Arhiva lunara: mai 2008

The Angels on My Doorstep

This is a true story about special people, people who have lived and died but through it all they left behind so much love and infinite proofs that the faith in God and in all the good things that life has in store for each of us is the only salvation there is… These people are for me the closest thing to saints, as they are the living proof of what Jesus Christ wanted us to learn. Yes, they did it the hard way and without ever complaining about anything. And if someone were to ask me one day how I portray the angels in my mind, I would just look up to the sky…and think of THEM…

At the beginning of the XXIst century, Profira Zavelita saw the light of day in Cernauti, the North of Bucovina, part of the Romanian territory that later ceased to belong to Romania, being from then on part of Ukraine. Daughter of Samuil Zavelita, mayor of Cernauti, descendant of a Polish aristocratic family – von Zavelita and graduate of the University of Vienna, Profira met Toader Luchian, the man who was to become her husband and the love of her life.

All the people who knew them, all the people who ever had the chance of being around them, they all talk about their love as ,,that special kind of love that few people have the luck of ever encountering in their lifetime”. Only…love isn’t always the ending of a story, as life is almost never easy and linear, as the story rarely continues with merely ,,…and they lived happily ever after”. In fact, their story truly began at that point. Behind their ,,…and they live happily ever after”, laid a continuous fight, a world-shattering faith and an incredible courage. Not only love. In their story, love was merely the invisible veil that sheltered their drama and kept it all together…

When Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union, Profira and Toader decided to leave Cernauti, along with their family, giving up on on all their possessions, in order to start a new life in Romania, far away from the communist regime. As their leaving was actually eloping, Profira and Toader escaped through the woods, by night, with only a bag with clothes on them. They reached the Romanian land and settled in Banat where through hard work and struggle they managed to rebuild their lost home. Sadly though, the story does not end with an „…they lived happily ever after” here either.

In 1950, the newly-arrived communism in Romania embarked on the so-called „collectivization”, which meant putting into practice the principles of communism and declining the right to any private possession, as everything was supposed to belong to the „state” and to „the people”. Profira&Toader’s family, along with all the intelectualls of that time, were reckoned to be „a threat” for the communist movement, as they were part of the bourgeoisie that had fled the soviet domination in Ukraine and they were considered dangerous for the future of communism in Romania.

Awoken in the middle of the night and embarked on cattle wagons that would remind us of the horrors of the Holocaust, thousands of people were taken away and forced to leave all their possessions. They shared the railway wagons with their cows and horses and were taken to the middle of Baragan, a barren and deserted lowland in the South of what is now Romania. Only there had the communist regime considered them to be far enough in order for the „threat” to be annihilated. With a devilish fierceness, they were taken 50 kilometers into the lowland, where there was absolutely nothing…no living soul… And as if this wasn’t cruel enough, the communists had already arranged for families to be torn apart, so that the grandparents would live more than 30 km away from their children and their grandchildren.

In small, miserable houses, with no electricity or heating, thousands of people who used to be professors, doctors, scientists…all found the strength and the courage to build in that deserted place a school, a church, an administrative building. Everything making use only of the strength of their hands and „armed” with faith in God, with courage, with the determination to survive…

The youngest of Profira and Toader’s daughters was only a couple of months old when they were taken to Baragan and was raised there by the age of 10, studying in the elementary school to the erection of which her parents had contributed and having as teachers some of the greatest intellectuals of that time. People whom, just like them, had had the „misfortune” of being two honest and two intelligent for an absurd communist society in decay.

Samuel Zavelita, Profira’s father, once the mayor of Cernauti…lived for the rest of his life in the dust of Baragan lowland, in a miserable adobe house. Nevertheless, up to the last day of his existence he continued to wear his suit, like a true gentleman, and to impeccably polish his shoes, with the same discipline as 20 years ago, when he entered the Cernauti Town Hall. His sad fate had done nothing to change his habits nor his relentless trust in the fact that a man cannot be brought down to his knees unless he willingly accepts it.

In 1960, when the forced domicile was lifted, Toader began fighting to bring his family back to the world, to fulfill his and Profira’s dream of getting their daughters into college, turning them into ladies. He had secretly saved the documents of a house in Botosani, that he had bought before the nationalization in 1948. He went to the Town Hall and presented the situation, asking for the right to live in the house he had bought years ago and which was the only possible place for him and his family to turn to, since they had been left with nothing. Nonetheless, the answer failed to arrive.

In that very moment, Toader and Profira took a step that few people would have had the courage to take…they took their daugthers and left for Botosani, armed with faith and with justice on their side. As fall was approaching, two of their daughters had to start highschool and the youngest one had to finish the 8th grade. Toader and Profira were firm in their decision : their three girls would get to study and make better lives for themselves. They settled in their cart, on the front yard of the house that was rightfully theirs, although the officials refused to admit the inevitable.

For 6 months, their 3 daughters went to school day by day and got excellence awards for their study. All that…while living in a cart on the front yard of a house. Every time Profira talked about this, the tone of her voice would suddenly become sad, almost dramatic. She was too strong of a woman to cry, but one could read the tears out of her lips when she talked about those times. „At night, the people from the house, the tenants of that time, would unleash their dogs and set them on us just to scare us, hoping they would drive us away like this…”

Finally, the decision was taken at the Town Hall, somehow forced by Toader and Profira’s relentless fight. The house was given back into their possession and the tenants that lived there, that had been tenants to the state, became THEIR tenants. The same people who used to unleash their dogs to scare away the family that endured winter in a cart…those same people had become their tenants. In life, what goes around, comes around…

Their three girls studied in Botosani, then left for college in Bucharest and became engineers and architects. Toader and Profira remained in the house they had obtained through such a struggle…but only until the fatidical moment in which the communist regime found another way of tormenting them – the start of the demolition era in Romania. Thousands of people were driven away from their houses once again, as the state had to build blocks of flats, since houses were another sign of the ,,dangerous bourgeoisie” that threatened the communists.

For the third time in their lives, Toader and Profira were left with nothing. That house they had fought for, with sweat, tears and sacrifices…that house doesn’t exist anymore. On the place where it once stood…only blocks of flats. Tens of them… They became tenants of a small apartment in one of those blocks of flats. Ironically, on the same street where their house had stood once.

Toader couldn’t cope with this last shock, he simply couldn’t come to terms with the idea of having built 3 houses and then having lost them one by one…to finally become a tenant of the communist state. It was a thought that he never made peace with until he died.For those who met him, he will live eternally in their memories as a brave and honest man, who fought his entire life for the things he believed in. For family, for love, for what was right.

Profira found herself alone, without her lifelong-companion, but nevertheless blessed with her daughters’ love. She continued to help them and to raise her grandchildren with the same love and commitment that life never managed to take away from her. That love and commitment with which she raised…me, the baby that used to climb into her arms, look her in the eye and ask in a sweet childish voice „Com’ on grandma’, tell me that story again…”.

With patience, infinite love and tenderness, she raised me as well and a great deal of the person I am today I owe it to her. Because, yes…Toader and Profira are more than the „characters” of this true and dramatic story. They are my grandparents. The people whose learnings I carry with me, in a silent corner of my soul, the people whose blood runs through my veins and the people that I have pledged myself to make proud. My fight is theirs too. And each and every victory I will ever have will be their victory as well…

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