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Interview with Mariana Percy

Percy, Mariana
Percy, Patricia
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Culural Identification; Childhood adventures
Mariana Percy talks about her chilhood in Romania and coming to America.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Patricia Percy interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
PP (Patricia Percy): My name is Patricia Percy and I will be interviewing.
MP (Mariana Percy): Mariana Percy.
PP: Today is April 24, 2003. We would like to elicit narratives to display the widest range possible of English varieties, languages, ethnicities, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, etc. in order to create a collection showing Charlotte at the turn of the twentieth century. So that is the purpose of our interview today. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, such as where you were born?
MP: I was born in Romania, Europe.
PP: And what city?
MP: Timisoara.
PP: And how or when did you come to America?
MP: In 1973.
PP: And how long have you lived in the Charlotte area?
MP: 15 years.
PP: Great. Do you remember any stories that you could tell me um about your childhood, maybe about Romania, or even about Charlotte?
MP: Yes I would.
PP: Go ahead.
MP: I was born in Romania during communism, many, many moons ago, like in 1954. Romania was a communist country, and uh, it's only, Romania was free from communist country in '89 only. I remember that, um, I was, uh, born of, uh, nine siblings, I am the first born daughter and I, uh, had seven siblings younger than me so I had to do a lot of babysitting, cooking, cleaning and playing with my younger brothers and sisters. In Romania we lived on a street where everybody knew everybody and we always had to greet everybody that passed by coming from work, they didn't have cars so everybody walked from the tram station, uh, to their homes like even one or two or three or even five miles. In Romania we lived in the corner of a block and I remember there were many kids, my, our neighbor kids, that, uh, came over and uh, we would play games like hide and seek, catch me if you can and uh, we played ball and because we didn't have many toys like uh, we have in America these days, uh so as a matter of fact we were actually poor because we had, we were 11 people and we actually lived in only two room. That's all we had, we had no water in the house we had uh, no electric heat in the house, we had a, uh, wooden stove burner, and we actually had an outhouse which we had to use. Uh, I remember that when I was small I played a lot of grocery stores and I remember we took bricks and uh, we used to scrape them and we thought it was paprika and then we took some things that looked like sugar and other things that looked like, uh, salami, or whatever you find in a grocery store and when people saw me play grocery store they told me when I grow up I would be a sales person, sales lady actually and uh, sure enough, I worked in sales all my life, uh, even when I came to America I remember I, um, we have a business and uh, we're actually importing porcelain collectibles from uh Romania. Uh, a few things about my brothers and sisters we, uh, we got along well even though because I was the first-born daughter I had to, because I had to do a lot of babysitting, I remember my friends were playing outside and I had to stay inside to uh rock the babies and they were crying and I had to rock them to fall asleep and then I went outside and then I remember my mom calling me, "Mariana, the little guy has woken up so you have to come take care of him," and I remember I used to be so upset and angry sometimes I cried and then I put the baby to sleep and then I went outside again and then of course a few minutes later, my mom said, "Mariana, your little sister got up." So I had to go back in and rock her to sleep and cuddle her and feed her. And I had to do a lot of washing, I had to help my mom cook so I started cooking when I was actually 14 years old. Uh, a few funny things about my brothers and sisters, uh, we were pretty good kids in general. We did not give our parents hard times because my father was very strict, my mother was pretty loving and cuddling and she was, uh, giving us a lot of attention and uh she took care of us and give us a lot of kisses. But my father was pretty strict with us, well I mean, you can imagine, he had to because he had nine kids to, to raise. Um, but I remember, my, uh, I have a sister, her name is Esther and she was terrified of dogs, so uh, whenever we were playing outside she saw a dog coming towards her, she was running so fast. And all of a sudden we looked and there was, Esther was nowhere to be found and when we looked, she was hanging on a tree because she was so scared of the dog. On the other hand I had a little sister, my youngest, my baby sister actually who was 14 years younger than me. We had a broken jar, actually, in the yard and I didn't notice it and I didn't know it, so sure enough Neli was playing around the jar and she cut her, one of the toes on her foot pretty bad, I mean, the toe was so badly cut that it was actually dangling, and I loved this little Neli, I took care of her, I cared for her, I held her, I rocked her and I just gave her a lot of attention because she was the baby sister and I loved her, so it just broke my heart. Neli was crying and there was a lot of bleeding, so I remember I bandaged her with some things and I had to carry her and I had to walk like a mile to the tram station to take her and. Uh, to the doctor and uh. I was only 14, 14 years old at the time and I remember I took her to the doctor and I took her in, and I had to stay outside and Neli crying and I was crying on the outside and it was just a not a very pretty sight. And uh, so she, uh, got bandaged and I got her home, so that was one of the experiences we had with Neli. And then my brother Jon, who was I think the third or the fourth after me, uh, we had a big, um, army camp, actually right across from our house, and there were a lot of trees there and they uh were doing a lot of training in that area and uh, again my brother picked up a jar or something like that and that jar broke too, and he messed up, he cut his uh thumb you know pretty bad and uh that was pretty bad to see because it was a very big cut. But, anyway, he took care of that. Another incident we had happen to us when we were kids, was, and it's funny because these are all not very funny incidents, but uh. Um, I remember, well actually