Ilie 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, and slippers.
       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 wear forever.



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