Under the Iron Curtain

by Andrada Costoiu

Photo by Daria Sannikova on Pexels.com

Hello everyone!
Remember I have told you I am writing a novel, about the life of my father and my experience as a child, living in communist Romania?
I am in contact with a few publishers, but the novel is not in print yet.
So, I decided to treat you with an excerpt……

John is my father and here is a short excerpt in which he recalls some of his young years….


John remembered the time during World War II. War meant little to children, and most of them didn’t even know or understand what was happening. As a small child, John did the same as the other kids around him. He continued to play hide and seek, hopscotch and all kinds of childhood games. He did not know who the Nazis, the Russians and all the others were. For him these names were faceless. For him, war was when there was no daddy.

But some memories sneak in and they can never be erased. And so were his memories of the Russian invasion and of what came afterwards. At that time Romania was under Nazi occupation and Hitler’s army was pillaging the country of its resources. The Nazis took control of oil wheels and they were helping themselves to the country’s food crops, causing food shortages for native Romanians. Then the Russian army invaded. The Russian soldiers were looting and burning homes, they were killing the men and raping the women. 

The day when they arrived in their village his father’s brother was at their house. One of his legs was permanently injured in a hunting trip and that is why he was not on the front like his dad. He jumped off the back fence of the house with a gun, trying to organize other villagers against the invaders. Left on their own, John’s mom took him and his brother down in the cellar, where they had tens of wooden barrels. Some barrels were full of wine and others with tuica, a Romanian traditional drink made out of plums. There were some empty barrels too. They hid in one until the Red Army soldiers were gone. He remembered clutching on his beloved stuffed bunny. He also remembered the screams and the thunderstorm of machine guns outside. When they came out, John saw their dog crying. He was sitting next to the corpse of his father’s brother. The dog had an old man’s eyes.

But what John recalled the most was the time afterwards. 

His father’s family was a remnant of the old nobility that once owned most of the land in the Kingdom of Romania.  They still owned a lot of it, in fact in the present day, the village was seating on part of their land. Their household was like a small community, and everybody working there felt like extended family. There were few people working in the stables, others helped raise their farm animals, and others worked in the house. But WWII brought a lot of changes. Most of these workers were men, got drafted and they were gone. The house felt empty. John was grateful that the cook, a chubby woman that was giving him cookies in secret, did not leave. Her enthusiasm when making dough was utterly genuine and John had a lot of fun squandering flour and pretending to help. He also liked the carriage driver, an older man who during the war became some sort of domestic worker that helped with everything. These two people, his mom and brother, made him feel safe while the war was raging.

When the war was over, his father came back. John saw him from far away, walking on the village’s road in his military uniform. He screamed “Mom! Dad is coming!” and then he ran to him and jumped into his arms. His dad was well, not injured on the outside but after a while, John felt that something was wrong. He did not play with him and his brother anymore and he didn’t hug them like he used to. Instead, he stayed closed in his study room. When John would see the door open, he would go inside to find him absorbed, with dark circles under his eyes, writing on scraps of paper. John felt like someone hijacked his dad and put instead an odd soul. Then, from being completely reclusive, his dad started having meetings with his friends behind closed doors. John would still very rarely see him, and when he would come out, it was not as his dad was present. His mind was always preoccupied with something else.”


© Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2020- . Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2020 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

My new poetry book “Love poems: insights into the complicated mystery of love” is available on Amazon. You can get it here. Please write a review if you get around it. I would really appreciate it.

“I still ask for two glasses” , on Free Verse Revolution

I started the journey of seriously writing not so long ago, but I know I had it in me for a long time. In middle school I had literature professor that I will never forget. He never gave high marks and he will always get upset when we made grammatical mistakes. I was his favorite student. Back then, I did not understand why. I was so young and just a rebellious kid, in a communist country that did not encourage creativity and free thinking. At times, I got punished for voicing my mind. One a teacher put me in front of the blackboard and asked me to fill it with a communist slogan. I took the chalk and I wrote what he asked me. I had to write that slogan 53 times, while the whole class was watching. I was in 8th grade. But the literature teacher rewarded me with high marks, because he appreciated my writing, not infested with communist thinking and such.

