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Interview with Neli Moldovan

Moldovan, Neli
Percy, Patricia
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places, childhood adventures
Neli Moldovan talks about her memories from Romania and how her family migrated to the US.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Patricia Percy interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
PP (Patricia Percy): Hi, my name is Patricia Percy and I will be interviewing Neli Moldovan today. We are doing these interviews because we want to elicit narrative to display the widest range possible of English varieties, languages, ethnicities, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, and other things in order to create a collection showing Charlotte at the turn of the twentieth century. What is your name again?
NM (Neli Moldovan): My name is Neli Moldovan.
PP: And where were you born, Neli?
NM: I was born in Timisoara which is a, major city in Romania.
PP: And how long have you been living in Charlotte?
NM: Um, since 1991, about twelve years.
PP: And how old were you when you came to America?
NM: I was 4 and a half.
PP: Great, I was wondering if you could tell me a story that has something to do with your childhood, maybe some special memory that you had or stories that you were told, anything that you can think of about your childhood in Romania or in America.
NM: Well, I can tell you uh, a little story about, in, in Romania before I came to America. My father left, uh, for America when I was only one and a half. I'm the youngest of nine children. And uh, right after my father had gone to America, uh, my mother had, uh, emergency surgery, she had an ovarian cyst that almost killed her, uh, so she was in the hospital for a while. I was about two years old at this time. During that, uh, while my mom was in the hospital, um, in Romania, you know, there's kids play outside all the time, um, more than they do in America. I was outside playing and the home that we had there was very small and right across the street there was a, uh, the train station so there was a lot of people there, and always throwing trash and this and that in our yard. Um, and I remember um, one day I was, you know, running around, uh, through the backyard, um, and I had this habit of taking my shoes off, um, so I took ahead my shoes off, and I'm running around through the backyard, and I step on a, uh, piece of broken glass, I don't know where it came from I didn't see it, and you know how kids are just running through, and, uh, I cut, I almost sliced off all of my, my toe, one of my toes on my left foot, and uh, my mother was in the hospital and my sister, my oldest sister who was about, uh, sixteen at the time, she was watching us, taking care of all of us, and uh, my mom was in the hospital trying to recuperate, and here's my poor sister, trying to take care of us. And uh, the first sister I ran into, uh, happened to be my sister Esther who's very squeamish and she's very sensitive when it comes to blood, and bugs, and all that other good stuff. So I saw her nearby and I go screaming to her, "Look. My toe's about to fell off, to fall off." And uh, she's over there yelling and just screaming, couldn't believe it, she didn't know what to do, she runs inside to my sister and she's screaming that I'm bleeding to death. So, uh, my poor sister comes out there trying to figure out what's going on, I'm barely, you know, trying to hold onto my toe, and walk at the same time, and I'm barely 2 years old, and uh, so my, my sister grabs me you know, and, and just took some rags from around the house 'cause we were very poor and we didn't have bandages or anything like that around the house, so whatever dirty clothes she found, you know, in the laundry bag or something, uh, she just took it and wrapped my foot around so, you know, the toe doesn't fall off, and she rushes me to the hospital on the train. And over there at my, when we were playing one of my cousins was over who happened to be older than me, and my sister took her shoes and put them on me because I had those bandages and my shoes didn't fit, so she wanted bigger shoes. She puts those shoes on me and, uh, takes me to the hospital. Um, you know, they, everybody was telling my sister not to tell my mom anything about it, she was still in the hospital and, you know, they didn't want to upset her. Um, 'cause she was already worried about us being home all alone, just with my sixteen-year-old sister taking care of all of us. And um, so she goes to the hospital and as she's walking by, she doesn't realize, but she walks by my mom's room. It happens to be, you know, an open door, and they don't have like, individual rooms over there like they have in America. Um, it's like a whole bunch of people all in one room, and uh, so she, she goes by the room and my mom sees us, and she's over there wondering what in the world are they doing here and whose shoes are those that you know, Neli's wearing? But my sister didn't stop, she just kept going to the emergency room, um, you know they fixed me up, put my toe back together, I still have it, thank God. And um, they told my sister, you know, make sure you don't say anything about this to your mom, you know, she needs to recuperate, she needs to do well, and uh, you know make sure the little one doesn't say anything to her mom you know, for at least a couple of weeks or something after she gets home. So, my, when my mom came, you know, finally, after I don't know how long she stayed in the hospital, several weeks, she finally came home, and uh, she says, "You know I do remember one day you going by the hospital and you didn't come by to see me, and Neli had these big shoes on." And uh, oh