3 Dec 2018

Next Sunday "Human Rights" at Firebirds collective

I have to tell a story. Which story shall I tell? I have so many different stories from my life. The very first story I told, at Firebirds Collective, as "any story any style" from my first paths at Eastern 2017 was a story of becoming a woman at age 25. It was in a very troubled period of my life, a period of huge transitions. After everything turned upside down.

I found this story today in my "retro blog", a story recreated from only a few words written in my diary : "it hurts! it hurts!" I was afraid to write even there, what happened.

It is a long story and you do not have to read it. It will not help to understand Pathways. I will have to cut, for creating 5-7 minutes only Storytelling Level 3 speech, or, perhaps, use it for part of the podcast I will be preparing soon. 

Is it really possible that my life has changed because of a single table? How was it possible? I tormented by this question for many years. In fact, only in 1990 did I fully understand it. 

I was 24 years old and for the last five years had worked as Chemical technician in a laboratory of the Institute of Chemical Research of Romania. At the same time as I had studied for six years now, from afar, to become a Chemical Engineer. 

I was delighted with myself. I thought: “Soon, I'll be an engineer, I will do my own research!”

My six years of laborious study by correspondence, with only a month available for passing the exams during each session were finally over. All my exams were passed now. Some years, with excellent grades, other years so so. 

My Project at last accepted, to Present it verbally was only a formality. Soon I would receive my diploma and would work in the Institute as full researcher. In plus, I had now great friends, and even a boy who is seriously interested in me, an exciting research job. 

Everything perfect. 
Well almost.

My father was urging us to apply for emigration from the Romanian Socialist Republic, he had had enough for long time already. One night, when I was 15 ½ my dad was taken away. For seven months he was imprisoned for no reason, other then someone wanted his place, in the cellars of the Securitate secret political police of the Communist Party. This pushed him to find a way to escape away from communists. It took him years to find a way.

Mom was reluctant. Her sister, a gym teacher living abroad, had written her that life is hard everywhere. Mom was also afraid that once outside, my father would abandon her, abandon us. In Romania, while cheating on her, at least her husband still lived with the family, we had a good apartment. My dad denied everything and at that time, I still believed him. 

Go? Leave my friends, Alina Edith? Sandou? Leave my friends, an interesting job, all I finally have here? I hesitated.  I felt happy, in fact, everything was getting better and better for me.  Until the fateful day with the damn table at my work. 

The first years of work at the Institute, I had only a high stool to sit, most of the time I worked standing up for 8 hours a day, usually with high heels, less tiring for my legs. 

Lately, as I was writing more and more reports to my group leader, my boss, reports she used for the Institute. Appreciating what I had provided her, almost ready material, she gave me a small table and a normal chair, near which I could sit after finishing the experiments, writing and reading of the new literature on our subject of research. For over the three last years I spend part of my day sitting, working at that small table. My research was the basis of my thesis of the end of university studies and soon, we'll try them “pilot”. 

One morning when my boss was absent, I was sitting alone in the room, near my “office” writing. 

Suddenly the door opened and a woman entered. 

An unknown woman, dressed and coiffed as a office cleaner. She stoped in front of me, put her hand on my table where I was sitting, saying : 

- I take this table. 
- What? ? ? 
- I need it. 

Bewildered, I got up, I looked. How dare she? 

- This is my office, my table. 
- I take it now, I don’t have one in the room that was given to me as an office. Just a chair... 
- No way! I've had this table for three years. 
- You’ll give it to me! Now. 
She starts shouting. 
- No ! 
I hold my table, dit not let it go. 

- I am... and she mutters a complicated name, I never yet heard before. 
- It is. My. Table. 
- Give it to me, now! 
- No way. 

I did not get here, my job or my studies, to be told what to do and what I worked to have and deserved through my work taken from me suddenly. She tried to take, I hold it. The table moved, but not much. She started screaming, all red with rage. 

- Do not be hysteric!
- How dare you ? 

I'm thinking. She is so out of it. How to reason instead of fighting? I do not like the force. 
- My boss is not there this morning. When she arrives, I will ask her if I have to give it up  to you. But as for now, the table does not move from here. 

Some discussions still followed, but finally she left our lab, red with rage. The door closes. Ouf.

I sat down, worried, looking at the table. After a time, no more holding it.

I decided to go next door, speak with my boss friend, Engineer friend and to tell her what had happened. 

"What to do ? Do you know who it could be? This crazy-looking maid" ... and I told her everything. 
- My my my ! She has just arrived, and we were told in the last meeting of the Communist cell to be very nice with her. 
- Who is she ? 
- She is very important, the wife of an important dignitary of the party. Wife of Comrade Ceausescu. 
- He is whom ? 
- The Dolphin. The Communist Party Secretary. 
- Dolphin? As a king? 
- Successor. Future leader, future responsible of the country. Currently he is ... 
- How come I never heard his name? 
- For now he is the head of the Securitate. 

