Translations in English

Destinies from the Saharan-Siberian Space (5)

An Israeli Born in Bacau

Kidush was not born yet, but his family knew he was a mischievous baby. He pushed his foot so hard through the taut skin of his mother’s belly that his whole family could guess the shape of his heel. His mother, Suzana, a beautiful woman, white as snow, black hair as ebony, eyes as two blue berries, nose similar to that of a Greek effigy, quivering nostrils and Rubens’ body shape, fit to make children. When he arrived in this world, Kidush immediately began yelling for his mother’s breast. But what a scream! The first time he released a brief scream, softly. If he did not received in seconds what he wanted, he began a deafening scream. The midwife who attended his birth and was coming daily to visit him remarked that he was «the loudest, greediest and pooping the most» of all children she had hitherto seen. Kidush was born June 27, 1941, when General Ion Antonescu telephoned Constantin Lupu, the military coomander of the city of Iasi, ordering him to «clean the city of Jews». No one had yet learned about the tragic news of the pogrom. His father, Tzalim («Photographer») wanted to call him Ghidus, Mischievous, but the «Law Decree of the legal status of Jewish residents of Romania», signed August 8, 1941, by King Carol II, it forbade Jews to have  Romanian names. Therefore, he gave his a name that is pronounced almost the same way, Kidush, a name which in Yiddish has a meaning quite different: the sanctification of the wine on the Sabbath and on other occasions as well!

Tzadic, the surname of Kidush, has a particular resonance in Yidish, because it means «just». In Jewish religion, there is the concept of the thirty six just men – «lamed – vav tsaquidim» – the Hebrew letter «l» («lamed») meaning «thirty», the letter «v» («vav»), «six» and the word «tsaquidim», «justs». It says in the Talmud that every generation has thirty-six just men who receive the grace of God. If even one just man is missing, it would certainly be the end of the world.

The parental home of Kidush actually belonged to the paternal grandparents: Aizic, called Itsic, and Rashela Tzadic. It was a one level building, elongated, railway passenger car-type, perpendicular to the street, with the roof of galvanized sheet metal being covered with ferruginous stains. The roughcast damaged by the time exposed the bricks used in the construction of the house. These bricks were a sign of prosperity in Bacau, where generally the houses were made in framework. The house occupied a strategic position; both ends of the building and of the court yard were leading to the street. The courtyard was narrow; only a horse carriage could enter.  In one end of the building, Aizic had arranged a photo studio with the door and the window facing Strada Mare, one of the few avenues, in those times of war, paved with cubic stones of granite – a luxury – as were Strada Centrala, strada King Ferdinand I (the old Bacau – Piatra), Calea Marasesti (the old Bacau – Focsani), Ionită Sturza and few others, being counted on the fingers of two hands.

The room, from the other end of the house, had the front door right next to the Central Market, and had been transformed by Rashela in a shed. There was a bit of everything, barrels of wine and brine, firewood, crates of vegetables and fruits, a sawbuck  for cutting wood,  wood choppers, hammers, nails and many other household items. There were all old fashion things, achieving prolonged years of use. There were things  definitely ready  for the rubbish container, but their time had not come yet: used clothes, broken furniture and many other objects found in homes. It often happened that the shed was used as of a coop for all hens purchased at the market, at an occasional price. Rashela did not put the hens into the cage; she left them free enough and gave them seeds, even if they were to be scarified next day, in accordance with tradition. In order to facilitate their capture, the woman attached a rope, a few cubits long, to one leg of each hen. The hens were sacrificed the kosher way. In order to do this, as revenues had declined since the beginning of the war and they were coming to the last edge of subsistence, Rashela could not call anyone. Aizic knew how to cut the carotid artery so that the hens might struggle for a few minutes and thus empty themselves of all their blood. Immediately, after, Rashela cut up the hen; it was part of her role of a good housekeeper. Jews do not like to eat rare meat, which is totally not recommended especially in a warm climate as Middle East, where they lived since the time of the biblical patriarch Abraham!

The house had only one exit that opened onto the courtyard, overhung by a whitewashed porch and flanked by two simple columns, without capitals, made of bricks, which were rudely carved. The pediment showed a relief and a few blue letters discolored by the wind on a white background which indicated, according to the custom, the year of construction, but this time more detailed: «February 25, 1924». It was the day when an important law was issued: all the inhabitants of both former Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russian Empire, residing December 1, 1918 in Transylvania, Banat, Crisana, Maramures or residing November 8, 1918 in Bukovina or residing April 9, 1918 in Bessarabia received Romanian citizenship. Kidush remembered perfectly all that, as his father had often spoken to him about it, well before he went to school, as he was a precocious child and knew how to read and write at an early age:

– This law was imposed by the «Treaty of Minorities» that Romania signed in Paris, December 29, 1919, with the «Allied and Associated Powers», and by the Romanian Constitution promulgated on March 29, 1923.

Tzalim Tzadic was a small man, brownish, with a shiny baldness, visible despite the black kipa in the top of his head. He had distinctive long curls  as sideburns, «peyots», coal eyes, sparkling, a slighty hooked nose, a little too long, a thin and mercantile smile, and a respectable belly. He wore a black suit, black shoes, well polished up, and a white shirt floating above the trousers with four attached fringies, «tzitziyot», white too, which hung down under the jacket, two in front, two behind.   Tzalim Tzadic was born August 14, 1914, when Romania declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was a Sephardic Jewish family, which  came from Istanbul after the promulgation of the «Code of Calimachi», which granted the Jews, according to the article 1430, the right to buy houses and shops in towns, but forbade them to purchase of any property in the rural areas.

