Two North- Romanian Stories
In which country and region did we grow up? How was the political environment around us? Which values have we been taught as children. When were we born? How did the people around us behave? Everything surrounding us, influences us.
In this article, I would like to introduce you to the life of two people. Both live in a city, called Baia Mare, located in Northern Romania. The protagonists are divided by 42 years of life experience. Darius is 21 years by now, while Valerica is 63. This eventually leads to very different life circumstances. The older one growing up in the communistic times of Ceaușescu, the younger one not even witnessing it.
Of course, one person´s experiences cannot be representative for a region or generation. Take for example your own neighbour next door. How similar are you to them? However, hopefully you will get an impression of the place, its people and history. Maybe you will even find something, to personally relate to.
Let’s begin with the one, who saw this earth before the other.
Valerica Horincar- 63 years old
Let me try to describe Valerica for you. When you enter her apartment, you are immediately greeted, by an active looking lady. She is in comfortable clothes, seems very relaxed and easy- going. Throughout the interview I am amazed on how fast a smile can come back to her lips, even after touching on some very hard topics.
Bird sounds come from a huge modern music box. The living room looks very tidy and comfortable. Maybe the colour brown is used a bit too often for everyone´s liking. Valerica is a perfect host from beginning on. Once you are seated, she brings in self- baked bread, self- made hummus, pickled peppers and some snacks. She offers you tea and the prospect of Moldavian vine.
Maybe this is a good way to start her story. Valerica was born in Moldavia, the north- eastern region of Romania. She grew up in a village next to the city Piatra Neamț. Living in the countryside, her family was able to life off the things, they grew and cultivated themselves. Every household was self- sustainable on its own. Valerica loved to pick fruits from the trees and eat them. She talks about this time very fondly. Thanks to her good marks, she was able to get a scholarship for high school and university.
The living conditions in the city were very different from the villages. This Valerica soon had to experience herself. She moved to the city Baia Mare after she had married her husband. Baia Mare is located in the north- western region, Maramureș. Even though both regions are in Northern Romania, Valerica had the impression that they are very different from each other when she moved. Where the people of Maramureș are more western, Moldavian people are closer to Russian people. The accents are different, there are different words, food and customs. The adaptation period to the new place was hard for her.
Not only the new region brought her trouble. It was the communist times after all. The people of Romania lived from 1965 until the revolution in 1989 under the autocracy of Nicolae Ceaușescu. The living conditions of the Romanian people decreased drastically from 1980. Because the country had too many depths to pay, Ceaușescu ordered to export a lot of nourishments, leading to a starving population.
Valerica experienced this first handed. When she moved to Baia Mare, she could no longer grow her own plants. The food supplies came in rations. You often had to stand in line for hours. Her father- in- law would go to the store at two a.m. When the store opened, she would join him, so they were both able to get supplies. However, in her experience, the food was never enough. They could find meat only very seldomly. The people, who grew vegetables and owned animals always had to give something to the state. It was not their decision to make if they wanted to slaughter a calf, they had to let it grow. In those times Valerica had to raise her first born working in a new job, in a new town. When she talks about this time, you can hear and see the hardships she went through. Her second child was born after the revolution, because she felt like she would not be able to raise another child under those circumstances.
Valerica worked in the textile industry in Baia Mare. It was typical for this time and region, that the men worked in the mining industry and the women in the textile industry. In the communist times, everyone- men and women- always had a working position. Or at least, that’s what the propaganda announced.
In her work, Valerica often had contact to foreign, especially western people. This got her under the supervision of the Securitate, the Romanian Secret Police. Every factory had one person from it. They had meetings with the workers and cross examinations. Romanian people were scared of the Securitate. They could even punish you for listening to foreign, independent radio stations, like Free Europe. In general, Valerica tells me, the Romanian media almost only consisted of propaganda for Ceaușescu.
After the revolution in 1989, Valerica ´s living conditions got better. She later worked in the field of environmental protection and retired last year.
