Nelu Plestici is the last "suster" from Almaj
Valley. He is only 48 years old and comes from a very poor
and numerous family.
In order to learn a trade, at the age of 14 he took an apprenticeship
with a local Czech shoemaker from Dalboset village. He worked
there for two meals a day and a place to sleep. Now he refuses
to comment on this particular time of his youth. "I
was a slave, sir, I worked hard for that man, doing almost
everything, from housekeeping to cleaning the pigsty. But
now I am grateful to him for teaching me this craft"
The secrets of the craft are many and it took him a long
time to learn them all. He says that one cannot learn this
craft; one has to steal it and one has to be very smart
in order to do so.
None of his family members is allowed to buy shoes. He makes
shoes for them all, from dress shoes to sandals, boots,
Recently he has had less and less to work and he knows that
his craft is slowly being eroded by cheap industrial production.
People are still coming to him but only to have their shoes
repaired. The only orders for brand-new shoes come when
someone dies: he makes the shoes that the dead man will