– Who was Calimachi? Kidush asked during one of the dialogues he had with his father.

His curiosity, showed from his earliest childhood, was natural; he wanted to know not only the past of his homeland, but also of his nation.

– Calimachi, whose full name was Scarlat Calimachi, was one of Fanariot monarchs of Moldova. In 1827 he promulgated a civil code written by Christian Flechtenmacher, code in which he was supported by the lawyers, as Andronache Donici and Alexandru Bojinca. It was realized according the Austrian civil code.

The brilliant mind of Kidush was vigilant, he made quickly synapses. Then he asked at once:

– Christian Flechtenmacher has something to do with Alexander Flechtenmacher, the famous composer of Hora Unirii? Are they ours?

– Bravo, you have a good intuition, my little mischievous! his father congratulated him. It is true, Christian Flechtenmacher had a son, Alexander Flechtenmacher. It was he who composed the first Romanian operetta, Baba Harca, as well as many other operettas and vaudevilles. They were Romanians, but of German origin. So, they are ours, without being Jews…

– But… among ours, there are personalities of Romania? I wish very much to know…

– Well, pay attention! A famous Romanian Jew; engineer Lazar Edeleanu, the inventor of the first oil refining process using sulphur dioxide. Similary, men of letters Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, who was called Solomon Katz, Mihail Sebastian, Iosif Hechter – his real name, Aurel Baranga, Aurel Leibovici – his real name, Tristan Tzara, who was called Samuel Rosenstock in reality. The latter was born near Bacau, in Moinesti. Ah! I was about to forget Constantin Daniel Rosenthal, born in Budapest, the author of the famous painting The revolutionary Romania.

– Tell me how our family leaved Istanbul?

– It is like the story of the Wandering Jew, that I told you many times when your infinite curiosity was pressing.

– This is the first myth that you spoke to me, Kidush remarked, before we arrived to the Greek mythology.

– Our ancestors lived on a shore which lies north of the Golden Horn, near the Galata Tower. There is even today a large Jewish community. On the other shore lies the Fanar; several monarchs of Moldavia and Wallachia are native from there. In Istanbul there were frequent conflicts between ours and Turkish Muslims, who attacked the synagogues, looted and killed. Therefore, our family decided to leave for Moldova, a Christian and peaceful contry. They settled in Bacau, a crossroads city in the center of the principality, where they found after a series of research an interesting place from a business perspective, and opened with great effort an inn. They understood that many people who came in Bacau driven by different interests had to spend at least one night. But the emancipation of our ethnic group has encountered difficulties. The union of the Principalities dating from January 24, 1859 has aroused great hopes in our hearts, because Alexandru Ioan Cuza  considered us as «Romanians of Jewish rite». The moment the monrach had to leave power, marked our transformation into stateless people in accordance with article seven of the Constitution of 1866. Following the pressure excerted by the Congress of Berlin in 1878, this article was amended so that non-Christian inhabitants became Romanian citizens. However,  «naturalization could be achieved only individually and through the law». The only ones who benefited  from a collective naturalization were eighty-eight people who participated in the War of Independence of 1877. Our situation began to deteriorate in this country and abroad. On January 21, 1938, the government Octavian Goga, a great poet also, gave a decree that all Jews were forced to submit, within twenty day,  the justifying documents required by the law of February 25, 1924. Among the six hundred and seventeen thousand three hundred ninety-six taken in census, only three hundred ninety-two thousand one hundred seventy-two kept their citizenship, the others being considered of foreign origin. This was followed in Germany by the so-called  «Kristallnacht» pogrom which took place between 9 and 13 November 1938 and which ended with four hundred deaths and thirty thousand  prisoners in concentration camp. The black series continued with the pogroms of 1941. The pogrom in Bucharest, dating from January 21, had one hundred and thirty deaths. During the pogrom in Iasi, the bloodiest, held between 27 and 29 June, four thousand Jews were crammed into freight cars – «trains of death» – and walked through various stations in Moldova. Lacking of food and water, and having to bear a deadly heat in these overcrowded cars, they were sure victims. Three day later, there were registered two thousand eight hundred and sixty deaths. Only after February 2, 1943, after the battle of Stalingrad, when it was already clear who would win the war, Antonescu, which wanted also to please the United States, tried to disguise his policy. In July 1943, seventy-nine Jews including philologists Aurel Candrea, Alexandru Graur and Henric Sanielevici were assimilated as Romanians.

– Dad, I think the myth of the Wandering Jew is still present for our family, Kidush said in a meditative tone.

The workshop «Tzadic & Son» was very well stocked. Before September 4th, 1940, when the legionaries were allied with General Antonescu to create a «National Legionary State», it was the most popular photo shop in the city. Sometimes there were so many customers waiting for their turn at the photographer that the two-horse carriages formed a queue that streched all along the street. Aizic Tzadic worked happily with two cameras. In the workshop, as in the theater, there were exotic settings (palm trees, camels, boats) or local («the gate of the kiss», cymbals, ceramics of Horezu). There were also carnival costumes, both for men and women, so that anyone could be photographed in posture of: minister in a tuxedo, peasant man or peasant woman, Gypsy man or Gypsy woman, Tyrolean or Tyrolean woman, hussar, Russian or Russian woman,  odalisque, Turk, pirate, Snow White, Father Christmas, Dracula, Zorro, Napoleon and many other characters or personalities.

Tzalim Tzadic considered himself a man who flourished from a professional point of view. He loved with all his heart this trade he learned from his father and mastered perfectly the play of shade and light that haunted him even in his sleeping hours. For him, being a photographer, it  was more than a way to make his existence, but it was an art and he was a true artist in the branch. He put his passion in everything he did. He was never bored. He wanted his guests to bring other customers interested in being photographed.

