The time was early 1982. My dad must’ve taken the picture. We were in Predeal for a ski cup, as you can easily recognize by the numbers on the people’s torsos.
These were his colleagues at the factory where he had landed as an oil engineer.
Times were murky. We’d go skiing as often as possible, because there was no other distraction from the routine. We’d all stay at some villa, which once had belonged to some…bourgeois, before the war. I’ll always remember the spaces as – cold and somehow strange. We’d all sleep huddled together in the same room. In the mornings, us kids would watch the grown-ups trying to fry raw cut in half eggs, which had frozen between the windows over night, on a rather improvised camper heater, attached to a smuggled gas bottle someone had brought along.
1982. People in a distant galaxy, it seems, are shaking their limbs to the sound of MJ’s Thriller. Madonna makes her debut and gets her first contract signed, while everybody’s wearing terry cloth stripes on their wrists and heads, in horrid neon colours. Shoulder pads, acid washed jeans and starry patterns rule the dance floors.
Prince William gets born to Lady Di in June– another one to follow the hairdo- and fashion sins of the moment.
By the time we’re competing in the Carpathians, Argentinian troops invade the British Falkland islands, on February 4th.
Grace Kelly drives off a cliff in Monaco, later that year, in September.
The Delorean motor company goes bankrupt.
Kohl becomes chancellor of Germany in October.
In November, Leonid Breshnev dies in Moscow. Yuri Andropov, former head of the KGB, takes his place as head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Lech Walesa is released in Poland after a year in prison.
The mountains were quiet and peaceful. We’d go there on every possible occasion in winter, because Bucharest had become dark and increasingly menacing. Ceausescu and his lot had started demolishing whole neighbourhoods, in order to build a new stronghold against capitalism.
Excavators were ripping deep trenches in the mud, were once houses stood and kids played on the cobbled streets under age-old trees. The city turned more and more silent, dark and scared. Grocery stores and markets looked emptier every week, while the lines for sugar, eggs, sunflower oil and – even toilet paper – grew. People just stood in lines in front of random stores, hoping some of these products would miraculously show up in the shelves. Gas, water and power shortages contributed to the fight against the imperialist enemy.
The system was keeping everybody busy.
I remember those winters as cold and dark, at best grey. I remember my parents speaking less and looking more tired, worried.
Naturally, I remember feeling protected – a lot more than I feel today.
But…this was because I was a kid, not because times were in any way better. Adults would bear the weight of the worries.
I just used to linger in the staircase and ask ‘When are we leaving for the mountains?’ innumerable times, no matter who’d pass me by.
I might look like some kind of a princess on that pic, but my biggest worry was not loosing that leather bag – and the contest. Instead of feeling protected and surrounded by caring people, I’d compete, in my head, against anyone and everyone, except the tall guy, Gil, whom I always admired.
Dad and his mates would soon go back to working at their factory, which does not exist anymore. I’d start school that next fall – about the time Grace Kelly drove her car off that cliff.
A few years later, the Berlin wall falls and there’s major change in the air all over the world.
It’s been…33 years since then.