Remembering Roza Goldstein
At the time of Roza’s death the Jewish population in the small resort village
of Valcece was a significant 38. They put down roots, they built homes and
businesses and brought trade and jobs into the valley. To this day they are
still fondly remembered by the declining elderly folk as the store owners where
“we children used to run to get our candy”. In 1944 the Jews of Valcele were
suddenly gathered up and transferred to the ghettos in Targu Mures to be
catalogued before being shipped off to the unspeakable horrors of the
What they built in the community has since been stolen from them and disposed of like common trash. Their presence in the village and contribution to its development is barely noted in the record books, yet their memory lived on, loudly acknowledged in the neatly carved Hebrew inscriptions along the graveyard markers nestled away in the secretively preserved forest cemetery – while that now too stands on the fringes of extinction.
Villager Antony Cocosh, who knows the forest like it were his own backyard, recalls only a couple years ago when there were still dozens of markers guarded by an iron fence. “It was a large area filled with inscribed gravestones.” The iron fence has since been taken down, “stolen by the Gypsies”, claims Mr. Cocosh. The impoverished Gypsy community has a history of taking, with or without permission, recycling the old and unused – to put bread in the plates of their families.
The old iron fence has been cut up, sent away and melted down. It’s gone forever; there is no doubt about that; the missing gravestones, however, have not been destroyed; they can still be found in the foundation under the four walls of an unscrupulous homeowner.
Reusing the concrete monuments of generations before is history repeating itself. The practice goes all the way back to the Romans famously dismantling and reusing Greek monuments in their construction. Later, people of Medieval period and Middle Ages would pull down these same Roman structures to be used in building of defense walls, castles, villas and peasant’s one room shacks.
“This place was full with tombstone just a couple years ago. This one, Roza Goldstein, her marker won’t last another year,” predicts Antony Cocosh, “the Gypsies will steal it, just like they did the others.”
The stolen gravestones have not been destroyed. They remain whole hidden
There are two ways to handling this delicate recovery. There is the way of the law which is a slippery slope fraught with roadblocks of a disinterested society, closed lips, incomplete results and the breeding of feelings of resentment
– or - a more balanced route that neither destroys other people’s lives nor rewards perpetrators.
Citeing precedentBack in early 2000, to a time when the animal right lobby had successfully strengthened animal protection laws in Eastern Europe including the illegality of the Gypsy dancing bear performance. The dancing bear routine, a kind of traveling circus, had been the occupation of the Gypsies since the middle ages. It was an ethnic tradition yet more importantly it was also the main income of poor people with few opportunities. It was their bread and butter. Animal Right organization Vier Pfoten realized the necessity of the law yet also the damage it caused and so instead of pressuring law enforcement to resolve the matter with an iron fist, they took it in their own hands to offer the Gypsy bear trainers compensation, to restore their loss and create an opportunity towards finding a new income. The transition went smoothly and within no time the last of the dancing bears was rescued.