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Pepo: I understand well contemporary Romanian. Look, last week I received a magazine from Bucharest, and I understand 90 percent of the text.

Pictures from the neighborhood - gossip with few words

“Cire bire” or hold tight

© Glas Istre
Wednesday, September 6, 2007

It is believed that at the docks in the Rijeka’s harbor worked also the Istro-Romanians who, during loading, tossing bags, to each other yelled “Cire bire”, what in their language means “hold on” or “hold tight”. And so the Fiumani started calling them Ciribiri, concludes our host Pepo

Interview and pictures by Radenko Vadanjel.

Josip Glavina, known as Pepo, is a 50-year retired coalminer from a small Istrian town of Susnjevica, located at the foothills of the mountain massif called Cicarija, where by some miracle of nature grow also olive trees. In the last ten years, Pepo, in his humble household, has been visited by a lot of famous people: Mihai Dorin, Romanian Demo-Christian member of Parliament, Alexandru Costa, minister for Romanian National Minorities outside Romania, Dr. Goran Filipi, professor at the University of Pula “Juraj Dobrila”, Romanian scientist [a linguistics professor and researcher] Petru Neiescu, Romanian poet Marius Luputia, representatives of Romanian TV from Temisvara, Bucharest, Zagreb, ….

Although very popular in scientific circles, Pepo prefers to be with his “paesani” Bruno Kontus, retired from the railroad, and Josip Mikleus, unemployed ex-coalminer from Susnjevica. All three are expert speakers of the old Vlaski language, so called "Ciribiri" or more officially Istro-Romanian language – an unusual Romanian dialect strongly influenced by the Croatian and Italian languages, which has been preserved for several centuries in the villages on the north edge of the Cepic field.

Grocery store “Susnjevica” is the epicenter of social events

Pepo and his friends met us in front of the grocery store “Susnjevica”, in the center of town, where during hot summer days, in the shade of the overhang, they drink cold beer.

“You can say that this is Ciribiri dialect, also can be called Vlaski, but people in Zejane call it Zejanski language.  To be correct we should say "Istro-Romanian”, explains Pepo the various names for his native language.

Barba Miro, even though in his eighties and deaf on the right ear, plays the Triestina [accordion] excellently.

Kontus, Mikleus, and Glavina, experts in Vlaski language.

“Cire bire” in Istro-Romanian means “hold tight” or “hold on”, we found out from our host. It is believed that in the Rijeka harbor during the loading and unloading of ship’s cargo also worked Istro-Romanians, who, tossing the bags to each other yelled “cire bire”, which in translation means “hold tight”. And so in Rijeka the word "Ciribiri" became synonymous with Istro-Romanians, concludes Pepo.

“Susnjevica is a village ignored by the county of Krsan, which did not do even close to what they promised us. There are more people who speak Istro-Romanian in Australia, Canada and America than in Susnjevica”, complains Kontus.

While Kontus and Mikleus slowly drank their refreshments in front of the grocery store “Susnjevica”, the epicenter of the social events in town, we went to Pepo’s other favorite friend Miro Belulovic [of the "Fabro" branch, younger brother of Frane, the oft-quoted blacksmith who passed away a few years ago]. Miro, even though, deaf in his right ear which he damaged with the noise in the blacksmith shop in Koromacno, plays his accordion excellently.

“This is first “triestina” made in 1978 between Brsec and Moscenica”, explains barba Miro. “Pepo is like our ambassador, When we receive scientists to study our language, they first come to see Pepo”, explains barba Miro.

At home Vlaski, in church Croatian, in school Italian

We found out from our host that the big “Istro-Romanian Linguistic Atlas” issued in 2002 by Goran Filipi, was aided by the people of Zejane and villagers south of Ucka as well as a dozen Isto-Romanians from Susnjevica.

“I understand very well contemporary Romanian. Last week I received the magazine AS from Bucharest, and I understood about 90% of it”, said Pepo nodding with significance. “At one time our elderly, like barba Miro, spoke Vlaski at home, Croatian in church and Italian in school. We were polyglots as children”, concludes enthusiastically Pepo.

“Do you know where you originally came from”, we asked the host.

“I spent a lot of time with the researchers from Romania and with our Academy of Science and Art people. Josip Milicevic was always trying to dispute the fact that we came from Romania, instead he claims that we came from Dalmatia and even from Bosnia, but Romanian linguists claim that we came from the Vlachia  Valley” [this is not so], said Pepo.

Romanian language is based on four dialects and Istro-Romanian is very close to one of these [dacoromanian, the official language of the country]. That is why there is a great interest by Romanian linguists to visit the villages around Cepic valley looking for some words that have already disappeared in current Romanian language.

Unforgettable Anastasia

“One time I was with Anastasia Kinski in Boljun Polje”, said Pepo without being prompted, shifting to his second big obsession – acting in films. “She came in a stage coach and I was supposed to split wood nearby. The movie depicted the seventeenth century. So she got off her stage coach and walked to a make shift bar. I looked at her, but I was not supposed to, so the scene had to be repeated. I had to look at her, my eyes moved in her direction automatically, reminiscing shooting of the film “La femme musketeer” which was made in co-production between Jadran Film and Silvester from Los Angeles in 2002 in Istria.”

“We also had some love scenes in the castle Belaj from 8:00 A.M. till noon”, remembered sentimentally Pepo.

“Well that was beautiful. They brought girls from the Tourist Faculty of Opatija. Five of them were acting as waitresses and five were supposed to act as prostitutes. What should we do now? You have to make love, said the director. They placed one of them in my lap and said – make out! And we kissed and held each other. We were repeating these scenes for four hours. Four cameras were recording our scenes simultaneously”, sighs Pepo, while Miro, a bit ignored, started playing the triestina again.

“The girl was collecting flowers and she fell asleep” … sang our hosts.

“Pozdraves ve si veric ne opet!” (We greet you and please come again), at our request Pepo said it in Istro-Romanian. The influence of the Croatian language, in this sentence is obvious. [In fact, the quoted statement is far more Croatian than Istro-Romanian!]

“Even we understand this” we commented disappointedly.

“Tot aj bire” (Everything is OK), Pepo said with a serious tone.

Translation by Pino Golja



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Created: Monday, September 05, 2007, Last Update: Tuesday, August 24, 2010
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