Mum retrieved two pieces of old needlework, sewn by a young girl in world war 2. Today, she took them out and showed them to me. The text below is her description about the needlework and the old times in the village.
“My brother bought the house of an old lady who passed away. This needlework was somewhere on a wall, in a corner, near the window. Zavasta, that was the name of the old lady, was my parents’ neighbour and I would often go into her house. I saw this needlework when I was little and I asked her what it is. She told me it’s a cuckoo bird and she started working on it in 1940. That was after world war 2 started.
From what I remember, it is a handkerchief. The young women used to work on handkerchiefs for their “darlings” who were away in the army or fighting at the front. I don’t know what is the flower that shelters the cuckoo bird – but it looks as if the flower has a face – can you notice it? She chose her colours carefully, like an artist.
The cuckoo bird is upset, but the flower protects him. It’s like the flower is caring for the bird’s pain. Zavasta was upset too because of the bird’s sadness, or the bird was upset because of her sadness. The bird and Zavasta were suffering for each other.
Oh My God, look at that border, how intricate it is. Around the border there are little holes which replace the seam. The edges are bent and masterly caught in these little holes. Very scrupulous work.
Up in the left corner was probably the initial of her darling’s name. It looks like an “R”. Her husband’s name was Costache but she called him Radu.
[“What do you mean she called him Radu, if that wasn’t his name?”, I ask her, puzzled.]
Maybe “Radu” was a man she liked. Maybe that’s when that name first appeared. “Ion”, “Gheorghe”, “Vasile”, “Costache” were names you heard often. And her husband called her “Florica” because Zavasta, her real name, was hard to pronounce. We called her Florica too.
We found this other piece of needlework in Zavasta’s attic, in an old chest. Her children took everything from the house because they wanted to sell it, but they left this piece and the cuckoo bird. And I found them. You’ll rarely find these kind of things in the village today, because we are in such a hurry to modernise.
When I was a child, I liked to visit Zavasta’s house, because it smelled like basil. She did great sarmale [a traditional Romanian dish] and polenta. My Mum was much younger than Zavasta, and she considered her as her own mother because she always taught her good things.
When my mother was coming back tired from the market, carrying her baskets on her back, Zavasta would invite her in to eat: ‘Mamma’s darling, come and have a bite.’
The diamond is an old design. When my grandmother was young and the carpets decorated the walls of the house, they would weave the carpets with diamond patterns.
You see, in those times, people wanted everything to be symmetric. The windows were equally distant from the main door. The corners of the carpets were equally distant from the corners of the room. They were using spoons to measure the distances.
The cloth was also woven in the house. There weren’t many women doing it.
These are priceless objects from the village, girls worked on them during winter. Long time ago, the girls would find refuge in handcraft. Time passed by more easily, they were sewing by the light of the lamp which would sometimes create smoke. Now we have plenty of light but we don’t sew anymore. We watch TV instead.”