Suzana Tzadic was born in Chisinau, March 27, 1918, when the Council of the Country declared the Union of Bessarabia and Romania. She had not known his mother, who died while giving birth. This type of unfortunate event was common at the time, since penicilin was not discovered yet. A suffering aunt, who had a bump growing was  responsible for her education. Dad, as Suzana called him since childhood, Gavriil Iosipovich Binyehud («Sonofajew»), was the chief of the carrying trade at the train station («jeleznodorojnii vokzal»), erected in 1870 in Chisinau, a monumental building because its two lateral bodies of two floors and tin roof excessively charged with decorative turrets. Years later, Gavriil told Suzana how their ancestors arrived in Chisinau:

– It is a story that resembles the myth of the Wandering Jew…

– I did not heard anyone speaking about.

It all began in 1228 when a Benedectine monk, Mathew Paris, told a story about an Armenian monk, who visited the monastery of St. Albans, near London. In short, a Jew named Ahasverus, who witnessed the crucification of Jesus, and walked the Mediterranean countries, found that no country  wanted him. The story became popular and spread throughout the whole of Europe, where it gave a wrong impression of our people, who was seen as escape goats for all the ills of the world.

– When will the myth end?

– When we will have a country, of ours, «Eretz Israil».

– Where will it be, possibly in Bessarabia?

– I do not believe that, because on April 6-7, 1903, there was yet a pogrom in Chisinau, when nationalist Russophile and Romanophile elements, but also have made forty-seven victims. Maybe Israel, about we have so much dreamed, will be based under the sky of Palestine.

– What is the story of our family, dad?

– Our ancetors lived in Rome until 1555, when Pope Paul IV ordered the construction of a ghetto. Then they sold their house and settled in Pereyslav, east of the Dniestr. But in early 1637, during a pogrom, they were forced to flee. Two thousand traders, farmers and tax collectors were killed by Cossaks led by Bogdan Khmelnitsky. Our relatives moved in stages through the valley of Dniestr. They arrived in Kiev, then in Zaporozhye. After the signing of the Peace of Bucharest on May 28, 1918, when Bessarabia was annexed to the Russian Empire, our ancetors moved to Chisinau.

– Why, there was not a Russian domination?

– Sure, but during the first years, until 1825, when Tsar Alexander I died, Bessarabia was an autonomous region within the Russian Empire and enjoyed many commercial advantages. But subsequently, Bessarabia became a «guberniya» with all that implies: the Siberian exile of the local population, russification etc.

After this discussion, the myth of Wandering Jew did not come out of Suzana’s head and the desire to live in «Eretz Israil» has become a holy thing. After the Union of Bessarabia and Romania, her father did not know where to turn because of his work. As the repair of the railway track Ungheni-Chisinau, one hundred and nine kilometers long, had just begun, track put in service in June 1, 1875, the number of packages had increased: wasn’t enough room to store them. The Romanian army had regained control over the entire territory stretching from the Prut to the Dniestr, and it was met with hostility not only by Russians speakers, but a part of the Jewish community as well, which represented almost half of the urban population from Bessarabia and Transnitria, especially in Chisinau, Balti or Balta. In truth, the leaders of the Jewish community, who had good relations with some friends at the top of the socialist movement in Russia, Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronszein), Grigori Zinoviev (Apfelbaum Hirsch) or Lev Kamenev (Lev Borisovich Rosenfeld), had already received promises for the creation of a Jewish Soviet Socialist Republic as part of the future Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Gavriil Iosipovich Binyehud did not have the same attitude to the Romanian Army. As he did not respect the Sabbath and did not necessarly eat kosher food, Gavriil was, in short, a Jewish atheist. He did not identified himself as an inflamed Bolshevik, one of the waves in vogue in these times would appear, wave launched by the Manifesto of the Communist Party developed by Karl Mary and Friderich Engels early 1848. He was not a Romanophile and did not agreed with the socialism, so he saw the union with the Kingdom of Romania as the only possible way of salvation.

Suzana became nostalgic when she remembered her childhood in the Bessarabian city, where she could play with the Romanians, Russians, Jews, Gagauz and Gypsies, childhood with nice memories. Avalanche  of childhood mementos have shaken her eyelids many years later. If someone would watched her face closely, it could say that she was crying. She tore up easily when her childhood came to mind.

Their house was in the Gavriil Bădulescu-Bodoni Street, just steps from the Public Garden. She enjoyed walking along the shaded paths lined with flowers and green hedges, getting herself soaked by water droplets carried in the wind from a fountain, near which was hoisted, at Tsarist time, on high solitary pedestal the  gray-green bronze bust of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin. His eyes were fixed to the distant nothern horizon of Moscow, or, who could know for sure, to the unforgiving Siberia or,  a place where his beloved was waiting for him or…  where only his mind could still travel.

Whem she went to school, Suzana was participating in outings to the many parks of Chisinau, organized by her teacher, a woman native of Bacau, who came voluntarily to teach children the Romanian language. The primary school teacher, feeling great affection for her pupils, knew how to turn walks into veritable cultural trips. When the pupils went through a cluster of oaks, the teacher reminded them of  «copper forest», when they arrived to birches, she reminded them of the «silver forest»,  the flowers were «as full of honey», the grass – «sleepy»,  the air – «incensed». All of it came from the desire to instill in children the love for the poetry of Mihai Eminescu.