Arriving in today´s times- let me introduce Darius to you
Darius Fănățan- 21 years old
When you meet Darius, it is most likely that he has got a smile on his face. Bleached hair, some tattoos here and there and always a friendly and welcoming attitude towards everyone.
Unlike Valerica, he grew up in Baia Mare and still is living there. Growing up he did not spend his time by picking fruits, but played with his friends on the close-by playgrounds. He did various types of sports, joined clubs in high school and went to competitions. Laughing, he tells me a story of one of his first badminton competitions. There he drastically lost to young child. In his defence, he beat him some years later in another competition.
When I personally talked to some young people from Baia Mare, they often tell me they want to leave the city and sometimes even the country. Therefore, it was surprising to me, that Darius wants to stay. He worked in construction in France for six months. Spending time abroad, might make you value the place you grew up in, a bit more. Currently he is working in a toy store, but is planning on opening up a gaming place. Always having to buy the newest games and devices is very expensive. Therefore, he wants to create a space for kids, where they are able to play. In order to earn enough money, he might work sometime in the U.K.
In his time in France, he got to know more about Romanian culture, than any other. Due to the fact he worked together with many Romanians, who sang and danced together to Romanian pieces. When I talked to people in Baia Mare, I noticed that a lot of them have relatives, who worked sometime abroad. However, both Valerica and Darius, told me that recently the trend for young people is, to stay in Romania and work there. They both have the perception that there is more hope now and better working chances.
Darius is not that interested in politics. However, he has got a strong opinion on the church. The orthodox church is very present in the life of Romanian people. Even walking around smaller cities, you will find a lot of churches. Darius thinks it is a manipulative institution.
After talking with Darius about some hardships in his life, I was amazed by his attitude. One of his life -mottos is, to stay positive and try to cheer up the people surrounding you. Wanting to make a good impact on the people around him, also led him to volunteer for some time. Right now, he is a coordinator for volunteers in a local NGO, named Team For Youth Association.
Two different generations- any conflicts?
Asking them about generational differences, they are both very kind to the other generation. Darius thinks people Valerica´s age are kinda cool and chill. Whereas, Valerica really worries about the young generation.
Surprisingly she thinks, that the young generation has a harder time now, than she had, when she was younger. In her opinion it is hard for them to save money, build their own house and having more responsibilities. The prices are going up and there is an inflation. In addition to that, she worries about Fake News. She tells me, even educated people now are falling for conspiracy theories. She pities the younger generation on having to sort out what is true and what is fake in this flood of information. In comparison to the communist times, she jokes: “Everything was a lie, but at least it was one lie. “
From her perception Romania joining the European Union in 2007, was a big step and gave people more control over politics. However, both of them tell me, that corruption is still a big problem in today´s politics. The communist times, still have an influence on the people. It´s in the minds, in the food and politics. One of the leading parties right now, can be seen as a post- communist party. That it still gets elected by a lot of people, makes Valerica sad. She wonders if people do not remember the communist´s times. Furthermore, she thinks the nation gets more divided as the time passes. From her point of view the nation was more connected in the communist´s times. Both of them nevertheless hope the best for their country, because they are proud of it and love to live there.
Even though, Valerica and Darius never met personally, I think they would get along really well. One thing, I noticed, when talking to them is, that they both have a very broad music taste. Remember the big speaker in Valerica ´s home? It is there for a reason. Valerica listens to classical music, piano pieces, bird sounds, but also a lot of rock. She immediately started to play Led Zeppelin and Queen for me. Darius is a huge fan of Justin Bieber. He is even flying to Finland this summer to see him in concert. However, I got the impression he is able to enjoy every style of music. He loves trap, listens to a lot of rock, but also is open to genres like K- Pop. I certainly got some cool music pieces recommended by him.
From a personal perspective, I am very grateful for the two people, who told me a little bit about their life. With those stories they brought Northern Romania a bit closer to me.
At last, Valerica grew up with chicken, geese and other animals around her. Darius is now raising a lizard, named Blaze. Oh, how times change!