you know, everything had to come out then, they had to spill the beans and they told her you know, that I was running around the backyard and I almost cut my toe off, but I'm fine and they had to just tell her that everything's fine. So that, that was one, one fun story. Um, another thing, I came to America when I was four and a half, and uh, the next time I had gone back to Romania I was twenty years old. So I didn't remember a lot of things. I mean, I tried to remember some things from Romania but there were some things I wasn't sure if they were like from dreams or actual memories, uh, or where these thoughts were coming from. Uh, so when I was twenty years old I had the chance to go to Romania with my brother and my sister, 'cause neither of us had gone and we were the three youngest who had never really, you know, gone back to see what was there and you know, to really learn more about our country. So we went back, and we went back to the house where we lived, and uh, my mom's sister, our aunt, now lives there. And she's still living there today. Um, and she's a funny woman. And she was showing us around the house and showing us all the different things. Um, she showed us the attic, where my, my brother said he found some kind of uh, mask, like one of these chemical mask things up there and he took it and he used to play with it like you know, he's at war and he found a gun up there and all kinds of things when he was younger and so I guess it was right after, oh, I don't know what it was there. But um, so he found all these, these funky things up there and he was telling us how he used to play with them and, um, so we went up, you know, to re-visit the attic where we used to play. Um, anyways, so she took me out and showed us the house and everything, she showed us the pump where we used to pump water, and she showed us the outhouse. This was a special place, I guess, for me, um, because at the bottom of the outhouse door there was a metal piece, uh, there was like a sheet metal down there, and she showed me a big dent in it, and she said, "This, you did," and I was like, "What, how in the world did I do that?" I was you know like three or four years old, and she told me that my sister and brother had locked me in there one day. And uh, I don't know how they locked the door from the outside but they locked it. She said that I got down on the floor, and I kicked and I kicked and I kicked until I kicked that metal piece out, so, there was the dent, the story of the dent in the outhouse door.
PP: Well I heard a lot of stories about your life in Romania, tell me a little bit about how you ended up coming to America.
NM: Well, my uh, we lived in a communist country during that time. Romania was still a communist country, and um, they were very strict um, on Christians. You know, you weren't really allowed to believe what you wanted to believe there. Um, they, they said that you were allowed to be a Christians but they had very strict rules and regulations. And um, my father, um, was continually asked to join in the communist party, and he refused to do that, and so because of that and, and because he was a Christian he didn't want to sign up, uh, with the communist party because he didn't believe in, in what they believed in. And because of that, he suffered a lot of persecution. Um, there were several times when they would come to him and interrogate him and ask him where, you know, what church he goes to and what they believe and, uh, just all kinds of different things, there were many, many people in our country at that time, uh, many pastors, uh, many Christians who were just taken from their homes, and they would, they would be, you know, taken, some would disappear forever, you'd never hear from them again. Um, some were taken and beaten, you know, because they did not want to denounce Christianity and Christ. And my father didn't want to get to that point, and he had nine kids, and he didn't want them to suffer the same way he did. So he took a chance and he was able to get out of the country and go to Austria. Um, from there, he went to the government there and asked them if he can, be uh, allowed to, to go to America. So he was there in a refugee camp, uh, for I believe about six weeks, um, during which time you know they put them to work, and I don't know what kind of stuff they did there, and then he had to apply, uh, to come to America, and again, because it was a communist country, uh, America accepted many believers, um, to just come freely to the States because they knew that they were being persecuted, uh, beaten, killed. Uh, their families would be tortured, um, because of their beliefs. So America, uh, allowed my father to, to come in. Um, it took him, he, he finally came to the States, he lived in New York for a little while and then moved to Chicago. Um, after three years of working in America and getting the money, and you know, going back and forth to Washington DC many, many times, he finally was able to get us out of that country. Uh, so my mom and nine kids, uh, we were able to finally leave after three years and be reunited with our father in, in America. Uh, that was the way we got to this country. And we lived in Chicago for many years. I was, I was able to get an education, I went to a university, uh, and a Christian university in, uh, Lynchburg, Virginia, which I enjoyed very much because I grew up through the Chicago public school system, and it was nice to finally you know, be in a Christian school, um, and know that you know, you're free to believe what you want and, uh, you know, America has that to offer you, to where you know, in Romania you'd be persecuted, um, just for your beliefs, that, that was an awesome opportunity for me.