Securitate was the secret police, feared by all. 

- But she's dressed like a ... 
- Modestly. 
- And speaking as a ... 
- You're in trouble now, my poor girl, she said, shaking her head.

I could not imagine myself yet in trouble. For some newcomer? For a table? One offensive remark? She had earned my words, I said to myself. 

Yes, a table has changed my life. 

Was it just the table ? Or even my words? After years of being troubled by it, I realised it was much more in fact. 

Next day, two menacing looking young men were waiting for me at the Research Institute entrance and led me, looking at me as I was a killer, to a small dark, closed room to question me about the incident, with reproaches. 

"The only thing that plays in your favor,” said one of them after endless hours and repeated questions to me, “is that you did not know with whom you were dealing." 

Afterwards, they did not even let me get into my lab, not even in the Institute. 
- And my research, not yet completed? 
- For now, you take three days of vacation. So she will not see you. So you do not offend her at all. You have to stay away. 
- Far ? Of my work ? 
- We'll see… 

Then, I got a letter home, I was told to appear the next day in a suburban factory making dyes. Even there, I was not allowed to enter the factory or the laboratory: without understanding that I became suddenly "enemy of the people.”

Even in that factory, I was placed in a small wooden hut in the yard, far removed from the main building, without giving me any task, but forcing me to present myself at seven in the morning and stay only within the four walls of wood, alone, until four in the afternoon. 

Loneliness, rage of injustice, fear of the future, sadness of not being able to continue my interesting (and in my opinion, also important) interrupted project, finally decided me.  

After a week, I came home and said to my dad: 
- Well, let us ask for our departure from the country. 

My father had prepared everything, the next day our request to leave was filed. Even if we did know that between demand and acceptance, months could pass. 

In our case, years. 

What to do ? I felt lost. 
I thought I was at the bottom of an abyss. 
Still, the slide down was not over yet. 

The following week I was called to management and the Director of the Institut, a former friend of my parents in our hometown, looked at me reproachfully and with fury. 
- What did you do ? This will fall on me too. 

Silence. He knew that I had done nothing wrong. It was not helpful to explain to him again. 

- You're fired. 
- What? Why ? 
- You ask me again? 

In a communist country, reasons were always made up and we could do nothing against them. 

- Give me immediately the admission badge to the Institute.

Family friend? He abandoned me, too. And indeed, three month later, he was also replaced. Mme Ceausescu, fresh new Engineer become the Research Institute Director, instead of him.

After five years of hard and smart work at the institute, six years studying almost all my free time, and so close to the hope of finally entering the Research Institute as an Engineer and Researcher, I felt thrown out from paradise. At that time, I believed that I was the only one rejected like this. 

A few weeks later, I went to the Polytechnic Institute: in three days I should begin to present my Diploma Project and I wanted to know the day and hour when I had to present my thesis. 

My name was not on the schedule. 

I went to the Secretariat. 

- Kertesz? Kertesz? You are excluded from the Politechnic Institut. 
- What? How ??? 
- Well, I should not tell you, but it's written here, as "the enemy of the people. " 
- Excluded? After six years? Before the final exam? As enemy? 
- And not only for here, but you are prohibited to follow any studies in all universities of the Republic. 
- Show me. 
- No it's forbidden. 
- It is not possible ! 
- I am sorry but it's true. And final. 

I left, dazed. 

So close to my goals, after so much work, no diploma, no research work. 

I cried. Cried. And cried.

Then decided to find another job. 

I went from factory to factory, laboratory laboratory: "No place! “

Finally, my father, knowing many people, found me a job as maneuver of a chain, in a small cooperative. 

After a month, they put me out saying: 
- Your papers arrived for the personal. If I continue to employ you, it's me who'll be punished, said the manager. 

I was completely in limbo, my life turned upside down. 

I cried until I had no more tears. 

I looked at the wall, dismayed, full of grief, unable to understand or believe what happened to me, almost without being able to think. 

My father arranged that I study French with one of his friends who spent a year in Paris. 

- Study again? 
- The French could serve you later. 
- Well, I'd try. 

We begun. The French tutor, who did live once for a whole year in Paris, came twice for an hour a week. I studied eight-hours each days, seven days a week.  French was a beautiful language! Over time, I could even read it. First, the theater dialogues and detective stories. 

I began to feel alive. Again.

Later, I realized that Mme Ceausescu wanted me away, because I was a witness that she did not go to pass exams at the Polytechnic Institute as she pretended. We were supposed to be at the same section, and she just “finished”.

I was unhappy… till April, when I become finally a woman, yes it seems nowadays when many begin at 15, strange, at 25 only. That changed all again in my life. 

Instead of “have been” I become a “will be from now”. And after studying French for six month, I begun to study English. Even if, at that point, I did not realize how much it would help me in the future. 


Marguerite said...

Wow! What a turbulent time for you! Thanks for sharing the story- yes, I read it all the way through.

Julie Kertesz - me - moi - jk said...