LEBANON, Pa. — Sunbury Press has released Ionica: A Romanian Immigration Story, Catalina Petcov’s memoir of life under Communism and her escape from it as a young woman.
This touching memoir tracks the life of Catalina Petcov, called Ionica by her family, as she experienced the difficulties of being a young girl in rural Romania, though her escape to Italy and ultimately the United States.
In 1952, Catalina was born in Bozovici, Romania to parents whose work ethic was absolute. Her mother and father worked her like a farmhand—save the fact that they would’ve treated a farmhand better.
From a very young age, she already was involved in work that typically was reserved for adults. She tended to cows in the fields and looked after pigs and chickens in the backyard; she pulled weeds and helped plow when it was time to plant new crops; she even prepared her own breakfasts, because her parents didn’t provide any for her. Having an older sister was little help; Catalina was the one who had to do the bulk of the work.
She started growing up in rural Romania just thirteen years before the communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu came into power. And while her life certainly was affected by his dictates, she was first and foremostly affected by the dictates of Floarea, her mother.
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Floarea was born on August 30, 1928. And, when she still was an infant, her mother, Pelagia, abandoned her. Perhaps this tragedy occurred because Pelagia was not married to Floarea’s father and the custom at that time was to give up a baby that was born out of wedlock. At any rate, as a consequence, Floarea’s paternal uncle Pavel and his wife Mila raised her. And, although Pelagia lived only several miles away, she never visited her daughter.
Floarea’s father, Tomas, raised sheep in the nearby mountains and rarely came home. If he ever was married to Pelagia, these extended absences of his must have led to the end of that presumably loveless arrangement.
Years later, Pelagia got married to a man who already had children, and she was delighted that those step-children gave her step-grandchildren to love and cherish. As fate would have it, those step-grandchildren lived down the street from Floarea’s house. Thus, Pelagia had to go past her daughter’s house on her way to visit the only family she seemed to care about. Even on the occasions when Floarea and she locked eyes for an instant, neither of them said a thing.
In 1945, 17-year-old Floarea married 28-year-old Nicolae. He was born on July 5, 1920, and he was a very bright man. In fact, his mother was proud of him for being the only boy in their town to finish seventh grade. He had much more smarts than he did money, though, and because he was poor, his mother (and he, too, probably) feared that he wouldn’t be able to do much with his life.
This may be one of the reasons why he decided to marry Floarea. Her father was one of four siblings, and he was the only one who had a child. Because of this, Floarea’s two aunts and one uncle left their homes and their land to her. Floarea sold two of the homes but retained all of the land, leaving her with a good amount of money and property—and making her an excellent prospective bride. The home she kept was in the village of Bozovici, where Nicolae and she later raised their family.
Two years after they were married, in 1947, the couple brought their first child into the world. Her name was Florica, and they absolutely adored her. Being their first child—and their only one for a number of years—Florica lavished in their love and admiration. They made or bought her everything that a growing child needed, and they spent quality time with her.
However, when Floarea became pregnant again, both her husband and she wanted the baby to be a boy. Only boys carried on the family name, so a family without a baby boy had to watch its name fade and then disappear entirely. After months of hoping for a baby boy, though, Floarea (Momma) discovered to her dismay that she had been carrying another baby girl.
Catalina came into the world five years after her sister, in 1952, but instead of being met with rejoicing and excitement, she was met with dissatisfaction. Nicolae’s (Poppa’s) mother, her paternal grandmother, was especially upset that Catalina wouldn’t carry on her last name. So the family made a bitter resolution. While they named the new baby Catalina, they never called her by that name. They always referred to her as Ionica: the female version of Ion, Poppa’s brother’s name. If they couldn’t have a boy, they resolved that they at least would treat their second daughter as though she was one.
Therefore, because everyone in Catalina’s town knew her as Ionica, she will be referred to as such throughout the remainder of the book.
Ionica: A Romanian Immigration Story
Authored by Catalina Petcov
List Price: $14.95
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
Sunbury Press, Inc.
BISAC: Biography & Autobiography / Women
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