Ion (with the wish for Moscow)

Ion, village of Lunga, 24 years old, 9 grades, lives with his mother, two little nieces and two nephews, and his sister. Looking for a job abroad.

Ion has a twin brother who has been working in Moscow for an year. A little sister has been “working” for two years in Italy and another one recently left (for the second time) to Czech Republic. The whole village speak that Ion’s sisters are prostitutes, but this thing does not bother Ion very much, neither his mother. When you ask him what do your sisters do abroad he answers smiling: “How the hell can I know what they are doing there”; later he invents various stories about them (that they work at a tailor’s shop in the Czech Republic, that the younger one was about to be murdered in Italy, etc).

            Ion is a semi-educated youngster. He can just write something very simple and make elementary math operations. He does not read anything, has no TV and only from time to time listens to some cheap Romanian songs, named “manele”.

            The state of the house they live in denotes a tough poverty: dirty doors, an improvised threshold made of several stones, bed linen is several years old and damp. They use two rooms for living.

            Nutrition. The daily problem of this family, including Ion’s  one is what to eat. There are no other poultry around the house, like in other households. It is a family of day-laborers, who work by day, provided they are employed by somebody. It is an event if there is a landlord who offers food twice a day and MDL 20 each. Usually, when they go to weed in summer time with the whole family (sometimes they take their nephews with hem in the field) they are paid MDL 15 per day each and a lunch. In the morning Ion and the other members of the family ate boiled potatoes and flattened cakes instead of bread. “Today in the morning I ate boiled potatoes”. At lunch they usually eat sour soup, beans, potatoes or home made spaghetti.

Clothes. Ion takes care of himself and goes to buy “good” clothes from the store, not from “humanitarians”. Last fall he bought a jacket, a pair of shoes and trousers. His sister from Czech Republic sends clothes  for the children, because “there she can buy cheaper”, said Ion.

Income. In summer Ion goes to weed, in the autumn to harvest the corn, to pill-off, and load, also to simple constructions as aid. Often he goes with the entire family (i.e. takes to the field the younger members of the family). It happens that he goes there by himself, when the work is only “for men”. Last autumn  he worked for a landlord. Jointly with a constructor they built a garage, helped in changing the windows in the house, also helped in constructing a cellar and did some other works for that household (they loaded waste and chopped wood). “I was very satisfied because I felt as if I had a real job. I was paid for that month MDL 300, and was fed 3 times a day”. The money that I receive I give to my mother. “The mother takes care of food and she keeps the money with her”. Sometimes the mother gives to Ion MDL 5 or 10 to go to the disco (part of these money the boy used for cigarettes). If there is a “good” working day, the family earns at least MDL 60. This happens mostly in summer and in the autumn. In winter and spring time there is less work to do. Ion spends whole days watching TV, with a friend of his from the neighborhood. When I came for the interview he also came from watching TV. “Sometimes we are cheated that we would be paid one amount and in the end given a  different amount. Last autumn I dug up carrots for a local leader. (“leader” is the individual who leases-in land and property shares from other people: like tractors, machines, immovable assets, etc. o.n.). He promised MDL 85 per individual. After we dug up the carrots, he said we should go to the selection courtyard. We did not go, this is why for the work we did in the field he gave us only MDL 70 each”. Ion told me this story with revolt, that certain persons are not fair. “I am free and work by day. If I want – I go, if not – no, but he should pay me per days I work”. They youngster thinks that it is better to work by day than permanently in association. Working by day you earn something and get the money immediately; you can either accept or reject certain types of work. If you want to have a rest, stay at home… Nobody from the family is legally employed for any work and we are not tax payers (because such families are not registered anywhere, except for may be at the mayoralty – that they are alive and that can be considered as village inhabitants. o.n.). In summer the mother takes on her responsibility half a hectare of sugar beet from the “collective farm” (i.e. also from a leader), which she has to weed three times. Ion goes to the sugar beet with the whole family, but sometimes go to weed the sugar beet one or two of them, and others go to weed for private farmers. The payment for the sugar beet is provided in autumn, after the sugar beet is dug up, cleaned, loaded and carried to the factory. For such a job, on half a hectare, last autumn they received 6 sacs of sugar (300 kg). Part of this sugar was sold on the market place, another one was used as food and stewed fruits.

