(forest of Gheorghieni, Transylvania)
I've traveled around in the world quite a bit...And not just traveled, but lived elsewhere as well.
And the first thing people I met seemed to be interested in was were I am from. I've heard it all from lame jokes about Dracula, to people stepping back because surely I must be a vampire. I've been judged because some Romanian has raped a girl in Italy, and because some other has robbed someone they knew, I have not been accepted into a job after a very successful job interview in London, because when it came to where I was from she just thanked me for participating and she said she'd call me if anything came up... and I could go on. I remember eating together with some middle aged Germans in one of Europe's most peaceful places, randomly talking about everything for about an hour. It was clear they were Germans. It is never clear what I am. So they asked. When I disclosed it even their facial expressions had changed. The rest of the week they pretended not to know me at all. And if this had been the very first time something like this had happened to me, I probably would have cried over it. But I just smiled. Over the years I learned to accept that this is all not my problem. It is theirs to solve.
I am not Romanian (not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is a fact). I am Hungarian. And no, nothing made me move here. I was born here. And my parents were also born here. And my grandparents and my great grandparents and great-great grandparents as well... you get the idea. And if this puzzles anyone, they should look up the chapter in their history book that talks about the Peace Treaties after World War II. As a child, in Romania I was often bullied for being Hungarian, and when I spent holidays in Hungary, I was often bullied for being Romanian. I didn't seem to understand why one version was better than the other. I never really knew where I belonged and I was under the impression that I had to. Until one day I realized that I don't belong anywhere, never have, never will. It was just society that expected that from me. So today I belong everywhere and nowhere in the same time.
I was fortunate enough to be born in a beautiful land, called Transylvania. As a child when fairy tales were read to you, you most likely imagined those stories to be set in this area, and you're not even aware of it. I have amazing people (both Romanian and Hungarian, what do you know...) as friends and I met some of the wisest human beings up in high mountains leading lives that may seem savage and extremely poor to most of you out there. They love life. And live it more meaningfully than most of us. To them, having just what they need is not poverty. It is simplicity and trusting in God's providence.
Nature is untainted and intemperate. People are friendly and open, and most will give their last piece of bread to their guests. Villages are calm, where time seems to have forgotten its natural habit of passing.
And sure there are hideous parts as well, and crowded cities with angry people and bad infrastructure. Communism had dug its claws deep into walls and the earth, but most of all it left marks in the souls of the people that even after all this time shapes and molds their lives despite their will to fight against the scars.
I decided to write this post after stumbling upon this really expressive photo article about why you shouldn't visit Romania. It reflects the issue so perfectly. The usual judgments of those who have never been to the country, but they seem to know everything there is to know about it from movies, news stations, newspaper articles and from their own limited mind with creativity directed into a negative path.
I am an artist living a decent life, earning a decent income, striving to be the best version of myself, surrounded by wonderful friends and a great family, all of us living together in Romania. So it is possible to grow up and even make it in life! And I find it to be incredibly wonderful!
But hey, what do I know? After all, I am just a Romanian.