19 November 2012

Budapest Day 3 - Memento Park

Outside of central Budapest, in  the suburbs, in a sweet little neighborhood with  some half-timbered houses with gardens and (strangely) barbed wire-topped fencing is a park filled with statues of the Soviet era.

For a girl brought up on the other side of the Cold War, outside the Iron Curtain who’s only read about Soviet oppression and only seen photos of such statues, the literally giant reminders of the vast reach of the State, the every-day people as hero, the dead-eyed stone soldier, being up close to them is truly awesome. Spread throughout the park are smaller sculptures and plaques, honoring various party “heroes”.

It’s easy to understand how some Hungarians wanted these sometimes-hulking hunks of granite, concrete and steel that had been set about their city to remind them of the power and ubiquity of the Soviet dictatorship to be destroyed but it’s impressive that they weren’t. They were instead set up in what would become a park, a reminder and a tribute to all of the revolutions in Eastern Europe, in Berlin, in Prague, in Poland.

As we got off the bus and headed back toward the park, the silhouette of the reproduction of Stalin’s boots, all that remained of his statue before crowds tore it down during an uprising in 1956 that started out peacefully but ended with tens of thousands sentenced, imprisoned and hundreds killed, a stocky older woman was walking behind us.

I saw the statues in the brick arcades by the park’s entrance at the same time that I heard some old-timey planes high above. As I started to run towards them in hope of getting a shot of a biplane in the background and Lenin’s face in the fore, the woman, white hair pulled back, sturdy stockinged legs carrying her up the road, eyes crinkled in a smile or from the sun, said, “Lenin.” I nodded. She pointed a bit further ahead. “MarxEngels,” in the way that people do, as if they were one person. I smiled and waved as she walked on up the hill, wondering what she’d lived through, what she’d seen and what she thought about it all.

Getting there: http://www.budapest-tourist-guide.com/budapest-statue-park.html

15 November 2012

Becoming Italian, Part 4.5

Back in June, I thought it’d be a good idea to check in with Rosalba at the Prefetura. I wanted to know if a) I had all the documents that I needed and b) the translations I did were ok because c) as of the first week of July, I’d be in Italy for two years and could d) apply for citizenship.

Last October, I had gone to the Prefetura to get the skinny on applying for citizenship. Please don’t ask me to explain what a prefetura is. I can’t. I have no idea. I might have at one time, but now, my brain has been made mush by Italian bureaucratic quirks. Suffice it to say, it is some kind of state office that we in the US have no need for. Because we do not do some of the things that they do here.

Back then, the lovely woman gave a cursory glance at my existing documents, asked how long I’d been in the country and handed over the application with its list of more documents needed and sent me on my way.

I needed to get:
- my birth certificate from the State of New York. Long form, with an Apostille
- a report of good conduct from the State of New York, with an Apostille.
- a criminal record/record of no arrest from the FBI. (Say it with me) With an Apostille.
- various weird (to me) documents from the town hall here: an extract of our marriage; a “stato di familia” (kind of like a formal declaration of who makes up our family in our registered domicile; a residence document. Like I said, weird);   a certificate of citizenship for V.

The documents from the US needed to be translated into Italian.

In January, I got my fingerprints to send to New York and to Washington. It took three months to figure out who could do them for me and where to get it done.

So, now, June. Almost two years since I’d entered Italy and applied for my Permesso di Soggiorno, which meant almost time to submit my application for citizenship through marriage. I thought it’d be a good time to check in to see if anything had changed, if I needed any more documents, if the ones I had were ok.

Despite them moving this particular office of the prefetura, not having signs on the actual office door (or even near the office door) explaining that it’d been moved and to where, aside from wasting several euro on parking because we had to get back in the car and drive to the other part of town where they keep the questura, the agenzia entrata, and now the office for citizenship, in the brutal heat of the June morning wearing a dress and shoes instead of cutoffs and flip flops, I got answers. Just not the good kind.

Rosalba seemed pleased as she perused my documents. Until I asked about the translations. First problem? I still don’t know Italian very well. Even though I explained about the man who’s listed as the informational contact on the giant posters tacked up in all the provincial offices (including that one) offering free Italian courses for foreigners having not responded to any of my emails. She just gave the kind of “eh” shrug and tsk-ed. No points for trying.

Second problem? I (and Google) did the translations.

“Who did these?”

“I did. Like I did them for the Italian Consulate in New York before we got married.”

“Tch, tch, tch.” Her head shook back and forth along with her index finger in that way some women here do and that I hate. “You go to the tribunale. You get a translator there and pay. These are no good.”

“But why no good?”

“You need official translator. They stamp them.”

Oy. Can’t even begin to argue that they were good enough to get me married here, that it makes no sense that I have to now pay someone in this country to do them, that I’d like to know if she understands them because at the end of the day, isn’t that all that matters? Not worth it. She wasn’t gonna budge. Someone needed to get paid and I was the one who was going to have to do it at the tribunale, via stamps.

“Ok. Then I can come back and apply?”

“Um. Let me see. You have been resident since January, 2011?”

The sweat started rolling down my spine and soaking the back of my dress as I geared up for a fight I was not prepared to have in a foreign language. “I have been here since July 2010. Look at my permesso.

Didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter that I entered the country and got my permit to stay in July. It didn’t matter that the first comune wouldn’t register me with just my temporary permesso issued in July and that the Salerno questura took five months to issue the permanent one, that I picked it up at the end of December and had it updated before applying for residency here, which happened in January. I had to wait until January to apply.

I sank back into my chair, defeated.

When we got married, the law stated that I needed to be resident (or was it just married?) for six months before applying. Now, it states two years (three, if living outside of Italy). Please join me in praying that the law doesn’t change in the next two months.