Posted at 10/1/19, 1:25 PM Interviews

The Cioară family, three generations in the service of the Refinery

Highly upgraded as it is at present, Petromidia Refinery is far from that bunch of plants and installations since its inception, since the 80’s, Tudorel Cioară relates. Control is computerized and centralized, the safety measures are excellent.

This year, Petromidia is celebrating the 40th year since its opening, at which time we will present a series of five stories to you, showing a different face of the refinery. We begin the series with the story of the Cioară family, the most numerous family within Petromidia Refinery. Two brothers, three sisters-in-laws, two sons and one daughter-in-law worked here. One of them has recently retired, the other seven family members are still “on duty”. Since the early 80’s their lives have mostly been lived among the Petromidia facilities. As they are working in shifts and in different places, it is difficult to get everyone together. However, four of them have discussed with DC News. This is their story:

During a press conference, a while ago, an official of the Refinery stated that it was a family tradition to be refiner within Petromidia. That there were families that had been working there for three generations. Obviously, I really wanted to get to know one of the “Petromidia families". A family having many members, if possible. But, as I said, I expected to deal with grandfather, father and maybe, the son. From the second the door of the press centre where the interview was to take place opened, I understood that our discussion would be completely different.

Cioară family and its story


Three steady women came in through the door, one by one and behind them a man who was a head taller than they were and seemed condescending. The women being nicely dressed, wearing casual clothes, went straight to me. “I am Mariana Cioară, DCS operator", the first briefly told me and reached her hand out to me. After which, without any shadow of emotion or hesitation, she promptly sat at the table, on a strategically placed chair from where she was able to “watch” me. The voluble and athletic Olimpia Cioară, production field operator, followed her example. She tightly shook my hand and gave me a gentle nod to look over her shoulder: “She is my daughter, Adriana, counter balance operator, the youngest member of our Petromidia family". She was obviously speaking about the third woman of the group, who was the youngest among them, who was gently smiling at me, looking at her mother and aunt. The man, Tudorel Cioară, briefly introduced himself: “I am Adriana’s father, Olimpia’s husband and Mariana’s brother-in-law. I am a retiree at present, but I worked as foreman of the Delayed Coker, having been hired since the first years of operation of Petromidia".

Automatically, I think that this means the early 80’s, and the man in front of me doesn’t seem to have reached 50 long ago. Those two women even less, although their experience is comparable to that of the man, as I would learn. The second reason of wonder is that none of them has any shadow of nervousness. Relaxed and cheerful – even if ladies were going to start their work - they sat at the table, in angle, so that they can see me very well, looking like old friends whom you haven’t seen for a long time, who came to drink a coffee. Moreover, they started to relate their story just as easily.

“Eight people of our family worked there. Now, we have remained seven, since Tudorel retired. Two brothers, three sisters-in-law and two sons and one daughter-in-law have been working within Petromidia", Mariana Cioară says. Seniors, if we could call them that given that they seem too young to be the parents of children ready to marriage, have been working in the refinery since the first plant was put into service. “There are more other families in Petromidia, but they are not as numerous as our family", Mariana proudly goes on.

In the refinery, since the first plant was put into service


“In 1982, when I came here, only section 1 was in operation. Only DA and DV (hereinafter jointly meant as Atmospheric Distillation and Vacuum Distillation) were in operation. The area of aromatic, cracking plants and the remaining units were still a worksite. There were barbed wire fences between plants”, Tudorel Cioară explains in on breath.

“I work in the petrochemistry area, if you have any idea, which had not been built in 1983, when I came here. Only then it was being built", his sister-in-law, Mariana completes him. This woman really wished to work in the refinery. “I graduated the high school with the specialty in polymers, I took part of the single class in the history of the high school studying this specialty. They had taught and trained us for Energia factory located in Constanţa. I had received my assignation to that factory, however, I was the only from my class who did not accept it. I didn’t want to leave Năvodari. I went to Energia, where I obtained my negation, as this was how things worked at that time and then I came here to knock at the door. They didn’t hire me at first. I walked the whole way from Năvodari to Midia almost every day, for approximately two months, in order to gain a hearing to Mr. Trocea, the manager. “What do you want?" - he asked me. “I want you to hire me!" In July and August, after having passed the high school graduation exam, at the age of 18, I was determined to convince them to hire me. Finally, he said “take her and hire her! And I have been working here since that time", says the woman.