when I was growing older I started working in a, uh, in a shop and uh, for some reason, we sold milk and cheese and uh other dairy products and uh, I had a very sensitive liver and I got a, uh, I got hepatitis, so they took me to the hospital. A week later my brother after me came to the hospital. A week later another of my brothers got sick with hepatitis, so we were like three siblings in the hospital. I remember we got shots and they were very painful, so uh, we got well and we came home and that's the end of the three siblings being in the hospital at the same time. Uh, another thing of our uh childhood that I could, um, uh, tell you about is, uh, we did fight, we were nine, we had some fights, we had a lot of laughs, uh, especially when my mom was taking a nap. She said, "You kids be quiet. You play quietly and don't make a lot of noise." Well, how can we not make noise, we were like five of us in bed trying to take a nap and we couldn't take a nap because we were just having too much fun. And we started bursting and laughing for just no reason, just stupid reason we started laughing and my mom would get upset, bless her heart, you know she was probably even expecting at, you know, at the time and she wanted to take a nap and we would just burst into laughing and then we would get in trouble because of that. Well anyway, uh, these are some stories. I went to school of course, and I remember because, um, I always had to take care of my brothers and sisters, I never had enough time to study, so I would get up at six o'clock in the morning to do the studying. And um, the school was pretty strict, in Romania we had to walk and we didn't have buses to take us to school so kids actually walk a lot. We didn't have a car, we didn't even have a bicycle, so we traveled by um streetcars and trams, and um uh that's how we would uh use uh these things for transportation. We did walk a lot in Romania, uh, life in Romania was pretty tough in my time, uh, like I said I was born in '54 and then you know going to school, I was, you know 13, 14, 15, and um, life was pretty tough like in the, uh, 1970s you know things got to be worse in Romania, it was still a communist country. We did not have, uh, freedom of religion or freedom of speech, we, uh, we had to be very careful of what we, um, talk about we were not able, um, I mean we were, uh, not allowed to talk anything bad about the government or to be against the government because we would, uh, be put in jail for that, so uh, we did not have freedom of religion. Uh, we were able to go to church but we were not able to have, uh, crusades or anything like that on the fields. Uh, things got to be a little bit tough in the 70s in '71, '72 and uh, we had shortage of food and uh, I remember uh, being able to, uh, I had a neighbor who worked in a grocery shop, and uh, something like, um, Food Lion or Harris Teeter, or something like that, and uh, because I knew this lady she was able to help me to get in the shop which was a blessing for us because we were 11 people in the family, so uh, having shortage of food in Romania that was a blessing for me because I was able to work there and bring home the food that was necessary for a big family like this and I remember we had long lines. We had, uh, long lines of uh people waiting for, we had to wait waiting in line for oil, for flour, we had to uh, it's interesting because when we got oranges, in Romania we did not have oranges they would have to import them from Israel at that time or Greece, so I remember whenever we got oranges uh there were like hundreds of people waiting in line for oranges and, uh, they smelled good, they looked good and everybody wanted to get oranges. But, uh, they were very expensive and like I said, we had to stand in line for that and, uh, uh, but working in a grocery store, I was able to provide for the family. Uh, in 1970 my father decided to come to United States, and uh, that was a blessing again for us. He came in '70 and then he brought us the whole family of nine children to America. Uh, something funny about that when we left Romania of course, we cried, uh, we left behind our families, our friends, relatives, and uh, we took Lufthansa when we flew in '73, um, over the ocean and because we did not have, uh, soft drinks in cans we had no idea how to open the cans so we had to look at other people, how they opened their Pepsi-cola, Coca-Cola, or their 7UP and I remember we loved the 7UP and Coca-Cola when we came to America. We absolutely loved it. Always had Pepsi-cola in the house and Coca-Cola, 7UP. We had ice cream, lots of ice cream and uh, uh, anyway, we were just thankful to God for allowing us to come to America. God has blessed us, uh, wonderfully in America. And uh, one funny thing that happened to me in United States was, when I was in Romania I heard of a lot of murders and killings and things like that, so I remember I worked in Chicago in a, uh, high rise building and, uh, I was, uh, in the elevator and a man came in and he put his hand in the pocket and I got so scared I said, "Oh my gosh, is he either going to get out a knife or a gun?" So I put my hands on his pocket, on his hand. I was so afraid, and then he said, "What's the matter with you?" And I said, "Oh, nothing." So you know, I just held my hand on his pocket, and on his arm until the door opened on the elevator. So uh, then of course, my heart was beating like crazy and then, uh, of course I was so glad when the door opened and the man got out and I went on with my life. Um, the other thing that, um, happened in my life, was uh, which was the most wonderful thing was that, uh, I uh, I was able to get my uh citizenship and I was so glad when I got the flag in my hands, and uh, I learned to love America, I learned to love the flag of the United States and appreciated this free country very much. I finally was able to have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, I was able to go to church whenever I wanted to. And uh, I was able to have as much food and as many oranges as I would want to, and uh, that was a blessing for us. Um, so I've been in the States for 30 years now, I love this country and I try to be a good citizen. And uh, I went back to Romania to get myself a, uh, Romanian man from there, I brought him over, and uh, he loves this country. He became a citizen of this country and uh we lived happily ever after and uh, this is the end of my story and I hope you enjoyed it.
PP: Thank you so much for letting us know a little bit about your life, Ms. Percy, we really do appreciate it.