. They used to make piecot. The rest of it, doughnuts, cherry cobbler. In the winter they used to make more, if I think about it,  horn cookies, pogăcele, with lard, they put lard. Then they were probably even freer, they made the fire in the oven. In summer very rarely… it was jam, it was bread with sugar. Instead they made bread. I grew up with homemade bread, baked in the oven. Bread wasn’t bought until much later, if at all.

– Grandma said you get it by the card…

– That was on the card in Moldova Nouă, because in Nădlac they always baked bread. She made bread for a week.

– Oh, so she used to make more. Do you know any children’s tales?

– My grandfather told me stories all the time, from the villages, from the war…

– Don’t you know a fairytale, like Snow White?

– No.

– Princess fairytales…

– I started reading fairytales in bboks I got from Czechoslovakia, with „Salt in dishes”, but the Slovak version.

– The rest is  everyday stories.

– Stories told, everyday stories.

– Not fiction?

– No. And I don’t know of anyone who’s ever told me a story. There were no stories read. No books were read.

– Did you have a library at home?

– No. My father had a subscription to the historical almanac, and I used to read magazines like that, mostly magazines. Mom never read anything, Grandma couldn’ read.

– It was this habit of coming home and sitting and telling stories, playing cards…

– Frequently, mostly in winter. There wasn’t a night you didn’t go somewhere. Even my in-laws when they first came to meet my parents… I couldn’t let them know I was coming with Mihai and his parents. They were playing Rummy for money. It was January 3, with platters of sausage and cookies and the TV on in the background, money on the table, little piggy banks… Then the guests came… They took their pennies and cut out when they saw the son-in-law coming. They saw it’s serious, there’s talk of a wedding…

– And you’ve already lost that habit, it doesn’t exist in your generation.

– For example, right after the Revolution, our goddaughter used to come to play cards and rummy. Michael was already after night shifts and didn’t play much. You start and get busy with other obligations or you don’t care about Rummy anymore. I put up with them for a while…

– You already had children…

– Yes, but I don’t know, I’d rather read a book. I started reading in boarding school. Maybe out of boredom, I had access to the library there.

– Tell me how you ended up at the Chamber of Commerce.

– I can’t tell you exactly when it started, around 2003…

– But what was its role?

– Its role? Mostly, trade shows. Expo Arad is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Company start-ups were also done through the Chamber of Commerce. Now it’s the Commercial Registry. If you wanted to start a company, you had to go to the Chamber of Commerce. At least foreign companies. And Romanian companies, but foreign companies were primarily interested in fairs, what was the calendar in Cluj, for example, and they came with their products. And they needed an interpreter or someone who spoke Romanian to understand their products and to mediate their discussions. And then we would go 2-3, as many as needed, we would stay a few days at the fairs. And from these collaborations, plus the fact that I was already doing bookkeeping, more primary bookkeeping, help in setting up companies… I ended up in the chambers of commerce somehow. 

– And culturally? Did they advertise you?

– The chamber, no.

– That was the role of the Union. 

– It should have been.. Somehow we tried for many years to make peace with the Union and work together. It’s always been a war, and now it’s a war with us and the next generation. We don’t know how to be as united as the Hungarians are, as the Serbs are. I grew up among Serbs, in Moldova-Nouă I enriched my Slovak knowledge through Serbian.  

– So the people from Nadlac they are not united…

– They’re not…

– My grandmother, if I asked her, said that there was no such hatred between Romanians and Slovaks. I don’t know then, but now…

– Not between Romanians and Slovaks, between Slovaks and Slovaks. I lived the war between Slovaks and Slovaks, not Romanians. With the Romanians I got along fine. 

-But why?

– I don’t know. Your head hurts from what was going on over there, little mischief like that. I’ve always been more appreciated outside Nădlac than in Nădlac. I didn’t even tell too many stories, but the Nădlacans don’t know much about me. Except that, an image they’ve formed. 

– Were you taken to church as a child? In Moldova Nouă or here, in Brad, did you have an Evangelical Church?

– No.

– You didn’t?

– No, and I don’t know. I mean, I didn’t enter an Orthodox church until after I got married, I went in that way. But there was no Evangelical church, no, except in Nădlac. And when I stayed elsewhere, I came on holidays, I went to church.

– Did you come to Nădlac every time to church?

– Yes, on holidays, if I was in Nădlac. We usually celebrated the holidays at home. All the time wherever I lived, I went home. Home was in Nădlac. And after we settled in Nădlac, even after I got married. My father, he was even in charge of the church. He used to take my grandfather to the church on the way…

– I caught him taking Grandma, not every Sunday, but when there were some holidays…

– In the house or at funerals, at weddings, they sang church songs, holiday songs, carols, they went from house to house.

– And on Sundays, what did you do if you were in Moldova Nouă?

– We didn’t go to church.

– But at least they would try “let’s pray on Sundays”?

– No, no. Except in these collective hymns. 

– What if someone died?

– If they died, they’d lie down with a party, sing from the church books. 

– Did you feel that you were allowed to express your culture in this way or were you oppressed?

– We were not oppressed.

– It was not forbidden…

– I don’t know, maybe I was too young… but they didn’t sing or make jokes about the party or the leadership or Ceaușescu, as I heard for example in Timișoara, among the Romanians. We had traditional songs, both sad and happy. They didn’t adapt them, I don’t think they upset the regime.

– I understand. And so you felt that you were pushed aside by the Romanians, that they didn’t understand your culture…

– It didn’t feel that way. It was just this: don’t take our girls and don’t take our boys. 

– That has somehow been preserved now.

– But if a couple got married, they weren’t removed. They were mixed families and they were welcomed. It was this adolescent hatred somehow. And even Romanians who learned Slovak in Slovak homes, Romanian wives who learned Slovak with children…

Photo credit: Diana Bilec