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Abstract of Virginia Elena BALAN (Gina), 2011

 Item — Box: 5
Identifier: H00560007


Virginia Elana Balan

Interviewer: Rebecca Amunsden

Abstracter: Courtney Ellison


00:00 Interview identification

01:15 ROMANIA. Parents. Father VIRGILIU. Name meant something small. Born 1933, 22 February. Died 52. Incurable disease. 25 when her father died. Father – described. Fathers occupation - Theatre Producer. Socialist system.

04:30 Culture in ROMANIA. Father’s occupation – described.

05:15 Revolution – Mentioned.

05.30 Working with father. Performing and singing – described. From 3 years old and stopped when she shifted here

06:30 Mother JULIANA. Library Assistant/Librarian in Army for 36 years. Originally employed by City Council as information consultant/clerical skills for 2 years. Army units – described. Civilian, no uniform.

08.40 Family home life, childhood – explained.

09.11 Audio paused.


00:00 Father’s role as inspector of religions. Orthodox and Catholics only two religions in system.

01:10 Mother got apartment in flats with army with 2 bedrooms. Later upgraded to 3 bedrooms. Lovely childhood. Explored Garden.

01:50 Lived in town called CARANSEBES (western Romania). 6km from Roman castle ruins found during construction of a Cathedral. Similar size to Invercargill. Many villages surrounding, every 6km.

04:00 Every house has land and animals. 04:20 Called “Socialist Republic of Romania” when living there.

04:55 School – described. Start at age 7. Kindergarten 2 years compulsory beforehand. 8-12 first two years. No more than 7 hours at high school but lots of work after school. Many subjects – max 20.

07:00 Subjects – Literature, Grammer, other Languages, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology, Geography, History, Psyhcology.

07:55 After high school, graduate diploma. Good mark required for university.

08:24 Schooling under communist system differences – described. Lack of choice of subjects. Daughters experiences at school – explained.

12:00 Behaviour management at school – described.

12:45 After-school sports team, volleyball. Craiova University.

13:45 Decision to leave the country difficult.

14:20 Effect of travel with sports team on parents – described. Went a few times to other socialist countries, required permission from Ministry of Defence (because of family in military).


01:00 Never had Passport until coming to New Zealand.

01.30 1989 Revolution – Described.

03:15 Food rations – Explained.

05:20 Ceausescu leader and family – Explained.

06:00 Socialist system – Explained.

06:40 Election and start of democracy – Explained.

07:20 Length of socialist system – Explained.

07:40 School, Patriotism, Uniform, Class size – Explained.

09:50 Democracy & how life changed – Explained. Minerals and gold underground and their exploitation.

13:00 Food rations 1984-89.

14:05 Education, grandparents teaching respect for others - Described.


00:20 Leaving Romania 2001 – Explained. Cousin in United States, offers of jobs. Husband had health problems, worked from 6am until 1am following morning. Seeking change in lifestyle. Working in mines. Supporting family, no resthomes for the elderly - Described.

02:30 Sought safer place, recognised that their daughters would not stay around there once they finished tertiary education.

03:20 Decided on shifting to NEW ZEALAND. Learnt about New Zealand at school. Living in New Zealand, safety, education – described.

05:10 Found website on shifting to New Zealand.

05:30 Husband came on visitor visa 1 March 2002. First man from Romania came to INVERCARGILL in late 1800s but he died. Worked at newspaper. Changed his name.

07:10 Husband came in group of 30, 15 stayed. Work visa through business immigration company. Employed in family company ‘Murray Implement’ in April/May 2002. Christchurch - mentioned. Electrical/mechanical engineer.

08:50 Husband spoke no English. English option at school for learning.

09:40 Studying English – described.

10:35 Husband bought computer and learnt English and had a Tutor.

11.20 Husband here 9 months before arriving, communicated through internet.

11.40 AUCKLAND, CHRISTCHURCH, INVERCARGILL stopovers on trip over – Mentioned.

12.10 First impressions of INVERCARGILL arrived, 6 November, cold, windy, rainy.

13.10 Husband at airport, freesias – Mentioned.

13.35 INVERCARGILL weather – Described. Biked to work, too windy some days.

14.35 Children stayed behind initially. Southland Girls High School – Mentioned.


00:01 Connor (Principal at Hargest) – Mentioned.

01:05 No other Romanian families known, just a mixed family. The husband worked at Rowena Jackson as caregiver and wife (JENNY?) worked as surgery nurse at hospital. Two boys, Radul (sp?) born in ROMANIA, Andre (sp?) born in NEW ZEALAND. Spoke better Romanian language than English. Couldn’t pass academic tests. Skin specialist.

03:40 Brian Ballot, Library – Mentioned. Romanian Libraries in every village - Described. Barbara [Cartland?] ‘Diana and the Dalmatian’s first book she read here.

05:50 Not enough time to be homesick, kept busy, reading, learning, looking for work, cooking, calling back to Romania to girls.

06:50 Girls arrived following February. Passed exams she had to sit. Drivers licence – described.

07:25 Girls starting school – good support from school – Explained.

08:45 Southland people, very friendly – Described.

09:30 Finding work – described. Work permits, residency, and language barrier to work – explained. Employed after 10 days.

11:10 Food in NEW ZEALAND – described.

12:00 Romanian festivals – Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day Father’s Day, 1 May, State Day, was always on the stage. Each city/village have special day to celebrate Saints.

13:20 Differences in foods, cornflour and cornmeal – mentioned. Countdown and Pak’n’save - Mentioned. Translate labels.


00:35 Problem with cold weather.

01:00 Daughters adjusting – discussed.

02:00 Two families helped settle them in. Ina and Bob Mc Neill. When Robert born they were private midwife/parents tradition from Romania. Bob was working with Gelu [Virginia’s husband].

03:45 Romanian community around INVERCARGILL and GORE. Dairy Farming – mentioned. Approx. 50 people – Described.

05:25 Residency, citizenship, voting – mentioned.

05:35 Romanian community gatherings. Christmas, Easter, Birthdays. 5-6 times a year get together.

06:25 More of other cultures in Invercargill now. A few people from Yugoslavia. Doctor at hospital from BULGARIA spoke Romanian after Robert was born.

08:15 Growing number of people from other countries, SIT – Mentioned.

09:00 Impact of diverse cultures on Southland –discussed.

12:45 Son ROBERT aged 5 1/2. Bilingual. Dual Citizenship. Different upbringing from sisters – Explained.


00:10 School newsday – described.

01:03 ‘Island of the Pirates’ Romanian Book and other things from Romania taking along to school – described.

03:00 Kids all speak English but parents all have different accents.

03:30 Don’t think they will shift unless something exceptional happens.

04:20 Home now is Southland – Explained.

05:50 Changes being in Southland - Explained

08:40 Mum half Hungarian. Dad was born in part of Romania that is now part of RUSSIA. VIRGINIA only one who went this far away.

09:30 Travelled to NELSON. In 9 years only one, two week holiday, HANMER SPRINGS, East Coast.

10:35 Acclimatising to weather, people in Southland – described.

12:50 Mayor Tim Shadbolt, Citizenship ceremony – described.

14:25 Museum exhibition ‘Treasures from Home’ had some items in there - Mentioned.


  • 2011

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Part of the Southland Oral History Project Repository