Braila and its forgotten occupations

In 1836, the free port regime was installed in Braila, following the decree of ruler Alexandru Voda Ghica. This way, all merchants carrying merchandise on water did not have to pay taxes. A time of peak blooming begins for the Danubian city. The port was growing fast and, with it, many occupations that no longer exist today.
Below is the list, as it is registered in the archives of the Work Board in the port of Braila, in 1935:
* Cartmen – carry bags of cereals with the carriages from depots, wagons, barges, ships into town and vice-versa – 24 lei per day; total number of 1009 people;
* Manual workers – fill the bags with cereals, weight them and carry them to the carriages and from the carriages to depots, wagons, barges and ships – 42 lei per day; total number of 738 people;
*Elevator men – work in the barns of the barges and ships, pushing the cereals around the elevator’s top, from where they are transported on barges and ships mechanically – 49 lei per day; total number of 460 people;
* Dockers – work at debarking ships that have arrived with general merchandise, charcoal, embarking lumber from land onto the ships, as well as piling the rye and cattle cakes – 78 lei per day; total number of 270 people;
* Trimmers – work in the barns of ships and barges which load cereals with their shore elevator with the manual workers, stowing (arranging) the cereals in order to avoid gaps that are dangerous when sailing – 65 lei per person; total number of 117 people;
* Secareni – gather the bags from the manual workers, arranging them into stacks of 10, which they carry off the ship, passing them to the cartmen – 22 lei per day; total number 30 people;
* Cylinder dockers – transport the iron from the docks for the Goldenberg & Sons Factory, as well as general merchandise and heavy pieces to the city;
* Shovel men – shovel the cereals to the depots or barges for conditioning and ventilation – 39 lei per day; total number of 50 people;
* Strainers – strain the cereals containing foreign body in depots – 47 lei per day; total number of 16 people;
* Diverse shovel men – sweep the cereals off the embankment, arrange and move the strainer onto the ship or barge, sweep the cereals off the upper deck of the barges and ships;
* Dock carriers – offload the wood, stone, soil, sand barges, laying them on the ground – 25 lei per day; total number of 23 people;
* Carriers – carry loads;
* Bailiff – have a certain number of men under their command;
* Commissionaires (traders) – negotiate commercial business on their own name, but on someone else’s account, in exchange for an asset;

To those, the Work Board’s decision from 16th of March 1935 adds violator workers (dodgers), who stay in bars or coffee shops when their team is working and operate through non-resident mediators (“ciolane” or substitutes)
Here is how André Bellessort described the work in the port of Braila, in La Roumanie contemporaine (Paris – 1905): “Herds of small carriages, whose tall beam resembles a barrel hoop, are gathering around the wagons. All the work is made by the people. The 2.500 carriermen of Braila barely arrive. Organized in columns and teams, under the surveillance of depot men and under the order of bailiffs, offload the wagons. Now is the time when the carriers, these prodigious workers, enter the scene and when the exporter operates the grain mix. You would expect assisting a regular, vulgar transshipment and here is a gallop of acrobats. The carts have aligned in front of the ship’s stowage entries: the carriers are all adjusting their 100 kilograms bags and, with their back bent under this scary weight, they run on a plank whose elasticity squeals. Reaching the extreme end, with the same brief shoulder move, like the dancer who shows off and the fiddler who plays by the rhythm, they empty those 100 kilograms in the open belly and climb down just to climb back up”.
Source: “Stradele Brăilei II” de Ioan Munteanu

Luminita IORDANESCU

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