The life of a judge. Episode 17: The Americans are coming!

At the return from Transylvania, after the retreat from Constanța, in the time of the Hungarian administration in the Northern Transylvania, my family settled down in Cluj, in deplorable conditions. My father knew a former lawyer, actually accountant at a small company, Mister Ion Aldea. He, owing a radio, was listening at the lowest volume The American Voice, a broadcasting radio station from the Western Germany. We could not have afforded such acquisition, and, moreover our home was not electrified. The American Voice has kept alive, or at least in the mind of its listeners and the ones who were receiving news from listeners, the hope that the Americans will come and will scatter the Russians. They were unlikeable because they had the characteristics described with an unequalled talent by the cabaret artist Constantin Tănase. The couplet begins with the lyrics:

It was bad with was ist das

But is worst with davai ceas

Davai ceas, davai relationship

This is not a partnership.

Many listeners and commentators of the American Voice have paid with their liberty the assertion of the hopes in the coming of the Americans. Sometimes, the Power didn’t lose time with criminal cases and was offering work in the use of the community at the digging of the Danube-Black Sea Canal, which has devoured a lot of people and has not been finished. Amongst the victims there were members of my family, too.

The poor victims were not informed about the mercantile bargains from Potsdam and Ialta, where Churchill, the British prime minister, wrote on the map the percents awarded to Russia, Great Britain and United States of America from every East-European country, as if he was mentioning the contributions at a commercial society. This troika was not homogenous because Russia (The Big Soviet Union) was everywhere the major shareholder, and Stalin was showing under its moustache a smile which was announcing a different arrangement than the one from Ialta.

So, the Americans did not arrive, coming as a disappointment for the Romanians.

I have found out, for the first time, about the deal from Ialta, from EUROPA magazine, which was printed in Italy by Iosif Constantin Drăgan. Every month, was arriving at the county library a number of the magazine. On the back cover it was drawn the Europe map according to the percentages written by Churchill.

My father died in 1986 and could not lived till the year when, finally the Americans have come.

The first Americans whom I have met in Cluj were the T.’s, both professors at the University from Ithaca, NY. The husband had two kids from the first marriage and with the second wife did not have any child, although they have wished that. As a consequence, they came in Cluj to adopt a child and the procedure has taken some months, time when they had no worries. At the return in USA, together with the adopted child, she astonishingly noticed that she was pregnant. The Romanian air had a good influence on her.

The next Americans were Ronald C., district judge in Portland (Oregon) and his wife Ruth, prosecutor in the same district. They were in an informative mission at the USA Embassy from Romania.

Ruth wished to know Cluj too. She scheduled her visit by calling at the Faculty of Law, where I was an associate professor while being also a judge. At the embassy, Ruth found only an available book, The Uniform Commercial Code of USA. The addressee of this book was the commercial law teacher and that was me. Try to imagine a world without mobile phones. Accompanied by an assistant, an ex student, Corina L., the visitor did not obtain the desirable result. Being in the airport, she tried to call again, and this time I answered at the call and I went to the airport when there were only 30 minutes till the getting off. In this short time I spoke to Ruth through the interpret, my assistant, who has completed her studies in England. These few moments spent in the airport were sufficiently to change my life.

In the spring of 1993, I received a call from an employee at the USA Embassy in Romania who has asked for my permission to organize me a five weeks visit in USA. I refused immediately the offer  because I could not miss from job so long. I proposed a two weeks visit instead of a five weeks one, and then the lady explained me that this is a visit in a organized group and all the others would be tempted to ask for the extension, and not the shortening of the visit. The administration of the court, possibly contacted previously, allowed my reasoned absence and this is how, at an impossible hour at night I have seen myself at the Otopeni Airport, with the two suitcases which, after being given to the Delta Airlines company they had different destinations, because of the almost fallen asleep lady from the gate. A suitcase took the way to Hamburg and the other accompanied me to Washington. After three days someone brought me in secret the lost suitcase, but I did not receive any apologize because I was just a Romanian. If I had been an American, I would have turned to a lawyer and I would have asked for serious damages.