They learned the job at the workplace


They have learned most of their job at the workplace, Petromidia being the first and the only refinery built waterfront, where the fishermen and sailormen’s land is traditional.

“Somebody asked me, once, why I hadn’t gone to college. Because I didn’t need to, I had here two emeritus professors experienced in our plants, in polymers. One of them is the former general manager, and the second is the current production manager. We attended a kind of school, with teaching, listening, exams", Mariana Cioară went on.

For all of them, the refinery is more than “at home”. “We used to come here at 10 to 6:00 in the morning and we left at 2-3 o’clock at night. We stayed at home only a few hours and went to work again", Tudorel Cioară remembered.

They knew each other here, they fell in love here, they worked here all their life and they would retire also from this workplace. “If we should calculate, you must know that we spent more time in the refinery than at home", Tudorel says. Actually, all of them came here immediately following the graduation from high school, with Olimpia even earlier. I got married here, I lived here, I grew old here! I was hired when I was 16 years old under my parents’ signature, as I was not allowed to work in shifts without their consent. I have been working here for 36 years", she proudly says.

Every important aspect in their life is related to the Refinery


When asked how she knew her husband, she gives a prompt answer: “When he returned from the military service, he worked with my sister. I was on holiday at that time. But he had become fixated on me, so he told my sister: “when your sister returns from holiday, she will be mine!". And so it was. He seemed to be perfectly right! I don’t know why, especially since he didn’t know me. My sister used to come home and told me “there is this ugly, bow-legged, moustached man who says that you belong to him!". When we first met, I didn’t like him, as he grew a moustache. He used to come and wait for me when I finished my second shift work and drove me home. I told him once that if he were not going to give up his moustache, he would not be my boyfriend anymore. The following day, at midnight, he didn’t have it anymore!", Olimpia says triumphantly.

In their youth, things were somehow simpler when it comes to socialization. Our co-workers didn’t follow each other on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, instead they spent time together. “We didn’t have so many means of communication, instead we met as often as possible, we used to go to Mamaia for a walk, and the party was a real fest. We were aware of everything going on in the other’s family. We used to stay at parties until 1:00-2:00 a.m. playing cards. When we came off the late (night, n.r.) shift during our days off, people of the entire shift used to go in the morning to eat tripe soup at the fishery which was located near Năvodari Police at that time. There were even 20 people per plant, on a shift", Tudorel says.

We celebrated almost all holidays at the Refinery. “We seldom celebrated the Christmas, the New Year’s Eve and Easter at home. We worked last New Year’s Eve, as well as this New Year’s Eve”, Mariana says. “But this is not something unusual for our job. You just can’t shut down the refinery and start it again after the holidays. It is more difficult when we want to celebrate our birthdays, as we cannot do it on those exact days. Since we work in different shifts and in different sections, there’s an art to establish a day when we all gather to have lunch or dinner”.

Children, following in their parents’ footsteps


They brought up their children in shifts, as they say, and wives and husbands shared their tasks “brotherly”. “When Adriana was a little child, we were working different shifts. And we have never worked in the same section. Tudorel cooks – he is the best cook in the family. He washes clothes, cleans the house, as he can’t expect me to come from work to do all these things", Olimpia Cioară prides herself. Hence, our daughter Adriana has not been missing their parents. She has grown up with stories from the refinery, and when she had the opportunity to get a job, here, five years ago, she had no hesitation, even if she recognizes that it might be difficult to live out the back of the parents. “Everyone knows my father, and many people, when I tell them my name, immediately answer “ah, you are Cioară’s daughter", even if I don’t work in the section where he worked or where my mother works. However, for me, this is something to be proud of and, after all, I take over that tradition, don’t I?!", the young woman says, smiling.

