(One Who Was Present)
printed in “Bukowina: Heimat von Gestern,”
eds. Erwin Massier, Josef Talsky, B.C. Grigorowicz
(Karlsruhe: Selbstverlag “Arbeitskreis Bukowina Heimatbuch,” 1956), pp. 363-65
Sophie A. Welisch, PhD, trans.
It is Sunday evening. Twilight is descending on my Bohemian woodland village of Bori in south Bukovina. Here festively decorated coaches are speeding along the bumpy street. Music is playing, people are standing together in groups. Today there is a big wedding [Hoichzert—dialect] in the village, with eighty guests!
I, too, was invited and so I sat at the lavish buffet in a lovely old decorated room at the farmstead. And the meal, one can state and write, lasted from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. It began with cold cuts, followed immediately by noodle soup, beef and cucumbers, roast veal and salad, pork and roast goose with apples and plums, and came to a delightful end with pastries and cakes. Whiskey and beer created the best atmosphere. The room resounded with jubilant shouts from the youths and applause from the girls. The music, a genuine Gypsy tune, did the rest, and when they played the ingratiating Viennese waltzes, all kept time with their feet and hummed the melody. In one corner a few happy fellows sat together and sang the Alpine folk song [Schnadahüpfel]:“The Bori girls, they are so fine, they curl their hair with the manurefork! Holaradio, holaradio, holaradiopsassa!”[Die Borianer Madel, die sind ja so fei, die drehen sich die Locken mit der Mitsgabel ei!—dialect]. And from across the room:“Oh, oh, how nice, oh, oh how nice when two lovers meet again!” [O, o wie scheen, o o wie scheen, wenn zwei Verliebtesich wiederseh’n!—dialect]. All the young people enthusiastically joined in the singing. The glasses clanked. The girls sent the boys whiskey glasses with red ribbons and flowers on them and Prosit, Prosit! [cheers! cheers!] echoed everywhere.
The [prevailing] good mood seemed an appropriate time to address finances. Musicians and cooks also sought to collect their mite. This all proceeds in a singular way. A cook comes in with head and hands bandaged, cries pitifully, and relates the difficulties she had with food preparation and how she got burned. Imploringly she extends her ladle and gets her reward. Then the mayor and the local teacher appear. The teacher carries a gingerbread doll with a broken leg. He reports that this poor child—it is the future child of the bridal pair—injured its leg and must be taken to the hospital. He then appeals for a contribution to pay the hospital costs of the small invalid. The mayor passes around a pot and everyone throws in some money. In the meantime the young people have become impatient. A few boys have snuck up to the bride and in a moment’s notice have taken off her shoes. The best man at the wedding acts quickly to prevent this. But alas! Triumphantly and jubilantly the thieves bring the shoes to the others and amidst hullabaloo they are auctioned off. The best man must reach deeply into his pocket, and for a keg of beer or a few bottles of whiskey he can again regain possession of the shoes.
But now the room is cleared and the dancing begins. The bride starts with an old traditional lovely custom: she dances in sequence through the room with all present, first with her parents and siblings, then with relatives and acquaintances,—whether man or woman, whether old or young, is immaterial.Suddenly there is a disturbance. One of the young men,the last to dance with the bride, tries to abduct her. They run after him and hold him firmly. The bridegroom sets the thief to task and requests the immediate return of the bride.But he does not agree, rather retorts snippily: “You have to ransom her!” The husband offers an amount. The other smiles: “If your wife is not worth more than that to you, I’d just as soon keep her in addition to which she pleases me.”He elaborates on her beauty and how good she would have it with him!
All the guests gather around and assist with the negotiations.Finally agreement is reached on the ransom and the bridegroom reaches for his wallet. Then he hurriedly leads her into the room and in order to avoid other surprises, she is adorned with the insignia of her new housewifely honors:her wreath and veil are removed and a kerchief, as is worn by every [married] woman, is placed on her head. Music begins to play. The youths shout with enthusiasm and whirl the girls around in a circle. Festivities continue until the break of dawn. Then events take on an even more ludicrous aspect. All the guests form a great chain with an exuberant youth in the lead. In long procession they enter the yard and barn and cross the street to the neighbors; in at one—stepping over tables, benches, beds—and out at another. Then with agility they climb over the fences and run through the vegetable gardens. On the street they form a circle and again very quickly begin to dance in the ring. A farmer with his horse is stopped. Two youths mount the horse and take off. Shivering in the morning coldness all again run into the house where in the meantime the table has been set. Now there are olives, pickled beets, whiskey,stuffed peppers, pickled cucumbers, and beer to tantalize the palate. And the cheerful drinking spree and dancing continue.
Exhausted and sleepy I dragged myself home with the music playing a march for the departure. Many guests were able to continue on until evening. At noon the youths came to my residence, awoke me from my sleep, and wanted me to rejoin them. But duty called.____