Bucuresti 2057

 

“Dragul meu,

Ai câștigat alegerile… Felicitări! Să fie într-un ceas bun.

Cumva însă ne așteptam. De când erai mic mă întrebam cum ar fi sa ajungi într-o zi în fruntea acestui oraș pe care l-am iubit atât, l-am părăsit apoi și l-am regăsit mult mai târziu: haotic, dinamic, chinuitor.

În fond, semnele se arătau de pe-atunci. Într-o dimineață de vară ne-ai zis “Azi sunt primar! Poftiți la mine în birou” și ne-ai invitat în capătul balconului, în pampers și cu un tricou roșu, hotărât. Am râs noi, dar parcă se potrivea. Aveai doi ani jumate, stăteam încă pe Splai, în “blocul cu zei”, prin fața căruia Dâmbovița curgea tristă într-un canal cu pereți de beton.

Acum ai vârsta pe care o aveam eu atunci. S-au schimbat multe între timp. Mă întreb ce schimbări o să aduci tu. ”
Cititi toata povestea pe inclusiv.ro.

București 2057

URANUS NOW

Exhibition at MNAC 17.10.2019 – 12.01.2020 in cooperation with Zeppelin, Ideilagram

December 22, 1989 marked not only the fall of the Ceaușescu regime, but also the end of the megalomaniac communist project to demolish and then rebuild Romanian cities. Thirty years on, the collective memory of these destructions is fading away, while the aggression against the cities continues, even in an opposite paradigm – that of ultraliberal development.

Forgetting (sometimes voluntary) can intensify a revisionist discourse, which justifies those brutal demolitions by the need to “modernize”. The same discourse then programmatically applies to the destructions and excessive building we witness today.

Under these circumstances, we believe that neither nostalgic accounts, nor the display of archives and other records as such are no longer enough. Therefore, through the proposed project we intend to take a step forward towards a symbolic and analytical re-enactment of an erased urban reality.

*Collage: Radu Manelici. Photo: Andrei Bîrsan, Ștefan Tuchilă

We concentrate the almost completely destroyed Uranus neighbourhood, the very place the occupied by Ceaușescu’s Palace (now the seat of the Parliament) and several other totalitarian buildings. But we also talk about the context, the general project and other brutal urban replacements, including recent ones in Bucharest.

*Ecoului Street in the 1980s. Photo: Andrei Bîrsan

The keyword is co-presence: overlaying today’s reality on the erased past reality. And this will be achieved not only for houses, churches, schools, streets and gardens, but also for people and their stories. Using 3D and physical models and installations, we aim to symbolically bring back to life the demolished buildings into today’s world.

The main goal of our project goes beyond remembering and honouring those who suffered, resisted or documented this tragedy: it is also about promoting a more balanced and responsible urban development for the present.

URANUS NOW is a project about the living history and the community spirit, about the sometimes invisible connections between periods of history that might appear radically different.

*Photo: Andrei Bîrsan

Contents and activities

1. We are conducting historical and architectural research, an online archive about the Uranus-Izvor area (broadly the area between Splaiul Independenței, Piața Constituției, Piața Regina Maria, Calea Rahovei, Strada Izvor).

The archive contains new historical images and plans, as well as summaries or excerpts from other researches, also conversations with former residents or witnesses of the events.
All the information will be presented as such, in a structured way, but we will provide interpretations of the data too. Among others, we are working on a 3D model of the area: a 3D two-layer model of the area, superimposing the reality pre-existing Ceaușescu’s intervention today’s cityscape.

The archive will be available free on the e-zeppelin platform.

2. An indoor exhibition was organised at the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition presents a selection of the documentation described above, as well as film screenings, fragments of the demolished buildings, items provided by the residents of Uranus, etc. One of the main elements in the exhibition is a two-layer physical model of the past reality superimposed on the present-day one.

*Photo: Vlad Dumitrescu

 

*Photo: Vlad Dumitrescu

*Photo: Vlad Dumitrescu

3. An outdoor exhibition consisted of a series of temporary installations mounted in the public space and on the property of some institutions in the area.

The installations are to be found in the public space until June 5th, 2020 and take form of 1:1 scale models made of light materials. They replicate fragments of the demolished constructions and were placed into the public space on the exact former locations of the buildings.

*Photo: Vlad Dudu

4. The exhibition was accompanied by a round table and events for children (in partnership with De-a Arhitectura Association). Undergraduates of the Ion Mincu University of Architecture were involved in creating the digital archive, projects, and actual constructions.

*The archeology of the urban memory. A restored plan of the former neighbourhood superimposed over the current situation (detail). None of the old elements in the picture survived (the church, the streets, the houses).

