“Before the communists took our land, our parents always punished us when we, children, took an apple from a tree on the street or cherries from a neighbor’s garden,” a friend told me once. “It was theft, and such a thing was not accepted, even if, for us, it was just part of our life in the village, running around with our friends, playing, and picking up an apple when we were hungry.”
The Communists came, and people lost their lands and their orchards. “One day, we went on our former land, where we had the orchard, and we picked up some apples. We brought them home. It was the first time when our parents did not punish us. They did not say anything, but they had tears in their eyes.”
During communism, at the beginning of the school year, for a month or so, middle school and high school students were sent to work on the fields to gather potatoes, apples, grapes, depending on what the land was producing in that part of the country. The government had already collectivized the land, and they needed free labor. Officially, it was called “practica agricola.” Something like a practicum course in agriculture.
It was a period of time when you could find no produce in the grocery stores. Everything was rationed, and people were waiting in huge lines whenever they heard that some product or another (sugar, eggs, or potatoes) was “given” at the store.
In my region, the land is very good for potatoes, so we were taken out to gather potatoes from the field. A friend of mine, Cristi, told me one day, “I will get some potatoes so that my mom could make mashed potatoes for my brother this evening.” Cristi’s brother was two years old. Their dad had died, and their mother was their only support. Cristi was a very serious kid, somehow older than his age.
We were not supposed to get potatoes from the field. It was a crime, because we would steal from “the potatoes of the people.” The same people who had no potatoes at home.
Cristi got some potatoes in his bag that day. He chose only the smallest ones. He thought that nobody would care about it. It was probably one or two pounds. At the end of the day, we got into the bus that was to take us back into the city. After a short drive, we were stopped, and the “agents” (whoever they were) came in the bus and checked our bags. They found the small potatoes in Cristi’s bag, yelled at him, took the bag out, and emptied it on the field. Nobody cared about those potatoes, but a kid should not be allowed to steal from the property “of the people.”