My grandfather was nicknamed Roşiştea by his mother when he was born, in 1932. It translates as little red one. He had red hair once, and everyone in his village calls him Red.
Before the fall of Communism in 1989, he was a farmer, with the function of zootechnical and fields brigadier – he measured how much of what was produced went to the state, and how much stayed with the people. After the revolution, he continued practicing subsistence agriculture on the family smallholding in Vărai, North Romania, a village surrounded by hills and forests. He lived with my grandmother – a fierce woman who knew how to make most things from scratch, and with his mother-in-law – a short, devout woman whose spirituality combined Orthodox-Christian rites with old pagan rituals. I spent my first five years in the village with them, and most of my childhood holidays after. I remember the snow being half a meter tall in winter, and the fields full of workers in summer.
Things changed since I was five. In the past twenty years, the village got lost somewhere between an attempt to modernise and an unwillingness to change. The census of 2011 counted 275 people. In January of 2020, the priest told me that barely over 100 remain, and that no one was born there in years. Of the people left, 42 are widowers living alone: my grandfather is one of them.