– Were you born here, in Vladimirovac?
– Are your parents from this village, too?
– My parents are from here, but they’re dead, there’s no one else. My sister was married there. They were two brothers and that’s where their father made their houses, near the house of my parents. We are three sisters.
– And who stayed with the parents?
– My sister stayed with our parents, just not in the same house. Next door. I got married here, but the younger one is across the “street”… in Chicago.
– When did the sister leave?
– In 1974.
– How did she think of going to Chicago?
– Her parents went be there. And, well, maybe fate dragged her.
– Were the parent Romanians ?
– And how did they get there?
– First his father left, then his mother left and then my son-in-law went to visit in winter, he stayed there for two or three months. I remember, on May 4, 1974 he went with my sister and they had a child.
– You have a nephew there, after your sister… And they’re coming here?
– Not often. When they were working, they came every second year. The other year it was with Covid, but last year they were there and this year, on July 6th they’re coming again. They have a house.
– And no one lives here…
– They speak Romanian?
– They do. But the grandchildren don’t know. They understand, but they don’t know. Two of them went to California, where they studied architecture, these two here in Chicago, they all speak English with their friends, how would they know. Their mother is English… How would they know Romanian?
– Have you been there?
– No. I was Kitchener, where my brother-in-law is.
– That’s in Canada?
– In Canada, yes. That’s where I was. I was there from December 19th to March 22nd.
– What year?
– And how did you get there?
– By plane.
– From where? From Belgrade?
– From Belgrade to Toronto.
– And from there?
– They drove us.
– And how did you like it?
– I liked it then. But we came back and we stayed here…
– Didn’t you want to leave too?
– No, no. I’m happy here, in the country, with my family. If you don’t like to work, wherever you go, you don’t work, nobody gives you anything.
– But they left because they didn’t like it here?
– No, no. He was alone with his grandparents and he wanted to go. How can I put it, it was his fate.
– But people from here leave the village for America?
– A lot of people left then.
– Were your parents away somewhere?
– No. They always stayed here.
– And your grandparents?
– Still at home. Just these, my in-laws, they’ve been with the baby there. Because he got married there, in Kitchener.
The parents were from Satu Nou. Here. She knew both Romanian and English and that’s where he met and married her. They have a son and a daughter, only he died. In time they separated, they stopped living with each other and that was their life. You have to be, how shall I say, shoulder to shoulder with your husband. You have to pay attention to him and know that you have children with him. In other countries it’s not like this. I don’t know what it’s like in Romania.
– Have you been to Romania?
– I have. Now I want to go too.
– Where have you been?
– In Timisoara, to my grandson.
(Other people appear. They speak Romanian)
– So this is a Swedish street? That’s what I understood. The lady has a grandson in Sweden…
(Interview continues with the gentleman)
– Yes, that’s right. One left… one called for another.
– Who left first?
– The first to go to Sweden was Bucur. They’re long gone, in the ’60s. The second wave was in ’88-’89, when Dalea’s left. I left in 2001. I took about 5 or 6 people with me, and they stayed.
– And from the 60s, 70s, 80s… are they settled there?
– They’re settled there. Some of them are dead. And the young ones don’t even know Romanian, Serbian or anything. I mean, the grandchildren only speak Swedish.
– But they don’t come here, do they?
– No, they don’t have anything in the village anymore.
– Do your girls speak Romanian, Serbian and Swedish?
– And English. So four languages.
– You’re Romanian, she’s Romanian, what language do you speak at home?
– We still speak Romanian.
– Knowing so many languages, that’s something…
– I speak four languages too. Serbian, Romanian, English, Swedish. The girls have three citizenships. Three passports. And the Serbian one. They go to Russia. They don’t need a visa (laughs).
– I’m retired… That’s it.
– It’s enough, 22 years. I’ve been there, I’ve done my time. I’ve rented my apartment there, I’m staying here, I’m talking to you and the money comes in. I don’t need it anymore. Life is short. If you don’t have to… Today you are, tomorrow you’re gone. You work, work, work and die with money in the bank? You have to spend that money, not just make it.
– But it’s nice to have you back.
– I’m back in my village, in my world.
-But not everyone came back… I’ve heard many stories today…
– I could have gone to Spain or anywhere, but I wanted to go to home. Wherever I am, my village is my home. Here, life is good. People work, they farm, but look, they’re rich, they live well. Why should I go and be someone else’s slave? If I can be a boss in my own house. But when the factory calls you, you have to be there, rain or snow…
– What did you work there?
– I’m an auto mechanic. I worked for companies, then I opened my own business, my workshop. And when you work there, you live from today until tomorrow. It’s not WOW there either. You get your salary, you go to work. You earn 3,000 euros, but wait, there’s your apartment 1,000 euros, there’s your food, there’s your car, there’s your insurance. Just like here. If you have any luck to open your own business, earn more, this is where you do. But if you’re just working for a salary… Over there, you’re a stranger all your life. Here you’re in your own world. That’s the difference.
– Is it hard being a stranger?
– A stranger is always a stranger. Even if you know the language well. I speak better Swedish than Romanian, but you’re a stranger in their eyes.
– But what made you feel that way?
– From different situations that I encountered all the time. From a problem in traffic, from a neighbour. I’ve lived there for 20 years and no neighbour talks to you. No “hi,” no nothing. You’re a stranger. And it hurts them more when they see that I, as a stranger, have prospered. They have a nice house, good, expensive cars, they are born there and live from month to month, for the salary, and it hurts them. But I can’t help it, I worked 12 hours a day. I didn’t want to settle for just a salary. I worked hard. They don’t want to stress, they’re easy, they live from today until tomorrow. Whoever makes it makes it, it doesn’t depend on the country, it depends on the person. The country doesn’t make you rich. You have to struggle to do something in life.
Photo credit: Dariana Hînda