Uranus Now. Exhibition, digital archive and public space installations

ORGANIZERS: Zeppelin, Ideilagram, Ordinul Arhitecţilor din România – OAR – Filiala
Bucureşti

EXHIBITION: National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest – MNAC, 17.10.2019 – 12.01.2020

PARTNERS: MNAC Bucharest, The Romanian Academy, “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest

ONLINE ARCHIVE, PROJECT INFO (RO): e‑zeppelin.ro/uranus‑acum

THIS CULTURAL PROJECT IS SUPPORTED BY:
Romanian Order of Architects through the Architectural Stamp Duty
The Administration of the National Cultural Fund—AFCN.

SPONSORS: Saint-Gobain Rigips, Valachorum

TEAM

CONCEPT, CURATORS: Dorothee Hasnaș, Ștefan Ghenciulescu

DESIGN COORDINATION, CURATOR: Ilinca Păun-Constantinescu

URBAN AND ARCHITECTURAL RESEARCH, EXHIBITION CONCEPT, DESIGN: Dorothee Hasnaș, Ilinca Păun Constantinescu, Ștefan Ghenciulescu, Tudor Constantinescu, Gabriela Belcineanu, Iulia Păun, Alexandru Păun

HISTORIC, SOCIOLOGIC AN URBAN RESEARCH: Oana-Valentina Suciu, Iris Șerban, Irina Tulbure, Andrei-Răzvan Voinea, Mihai Burcea

INTERVIEWS: Oana-Valentina Suciu, Iris Șerban, Dorothee Hasnaș

COLLABORATORS INTERVIEWS: Silvia Schechter, Ioana Olaru, Anca Sandu, Andrei Bulearcă

EXPERTS: Hanna Derer, Peter Derer, Nicolae Lascu, Sorin Vasilescu

GRAPHIC DESIGN: Radu Manelici, Max Gruenwald (Faber Studio)

FILMS, EDITING: Alexandru Păun

RESEARCH COLLABORATION, PLANS RECONSTRUCTION, 3D MODEL: Ana Băbuș, Anca- Bardan, Bogdan Diaconu, Teo Neagu, Diana Necula, Octavian Dragoș Puiu, Andrei Subțirică, Anastasia David Limona, Andrei Badea

INHABITANTS, WITNESSES INTERVIEWED: Crenguța Roșu, Dinu Suciu, Liviu Tofan, Paul Drogeanu, Dan Perry, Iulian A., Horia Marinescu, Tudor Marinescu, Sorin Vasilescu, Peter Derer, Emanuel Tânjală, Rodica Scafeș, Dinu Bumbăcea, Cristian Preda, Dumitru Belu, Mircea Stroe, Nicolae Olaru, Alexandru Mexi, Cristian Zaharia, Musi Tudor Vespremeanu, Radu Stroe, Beatrice Jöger, George Calalb, Persida Bucur (Kipper), Ligia Livadă, Mariana Avanu-Bulei, Ozana Nicolau, Ecaterina Băndărău, Raluca Bibiri

NEW AND ARCHIVE PHOTOS: Andrei Bîrsan, Șerban Hasnaș, Alexandru Panaitescu, Dan Perry, Ștefan Tuchilă, Sorin Vasilescu, Cristian Zaharia, Agerpress, archives of the dwellers of Uranus, other personal and institutional archives

INSTALLATION STRUCTURAL DESIGN: Adrian Brânzoiu, Ștefan Ruste & Ioana Avram
GYPSUM ORNAMENTS: Neta Popescu, Florin Ciobanu, Marian Ciobanu, Florin Stanciu, Ionică Florea

CONSTRUCTION TEAM: George Tănase, Daniel Dafina, Marian Dorobanțu, Iulian Galați, Ionuț Agache, Gabriel Cazan

EXHIBITION PRODUCTION: XDesign, Atelier Vast

VOLUNTEERS FOR THE INSTALLATIONS AND THE MOUNTING OF THE EXHIBITION: Andrei Badea, Luana Ionașcu, Cristina Ginara, Anca Maria Păsărin, Lucia Spinoiu, Laura Dinu, Vladimir Nicula, Iulian Eremia, Mihnea Tudor, Iris Șerban, Antonia Panaitescu, Laura Paraschiv, Bogdan Rădulescu, Ioana Naniș, Andrada Oncescu, Nadia Oltea Constantinescu, Casian Cosma, Laura Paraschiv, Lorena Brează, Bianca Andreea Ivașcu, Ioana Manu

