My first going out was to a Romanian restaurant having been invited by my friends, the Banus family and Antonia. There was a Jew, Nicu Amiralu, who had a little pub in Queens and we ate ?mici? (special Romanian meat balls). It was there that I saw and listened to Constantin Draghici singing. I had also a photo taken with him because Lavinia was fond of photos and she would carry her camera everywhere. The restaurant was always full of people and I went there as to a great, extraordinary event which I will never forget. Some other time, it was the fourth of July when we went to Coney Island and when I fired at a target, I bought teddy-bears and I ate candy floss. There is a great fair in Coney Island on the fourth of July. There are fire works in the evening. Then I met some other people due to these friends and little by little my group of friends enlarged a nice group of intellectuals. They were some very nice people.
Mother came after 14 months. She was permitted to leave earlier because she had a good inheritor pension on my father?s death. She had a pension of about 2,000 ROL in ?81. And they let her go without citizenship, because the old people who left could not adapt and wanted to go back. My mother had not a single thought of going back. She had been clearly told: If you leave without citizenship, you leave now, if not, you will have to wait for another year or two. She was 72 years old then. I have her stateless passport which was valid for? Mother came on the 23 September, I still remember very well because her birthday was on the 24 and there was, of course a great party, I could have hardly waited for, because we would work like slaves all week long, but on Sunday we would buy pizza or what we could and we had fun. We would all gather we went somewhere; it was kind of a release after a week of hard work. I did not work over time then, in the beginning but shortly afterwards I needed the second and the third job because I was waiting for the children and I had not saved up money. I could only live from hand to mouth. I limited myself strictly to the money I had and I couldn?t save up. But I was a housemaid to a lady who had come from Israel and who had a very big house in Brooklyn and I went to work there every Saturday, doing the whole house until my back hurt and I felt sick but I got 40 dollars and then she was very contented. It did not suit me when she proposed me to work on Sundays too. I did not tell my friends what exactly I was doing there. She was working, she had a Beauty shop. These were little things I had to do because the money I earned was not enough. I did not mind at all. Let?s go back to the 23 September when mother came. I took her to the Social Security on the fourth day and she got a number. She had come legally through Italy where she had stayed with Dina boarding house for two weeks. She was an elderly lady suffering from a heart disease, and when she told me on the phone that she might come with the next series because she had been informed so, I made a row. I showed her all the documents when I went to the Social Security and although she had not work for an hour in America they gave her a pension of 230 dollars which she even got retroactively. She was given the Green Card and all the rights. Each of us has adapted in his own way. They say that each person pays more or less for the American shock. Let me touch wood, I haven?t gone mad. I have always kept my temper. When my daughters came I realized that there was a gap between me and them.They had their own conceptions? How clever, how educated, what great ideas they had compared to others? Radu had a Romanian soul which remained Romanian. He is the one who would tell Maia Romanian stories in the evening, he is also the one to have insisted very much in her bringing up, but I want to tell you that he had created mentally a family and a future in Romania, his soul had been left there. And that?s not all. Radu is not a mere writer; he is a writer above all, a Romanian writer. But he is a university professor, a library manager and he specialized in another job in America. Radu combines the two worlds extraordinarily well. He is American till 5:30 p.m. and then he goes to the Romanian Cultural Centre where he has to recommend a book.
Interview by Şerban Anghelescu
Translated by Mihaela Georgescu