by Stelian Iuga
[…] Before I turned ten, my folks were already divorced, split the family assets and went their separate ways. They divided, in as civilized a way as they could, the house, the car and whatever cash or personal expenses they might have had. Again, it might seem hard to believe, but the toughest negotiations concerned the truckload of books they had put up all along the inside walls. They eventually reached an agreement: after each of them kept the volumes relating to their fields of activity, mom took the art albums, several foreign authors, the new books from Humanitas Publishing, as well as the entire collection of Cioran, Eliade and the rest of the figures I could never take more seriously than I did Kurt Cobain, while dad settled for the rest: “Biblioteca pentru toți” (A Bookcase for All), “Secolul XX” (The 20th Century) and a heap of other collections and novels I wandered into myself every now and then. They killed each other over the history books.
In ’95, after mom insisted and pulled some strings, I was moved to a school in the centre, where I was assigned to a class alongside all kinds of rich brats, sent there in the hope that they might pick up something after the weekly classes with the few American teachers at “one of the best schools in Bucharest,” as mom kept boasting. Granted, things were a bit more bourgeois than in the neighborhood, and they were far superior in the “discipline” department. After being smacked several times by some teachers, standing straight for hours out on the hallway because I was sniggering with my desk-mate, learning that I’d better shave my sideburns completely and being embarrassed to tell dad he has to come to school to talk to the class-master, I decided to embrace my fate as a middle-class kid. […]
That’s pretty much what the class conflict meant to me in the early ‘90s. It’s not like I think about this stuff every day. Still, it was the ‘90s… ancient history. The thing is some friends of mine asked me a while back if I was OK with being on camera in a mini-interview on the “mineriade” (the coal miners’ attempts to storm Bucharest in the 1990s). They’d worked really hard, interviewed a lot of people and now they wanted to do a theatre performance using all this material. The idea was that, in the beginning of the performance, they’d screen fragments of our interviews, the ones who were very young or inexistent in the ‘90s. Since we were inevitably ignorant on the subject, the research and staging efforts were depicted as having a pedagogical value, as well. A good idea, from my part, since I was genuinely ignorant on the matter, even though, after watching the performance, it seemed a bit exaggerated – maybe that’s why it was removed from subsequent representations.
It didn’t matter that much, anyway. I was edited out without any particular reason, since those who made it on film were saying the exact same things I was. I liked the performance: the combination of independent theatre staged in an improvised location and the very credible acting rubbed me the right way. I remember I only came to my senses when I realized the whole thing was performed by a single actor and consisted of several monologues: 20 minutes one part, 20 minutes the next one and so on. Awesome guy! I remember his portrayal of president Iliescu was really funny – that distinct way of speaking… and Miron Cozma (the leader of the miners) was saying some funny nonsense. That was pretty much it. These two were the ones I recognized from television. I don’t know who the others were, but they were saying some things about June 1990 which at the time seemed to be a bit far-fetched. Like in sensationalist news reports, only worse. Not to mention the fact that, even though they were all talking about the same thing, each of them was in his own world and nothing added up… Things were really confusing. Anyhow, the performance was really good and that’s why you go to the theatre, after all, not to learn more about the topic.
Imagine my surprise when I found out later that, Iliescu’s accent notwithstanding, all those unbelievable things those people were talking about were for real. And that convoluted, grotesque, yet dramatic story, made up of pieces that didn’t match, was mostly true. I say ”mostly” because each of those people remembered things differently and had obviously left some bits out, just like I have in my story. For about two weeks I watched on youtube all the interviews these guys had taken for the performance. All in all, roughly 25 hours in which those people talk about mind-boggling things. For the final cut, they’d only chosen parts of them and maybe edited out some commas, but all those things about the Securitate, the Piața Universității phenomenon (University Square), FSN (National Salvation Front), dark-skinned people and people wearing dark, prisons in Măgurele, vicious beatings and hatred on both sides, they were all there in the interviews. Word by word.
I thought I’d try to offer an input of my own. What the hell was I doing in 1990 when they were making a mess of Ferentari, a stone’s throw away from my neighborhood? I had no idea. I don’t remember my folks ever saying anything about any miners or University Square, even though I remember both of them were, at the time (unlike later on), very concerned with political developments and the transformations taking place at that time (mom was wholeheartedly against Iliescu. I don’t know what dad though of it all, I do remember him going on and on about inflation). And that’s how I remembered how heated were the minds at home when I was growing up, where the fighting was eventually limited to that between the middle class tastes for bulky, allegedly deep, significant and elegant, books, and the „backward” tastes, which still claimed that those novels with small, yellow pages ammased in time were not headed for the trash can, but even deserved another read. It wasn’t that dramatic after all. My folks never physically fought one another and I had to wait until I got into a classy school to receive my first decent smack. […]