In the old times – read Ceausescu’s time –there were some rules for queuing. Since the food was inexistent as soon as the rumour reached among the city or the little village and their proud citizens of the communist mother, hungry crowds of people will assault the empty stores….once you entered you knew where is the queue and what for. Many times people didn’t even know what was the product and many people will send their kids to just sit there for them to ‘keep the line’. I never really figured how the rumour circulated but I suppose that were people in charge of spreading and others in charge of over-seeing the whole operation…they will get their share of chicken, bananas, oranges, eggs, rarely fish, rarely exquisite drinks, chocolate and other rarities before all the others. The securitate people had all the necessary in their houses in excess, which has been documented.
Anyway…once you spotted your place in the queue, you also needed to secure it otherwise older people will kick the kids out with no remorse….hence, most of the kids were very well trained to overcome any hindrances might appear in between them and the ratio of chicken or oranges or bananas ….otherwise, the parents will be upset and everyone in the family will starve once more until the next rumour of food available will come into town.
The milk queue was the worst: people will get up at 4.00 in the morning, take these types of bottles –photo bellow – and just put them in line outside the store for a few hours. The milk supply will come around 7.00 a.m., so they could still sleep a few more hours before going to work. The old people, retired, will just sit there chatting and waiting since 4.00 until 7.00 – if you knew one of them maybe they will get your bottles too. Some people could not afford these queues because of work, but pregnant women needed to do it; the powder milk was awful and had no nutrients at all. Better of were those with relatives in the countryside. There were awful, depressing times.
One would expect that these queuing ‘culture’ will build in a community spirit, will appropriate people….I cannot tell and it would be interesting to read a research on that. I would rather say, given the paranoia of ‘tell and go to securitate’, people will rarely make the mistake to open their hart while waiting and chatting with the guy next door….though many did. Considering that all were hungry, suspicious and anxious to grab as much food as possible that was the primary target and nothing else…people will often fight, swear and bully each other while queuing when the food was brought in. Nobody cared about the other but oneself. That might explain why the Romanian dissidence was almost un-existent and why there was not a solidarity spirit among people in this country. Everything was grey inside and outside and everyone will struggle for its own family and that’s all. No time for pity, any time for sympathising with the old woman next to you….she will grab the last piece of meat in front of you without blinking….that was, probably, the queuing mentality on those times.
Photos from http://www.igu.ro/latrecut/?cat=29 filled under ‘Alimentare’. Igu is someone who is documenting our past by collecting images of it on this blog. I don’t know why I didn’t think of advertising his idea here, I guess because I really don’t enjoy seeing this pictures yet or thinking of what has been….but nonetheless I think his initiative is brilliant and essential for recuperating and assimilating our recent past …after all that is what we used to be and makes us what we are today.
You can check Igu’s blog from now on clicking right hand in the blogroll under @Past… and I highly recommend it if you are interested and want to understand how it used to be under communism. The site is in Romanian, nonetheless the images are quite helpful.