SPECIAL THANKS: Răzvan Theodorescu, Tomnița Florescu, Anca Oroveanu, Georgiana Ghenciulescu, Marius Andruh, Ștefan Bâlici, Laura Bursuc, Andu Păun, Ioan Erhan, Cristian Zaharia, Șerban + Marina Hasnaș, Ruxandra Dumitrescu, Alexandru Nicolae
Panaitescu, Monica Grecu, Gabriela Ghircoias, Irina Hasnaș, Sonia Irimescu, Alexandra Chiliman Juvara, Cristina Ionescu, Dragoș Marian, Ligia Marian, Cristi I. Popescu, Silviu Munteanu, Coca Stroe, Paul Buchert, Alex Mexi

Oil

When I was about six, I learnt about oil. Oil was in the layers of the earth, it made cars work and it gave heat; also, all plastic came from it – so, if you found it, your troubles were history.

Romania had been the first country to put up a commercial oil probe in Bacău and build the first refinery in Ploiești, constructed in 1857 with preordered German equipment. Bucharest had become the first city to be equipped with gas lighting, as of April 1st 1857, with one thousand lamps to take the darkness away.

And grandfather was said to have been a natural talent with finding oil: he had even been invited to Chile for that, somewhere between the world wars.

Dad was and ‘oil and gas engineer’, from what I gathered. Like grandfather, who had died that year.
So dad comes home from work one evening to find that his little girl had dug up most of what had once been our beautiful garden, behind the house. Rose bushes and tulip beds and hydrangeas were holding their roots out in plain view, like the flower ladies would huddle their multilayered dresses, when a ‘control’ came.

I had just started working on the big linden tree roots.

‘What are you doing here?!’ he gasped.

I proudly showed him the extent of the disaster. ‘Dad, I’m looking for oil under our garden!’

Dad was tired and it was the year 1984. He just winked me away. ‘Great job… if you find any, the state will come and take away our house and garden both.’

‘Who’s this state?! How can they take our house away?! Doesn’t it belong to us?’

Dad sighed. ‘State is…look – they can, if you should find oil. You’ll get to know this state one day. Just clean up the mess and stop digging, please.’ He walked into the house.

I kept wondering about this state person over the next days, keeping an eye out, maybe it was lurking around a corner, waiting for me to find the oil, prepared to take something away – oil, house, toys – or even great grandma! Who knows! And how was I to fight this state, if even dad felt powerless against it…

A few days later, it had rained a lot, the garden was revived and all flowers were back in their initial positions.

Dad came home one afternoon to find me flattening the garden with a shovel. No more holes! Not even earthworms were spared – when I saw one, I pulled it out, threw it over the fence into the neighbours’ yard and flattened its construction immediately.

Dad stopped at the door. ‘What in heaven’s name are you doing here?’

‘Psst, dad, I’m removing all the holes! So that the oil can never get out and the state doesn’t come to take our home!’

Dad sighed and sat me down for a talk – about more drilling details, brave firefighters, of how oil appears in nature. He reassured me that it was VERY improbable to find oil under the house. After all, grandfather hadn’t found it there.

***

My next project was to get ownership of an oil platform in international waters, at least 12 Nm away from the coastline, where no state could take it away. Still working on it – this one seems more complicated somehow.

 

The Bag Story

One evening in Zürich, autumn 2010, I found this bag on the pavement, next to my bike. I put it aside, unlocked the bike and rode off. The next day I parked on the same spot. The bag was still there, as if waiting for me. In the evening I found it in my bike-basket. I took it out, hung it on a nearby fence and rode off. This game kept going on for the next 2 days. On the third day I decided that fate wanted me to have this bag.

I had been looking for a new bag for a long time. I always wear my favourite things till they fall apart – and tend to distrust new ones I am finally forced to buy.

“Le bag”, 2011, in my balcony in Port au Prince.

So I looked inside, half fearing it was contaminated- or I’ll find an abandoned new-born inside! -but no. Creamy white lining, some blue and red stains from a pen – and a few bugs. And the smell of new leather!

I took it home, washed everything that wasn’t made of leather – and started using it soon. “Oh, since when are YOU wearing brand-stuff? This one must’ve cost you a fortune. I know a real DKNY when I see it, it’s my favourite brand” a friend said. – No, I found it on the street. – …

When I was packing for Haiti, I was determined to not show off with my things in any way. I even took down my old favourite ring and left it behind. What bag should I take? I only had this one – and a beach bag. You can’t go to a meeting with a beach-bag, can you? And this one looks rather modest, people will just assume it’s a fake.

For the last months it did its job well and does match most things I wear.

