Saturday, October 9, 2010

Us, those behind the Iron Curtain

I happened to talk to foreigners many times about my country’s history and to discover that sadly they were interested more in the Communist Era. I talked for hours about the dull afternoons when the power was off and I had to make my homework at a candle`s light. Later we found a petroleum lamp at my grandparents and it felt better. It was the same lamp they used during the World War Two. I told “the Westerns” how we collected beer and juice aluminum cans (something exotic, terribly rare) and use them like precious pen-holders. No need to say that none of use had ever tasted the content of those cans. We were gathering  those cans at the seaside resorts, from the garbage left by the foreign tourists who could buy them from special shops where they paid with dollars or pounds. We were not allowed to talk to foreigners or even touch foreign currency. If someone disregarded this law, long years of imprisonment for ‘high treason’ followed.
Most Romanian women hadn`t seen hygienic pads until 1990. Either baby diapers, coconut powder, or other toothpaste brand than the only two Romanian ones that existed by then, contraceptive pills and single use pens. They  were all from another planet. We didn`t know that MTV existed. So hard to understand that for my foreign friends…
But I also happened to meet other fellow East-Europeans. The first one I talked about those things was a Polish woman about my age. We were stunned to discover how similar our stories were and at some point a warm feeling of sisterhood emerged. She was like me, I was like her, we could understand what the other one was saying.
Moving to Sweden I met Lenka, a Czech. She also knew it all and we instantly became friends. She was the only one I dared to ask to borrow me some money. She was the only one who travelled across the town to bring me a hot meal when I was sick. That may be because she is a noble human being, but also because she is an ‘Easterner’ like myself.
20 years have passed since the Iron Curtain ceased to exist and we are still the ones behind it, understanding one another without words and enjoying each other`s company with a discreet complicity. As children, we`ve been through things that are hard to explain to our friends from the West. There is nothing to explain about queuing for 10 hours in harsh winter just to get a frozen chicken. Probably the only one for the whole family that month. There is nothing to explain about taking off from your month the chewing gum you chewed for hours and stick it to a clean plate, to chew it again tomorrow. You see, chewing gum was rare and precious, especially when you are a child from the East.
We are running from our sad memories  but we surprise ourselves silently looking for somebody else who could understand. We are like bats, blindly avoiding and at the same time awaiting our kin. Us, behind the Iron Curtain, stuck in our sad, secret brotherhood.