Thereafter, Suzana’s father advised her to follow the courses of the Normal School for Girls in Piatra Neamt. To get her far from Dniestr, Stalin’s «soviet» nation has been a long time goal of Gavriil Iosipovich Binyehud. There, in Piatra Neamt, even if she was far from her family, he knew she was in safe. The times were so troubled and he wished only the best of his daughter. Something told him that Bessarabia will not resist the expansionist policy adopted by Kremlin. He did not expect opposition from Bucharest. The fact that the Russian railroad gauge was not changed to the European narrowest gauge, for the track Ungheni-Chisinau, represented for him a sign that Romania was giving up  Bessarabia. Therefore, Gavriil Iosipovich Binyehud wanted to ensure his daughter’s future,west of the Prut, in the «kingdom», as he always said, the old manner way, even when Bessarabia was part of Romania.

Being the daughter of a railwayman, Suzana has travelled free of charge by train to Piatra Neamt. For seating, the trains had wooden benches, very uncomfortable. This travel took a day and a night, but it was not a problem for Suzana who used the time to think about her childhood as a little girl,  her dolls, all the things that made up her training period, the first «seven years at home». This outing in the world meant a lot to her imagination. The «Normal School for Girls» in Piatra Neamt was, literally and figuratively, a fortress, built in 1919, at the base of the Pietricica Mountain.  Inner working code included strict rules; students were allowed to go into town only on Sunday afternoon. Suzana was happy when during the school  week, her turn came shopping for her classmates school supplies in the center of the town.

She flipped through the books and then chose one to read at night in the dormitory, but only if it contained erotic passages. In a bakery nearby, cheesecakes were prepared, and the little girl’s mouth was watering just looking it. But, being nearly penniless, she had to save money and to allow to be immersed in the smell of these cakes. When she saved up a little money, she bought by coins a book.

Suzana and Tzalim met for the first time in Piatra Neamt, in the highest of three clearings along the road curving up the Cozla Mountain. It was a sunny April Sunday in 1935. Tzalim came with his father, who was invited to a wedding to take photos. Having enough free time, the young man went for a short walk on the mountain. For him, who was  a bacauan man, it was just an «urban» curiosity. In those days, the adornment of fir trees growing on rocky slopes had not been destroyed by the ignorance of men.

Sheltered in a carved wooden pavilion, a military band entertained mountain hike lovers. Suzana was sitting on a bench reading a book. Tzalim noticed her and sat beside her. You could say it was love at first sight, like a thunderbolt. Sometimes in life a new, magical feeling arises, a romantic ideal, a strange affection for a person  totally unknown to us. Tzalim thought it was the greatest love. Maybe Suzana felt the same thing, his eyes staring into hers. Suddenly, she did not  understand one single word she was reading. The continuity of letters began to fray…

They resisted the temptation to touch each other; as they acknowledge what was going on, nothing more, the fire began to burn in their hearts. Tzalim’s self confidence, usually very strong and palpable, vanished as if by magic. Suzana was breathing rapidly, intimidated and overpowered by what was happening. They did not speak much. In fact, nothing particular was said. They just mumbled a few words and have agreed to meet next Sunday at the same place. After a while they began to meet  less often, even after one month. These long separations made their dates even more wanted.  Tzalim understood that Suzana was his great and unique love, the eternal teenager he had tried to find among all the women encountered till then. Jewish bigot, he believed they were predestined to one another forty days before their birth, as stated in Talmud. In addition, he  learned in these scriptures that a man without a woman could not receive the blessing or to know the happiness. At first, Suzana did not say much to her dad about Tzalim. Only her prolonged sighs pushed her aunt to wander about girl’s sudden change in personality. Her father, in exchange, had no time to observe these changes. The work and thoughts overwhelmed him completely. Gradually, her aunt managed to get her to talk about Tzalim, about their meetings and she repeated everything to her father. The following year, Tzalim proposed to Suzana. In such circumstances, Jews like to say for a laugh:  «When a man takes a woman to be his wife, he pays a huge compliment to her, but, unfortunately, this is the last one».

The marriage took place in Bacau, Tzalim’s hometown, respecting the tradition. The ceremony  was officiated by Alexandru Safran, born September 12, 1910, the head of the Jewish community, who became March 3rd, 1940 the chief rabbi of Mosaic worship of Romania. He stopped exercising this function in 1948, just days after the abdication of King Mihai I, December 30, 1947.

The wedding day was not a religious holiday, for not to mix one joy with another. They chose a Tuesday, lucky day in which God said twice «Well done!»: after splitting the sky and the waters and appearing of the dry land, and after allowing the morning sunrise and the evening sunset. During the twenty-four hours before the event, they have not eaten anything and thus preparing not only physically, but also spiritually, according to the tradition, as it is also in the day for the forgiveness of sins, Day of Atonement («Yom Kippur»). The two were dressed in white, symbol  of purity. Tzalim added to his suit a white scarf («kitel»), as it is also in «Yom Kippur». The bride offered to the groom a white scarf for prayer («talit»), whose ends are decorated with long fringes, thirty-two in all, number symbolizing the heart («lev»). Then came «badeken»; the groom entered the bride’s room and covered her head with a white veil. Thus dressed, the couple came together under a canopy covered with velvet and provided with four pillars («hupa»). The groom sat on one of the two thrones covered in leather and stuffed with sea grass. As the bride and the groom are treated like a royal couple throughout all the wedding, there were, of course, «royal» thrones. The bride circled around the groom seven times, a custom with several meanings: the seventh day, Josua, son of Nun, was seven times around Jericho before conquering the city, according to the Kabala, the Jewish mysticism, the bride is coming in this way in the seven spheres of the groom, saying «when a man takes a woman» appears seven times in the Holy Book. Then, Suzana sat on another throne, to the left of the groom. A blessing was followed by a glass of red wine, when only the bride and the groom have the right to drink («kidush»). Subsequently, in accordance with the same archaic ritual transmitted by the «wandering Jews», who did not want to lose their tradition, it was the moment consecrated, seven times running, to a second cup of red wine,  drank by the revelers, starting with the groom’s parents and the bride’s father («kidushin»). When the time of delivering alliances arrived, Tzalim said: «You are consacrated to me by this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel».