This is just a parenthesis, to introduce a blog that was so gracious to feature one of my poems, a poem that you have seen here before and that is also part of my new poetry book. The reason I brought this story up is because the theme for this month for Free Verse Revolution is “After Life”. The first thing that comes in mind when we think about After Life is…..what happens after we die. But, there are so many different After Lives, aren’t they? One is the example above: my life after escaping communism. I have a novel coming up, it is written but I am knocking on agents and publishing houses’ doors. Another kind of After Life is you, me, us, after a significant relationship has ended. My poem is about that.

You can read it at Free Verse Revolution if you click here. If you are a poet, I encourage you to submit some of your poetry to this blog, as I think it is a wonderful way of sharing our work.

I still ask for two glasses

by Andrada Costoiu

Photo: Jean Beaufort, “Refreshing Glasses Of Red Wine”, Public Domain.

I planned to forget, 
But when you truly love someone,
It never leaves you.

I hoped that the rains would wash me into a river,
So I will learn to flow like water,
Shapeless, formless,
Until I’ll reach a shore
Where memories cannot travel.

It has been months since it happened,
We fought for our hearts,
But the distance swallowed us whole,
And spit us out onto different paths.

And so here I sit,
near the piano,
still asking for two glasses
For the ghosts of you and I.


© Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2020- . Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

My new poetry book “Love poems: insights into the complicated mystery of love” is available on Amazon. You can get it here. Please write a review if you get around it. I would really appreciate it.

The Russian Revolution, communism and the lives in between

by Andrada Costoiu

Mind tricks

I haven’t read any books about Russia for a long time. Russians have beautiful literature; they have Leo Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Chekhov, Gogol and many other wonderful writers.  I did not stop reading their books because I didn’t like their stories; I did like their literature. Though, I guess my rebellious mind unconsciously protested against anything that had to do with Russia because I grew up in a communist country and I blamed communism and everything that had to do with it on Russia.

Indeed, by the end of WWII in the countries that the Red Army ‘liberated’, communist-dominated governments took power. By 1949, all the governments of Eastern Europe, except Yugoslavia, became Stalinist regimes.

The map of Europe looked like this…. 

Romania became communist in 1947. I wasn’t born back then but my grandparents were. Unfortunately we were a noble family and that was really bad! The Communists took everything my grandparents had, all the lands and….everything. Later on they sent my father and my uncle to a correctional school because they had to “un-noble “ them and they had to be educated in the “communist spirit”. Appalling ….but other people had it worse….

My grandparents never talked much about this past.

I don’t really have a feel of what was life before communism but I do know what was like growing up under communism. Here are some things that I remember:

–It was allowed only 2 hour per day to watch television between 8 and 10 PM and usually they will put just news or documentaries about Ceausescu and his wife. As kids, we would only have cartoons 10 minutes a day and in the weekends it was half an hour. I remember all of us kids running from outside where we were playing to go in front of the TV so we can watch some Tom and Jerry….

— The communist party was trying to denigrate the image of Christmas, as it was considered too religious. So we did not have Santa Claus, Santa was banned! Instead we had  Mos Gerila,  a kind of slim, funny version of Santa. They wanted kids to believe that this guy was bringing presents from the state…..and that it wasn’t a magical creature. We still believed though, because our parents somehow managed to nurture our imagination…..

This is a picture of Mos Gerila from a newspaper in 1947. Still, our image of it was the one with beard and it pretty much looked like Santa, because our parents, the ones who dressed up like it, never looked so hunky :))).

–When my aunt who moved to Germany sent me a pair of jeans it was a miracle. In communist Romania, almost nobody owned a paired of jeans because that was a luxury. 

