My husband and I recently visited Bucharest to attend the family wedding engagement. Bucharest left mixed impressions of a town both old and new, which is struggling to reconstruct after decades of being ruled by the crazy communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
After a walk in the old part of town and a visit to the Fine Arts museum we wanted to see Ceausescu’s Palace, a building which is today second in the size only to the Pentagon. We were not able to go inside because the tickets had to be reserved a day in advance. We were wondering where to go next when we saw that there was an exhibition of Romanian National dresses next door to the Palace. At that moment I made one of the most touching discoveries in the city.
A few dozens of Romanian female dresses consisting of a white blouse, a skirt and a bright, often red-colored and richly ornamented, straight apron, made of woolen fabric and worn at the waist, were exhibited in a large bright room.
The impressive collection had been put together over the course of several years by a woman, now over 80 years old, who had recently donated it to the government, “for free, she did not ask for money,” the museum guard proudly emphasized.
What impressed me the most was the courage and determination of this woman. During the most difficult years of the dictatorship, when people had nothing to eat, had no heat or electricity, had to at times wear coats and hats in their offices and apartments, and when corruption and low morals were the necessary basics of surviving another day, she devoted her life to making one of the best private collections of national dresses in the country.