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Stories of Gypsies, Wineries and Jewish Families in Romania

STORY BY: Camelia Stefanovici
YEAR: 1992

Camelia shares three stories about Romania, and its rich cultural heritage. She first speaks of Romanians as "old" (as in "an old nation"), and how Romanians are often confused with gypsies. Gypsies are an important part of Romania's cultural experiences, however, and they would take their excellent musicianship across the country, taking the hits they heard in one town, and transporting them to the next town. In that way, they helped unify the cultural experiences of the country as a whole.
Camelia's next story speaks of her own family, and many generations of wine-making. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, all the land was expropriated by the communist ruling party, including the land belonging to her maternal grandfather. Before the land was taken, he took one sample of his most expensive and delicious grapes, and planted them on a hill that no one wanted, hoping that one day the land would return to its original owners. That only happened in 1992, after the fall of communism, when Camelia's grandfather was "long-time gone... and to my shame, I don't take care of that winery".
Her third story deals with a Jewish family who had been living in their own house for decades, which was a very rare thing at the time. Under communist rule, no private houses were kept by owners, "unless there were so many people in the house that you did not have extra room". At the time, Jewish Romanians were so afraid of being deported or sent to work camps, that they often lived together, and in that large house with 8 rooms and 2 bathrooms lived 12 families! When Camelia met the Jewish owners in the 1990s, there was only the family who owned the house, plus one tenant, a man who had been there for 45 years. "the lady told me it took her 35 years to have her own kitchen!" Thanks for sharing these stories, Camelia.

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