Then a few days ago I parked the car in front of the bookstore at Place St. Pierre, Pétion-Ville, the poshest part of Port au Prince. Got out just to see it was closed for Fête Dieu. A bunch of street kids were pestering me about watching the car. I said there was no need for that, I’m leaving right now, as the store is closed anyway. I get into the car, put my cellphone between my legs – where I alway put it when I drive – while I close the door, put the bag down on the floor and – just as I was about to push the “lock-all-doors”-button, someone opens the back door, darts over the passenger seat, grabs the bag – and runs away with it!

I jump out of the car yelling like crazy – and clenching my cellphone. Decide I can’t follow the guy and leave the car, cause he’s probably faster than me on high heels, he knows the neighbourhood a lot better – and I risk to have the car stolen as well. So I scream “SOMEONE STOLE MY BAG! GET IT PLEASE!  THAT WAY!  I’LL PAY A PRIZE TO WHOMEVER BRINGS IT BACK! RUN!!

And all people start running down the street in the indicated direction. All of them- including the guy with the basket full of drinks on his head. The money-exchangers and the cigarette-vendors. The old lady selling fruit on the corner. The phone-company advertiser. The street kids. The school kids. Their parents. The toothless beggar. The passers by, on their way to church.

One street kid turns around: “Where there lots of money in the bag, Ma’m?” – No, but keys and papers, and it’s MINE… MY BAG!!! run, what are you staring at?!” – so he, too, gets in motion.

Only the old newspaper-vendor couldn’t free himself of the newspaper-burden fast enough, so he looked sadly after the others…

After a few minutes, my knees all trembling, the guy with the drinks-basket comes back. “Bag! go there! bag! there!!” and points a few blocks down the street.

“I won’t go anywhere – you guys think you can steal my cell now? or my car?” But I go. On that corner, in the dust, with 40 people gesticulating and quarrelling around it, was MY BAG. Open, like I had left it – and with the wallet on top! Nothing missing.

“This your bag, Ma’m?” Some old people from Mairie de Pétion-Ville, in some sort of sand- or dust-coloured uniform, all escorting me back to the car. Everyone else, who had been running, escorting me as well. I take out money to pay them, thinking that there’s too many of them… They refuse it. I give them the money, still: You guys just all go to the next bar and have a beer and think of me and the wonders of the church on this holy day!

They accept in the end – but only when I’m already in the car, with all doors locked.

I leave with trembling knees, this is incredible.

***

The next day I return to the store on foot, aware and nervous – what if I meet the perpetrator again?
So this guy comes strolling up to me, huge smile on his face: “Happy you got your bag back, Ma’m?”

Yeah, and who are you? “I’m the one who told the thief to drop the bag on the corner, Ma’m. I’m the Godfather of the street kids of Pétion-Ville. Enchanté!”

I’m eyeing him with distrust. He goes on, smiling: “The only reason why you got it back, Ma’m, is because we liked your reaction. You didn’t yell “police!”, like the other “blancs” do, when they get mugged
– you never even mentioned it. You promised ransom for the bag!

Yeah, because I grew up in a fucked-up country, where police was really the last you could expect help from when you were in distress. It never crossed my mind to expect help from them.
The one time I have, after being assaulted in the street – they wanted to charge me with street-prostitution, cause it’s not ok to be out at night as a woman. So, no, I don’t trust police in most countries either.

“You know, we are in the street all day long, we watch everyone, we know their habits. We spend all our life in the streets. I’m 29 now (he looked more like 45+), I’m out in the streets since I was twelve. I got locked-up for four years and a half. I wouldn’t wish a detention in a Haitian prison, not even to my worst enemy I would. I would do anything possible to keep other people from being locked-up. I don’t steal – I manage. Anything that gets stolen in this area, I get a percentage. I try to help the blancs get their papers back, cause I know it’s hard to get them redone, all ID’s and passports and everything. But if they call police, I’m out.”

I watched his brown hands while we were talking – the knuckles were so scarred, I’ve never seen anything like that. As if the guy had been walking on his knuckles through a field of glass-shards… While he was talking all the time with a peaceful smile on his face, he looked like a tired Bob-Marley.

“It would take a miracle to get me out of the streets. A woman – or death -will probably do it, like it happens for most of us. Out here, you don’t live long, you know? I’d so much like to learn something from you – a language, some story, anything. See these kids?”

The street kids were gathering around us, first 2-3, in the end there were almost 20, avidly watching his every gesture. He insisted on continuing the conversation in English, not French or Creole.

“Look at them. These kids have never been to schools, they can’t even read or spell their names. They left home, cause for them the street was the better alternative. Where to get the money for school? (NB: In Haiti you have to pay for tuition; only 15% of the schools are state-owned, the rest are private and a lot less affordable).

– But you speak good English, how did you learn that?

