The luck of the draw. Many, if not most, reading this blog were simply fortunate to have been born in the USA, had access to good education, good medical treatment and above all, a democracy. Not so for those living in Romania during much of my lifetime.
Memorial Museum for Communism Victims
From 1945 to 1989, over 600,000 Romanians were imprisoned for up to 10 years with no legal trial. Doctors, scholars and religious leaders were often the targets of Nicolae Ceausescu’s thugs. Visiting this museum in northern Romania dedicated to the victims of Communism seemed the thing to do. I was quite certain this would be my only chance. People who wish to learn more can find plenty to read about, so here I’ll simply show a few iPhone photos. After we visited this memorial for Communism victims, we were off to visit the Merry Cemetery. Do I know how to fill a day with fun and excitement or what!
On entering the museum it was apparent they do not get many English-only speaking visitors, especially Americans. They had to hunt for the English brochures and museum workers did their best to direct us to the various display rooms.
Walking through the museum I was drawn to the prison cell doors. Lots of scratches and markings on them. What was the story behind them? We will never know, but I’m confident they were not made by the tourists.
Between the floors was chain link fencing, stretched horizontal to the floor. Something like this would normally serve as protection to people below from falling objects, like at a construction site. In this prison, the fencing was to prevent suicides. Throw yourself off of the catwalk or stairs and you would fall less than a single floor.
Surprisingly, there was a generic church. An elderly man was collecting one Romanian lei for each lit candle.
During this tumultuous election year in the United States and as we vote this coming Tuesday, there is anger and exasperation on both sides, or all three sides. Our democracy has survived some very difficult times in the past and emerged stronger. The United Kingdom just had a complete change in power in the course of a couple months, which is a real testament to democracy. Not a single bullet was fired, no death by firing squad as Romania’s leader experienced. While we appear to be at a major crossroads in our political world, I’m confident our democracy will somehow survive.
Wealthy Gypsies of Certeze, Romania
Driving home from this fun-filled day of Communism and the Merry Cemetery, we were startled by the garish, palatial homes in the small town of Certeze, Romania. They are in sharp contrast to the poverty seen in much of rural Romania. Making these homes appear even more out of place is the occasional Romanian hay cart being pulled by horses down the main highway. Researching this town later I found these to be the homes of wealthy gypsies who trade in metals, gold, silver and copper. Not always in a legal manner. A National Geographic article on this village told of one young man sent home in a coffin after being electrocuted in Spain stripping copper wire from utility poles.
The National Geographic photographer was finally successful in entering several of these homes after a week of trying to win favor with the townspeople. While interviewing a family in one of these mansions he asked to use the restroom inside one of the mansions, he was directed to an outhouse in the back yard. The same one the home’s owners used. The gypsies do not believe in having the toilet under the same roof as the kitchen. What?? Why not build a nice bathroom but in a separate building? The huge bathrooms inside the mansions go unused.
The house shown below may look like several apartments, but it is one large home. The curved roof architecture was quite common in Romania. Notice the wheel chair ramp.
In the past these gypsies made a good living making and selling copper pots for fermenting homemade brews. However, when Communism fell in 1989 their entrepreneurial spirits were unleashed. Communism had kept a lid on these gypsies’ activities. After Nicolae Ceausescu’s date with the firing squad on Christmas Eve, 1989, they were free to pursue capitalism as they wished. Not well regulated and not always legal. One mansion owner commented to the National Geographic reporter that even a fool could have made a fortune trading metals in the early 1990s. Who knew?
If you wish to learn more, look up “Home of the Roma Kings” in National Geographic. There are also YouTube videos of the town.