Subsequently, always under the canopy, he crushed a glass with his foot on the ground, a sign that happiness cannot be totally fulfilled, as the temple of Jerusalem is still destroyed. Immediately after, the revelers began to shout in chorus: «Mazel Tov» («Good luck!») and «Shalom bayit» («Peace at home!»). Then Tzalim and Suzana signed the marital contract («ketubah»), where the husband undertakes to respect the three traditional obligations of every man to his wife : provide food, clothes and make love at least every Friday night, and at the same time, to pay her a pension in the case of a divorce.  The ceremony was held in open-air, so the young  married couple might receive God’s blessing. Tzalim and Suzana then retired five minutes in the bedroom, although they might have spend half an hour. However, they did not want to try the patience of the guests who were waiting to start the party,  tasting traditional dishes and dancing.

Towars morning the couple retired again in the bedroom to spend the wedding night. The room was illuminated, according to tradition, only by seven-branched candelabra  («menorah»), with walls making visible the mysterious play of lights and shadows. In the spirit of the tradition, Tzalim wanted their embrace to be in the goal of procreation, without sexual pleasure at the same time. After he undressed his wife and put her in  bed, Tzalim handed her a large white sheet with a hole. The hole was the size of a pretzel and had been repeatedly scalloped to keep a circular shape. To conceal his emotion, Tzalim said sternly:

– Cover yourself!

Suzana, raised by her father as an atheist, was not very pleased. In theory, her step mother had explained to her how to proceed.

– Should I cover my head too? she asked hoping the answer will be negative.

– Slide your hands under the sheet!

Suzana, submissive, listened to him. The obscurity  did amplify her clumsiness as a virgin. Through the translucent sheet, she saw the lights of candelabrum, nothing more, and guessed Tzalim’s movements by the noise he was making undressing himself. She wanted to see her naked husband by simply curiosity, but she did not dare to remove the sheet. Her hands started to grope below the sheet to find the scalloped hole. Given the emotion, she felt it would have been easier to find a needle in a haystack. At that time, she lifted slightly her head and incidentally caught a glimpse of Tzalim. Shivering, she hastened to tidy well, as she  considered, the sheet to the embrace and waited, while exhaling and inhaling slowly, to calm herself down.

However, profuse perspiration flowed throughout the body of the young man. He had had some sexual experiences in brothel located on the side of the Fildermann Mill, but apparently, was not of big help. Tzalim was very excited and felt that if he did not hurry, he would spread his semen on the carpet, which was in contradiction with the Talmud writings. So in despair, he threw himself on Suzana and felt her warm and soft body through the silk sheet, which uncovered more than covered the forms, fact that increased his excitement. It was no time to waste. The young man began to look for the hole and pushed with all his strength… total failure! He only succeeded to stain the sheet. Since, Tzalim decided to forget forever the sheets with scalloped hole, and Suzana,  submissive, agreed.

The appearance of Kidush in Tzalim’s family hearth of Tzalim was a blessing after years of illusory hopes, when they became convinced that there will be no children. The joy was nevertheless overshadowed by the news of the pogrom in Iasi. The spectrum of a pogrom in Bacau seemed imminent. After closing the doors and windows shutters, the whole family went hiding in the house. They did not even switch on the light, trying to give the impression that there was nobody home, they sat in the semi-obscurity offered by the candelabra. They didn’t go to the synagogue either. For the following days, they ate the food kept in the shed, especially vegetable with edible roots, bitter herbs, like Passover fasting. They prepared unleavened bread made solely from flour and water («matzah»). One night, when they had all gone to sleep, they heard knocking violently at the door towards the Strada Mare:

– Open, will be a search!

The whole family jumped out of bed and trembling, gathered around Aizic, who, a lighted candelabra in one hand, approached the door. The thought that they would end in «train of death» paralyzed them all.  Aizic fainted and the candles of the candelabra scattered on the floor. The fire danger added to the general panic.

– Open, if not we will break down the door!

– Just a moment! shouted Tzalim, assuming temporarily the role of head of family, trying to keep his calm:

– Mom, put the candles in their place! Suzana, help me bring dad in the room!

– Open the door, Yids communists as you are!

Tzalim hastily moved  aside the various objects – tables, chairs, armchairs – which were gathered near the door as a barricade. But Rashela, who was at her husband’s bedside, fainted suddenly.

– Mom fainted! shouted Suzana desperately to Tzalim, who dropped everything to rush into the bedroom. They laid Rachela on the bed and, a second later, the commotion behind the door intensified.

– Open the door, if not we burn down the house!

Shortly after, but it seemed like an eternity, Tzalim managed to undo the barricade. Some soldiers, weapons ready to fire, burst immediately into the photo studio.

– Hands up, face the wall! the order boomed.

Suzana and Tzalim  thought their time had come.

– We have a child, very small, do not kill us! Suzana shouted, tears in her eyes.

– Shut up! If we find communists posters and radios, you will die!

– We do not have communist propaganda! We do not listen either to Moscow nor London!