“At the beginning, I was a little nervous about the manner of accommodation in the refinery. She learned and now she is by herself!", her father proudly states. However, the girl immediately admits: “I still have things to learn! In our job, we have something to learn every day, we can never assert that we know everything and that’s it, we have finished!" Although her job involves travelling long distances every day, with difficult tasks, the young woman, who is the spitting image of her energetic parents, says “I’m just restless; I could not stay for 8 hours in the office or something like that".

When Adriana grew up, the two spouses worked the same shift, and they even made a habit of it. They used to come and leave for work together. They separated or met halfway, between the two sections. “I was staring at his alley and I saw him how he was coming slow-paced. At the beginning, after he had retired, it was really hard without him. But Adriana changed her shift to work my shift, in order for us to come and leave from the refinery together", Olimpia relates.

It was more difficult for the first generation


Like her parents, the young woman has learned her job at the workplace, even if she has the advantage of so many previous experienced generations, from which she could learn. However, at the time when her “seniors” started working, the plant could be understood if only the respective worker touched it with his or her hand. As oil processing was - and is still deemed - one of the most risky jobs, you ought to know each screw, tap or pipe in your working area, as your life finally depended on it. Tudorel Cioară says that he taught himself the entire plant, and ended up knowing it better than the lines of his hand.

“At that time, during the years 1984-85 when factories were started up, they brought more capable people from Borzeşti, from Oneşti, from all over the country, who had any knowledge about the oil production plant, however, they didn’t tell us anything. They used to send us to understand and learn ourselves about the plant. We had to take it line by line, to see where it starts from, by which point it enters the refinery. We went to examine it literally, from the limit of the plant, around, all over the section, and finally, we were able to see where it ended up. In order to know how many taps were mounted on the respective plant, as well as how many drainages, as the foreman used to ask us. He used to send us to the respective drainage and we ought to know where it was, that it was the second discharge after a certain bend. After I graduated the school of foremen and got a promotion, I acted the same way with young employees. That’s how I taught them. Dozens of generations", the man proudly told.

You learn and pass your job on, as art


This model was ranked as art within the Refinery. Nowadays, passing the job on has become a rule and almost every employee, when he or she has still on or two years to work until retirement, receives an apprentice to train him.

“When I reached the age of retirement, a trainee was assigned to me. Before the time you retire, he will take your place, he will replace you. A year and a half he followed me closely almost every day", Tudorel Cioară said.

A beautiful and dangerous job


Highly upgraded as it is at present, Petromidia Refinery is far from that bunch of plants and installations since its inception, since the 80’s, Tudorel Cioară relates. Control is computerized and centralized, the safety measures are very good, even excellent. However, that doesn’t mean that the job of refiner is a piece of cake or is without risks.

“Nowadays, plants are controlled, there are all kinds of sensors, but nobody knows when a gasket from a pipe corner has broken down and when something was broken down or cracked. The work is performed at high external temperatures, there are gas tanks which at present, in the heat, are covered by steam curtain equipment. On the inside, pyrosulphur is formed on their walls, which ignite upon simply touching them. This is not a piece of cake. You have sensors, you have pressure control, you have everything from the technical point of view, but you never know where something wrong might occur. The idea is not to panic, to know exactly how you should act in such situations; all that matters is that people know their job. As not only your life, but also everyone’s lives depend on you. Everybody should be aware that it could happen to anyone. First, you learn theory, and then you understand the plant. However, in terms of learning, as regards this job of refiner, you are learning throughout your whole life. You will never be able to draw the line and say: Okay, I know everything! Never! Something new may appear every day and you should immediately know what to do”, the man concludes.

To think that for refiners the balance tips between benefits and risks, you would consider that many of them might wish more secure jobs. “No, if you’ve started this job, you’ll go all the way", Mariana says. And in the end, when you ask them the classical question “if you were to start over, would you choose the same work to do?”, everyone’s answer is short and without any other additions: “Yes, of course!"