“Well, I worked around hotels and picked it up there…That’s why I am their godfather, I find ways.. If only one could teach them something useful, I’d organise the canteen, they would gather and they would learn. They’re willing.

I’m leaving soon. Are there no NGO’s or other organisations you can apply to with your idea?

No one talks to us, we’re scum, street people. There’s no money for projects like that from the blancs. We’re not flashy in the press – nobody likes being associated with. They just roll their window down and give us some change, they smile, wave and drive on. You think anyone stops and talks to us? You’re the first one in years.

Well, I can somehow understand people you mugged for not feeling like having friendly chats with you.

“You sent away the kids who wanted to guard your car yesterday. That was a mistake, should have let them – and tell them you pay some other time.”

I’m sick of being mistaken for an ATM all the time, it’s so annoying, you know? Think I’m a tourist here, just for fun? I work here – and I could work somewhere else, why do you think I’m here, man? I came for building schools!

“Yeah, but you pissed them kids off, so…when the guy made me a sign that he’s gonna steal you’re bag, I shrugged. But then when I saw the way you reacted, I thought you were worth it – and told the guy to ditch the bag, untouched, and run. Don’t worry, you’re cool. From now on, nothing bad is ever going to happen to you in this area again – trust me, you can leave the car unlocked. If anything should happen, ask for me, I’ll get it back to you in one hour.”

He gathered the kids around and told them some things in Creole, holding on to my shoulder. They were watching the whole scene rather puzzled. He turned to me. “See?”

If you guys steal like that, why don’t you make something smart with of the money? I guess a rather large amount comes together at the end of the day. Put your kids to school, do something for them!

“You know, money that you don’t earn gets spent fast. Stolen, gambled, drug money- it’s gone in a short while, no matter what amount comes together. The only money one respects is the one you earn through work – or get as a gift. You respect the person who gave it to you.”

I was becoming impatient. Too hot outside, work to get done – and the afterwork beer was calling as well. So I passed him some hundred gourdes, like 4-5$. He refused. “Ma’m, I don’t take money. As I don’t steal myself. I’m the godfather, money’s not for me. If you want, do a friendly gesture – show some care for me and the kids. But don’t be petty.”

So, at what amount does your friendly gesture start? (I always hate it when people who want something from you refrain from naming a figure. Like job interviewers – it’s always them asking you what you think you should earn! But it’s them offering you the job in the end; they have a clear idea about its details and the work that needs to be done – just make your damned proposal, so we can start negotiating!)

He wriggled around with the conversation for the next minutes. In the end he was at 20$ – “with this amount I take all these kids to a place were they get soup and a coke”.

Ok, you convinced me. Here’s 20 bucks: if I give it to you, means I take it from someone else in need, like… the cleaning lady… It’s not only you street guys in need, you know?

Ten minutes later I meet him at the grocery store and give him a questioning glance. “I came to buy sweet drinks for the kids, trust me.”

Well, I trusted you and gave you the money for something good. If you used it for something else, it’s you who will be ashamed of yourself and before your own god. I don’t care. I did my part. Why are the kids following me now?

“Cause they like you. They’re just curious. Good luck!”

I leave the store, the street kids waiting to the both sides of the entrance, then escorting me back to the Embassy, shouting various things along the way. “You’re beautiful, Madame!” was one of them.

I smile and clutch my bag.

Epilogue: The bag has a new owner now: my son’s nanny.

Picnic cu mănuși

Vara lui 1984. De la stanga, Erna, Popel, mama, strabunica, matusa, tata, un unchi, o bucatica din mine mica.

Erna Popescu / 21.06.1926 -12.04.2021

Mutti nu mai este. Mutti care m-a învățat atâtea, a plecat. A plecat dintre noi încă un om din cei dragi și foarte apropiați și de demult. Mutti elegantă care conducea mașina cu mănuși. Care mirosea mereu discret a lavandă, care iubea culorile deschise, de la beige la oliv, caramel și auriuri, verde bouteille și Sonnengelb, și care nu purta niciodată negru. În cel mai întunecos caz, bleumarin.

Mereu a fost deosebită. Nici nu avea cum să fie decât altfel, înalta, politicoasă, pistruiată și cu ochii verzi, alergică la mai toate – până și la glicerina! – extrem de hotărâtă și disciplinată. Germana ei clară și memoria ei fantastica.

Și ce modernă era! Era la curent cu toate progresele medicale și farmaceutice – dacă nu venea războiul, s-ar fi făcut farmacistă, măcar ca să preia farmacia în care crescuse. Dar farmacia familiei ei, “La Ochiul lui Dumnezeu” de pe calea Victoriei, vis-a-vis de palatul Știrbei, a fost nimerită de o bombă a Aliaților în august `44 și a zburat în aer, cu tot cu grădina sa de plante medicinale.

