Home His/herstories A Subjective History of Housing in Romania as Seen by the “Moses Rosen” Rest Home Residents. THE INTERWAR PERIOD: 1920-1930 (part II)

A Subjective History of Housing in Romania as Seen by the “Moses Rosen” Rest Home Residents. THE INTERWAR PERIOD: 1920-1930 (part II)

by Gazeta de Artă Politică

Ioseph Cotnăreanu

I have had a lot of different domiciles because my father had this habit of not paying the rent. At a very young age I moved from Delea Veche street, where I was born, on the Elisabeta boulevard. […]

The first house I remember is the one on Nicușor street [Bucharest ed.n.] in which we lived when I was around six – six and a half. It was a house with a ground floor and an upper floor with a slightly sloping roof. There must have been three if not four rooms; I know that we had one entrance through the front and one through the courtyard in the back. To enter the house and the kitchen you would pass through a hallway. I remember a bright room, very big and beautiful. I also recall the bathroom where I was once given a beating. The courtyard was not well kept but big. There was an old walnut there in which I joyfully used to climb. In this house we first lived on the upper floor and after one year we moved to the ground one. We spent two years in this house and I remember the rooms had subtly sloping ceilings.

From here we moved in the standard dwellings between Iancului and Vatra Luminoasă where we had a whole two storey house to ourselves. On the ground floor we had the kitchen and a living room. A beautiful indoor stairway lead to the upper floor where there were the bathroom and I believe two rooms – one was my parents’ bedroom and the other belonged to my sister and me. I clearly remember that staircase: so beautiful, dark brown – I believe it was made of oak. In the courtyard there was a storeroom that also had a summer kitchen. My mother would cook there in the summertime so as not to heat up the whole house. There was a permanent construction site in that area. Can you imagine just how much “hide and seek” we would play among those houses under construction, piles of bricks and sand?… it was amazing, such a bliss!

[…] The oldest toy I can remember was a handcar; a sort of bicycle that had a sidecar similar to those used on motorcycles. I used to take the family dog for a ride in it. I didn’t have many more toys. When I was much older, meaning eight o nine years old, I had something called “matador”. Similar to nowadays “lego” but much more primitive, made of wooden sticks. My favourite was the “geography game”. I would never have enough of it! I would play with a friend that I still have now, more than eighty years later. When I was a kid we would only give books as presents – never shirts or shoes. That was the rule. So with eight or nine years old I had my own small library; and a football “no. 2” – which meant it was very small.

When I moved out I took with me the desk, my books and the football.


Photo: Marc Teuscher

Dorotea Weissbuch

I lived in my parents’ house which was privately owned. It was a big place with a huge courtyard. I am referring to the house in Focșani where I was born and where I lived until I turned nineteen.

The house had a main front entrance with a sunshade above the double door. It had elegant metalwork on the windows. In the backyard the house had another more humble entrance. You would pass through the kitchen. After climbing a few stairs we would walk through a small open terrace. The house had also a cellar where we kept the potatoes, carrots and other vegetables covered in sand for the wintertime.

My father would take out his Yale key and enter through the main door. That entrance was also used by my father’s clients – he was a lawyer. On the dark grey mosaic floor next to the doorstep laid three burgundy letters “J B I, 1928”. Those were my father’s full initials – Jakk B. Ianconescu – and 1928 was the year the house had been built.

You could climb a stair and reach the waiting room. […]

In the office stood a black massive wood desk behind which was my father’s armchair. On the desk there was a very big device that had a paper tray, a writing utensils holder, a blotter… The symbol of justice – a blindfold woman holding a scale – was prominently displayed. In the office there was also a library packed with law books. A terracotta stove would heat up the room during winter.

Next to the office we had a small room with a table covered with a beautifully embroidered cloth. Around it there were four dark blue chenille upholstered chairs. The walls were embellished with two impressive paintings. One was an oil painting of a child biting into an apple. The second one, very original, long and narrow, showed an ostrich with one wing made of fabric prominently coming out of the picture frame.

[…] My parents’ bedroom was spacious. The main furniture consisted of two large beds placed next to each other […] and a black piano, actually a pianino, that my mother and some guests used to play. There were also two large closets and a dressing table made of three parts: two side pieces like nightstands and a big mirror in the middle; my father would use it in the morning to shave.

Along by the two beds stood a sofa on which my father used to rest after lunch. We the kids were forbidden to enter the room, so as not to disturb his sleep. My mother would clear the table and then go to bed as well. We had a lady that would help my mother with the domestic work – a “housemaid” as she was called back in those days.

In the large living room my parents would receive their guests and organize parties on different occasions. Next to it was the small living room where my brother and I would do our homework. […]

Between the hallway and the kitchen door there was another door leading to the pantry – it had a window towards the north and a cement floor. The walls were covered in wooden shelves where mother used to put the jars filled with homemade pickles, jams and canned food. There would be Bergamote pears harvested in autumn from our own trees. You would collect them still green and during wintertime they would get ripe and tasty.

Finally, one last door on the same wall led to the bathroom. Here there were a toilet, a sink (with only cold water running), a bathtub and the huge boiler using wood fire. In the bathroom stood also a sofa coated in garnet-red leather, used for resting after one’s bath.

Surrounded by a wooden fence, the courtyard was wide and long. There were two gates in the fence: a simple one for the people and a double one that would only open in autumn to let in the traps and the necessary for heating the house in wintertime. We had lots of trees in the yard: a linden, pear trees, a wax cherry tree and fours plum trees. My mother would make plum jam in a big laundry cauldron that a Roma tin-man would prepare every year. She would fill it up with a grinded plum paste, and then put it on the fire in the yard. A big wooden shovel was used to stir the paste until it would get thick enough. The jam would be stored in the pantry, in big glass jars covered with cellophane.

Part of the yard was paved. There were small spaces between the stones were tiny coloured flowers appeared in springtime. My grandmother would ask us not to step on them.

We had flowerbeds towards our neighbours’ fence […] It was heaven-like in summer.

*This text was published in G.A.P. 14 and represents the point of departure for the theatre play Uncertain Home – A Subjective History of Housing, a project by Vârsta4 collective, directed by David Schwartz, 2016.


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