Growing up in a communist country meant constantly being an integrated part of all sorts of communities. Among other things, there were different organizations that you were automatically merged into when you arrived at a certain phase in your life, such as going to kindergarten or to school or starting a job.
When I was a kindergarten child, I was a proud member of the so-called Eagles of our Homeland (rom. Soimii Patriei). There was a joyful ceremony in September of each year that inaugurated all newcomer kids into the eagles’ organization.
The goal of this organization was moral and civic education of the children in the spirit of humanity, love, and respect towards the homeland and the people of the country and, of course, toward the Romanian Communist Party.
All small eagles had the same costume: orange polyester shirts, blue polyester skirts for girls and pants for boys, a red scarf, and a blue hat. This costume was too cold in winter but definitely way too hot in summer.
All small children were part of the Eagles until they reached the age of seven. Once they transitioned from kindergarten to the first school class, they were no longer Eagles, but another joyful ceremony inaugurated them into the next organization, which was the Pioneer’s Organization.
This ceremony took place several times during the scholar year as only the best students of the class were honored with this pleasure first. It was as if there was a limited capacity for the school director to put a scarf on a pupil’s shoulder.
I remember the day of my inauguration. We went to the nearby Parc of the Fallen Heroes (a parc that commemorated the fallen soldiers during the second world war, situated on top of our hill that we used for sleighing in winter) on a sunny summer day. Our parents came carrying flowers that they gave to the generous school director after the ceremony was over.
The ceremony was very festive and touching. Speeches were held by different important people, such as representatives of the Youth Party and of the Town Hall talking about the importance of the Pioneers as pillars and carriers of the future of our communist society.
At the end of the ceremony, the famous pioneer’s song was sung:
Am cravata mea, sunt pionier,
Si ma mindresc cu ea, sunt pionier!
Flutura in vant, zalog si legamint,
Intaiul meu cuvint de pionier…
The translation goes something like this:
I have my tie, I’m a pioneer,
And I’m proud of it, I’m a pioneer!
It flatters in the wind, promise, and pledge,
My first word as a pioneer…
After the ceremony was over, I walked home with my parents proudly wearing my now pioneer’s costume: a white polyester shirt, a dark blue polyester skirt (boys had to wear pants of course), a red scarf with the colors of our flag on the margin and a white beret.
Each year on the 1st of May the whole country engaged in celebrating Labor´s Day. It was a huge festival for which the whole population prepared weeks in advance. There were festive marches that had to be coordinated, dances and praises for our dictator that had to be rehearsed, and a lot of happiness that had to be practiced in order to seem real.
The very next year after I was inaugurated as a pioneer, our school decided to do something special and rare for our dictator for the 1st of May ceremony. The idea was to shoot a video with us kids wearing our pioneers’ costume, standing on the steps in front of our House of Youth singing patriotic song. The idea was not bad, and we got really excited as being on television was something huge.
Our television programs were limited to one hour in the evening reserved for news in which our wellbeing in a communist country and the activities of the dictator, which were mostly going to the countryside and inspecting crops were praised.
So being part of this rare event of being on television was something that we knew would happen to us only once in a lifetime.
The school managed to engage a crew of people who worked for the town’s television to shoot the named video. The only obstacle we were confronted with was the weather. As the video had to be done a few weeks before the 1st of May, it was decided that the shooting was going to take place in March.
If you are not familiar with the Romanian seasons and weather conditions, March is still very winterly with temperatures around zero to five degrees during the day. So, I think it is safe to say that shooting a bunch of kids outside at a temperature of 5 degrees wearing only their pioneers’ costume, not being allowed to move but having to pretend to happily sing patriotic songs (we were only supposed to move our lips as the audio was being played in the background) and with snowflakes forming in the air turned out to be a little bit challenging.
All of us were freezing, so naturally, our bodies were constantly shaking, our shoulders pulled up to our heads, our lips were blue, and our teeth were clapping so heavily that you could literally hear a chorus of teeth clapping sounds. We were kept in freezing temperatures for three and a half hours to get the shooting done.
By the time we were allowed to go home, we could barely move.
All of us got sick that day and could not go to school for a few days.
On the day our video was to be shown on television, we were all very excited and proud. We invited friends and family to watch the big event together.
At first, the festivities from different parts of the country was shown and we were counting down the minutes until the moment our video would be played.
And there it was! The video had a length of around three minutes. The camera showed around four kids out of twenty-three, jumping from one to the other and lingering on them for about two seconds. These were the kids who could somehow control their bodies not to shiver so heavily, so they made it into the focus of the camera for several seconds.
The rest of the video showed images of our town and of the House of Youth. And lots of flowers. Somehow the camera people had to fill in the gaps that were supposed to show happily singing kids.
We were very disappointed knowing that we had to endure three and a half hours in the freezing winter temperatures, being sick afterwards and at the end not even being shown in the video.