– This is what we will see!

After an hour of searching, the soldiers left empty-handed, but not before a final threat:

– We will come often back, remember that, wandering Yids as you are!

A sepulchral silence descended on the house. Suzana and Tzalim entered the room where Kidush was fast asleep unaware to everything that  happened around him. Then they checked on their  parents, who had go over their faint. Being alive was a miracle in their eyes. Aizic decided:

– Starting tomorrow, we will stay not more confined at home! There will be no pogrom in Bacau.

– We will open the workshop? Tzalim asked.

– Yes, tomorrow we will also go back to the synagogue.

– Now, let us pray for our salvation!

After reciting the prayer which is said by the New Year («slihot») and which is pronounced at the end of the day of Yom Kippur («neila»), Aizic confessed: «We will have peace only in “Eretz Israel”. Thus we will loop the loop of peregrinations of our people; our ancestors have left the territory between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and we will go back». At that moment they all had in mind the myth of the Wandering Jew and gave reason to Aizic; a long-term strategic objective was established.

The Jewish life became much more difficult than before. On August 8, 1940, King Carol II signed the «Decree Law on the legal status of Jewish residents in Romania» issued by the government of Ion Gigurtu. It was considered a Jew any person of Mosaic religion or who opted for a mixed marriage, although he was an atheist. Military obligations of Jews were transformed in into fiscal or work obligations. They were forbidden to bear Romanian names. In Octomber 4, 1940 were designated so-called «commissioners of  Romanianization». Also, was created the National Center for Romanization on the base of the «Decree-Law for the Romanization of company staff», which became effective on December 31, 1941. The bacauan figure Mircea Cancicov, Minister of Economy, was responsible for the application of the decree. The few Jews who worked at the City Hall were dismissed.

Tzadic family has been lucky, since they had a liberal profession, with their own photo studio.  The arrival of Soviet tanks and of «Muscovite faction» led by Ana Pauker, born Hanna Rabinsohn, of a father being Kosher specialist and of a grandfather being rabbi, was welcomed by Tzadic family. After all these years of persecution under the Antonescu regime of Antonescu, immediately after August 23, 1944, the staff structure of the municipality of Bacau was radically changed: more than ninety per cent of employees were Jews and Suzana was hired as a civil  servant.

The entrance of the Red Army in Romania also had its downsides for Tzadic family. They learned from a railwayman that Suzana’s father, who was considered a collaborator by the former regime, was exiled in Siberia, in a unknown city. In vain  she tried to contact him; a long time elapsed before she might learn something new about him. Gavriil Iosipivich Binyehud experienced one of the cruelest version of the Wandering Jew myth.

The first to take the path of «Eretz Israel» were the parents of Tzalim. The selection was rigorous. The old people had priority, those able to work should remain to participate in the construction of socialism. It was the spring of  1946. The communist regime led from shadows  by Ana Pauker, who still enjoyed the support of Stalin, helped Jews to leave again to the «Promised Land». On May 7, 1946, the parents of Tzalim left for Constanta, where they boarded the ship Smyrne, renamed Max Nordau, according to the Zionist leader. It was the first ship, having on board self exiled Jews to leave Romania after August 23, 1944. The destination was the port of Haifa. Before leaving, they have not received a passport, but a «one way travel sheet», for which they paid one thousand lei, a respectable sum in those days. They lost the Romanian citizenship and were forced at the same time, to renounce all their properties.

Tzalim’s parents took the train to Constanta. They did not have much luggage, just a few clothes. They have bought on the black market ten thousand dollars, that Rashela was at pains to hide. They were taken to the station by the whole family and many friends. The scene of the departure of his grandparents remained forever etched in the memory of Kidush, especially as it was for the first time he had the opportunity to see a steam locomotive, which seemed to to be a dragon from a fairy tale. It was talked about the myth of Wandering Jew, and the attendees  wished, on many voices, «Have a good trip!» and even in Yidish «Nesia tova!» The train left and the image he saw last was the smoke rising on the horizon. The desire to leave for Israel to see again his grandparents was immediately clear in his mind…

In 1948, Kidush went to school. He attended renowned educational establishments in Bacau as the General  School No. 19, the former Boys’ School No. 2, founded in 1859, and the Theoretical Lyceum No. 1, the old lyceum  «Prince Ferdinand I», founded in 1897. He loved to learn and to play sports as much. Kidush was an eminent pupil and a performance volleyball player. In his class, almost half of his classmates were Jewish. Most of them had relatives in Israel and received beautifully colored postcards. At first they did not receive other gifts. In one of the postcards, sent to Kidush, his grandparents said they joined the kibbutz Ashdot Yakov:   «The name of Yakov was given in 1936 in honor of James Rothchild, who had donated a piece of land to the Jewish National Fund. “Ashdot” means “waterfall” in Hebrew», this name was chosen  because there were some waterfalls in the region.» Kidush also received pictures of the kibbutz. One of them represented a water tower, and, on the back, there was the following explanation: «The first urgency was to build this water tower, while the men slept in tents or under the stars. At that time, the Jordan Valley was only burning sand, without any agricultural cultures.»  Then his grandparents began sending packages that contained things that were difficult to obtain those days in Romania and aroused envy of those who were not so lucky.

Kidush handily passed the entrance exam to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest. He could have been even the first on the list of passers, if the exam had been correct, but the P.C.R.[1] or, in other words, the system of  «Pistons, Collaborators, Relations» worked perfectly, the marks being modified according to orders from «above» or for considerable sums of money.

