My childhood, and the one of many other children like me, back in the communist era, was marked by the flavor of the rural Transylvania, that of the Romanian village, a place resembling the old Dacian settlements, minus the rare radios or black-and-white TV sets, some of them dating from right after the Second War, or the sound of the orthodox church bells on a Sunday morning. I cannot forget the smell of the animals in the stable and the smell of hay. We were playing with perfumed logs, freshly cut for the fire instead of plastic toys. Our dolls were made of corn cobs stolen from the field, while our grandparents were digging the dirt or picking the crops. I cannot forget the joy of running with the silly, noisy chicken and turning 180 degrees when, in turn, being chased by a furious and suddenly brave brood-hen. Rolling in the freshly filled puddles, chasing the dog and being chased by it, I simply cannot imagine a good, healthy childhood without all these things. I miss it and I pity my friends’ babies and children for not having the chance to be there any more. ‘Couse times are changing. And the Transylvanian village will soon be no more, or at least, not the way we used to know it.

Time passes fast and things change, even faster, it seems. Places like my childhood’s village are fewer and fewer. I am a grown-up now, and I see things a bit differently nowadays. I see the hardship of our grandparents lives, things that I have missed, or rather, been kept away from, for the sake of my innocence. I see our grandparents’ cracked old hands. I see the dark clothes that the widows never stopped wearing after their husbands died of silicosis in the mines, or just of too hard life. I stare at them and cannot help wondering where is their humor and strength coming from.

Hidden in the gorgeous hills of Transylvania I have discovered the mere shadow of such a place. 5 houses are still standing and 5 families are still living there. The village grew around the Chioar Fortress, one of the most powerful fortresses of the medieval age - the legends says, dismantled by the Austrians in the 18th century. After the sad end of
the fortress, the village lost its main purpose, the one of providing food and support to the garrison but continued to live its daily life through the Magyar domination, the communism, the post-revolutionary age, without little changes but growing smaller in time. The people living here are, now, all, around the age of 80, except a mentally handicapped boy, adopted by Maria to help her with the household, after her husband died.

Maria, Miron, Lelea Vusi and the others still plough the fields, sow, mow, take the cattle to the pasture lands around the ruins of the fortress. They salt the meet for the winter and bake their own bread in clay ovens built by their hands. Miron watches the Sunday church ceremony on an old black-and-white Russian TV and Maria has an ancient radio which broadcasts folk music. It’s an idyllic, pastoral picture.
But what’s hidden beneath, the pains, the sicknesses, the poverty, the old age cannot be easily seen. They cannot be seen because they are not shown. My old friends radiate serenity, a powerful desire to live and a mixture of ‘what can we do?! this is our life’ and ‘why bother to think about it, it will be like this, till the end’. Every time I go there, my old friends from the remote villages of Transylvania feed me with their freshly home-baked bread and a strange, somehow, doze of optimism.

Gabriela Muj-Lindroos

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