In two years I had gathered so much money that I went back to Bucharest and bought a flat, a cool car and set up a firm, a restaurant which is doing very well! When I look back on things in the past, I myself am amazed at what I was capable of doing and I can say in all honesty that during my prison years I hadn?t even dreamed I would end up doing such things. Frankly, I can?t say that I am proud of the way I got my first money and I?m no role-model, but I am proud of the fact that I managed to start again from scratch at a moment when I couldn?t have sunk any lower. I had hit rock bottom. And I want to tell you something else: as soon as I got back to Romania, I became completely legit. I didn?t even cross the street on the red traffic light. I can say that I obey all Romanian laws. But I had to live for many years at war with them to realize that they are actually made to be observed. (Aurelian P., 28, self-employed)
The Revolution found me and my family living reasonably comfortably: my mom was a shop assistant and my dad worked at the subway. We were lucky to have my grandparents, though. They lived a few kilometres away from Bucharest and they had a lot of land where they grew water melons. My dad and I went to collect them, first by car, some family friends? Dacia because we didn?t own one, and then sold them in Bucharest. We would spend weeks on end sleeping in the car or even outside, next to the water melons to keep watch because we couldn?t take them all home. This situation lasted for two or three years.
Meanwhile, my mom quit her job at the store because the salary was very small, and we bought a TEC soft-drinks distributor. All family members took turns selling drinks, but I spent the least time doing that because I had to go to school. That was the first time when I could truly notice that my family had begun to prosper. At the time everybody drank that kind of soft drinks and they didn?t just have a glass while in the street, they even brought 1 or 2 litre bottles and bought differently-flavoured soft drinks which they took home.
But there was another craze sweeping the country: everybody traveled abroad and brought back clothing. So I left the soft-drinks distributor business to my family and I began taking regular trips to Turkey together with a couple of friends of mine. At first we would bring back blue jeans, leather jackets and all sorts of clothing, one more colourful than the next, and they sold well, we had no complain about that. Around ?97 ? ?98 designer clothing came into fashion and you just couldn?t be seen wearing any kind of blue jeans. They had to bear the name of the designer. People did-n?t want to wear suits made in Istanbul anymore, but demanded Emporio Armani ones, so we too advantage of the whole thing. We would bring back from Turkey suits that we sold as designer clothing after we had attached to them original labels we had got from friends who stole them from the West. We would take the suits to a tailor?s and we would ask the man to add something to the label so as to make it distinct from other. In case a buyer saw that other people had similar clothes, they would have the proof that theirs was the original thing and that they hadn?t been cheated.