Kidush had became an attractive young man: he was about a five-six tall, blond hair, blue eyes – traits inherited from Suzana and Chiness fan-like  sideburns. He resembled his father, especially with his long nose, thin and malicious lips.

One particular souvenir that he kept was related to a Palestinian fellow who was at the university in the same class with him. His name was Mujahid Alfilistiny («Palestinian»), a young man of medium height, brown, short hair, elongated face and an aquiline nose. He had a bushy beard which let to catch sight of big libidinous  lips. The two young men, aware of their mutual ethnic groups, looked at each other with caution, but with curiosity. A torrid Saturday in May, Kidush went to 303 or «three-hole-three», as was called in student slang  a campus located near the Izvor bridge, at No. 303, the buidings of the former royal stables, where it was organized a evening dance party. The architectural complex had a kind of a patio, a courtyard paved with glazed tiles, an expensive eccentricity at the time of its construction, but which was perfect to accommodate a dance ring in the open air. In the central part of the patio, there was a fountain surrounded by four willows cut at top to the height of a telegraph pole, gaving a romantic ambiance to the place. At one moment, Mudjahid and Kidush were simultaneously directed to the same girl to invite her to dance. She accepted the invitation of Kidush, fact that angered the other suitor:

– Wandering Yid!

– Son of a servant! Kidush replied. He was refering to Ismael, who is considered, according to tradition, the ancestor of the Arabs, and was the son of Abraham with the Egyptian maidservant Hagar.  Isaac, on the other hand, traditionally descent line for Jews and Christians, was the son of Abraham  with Sarai, his wife.

After finishing his studies, Kidush was appointed as young engineer in a large ready-to-wear clothing company in Bacau. At first he worked in the maintenance department. He was responsible for solving any problems determined by electric failures, starting with the problems caused by high voltage in low voltage transformer, which was in the courtyard of the company, and finishing with the replacement of an ordinary wall socket. He loved what he did, especially when he was called to repair sewing machines. The women working there, who were all paid in piece rates, were praying to him to fix the sewing machines as quickly as possible, to not diminish their salary. There were many who had a little crush on Kidush, especially because he was young, athletic, intelligent, funny and dressed in fashion, right from a «gift package», as was said about those who received packages from abroad. His grandparents sent him at least one package per semester, with jeans, shirts, T-shirts, «cowboys» jacket, socks, shoes, belts, charms, attaché cases, school bags, bracelets, rings and many other objects that were not found in stores of socialist commerce.

Kidush lived in a studio given by his company, which he transformed into a kind of brothel, where he brought along almost every day different women. They had the opportunity to smoke extra long cigarettes, savour fine beverages or natural coffee, things otherwise scarce at that time on the market, and all these for free.  Given this concern, women were in their turn carrying… to the young engineer, always for free… The time passed very quickly and in a pleasant manner, so he did not think seriously of marriage, although he came near his thirties.

But the destiny of Kidush took a new turn. In spring 1970, Nicolae Ceausescu convened Ion Stănescu, the head of the Security State Council, and Gheorghe Bolintinu, the head of the Department of Emmigration and Counter-Espionage, who gave the order to initiate the famous operation «The Pilgrims», which established an «occult» tax of minimum two thousand dollars, tax that every Jew had to pay to get permission to leave the country. Everyone knew, but nobody had courage to speak openly.

Several prominent people or relatives of emmigrated at that time: the family members of Gheorghe Gaston Marin (Gheorghe Grossman), including his step-son, Radu Osman, grand-son of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej,  but also, Ghita and Andrei Chisinevschi, the sons of Iosif Chisinevschi (Jakob Roitman).

This news came like a thunderbolt on Kidush. To leave or not to leave, it was a big dilemma for him. Freedom reprezented by the Western world tempted him, but he realized that the sweet life of Don Juan he was living in Romania washard to give up. However, he liked the challenge, as all life’s challanges, but he was afraid of the unknown. He told himself that he didn’t know to speak Yiddish, he would have to enter the army and so many other things… His parents did not want to leave either, because, first of all, they had jobs. Suzana worked at City Hall and Aizic, in his photo studio, which, meanwhile, had been nationalized by the state, becoming the Cooperative  «The Work and the Art». Secondly, they approached the retirement age and felt too old to start a new life.

Events rushed. The whole Tzadic family was upset by a message received via an Israeli tourist: Gavriil Iosipovici Binyehud succeded to reach the «Promised Land»! After August 23, 1944, he was imprisoned in a camp-type gulag near Arctic Circle, in the region of Kamchatka, where he worked in a coal mine storage. After Stalin’ death, he lived in an assigned residence at Birobizhan, the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region («Evreiskaya Avtonomnaya Oblasti»), located on the border of the Soviet Union with the People’s Republic of China, on the shore of the Amur River. There he worked at the carrying trade of the railway station of Birobizhan, where it was a shortage of male workers. Soon after, he heard they were preparing lists for those who wanted to emigrate to Israel and put his name down. Federal Sovietic authorities made him understand that he would not get permission to leave if  he will carry correspondence with foreign countries, including Romania. He was therefore forced to wait nearly two decades until  his turn came. For Suzana, the news was completely unexpected, even something in her soul had always told her that her father was alive. Suzana was filled with happiness. With the same tourist, she could transmit to his father the address of kibbutz where her parents-in-law worked.  She would really have wish to take part at the reunion of the two last-named and her father, for whom the mythical cycle of the Wandering Jew has ended.

On January 3, 1975, was signed in Washington the Jackson-Vanick amendment by which the clause of the most favored nation was rejected for the counties whithout a market economy and without the right to freedom of movement. As it was impossible for a socialist economy to fulfill the first condition, Ceausescu thought somehow to respect the second condition by accelerating emigration to Israel.

