On The Map of Despair

Elena Lelia Radulescu

Maria, Safta, Rodna, Teresa, Jiva,

guilty for

being mothers and wives,

daughters and sisters to owners

of land, cows, horses, farmsteads;

guilty for

speaking more than one tongue,

as if words were silver bullets

meant to kill those of the new order;

guilty for

living close to the border, so close

some days they could hear the dreams

of their neighboring Serbs crying,

trapped onto the teeth of barbed wire.

Ana, Petra, Dabrinca, Mileva, Rada,

rounded up like lambs,

sentenced to a forced labor camp,

in the scorching fields,

north of the river Danube,

the new Siberia on the map of despair.

                             

The Inheritance of Dreams

Elena Lelia Radulescu

Romania, 1982

           On the eve of Saint Dumitru’s Day, my mother, Lucia, and her sister, Anda, remembered our departed relatives. I remembered Tante Clara.

           “Don’t forget to add her name to the pomelnic, Marga,” my mother said, motioning to the hallway.

          There, in the middle of the round table, pinned down by a water pitcher, was a strip of paper with two columns of names in bold letters. That list, the pomelnic, was written for our old priest who would chant the names at the remembrance prayers in church. I printed CLARA in the column with a cross on top.

        As I returned to the kitchen, thinking of Tante Clara’s life, a tide of hope washed over me. Perhaps all I needed was to pitch the right question, and her story would unwind like a ball of yarn in the paws of playful kittens.

Stuffed Cabbage and History Lessons

Elena Lelia Radulescu

WHILE EXPLAINING THE ORIGIN OF storytelling, my fourth-grade Romanian teacher depicted a vivid tableau of our ancestors gathered around a campfire roasting a wild boar and sharing their hunting adventures.

    The tales - my teacher claimed - were merely a tool to keep fears at bay, and also a way to explain natural phenomena their primitive minds could not grasp. The old myths and legends sprung from a dreadful uncertainty of the world they lived in. "From a deeper need to figure out the meaning of their life at that moment in time," Comrade Teacher concluded with a self-assured, didactical smile.

                               

 
 
 
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