My grand-aunt Rosa lived as a lodger with a rather scary old woman. I loved aunt Rosa. When I was a child she was already well in her late 60s or early 70s, a kind old woman with platinum blond hair, red fingernails and the face of a lovely little monkey. She had an unforgettable spirit, much energy and showed great generosity. Aunt Rosa took regularly the Orient Express to Bucharest visiting her friends and relatives there and in Sibiu, and smuggling stuff out of Romania in her apricot coloured big bustier. No customs officer dared controlling her bust or underwear. She frequently provided us children with colourful rahat or Turkish delight, hazelnut or chocolate halva, pan flutes, very dry figs and dates, oriental sweets and strangely dressed dolls and wooden toys. She provided us with a mixture of oriental and occidental culture and told us tales from the past, the beginning of the 20th and the end of the 19th century. She died when she was 97, after a rich and fulfilling live on her own and with a husband ten years her junior, a first violinist in a theatre orchestra, who had perished when she was sixty.
We did not go to our grand-aunt’s place very often. She regularly came to see us and had always a present for everybody. She brought cakes made with 10 duck eggs or rich chocolate tarts that contained enough butter and cream to feed a whole village. Only twice visited we her place, a separate part of the flat belonging (or not belonging) to the sinister elderly landlord. Aunt Rosa lived in a huge bedroom with a queen size bed displaying large embroidered cushions, handmade dolls and animal puppets. This room had to serve as bedroom, kitchen and living room; and I believe that there was a shared bathroom.
I remember that my mother remarked disapprovingly that the landlord was not really the owner of the apartment, as this was a dispossessed property that had belonged to a Jewish family before WWII. The story of dispossession and political persecution (to be precise, both the story of victim and perpetrator – a rather schizophrenic situation) also defines the history of my family. But this is another tale.
I will never forget the disgust and the shame expressed by my mother as well as the uncomfortable feelings arising, when we visited my lovely grand-aunt in this tainted flat that had belonged to a Jewish family, who was probably dead. If they had been fortunate, they had survived and escaped to a safe place. But nobody ever turned up to get back what had been theirs before the horrible war and still was rightfully their property.
Photo source: http://kitchenmason.com/
Information: Orient Express in Bucharest, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7V4HwySAw4, 2014-02-10
Video: Ustinov on the Orient Express, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgpmE5MtgkY, 2014-02-10