In the week spent at Washington, the group of judges and prosecutors from Romania to whom I was belonging was accommodated at New Hampshire pension. The bedroom had an annex functioning as a completely equipped kitchen. The coffee maker had pads from a heat-resistant paper, just like the tea doses that we use today. I put a dose in the coffee maker and I turned it on. The result was pitiful, because it had no taste and neither smell of coffee. I put two doses but the result was not better. Insistent, in the search of the morning coffee, to which I was used to, I crossed the street, I bought a jar of soluble coffee and I put two spoons in the red liquid, pretty hot. Nowhere, in the cities that I have visited after, I did not find real coffee and I made myself believe that a cappuccino can replace a coffee in the matter of rigor.

A surprise was the visit of Mister Anton Wekerle, former librarian at Law Library of Congress. Among other things, I found out that he was born in Romania and he escaped from the Holocaust, retreating in USA. He asked if we had a book published after the Revolution. I had with me two copies of the book Business Law, published in 1992, at the “Chemarea Iași” Publishing House, which I gave him. The head of the librarians, Mister Medina, sent me, as an exchange, some American law books. The relationship has continued even when at the leading of the library come Mister Imre Jarmy.

The meeting with Mister Wekerle, which did not appear in our programme, left me a strong impression of an exceptional organization of the circulation of the information in Washington. In the next year, 1994, my impression was strengthen into an admiring confidence, after Mister Schiffmann and Mister Asser, from the judicial department of FMI, have invited me at their office for consultations, finding out about my existence on the site of the Georgetown University.

In the short time spent in Washington I had the pleasure of meeting the ABA, American Bar Association, an organization of all American jurists, with large responsibilities concerning not only the awarding of the license for practicing a legal profession, but also the establishment of the founding and functioning standards of the law faculties.

At Georgetown University Law Center, situated in 600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W. Washington DC 2001, I have received from Professor O’Brian an exceptional book called Street Law. (At this University, the annual scholarship for students is 18.995 $, not including the money needed for accommodation, transport, books and other specific needs of approximately 12.455 $. From 9000 applications, only 2000 are accepted. During my visit, the structure of the students was the following: non-white students 27%, women 47%; the teaching stuff had a number of 245 people, 48 women and 20 non-white teachers)

The next visit took place in Texas, a big state which, looking on the map, could cover the surface of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and maybe even more. A part of this state is desert, just like Arizona and Nevada. I visited a prison, “Three Rivers”. At the entrance, to every visitor it was applied a stamp with a photographic developer, which became visible only in the light of an ultraviolet lamp. The stamp was applied on the back of the left palm. At the exit, I saw the phosphorescent effect of the “visitor” stamp. A week later, in Colorado, I visited another prison. The commandant was a giant Irish, with a gun as huge as him, who laughed when I told him my adventure at “Three Rivers”. “If without this stamp I did not be able to identify a visitor from a prisoner, I would kill myself with this gun.”. He confessed me that he sleeps every night with two Romanian girls. “Honny soit qui mal y pense.” The two Romanians  were infants and they were adopted by the commandant’s son, but they used to sleep only in the arms of their grandfather.

In Texas, I have spent a day at the Police Academy in San Antonio. In the classroom, on a wall has come into my attention an inscription which I copied and I wrote it down in my book. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

In San Antonio I also discovered the advantages of those happy hours. This time, were offered free chicken wings with an extraordinary sauce, which could not be equaled even by the French or Italian sauces, if you paid a frozen margarita with Tekilla, at a spicy price.

The next visit was in Denver, Colorado. The town was placed in a magnificent background. It gives you the impression that you are surrounded only by mountains covered with eternal snows. This is the famous Far West. The city centre is a pedestrian zone where are running at free busses, which stop wherever the passengers ask for.

In the last day of the visit, I began the hunting for documents for the book “Dreptul bancar”, the first legal book in this field from all the history of the Romanian Law. This book was rewarded by the Jurists Union of Romania with the prize I.L.Georgescu in 1994 for special scientific activity in the field of commercial law.

Prof.univ.PhD. Ion TURCU


:: The Source:

Raluca-Andreea TRÎNCĂ-GĂVAN

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