Războiul, din cauza căruia care s-a căsătorit întâi de formă cu Popel, bunicul, în 1945, ca să își schimbe numele german într-unul românesc. Apoi a murit mama ei de difterie în 1946. S-a terminat războiul și din colegii ei de scoală s-au întors doar o mâna de oameni, imputinati apoi cu deportările etnicilor germani.
Mult mai târziu, când s-au mai linistit apele, bunicul a luat-o într-un voiaj târziu de nuntă prin locurile unde fusese cu artileria în război, în Crimeea – o croaziera pe Marea Neagra.

Când am plecat pe front, abia remarcasem adolescenta asta de la școala de fete, niște miorlăite, toate, parcă. Mă-ntorc acasă și găsesc o Rita Hayworth în toată regula”, glumea bunicul. “Aber, Popel!” zicea ea.

În 1952 s-a prăpădit Albert, tatăl ei. Cu fratele Paul, cu familia lui, încet încet, toți s-au împrăștiat prin cele 4 zări. Mama mea, întâiul ei născut, a venit pe lume în 1948. Apoi Peter, 8 ani mai târziu.

Mutti, cum era pentru noi toți, a ținut casa de când s-a mutat în ea în 1945 până de curând, cât s-a putut ține pe picioare. În vremurile alea grele au fost și 17 oameni în casă. Ai mei au stat si ei acolo timp de 8 ani, după ce s-au căsătorit.

Vremuri vesele a prins, printre toate schimbările și grozăviile. A făcut carnetul de condus si conducea cu mare placere. Eu am apărut în 1978 în schemă, după cutremur, când abia terminaseră de reparat casa.

Eram o familie mare și adunată, iar casa – un bastion. Mereu intra și ieșea cineva, saluta cineva peste gard, suna la ușa, lătra și dădea altcineva din coada. Das grosse Haus.

Mutti rüstig, alergând pe scări în sus și-n jos, în gradină, la flori, sus, pe terasa, jos, la cumpărături, apoi la volan, în “mașinoi” – Volkswagenul cu care mă lua cu ea este tot. După-amiezele cu citit din Schnuckihas und Miesemau și Peterchen`s Mondfahrt. Frühstück pe terasa, totul aranjat, serviciul albastru, pernele pe scaunele verzi pal.

Ceaiurile cu sandviciuri în anii `80, cu discuții fascinante despre istorie și artă, povesti de viață și dezbateri cum nu se mai fac azi.
Zilele ei de naștere, cu sorbet de căpșuni făcut de ea, în cea mai lungă zi din an.

O mână de amintiri mi-au rămas.

La Economat, la Sinaia, unde mă ținea în brațe și aduna picături de ploaie de la streașină cu o ceșcuță bleu din setul de picnic, când aveam vreo 4 ani. La Tuzla, când am fost să-l vizităm pe Peter, care avea aceeași ceșcuță bleu făcută abajur pe lampa de la noptieră. “Aber, Peter!” a zis ea de jumate amuzată.

Când am fost noi împreună la Predeal, la hotel Rozmarin, și am învățat de la Papa Popel să schnippen/zvârl sâmburi de cireșe din compot în capetele trecătorilor, din balcon. Când construiam împreună baraje pe Poliștoacă, din pietricele – și Mutti scotea din coșul de picnic o lume întreagă, de la farfurii la serviete și de la șnițel și ardei gata tăiat la solniță și muștar.

Când mergeam la Vila 23, la Snagov, în zile fierbinți de vară, cu familia Bălănescu care vorbeau de via din Tohani. Mult înot în Snagov. Apoi toamnele la Neptun, cu Septembrie blând. O vară ploioasă la Soveja, unde ne aranjase Biju o cameră – tre` să fi fost prin `86.

Când am ajuns în toamna la scoală, am plantat împreuna o magnolie alba la ea in gradina – tocmai a înflorit! În prima ei zi de școală, ea plantase cu tatăl ei teiul din gradina din Ady Endre, care e in continuare in picioare si azi.

În `88 mi-a făcut cadou bicicleta ei, prima mea bicicleta mare.

În `91 și-a luat Golfulețul alb și nou, pe care unii din noi au învățat să conducă și pe care eu l-am condus ultima, mereu cu copii in spate, mereu grăbit spre o nouă destinație. “Când mă simțeam copleșită de toate, mă urcam în mașină și dădeam o tură prin cartier, și-mi trecea” mi-a spus odată.

