Margot Ishtavenfi turned 80 this summer. She is lucid, articulate and brimming with energy and joie de vivre. She and her husband live in a small house with a red-tile roof opposite the Catholic church in the Transylvanian village of Criseni. In the backyard, which is enclosed by a faded wooden fence, they cultivate a small vegetable patch and raise a few chickens. At the end of spring, when night falls and the temperature plummets to close to freezing, they heat the house with a wood stove. They do not have a television set. The Internet and cellular phones have not yet reached the village, which is connected to the main highway only by a bad road of 20 kilometers – a distance measured in local terms as “an hour and a half’s ride in a horse-drawn cart.”
Meeting with an Israeli journalist was a moving experience for Margot Ishtavenfi. At the start of the interview, she said she remembered nothing from her early childhood. Throughout the evening, she never stopped offering slices of bread covered with black plum jam she had made from the fruit of one of the big trees in her garden, while constantly refilling the glass of red Romanian wine and apologizing endlessly for the simplicity of her home and for her own lost beauty. She spoke a great deal, passionately and rapidly. She had a story to tell. “But when it comes to my early childhood I just don’t remember anything,” she reiterated time and again, referring in particular to the period before she and her family were thrown into a ghetto.