It was like a performance, funny and scary

Author: Hana Kozurikova
Location: Prague
Whenever our parents had a fight, my mother and all of us kids went to Lucivna in Slovakia. Dad never stopped us, because he knew that we would be back in a few days. He knew that Mom was missing her family, and that the fight was only a pretext for a visit to her parents and relatives.
That’s how it happened that I had several chances every year to spend a few days in a Romany village where they believed in ghosts, washed their laundry in the local river, and pinched my cheeks.
My grandmother was a big, strapping woman who smelled of poppy-seed pie and made excellent herbal tea. She would welcome us kids by squeezing our heads in the palms of her hands, and sucking us in with a kiss. We always fought about who would go first, because by the time she got to the last one her strength was gone. I think she loved us.
Grandpa was a little rebel. When he came home from the pub, Grandma would chase him around the table. But she never caught him. I think they loved each other.
Aunt Ilona claimed I was fat, and Aunt Zuzana advised me to rub onions into my breasts: otherwise they would never grow. I did what she told me to do.
Uncle Jano drank a lot, and one Easter he threw a whole pail of water over me. I think he loved me.
I remember seeing Romany women arguing in the street. It was like a performance: funny and scary at the same time.
And everything else was fun and exciting there twenty-five years ago.
The Roma stood by the highway crash barriers, drying rugs and swaying to music.
"Whose girl is this?” someone would ask.
“She’s Hana’s: the one who lives in Bohemia,” was the answer.
“Come here, little girl, have something to eat!”
No wonder I was fat.
I have a very clear memory of the Roma working and having fun and drinking, singing, and dancing.
Last year I went back to Lucivna after many years.
No one sucked me in, no one pinched my cheeks, and no one asked to whom do I belong.
No rugs hung on the crash barriers, and no Roma worked or sang. They just watched TV and complained about Meciar.
I looked too, but into the past: into the time when I was little. And I thought of the times when my parents had fights and my Mom, my brothers and sisters and I went to Lucivna.

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