Kidush got wind of this new opportunity to leave for Israel. He had three grandparents and a lot of old schoolmates who were there. As he was not a party member because his origin, and he was a little «flighty», he could not attain a position of high importance in his company. Nor the gallant adventures attracted him  more. He was nearing the age of thirty-six and felt the need for profound change. In spring 1975, Kidouch enrolled for emigration. Soon after, he was called into the personnel office of the company. It was required to take a stance against a citizen who asked to leave the country permanenetly, while all the communist propaganda brought fabulous praise for the «golden era».

– Comrade Tzadic, I’ve heard that you have ridiculed our collective labor, which had completed the five-year plan in four years and a half, you asked to leave our beloved country, where we are building communism, the future of the world, under the command… ah, ah, ah…the genius of the Carpathian… much beloved… ah, ah, ah… superlatives fail me… the General Secretary Nicolae Ceauşescu.

– You know… the human rights…

– Enough! False American infatuations! This is capitalist propaganda. What, you have no right here? Do you have the right to work or not?

– I have my grand parents there…

– The State and the people have spent money on your studies, and now you are leaving. It is correct?

– I have worked ten years in this company. I have paid my dues.

– Comrade Tzadic, starting today, you are no longer our comrade. You must know it. During this day, you will be informed of the rescission of your contract of employment. You have the right of fourteen days notice. You said you have no rights! At the time of termination of the notice, you will return the key of the studio, because, I remind you, it belongs to the company. And now go to work! Automatic installation of cutting has a failure!

Three months later, during which he was unemployed, Kidush flew to Bucharest and the same day, he left for Tel Aviv.

Through the porthole, he watched his hometown Bacau, disappearing at high speed. A sense of regret filled his soul. He felt that something had broken within him, tears streaming down his cheeks. A stewardess handed out the newspaper Scanteia, a routine duty. Kidush saw the portraits of «the great comrade» and of «the great comrade’s wife». This was enough to get him out of his nostalgic condition. He politely declined the newspaper. For him, communism was no longer present, nor future, but a page of the past. Similarly, tha myth of the Wandering Jew was no longer a living reality. Now it was a closed topic, a story to tell to the descendants of his descendants. Kidush pressed his face to the porthole while looking back and searching insistently. He thought that he had seen the house of his parents in the urban area of Bacau. His eyes filled with tears  and did not clear up until he arrived in Bucharest. His childhood and his youth remained far behind…

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

The translation and the adaptation are realized by the author himself.



[1] P.C.R.: Romanian Communist Party.

Doru Ciucescu
Doru Ciucescu s-a născut pe 30 aprilie 1946 la Bacău. Este profesor asociat la Universitatea "Vasile Alecsandri" din Bacău. A scris nouăsprezece cărţi cu profil didactic, precum şi treisprezece de proză ("Mâncătoarele de ruj de buze din Casablanca", "Peste Prut şi mai departe ...", "Străluciri diamantine în Israel", "Grecia năbădăiosului înamorat, Zeus", "Destine din spaţiul saharo-siberian", "Gulagul din umbra palmierilor", "De-ale cărturăriei de odinioară", "Scrisorile unui nistro-tisean", "Bătrânul şi Cuba", "Vietnam, mumia comunistă reîncarnată în dragon capitalist" şi "File din istoria şoptită a românilor*Volumul I"), "Cambodgia supravieţuitorilor din comunismul maximalist al khmerilor roşii", " America panglicilor cenușiii, un vis... românesc", două de poezie ("Declamaţii de la tribuna timpului", "Poezii patriotice trilingve* Poèmes patriotiques trilingues* Patriotic Trilingual Poems") şi două de publicistică ("De ce fugi tu, tinere?", "Cu ochii peste gard"). Lui Doru Ciucescu i-au mai apărut trei volume cu selecţii de texte ("O mie şi una de invocări feministe", "Medalioane pe colier ghimpat", "Decupări de puzzle pe harta lumii"). "Străluciri diamantine în Israel" este prima carte a unui scriitor din România, tradusă în limba rusă în Republica Moldova. Aceeaşi carte, tradusă în limba franceză, a fost publicată sub egida unei edituri din Israel. Volumul "Destine din spaţiul saharo-siberian", a fost tradus în limbile engleză şi franceză, apărând sub egida unei edituri din Londra, respectiv, din Paris. Doru Ciucescu a acordat asistenţă didactică trei ani în Oran şi cinci în Casablanca. Ese membru al Uniunii Scriitorilor din România. De asemenea, el este membru al Uniunii Scriitorilor din Republica Moldova. Deviza în scrierile lui este: "Instruieşte şi delectează!" Premii (Anul decernării): 1. Premiul pentru analiză-presa scrisă, decernat la Gala Premiilor Presei Băcăuane (2007); 2. Premiul pentru proză, decernat de Uniunea Scriitorilor din România – filiala Bacău (2008); 3. Premiul pentru cartea de proză a anului, decernat de Fundaţia Culturală "Georgeta şi Mircea Cancicov" (2009); 4. Premiul pentru proză, decernat de Uniunea Scriitorilor din România – filiala Bacău (2010); 5. Premiul pentru cartea de proză a anului, decernat de Fundaţia Culturală "Georgeta şi Mircea Cancicov" (2011); 6. Premiul pentru proză, decernat de Uniunea Scriitorilor din România – filiala Bacău (2012). Recenzii la cărţile lui de proză: 66 (51 în România, 13 în Republica Moldova şi 2 în Israel).

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