Litera B
 
BALCONY

In the ?80s I was about ten years old and could not really figure out what it was that was being said around me. Among other things, I once heard about a law that was passed and that forbid people from closing their balconies and obliged those who had closed up their balconies to undo the whole work ? on their own expenses, of course. At that age, I was not really interested in the number or year of the law. Nor was I directly interested in the problem itself, since I lived with my parents in a house, and instead of a balcony, we had, lucky us, a courtyard and a shed in the back of it. And this will tell you about the role of the closed balcony. Because the balconies of communist blocks had been conceived in keeping with that internationalist style which did not take into account the specificity of the area, nor some minimal geographical conditions. As such, the initial role of the balcony/loggia as a recreation place within the rationalist apartment was altogether lost. Instead, it became alternately a storehouse, a greenhouse, or a workshop (for things to use in the house and other). Small apartment, scarcity of space ? a possible solution. What could one do? More than that, climate conditions vary a lot around here, from season to season, therefore you had to make that space inhabitable for the whole year. Certainly, the quality of the closing solutions were and have remained debatable, but from the point of view of the owners of apartments with closed balconies, the news about the obligation to destroy them was completely shocking. ?How?s that, opening up my balcony again? Will they give me back the money I gave such and such when he built it up for me?? It was all about losing a series of absolutely necessary functions that were missing from the apartment as such (especially the storing function) and about the impossibility of ever recuperating the money the family had spent from their own savings. When you feel your property is threatened, you couldn?t care less about the unitary style of the facades ? this was the major argument of the law, which actually mainly referred, if I remember correctly, to the balconies looking out to the main streets.

It was crazy. Much talking and debating: at home, while standing in lines, at work. What could you do, a law is a law! Some lost their precious close-ups, but redid them alright after 1989. Aunt Sica had the same man redo her balcony who?d done it for her before, and the man came with the same materials and raised the work in two days and a half. More recently, the thermopanes have replaced the lovely bus windows ? the apartments, though, have remained as small and cold. (149)

Because of the cold and lack of food, we closed up the balcony. That?s where we kept the food supplies, whenever I got to get something after standing in lines. But sometime in ?82 or ?83, an order came that asked me to undo the balcony. I had to bring the close-up down, otherwise the fine was 3000 lei. A town-hall representative came together with the block administrator and went from flat to flat to see who had and who hadn?t opened up their balconies. After I removed it, I put it back and camouflaged it with a curtain, so that it couldn?t be seen from the street, and I tried to evade controls. (98)

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