Pe holul lung mi-a povestit odată cum făcea gimnastică ca să se mențină în formă.

Apoi călătoriile, în Zürich prima dată cu vaporul pe lac. Schaffhausen, prin `90, am umblat peste tot, in locurile in care copilărise bunicul. Venirea ei în Zürich, prin 2009, când m-a vizitat “la mine în apartament” și mi-a adus die Kuchengabeln – setul de furculițe de prăjitură – “acum că ai rostul tău”.

Când merg în călătorii, scriu cărți poștale: pe prima i-o adresez mereu ei.

Cea de la care am învățat atâtea:

  • stima de sine – poți conduce elegant, face cumpărături cu stil și face un picnic cu tot tacâmul, fără să fie forțat.
  • poți duce mai mult decât crezi, când iți păstrezi mintea limpede.
  • cântece și poezii și tradiții însorite, drăguțe, pe care abia daca le mai știe cineva.
  • Povești fantastice și detalii atât de colorate despre oameni și străzi care au fost acum mulți ani, de parca ar fi fost acum 5 minute. O organizare incredibilă era la ea în minte.
  • Și disciplina asta fantastică. Când am întrebat într-o zi “cum te-ai descurcat, în toate timpurile alea grele?”, mi-a spus: “Cu puțină disciplină, man reisst sich zusammen und lächelt, te aduni și zâmbești, chiar daca nu-ți vine. Și la un moment dat reușești, iți iese.” A stat dreaptă cât a putut.

I-am zis Mutti, pentru că așa îi spunea mama – și apoi a rămas așa pentru toți. Sau – doamna Erna.

Mi-a lăsat toate aceste trăiri – și mi-e dor de ea de o vreme deja.

2 proverbe /Sprichwörter. Lache ins Leben, es lacht Dir zurück. – Surâde vieții și ea-ți va surâde înapoi.

Și una pe care o port cu mine mereu: Fange nie an aufzuhören. Höre nie auf, anzufangen. Nu începe niciodată să te oprești. Nu te opri niciodată din a începe,

Ich danke Dir für alles, es war so schön mit Dir.
Îți mulțumesc pentru totul, a fost atât de frumos cu tine.

 

Vara lui 2019, tânară străbunică.

The White Shirt Project#11. Crazy

The nineties were so much like the dull grey power suits that they spawned. Stiff and unadventurous they seemed, but my, what was hiding beneath that rough fabric! Linda Evangelista and the super models. These big lipped men, Jagger and Tyler, always a cigarette sticking out of somewhere.

New borders defined the East and the West; still some fear loomed in the wake of the eighties. We were getting bored in high school, spending lots of time playing pool and drinking, discovering love and preparing for faculty. Our parents were working, and money was more than it is today – so was hope.

Sometimes we’d gather at my parents’ house when they were at work, and tried out crazy things. Even cooking! We talked about the wonderful things we’d do with our lives one day. The places we’d see and the things we’d do. We took so many things for granted back then. That we’d still talk to one another. That we’d have the guts. That passion will always be part of it.

One day you teased me about something and I chased you down the stairs – my sandal flew right through the bathroom window – clink! I felt so ashamed… You went to replace the glass sheet before dad would find out. There used to be a “Windows and Mirrors” shop on the boulevard. It’s a Betting store now. I don’t even know where I’d get a window replaced today. But the again, I don’t throw sandals anymore.

the song to go with it

a link to some famous white shirts of the 90es

The White Shirt Project#10. Demolition

When I was growing up, this roof had bright orange tiles. Two old sisters and their little black Pomeranian mongrel lived under it. Through open windows you could hear an old hag downstairs eternally cursing at her grandson.

While out there in the city centre big demolitions carried whole neighbourhoods off, here in the north we seemed quite safe. Until one day, when excavators showed up and tore down all houses around the market hall at the end of our street. They went onwards erasing both sides of the boulevard.
In a couple of years, a curtain of prefab high-rise concrete slabs had replaced the little houses with their neat gardens. As they drew nearer, the concrete slabs scared me. I feared they’d make my whole world disappear. Our neighbourhood was going to be flattened and get replaced by a new botanical garden, on Ceausescu’s latest whim, rumour had it. In 1989, the excavators stopped at the end of our street.
The cursed grandson either fled to the US long ago – or is now in office in the government.

The White Shirt Project #9. Gone

I miss you so much sometimes. Even though next May it’ll be 25 years since that Wednesday afternoon when I said, “Let’s skip school and go bathe in the lake instead!” But I stayed on the shore and you went out swimming and never came back. I just waited there and I couldn’t believe it. On Saturday we were going to…

That Saturday I stood at your coffin and still wouldn’t believe it. They took you to the grave, instead. Since that day I’ve missed you more than I lived before I met you. I’ll always miss your eyes and your smile and your crazy ideas and your beautiful poems.
I often wonder what life would have been like, had we had more time together.