Fire, heating. The whole winter Ion with a friend of his used to go by cart and carry wood. “We used to cut two trees each time and carry them home. I used to help my friend and he did not charge me for transportation. We did so each second day. I got tired of carrying logs. I burnt everything around my house”. In summer time his mother sets fire in an improvised and covered oven. They do not use natural gas or electricity in cooking food. Last winter Ion found a manner how to save some of the wood he brings. “I connected an electrical heater right from the pole and heated during the night. Nobody caught us”. He takes water from a nearby well (30 m).

Going to work abroad. This is postponed from one moth    to another due to a problem Ion cannot resolve anyway. While doing the army service in the neighboring settlement (at the military airport), one day, when he was on sentry-duty, several kilograms of cable disappeared “thick one, with much copper inside, for planes”. Ion swears (and he smiles when he says so) that he has no idea who broke the lock on the door from the warehouse, neither who stole the cable  and where was it taken. This happened on the last month of his army service and soon afterwards he was supposed to be dismissed from the army. The commandment of the military unit charged him of this, but did not sue him. They found another punishment and told him when he was dismissed: “Either you pay MDL 1000 and get your military card, or you do not get your military card and will not be able to get a passport”. His mother also was at the military unit, Ion also went there several times, but in vain. Without a military card he cannot make his passport, and without passport he cannot go to work abroad.

            Ion’s dream is to go to work somewhere. “First I wanted to go with my sister to Italy. She told me she would send me money for visa and trip (a visa to Italy costs about USD 2000, o.n.). I have waited but something happened to my sister because she has not called us for half an year. I found a priest who said he can do a visa for me, but I had to give him USD 700 down-payment”. He hopes to go to Italy together with his twin-brother, Viorel. However, meanwhile Viorel could not stand any longer and went together with some friends to Moscow. He has been there for an year and Ion is still at home due to his passport. “At Easter Viorel will come home and will take me with him to Moscow. He builds cottages there, does “facades for shops and bars”. Ion is sure that in Moscow will work and will earn well, not like in Moldova (he heard from his brother, from other people that sometimes one can reach amounts of USD 250 a month). He thinks that Viorel will help him to “pay a restaurant dinner” for the officers and this way he will be able get the military card (an officer told him that about MDL 200 may be enough for a “good diner at bar”).

            But life is life and does not wait for Ion to earn his money in Moscow. He wants to get married. “All my friends and peers left either to Czech Republic, Portugal or Moscow. No one of my age remained here, in the neighborhood” (The boy enumerated about 15 names from the nearest houses, which comprised only a small part of the village). Ion feels ashamed to go to the disco, because he is already “old for something like that”. This is why he was happy when his neighbors across the road, who also went to Moscow, asked him take care of their small house. Ion invited his fiancé to that house and they live together like two betrothed young. When I was discussing with Ion his young “wife” came out with a bucket, going to bring water from the well. “You know Ion – I said – she is beautiful. How old is she?”. The boy smiled complacently and said she was 20 years old.

            Ion wants to take his fiancé to Moscow, if he finds some job for her. “How can I leave her alone in the village? I am not totally fool”.

            Last autumn the boy had some health problems. While cutting corn for a land-owner, alone in a cornfield of 59 ares, he felt very bad. “I saw that I could not work any more and I did not understand why. An “egg” swelled to the size of about one apple. The  worse thing was that I had taken an advance payment of MDL 50 from the landlord and I did not finish the job”. Ion got scared very much, because he was afraid he had “caught” some venereal disease. Moreover, he knew that before the “egg” swelled, he had been in the neighboring village at one widow and had sex. He went to the doctor and was calmed that the “disease was due to much and hard labor”. The doctor prescribed some medicines and now he is better. Ion did not finish the work at that landlord he had taken MDL 50 from, but the latter did not claim anything, “because he understood what happened”.

            He wants very much to buy a horse and a cart, to have at lest 2 hectares of land of his own, and poultry “to have something to eat, what to put on, or, what else should I want”.

About Tofan Gheorghe

I was born in Moldova. Have my degree in human communication. Love reading, writing, watercolor. I live and work in Dublin, Ireland.
This entry was posted in Short stories, interviews (English version). Bookmark the permalink.

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