–I remember my parents planning to go in vacations or visits during the weekends. The planning was a whole production! Why? Because depending of your license plate you could only drive your car two weekends a month! They would alternate between even and odd license plate numbers! In some weekends you could only drive your car if the license number plate was ending in 2, 4, 6 e.g.  and in others the ones ending in 1, 3, 5, 7 e.g. If they caught you with wrong plate number you would have been arrested. How weird is that!!

–Every month you could only use 20 L gas, that is about 5 gallons a month!! Yes, that was all you had! So you had to plan your travels carefully and save gas if you wanted to take a longer trip! Also, we had a car but to own a car back then was a complete luxury.  In 1989, before the revolution, in Bucharest there were only about 200. 000 cars. Now there are millions of cars in Romania….. 

–During communism the borders were closed. Nobody could go outside the country. We never imported many goods, so imagine when after 1989 when finally products were imported! Juices, cigars, sweets were things nobody tasted in their life! 

So yes, I remember all these things and others too. Russia, communist rule, our lives. I never wanted to go back, not even in my mind. And apparently I kept everything away, even the wonderful Russian novels that were completely unrelated with the spread of communism and what it did to us……

An old trilogy: “Sisters” (1921-1922), “The Eighteenth Year” (1927-1928) and “Gloomy Morning” (1940-1941), by Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy

I’ve bought these three books from my neighborhood bookstore, in California. I think what attracted me most were the covers and the old feel! These books are over 50 years old; they were published in 1953. Who knows who left them in this bookstore ….

This author is not Leo Tolstoy, but some sources say that they were distant relatives. I don’t know much about their relationship, but whereas Aleksey was not an influential global writer as Leo Tolstoy, he did leave an interesting legacy that includes many wonderful works. 

And so, I read them….

The story revolves around 4 main characters, 2 sisters and their husbands. Dasha and Katya are the sisters and Telegin and Roshkin are their husbands. I was swept by the true love between these people but most of all I was swept by how the turmoil of historical events shaped people’s lives and their destinies.

This trilogy traces the development of the Russian society during the critical years of WWI, the 1917 Russian Revolution and the civil war in Russia. 

Russia fought WWI on the Eastern Front. As many other armies, Russian army too lost a lot of soldiers, and more …because the Russian Army had about one doctor for every 10,000 men. Thus, many wounded soldiers died from wounds that would have been treated on the Western Front.

Then the Russian Revolution started in March 1917, the monarchy was abolished. The Civil War followed….

The Civil War was between the Red Army, known as the communist Bolsheviks and the White Army, who greatly favored nationalism and monarchism. And in between, there was also the Green Army that rose from the peasantry. The Greens grew tired of the Red Army requisitioning their livestock, food, and able-bodied men so they rose to protect their communities.

As the history of Russia was being made, people’s lives were turned upside down to the point that soldiers and officers that fought together in the WWI ended up fighting against and killing each other in the revolution and in the Civil War. 

Reading these books made me think about a distant past and about these people, about how much they went through and about how much they suffered. Then about the Russian Revolution, the spread of communism and what it did to people living in Eastern Europe…

People and places, our lives

You see, we create meaning through the exchange between spheres of different rationalities. Depending to what we are exposed to, we create our identities and shape our life trajectories.

During communism, people were in a deeply flawed position. They learned gobbets of information and wrong teachings and information were stored in the society’s collective memory banks. Thus how could one give a reasoned critique to what was really happening?

I saw what happened to my family, what they took from us, how they transformed our lives. But I was just a child. Human mind displays great ingenuity and so I blocked everything that had to do with Russia, even their literature. Looking back, this was crazy……..

I will have to ponder about it more, but one thing that comes to my mind now is that are all people, we are individuals with similar fears, needs and desires.  We are all living histories; we are told or untold biographies. We have to take time to learn about the world and about other’s views of the world.  Our lives are our own and we have to keep learning.

Since tomorrow is Christmas, let’s try to give our best to the ones around us! Peace and love from me to all of you.


© Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 . Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.