The White Shirt Project #8. Mailänderli

Back in the eighties when I was a kid, my originally Swiss great grandma lived in the ground floor of our house. Together we’d bake these wonderful Christmas cookies “from home”, as she said. First she’d roam around the markets for a few days and obtained some eggs, some flour, margarine and sugar. Sometimes she’d even get a lemon! For the zest.

She’d prepare the dough and leave it in the pantry overnight. Then we’d spend the whole next day in the kitchen kneading, rolling and cutting dough. We’d bake little stars, hearts and …plusses.
I later learned that the “plus” was actually the cross from the Swiss flag. Once cooled down, we’d put the cookies into 2 tin cans and I’d get to take one upstairs to my parents.
Once I came back downstairs and she asked me, “So, did mom and dad like them?
I like them” was my answer. Only then did she realize that not many cookies ever made it to my parents’.

The recipe:

250 g soft butter
225 g sugar
1 pinch of salt
3 fresh eggs
1 Bio-Lemon for the zest
500 g flour
1 fresh yolk
1 spoonfull of milk

  1. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Blend in sugar and beat until mixture is thick and pale, about 10 minutes. Mix in the melted butter and salt. Gradually fold in the flour and lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or, preferably, overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 165° C. 
  3. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 6-7mm thickness. Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. Place cookies on the cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg yolks.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until golden at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool cookies on racks.

The White Shirt Project #7. Democracy

…or how we spent the revolution/coup d’état.

My memories of those days of Christmas 1989 are somewhat blurred. I remember there were rumours of unrest in the streets of Timișoara. A support rally for the communist party was organised in Bucharest. Sometime before Christmas Eve, the phone rang: dad was called to go “protect the factory” he was working in as an engineer. He gambled and didn’t go. A friend of his came over to bring us some Christmas presents, but then couldn’t get back home, as there was shooting around the television building he had to pass on his way. So he returned and we spent Christmas together in our mansard, afraid and curious and glued to the tv: eventually, the dictator couple was overthrown. Live broadcast! “We’re free! Democracy, at last!” dad yelled.

My great grandma, born 1904, had immigrated from Switzerland in 1927. Now she ranted from behind the stove: “…Democracy?! We needed 500 years to learn how to deal with democracy. And you think you got it all just like that, overnight?”
Dad got frantic: “You bitter old woman! Can’t you, for once, rejoice?”

30 years passed in a blink.

The White Shirt Project #6. Oleander

Great-grandma had come from Switzerland to Romania in 1927 as a trained nanny for children with disabilities. Among the things which she attempted to reconstruct in her new country that’d remind her of home was a typically Swiss garden: with flowerbeds and gravel roads, bergenia, violets, tulips, periwinkle, hydrangea, forsythia, rose-beds and an ivy-covered fence.
As people from the North need a constant reminder of their longing for the South, a Mediterranean twist was added: 4 oleanders in wooden crates shed our garden table from our neighbours’ prying eyes, 2 white and 2 pink ones.

She’d tend to the garden almost every day, so I grew up learning plants by their German or botanical name more than by their Romanian ones. The oleanders grew heavier each year and they needed to be carried down the spiral staircase to the basement every winter. Sometimes they got lice and had to be treated. Sometimes dad didn’t look sad at all when they had to be pruned dramatically, as that would decrease their size and weight proportionately.
They survived everything – except the collapse of the communist party.  When, after years of applying for permits in vain, upon the fall of the regime in 1989, we where finally authorised to switch from heating with wood stoves to central heating, the oleanders snuffed it.

The White Shirt Project #5. Landowner

Before 1989 we were taught in school about how the incredibly cruel bourgeois landowners had enslaved and tortured the peasants.
I knew that “in the old times” grandma had owned some land and a horse. It was therefore hard to imagine the most sweet-natured person I knew mistreat any living being, let alone another fellow human.
After the revolution I learned that grandma had been a lawyer in her youth. A city gal through and through, but in love with nature and horseback riding, she had taken up a credit for a few hectares of land close to Bucharest, bought the aforementioned horse and a pair of oxen and had spent most of her free time riding through the fields.
In January 1948 the bar associations were dismantled and lawyers banned from practising law under the new regime.
In March 1949 the collectivisation of agriculture began: everything was confiscated, nationalised; the animals were put into a collective farm. The horse refused any food and dropped dead after a week.
Until this day I have never met anyone more sweet-natured and serene than my grandma.