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Montag, 15. August 2016

What went wrong? By William McPherson

I live in Austria since two and half years nearly. Here somewhere are the origins of my grandmother. I left Romania not because I dreamed to make the "big money in the West", but because of the general mentality there. My story is a different story. Since I am here I often get the question: "What went wrong in Romania? What is going still wrong there? Why?!"
It is difficult to explain it, because it is not just a simple enumeration of facts. It is much more than ten or hundred. It is the unsaid and the unseen, it is the Felt One. 
Many people I met here in Austria were at least once in Romania and all of them have the same opinion: "Oh .... Romania..... Beautiful country, but such a different world ..... what a pitty, what a lost potential there ....." and the comments are going further and further. 
Myself I avoid discussing about Romania. Because I feel pain. Because I feel bitterness. Because I feel sadness and tears. And because I wrote much to much about why the things there are going wrong. Because talking about Romania takes a life long and the entire energy. Because it is a huge case. An interesting one. But for my life it is enough. 
I move out these days in a new house and last week I was working together with the landlord for mounting a complicated kitchen furniture piece. We worked together for four hours in the garage. The man is 60. He visited Romania in 2002 and he told me how he see the things there:
"We were going through a village. Nearby a house, right at the entrance of it lay a dead sheep carcass overrun by flies. It lay there for some days for sure and anybody seemed to be disturbed. Not even the people living in that house. You will never see such a thing in Austria. You do not need money to take away a dead animal laying in front of your house, you do not need to be rich. The mess, dirt bothers us. We like to keep clean. Romanians should not wonder why Germany or Skandinavia have such a high life standards."
Yes, I know, some would say this is the exotic part of Romania. I have a different point of judgement about these kind of "details".
There are not such of "better countries" or "worse countries". A country is a nation. Nations are different. But somehow .... Romanians are something what themselves seem not to like, because much to many Romanians are living the country and the rest still living there is talking about "Romania sucks". I know some happy Romanians in Romania, but they are exceptions who could create an own context in a corrupted and indoctrinated country. Many of them also lived for years in other countries or on different continents, but returned to Romania. I am happy for them, because real home means the place where you feel at home. And having the chance go live at home is probably the most important feeling in a man's life. 
It is said that a country has the people which it deserves ..... at this moment I can't say I understand this. From my understanding, a country is what its people are doing with it, a county is, besides the natural potential, the mirror of its inhabitants.
"Late last December (1989) I flew to Berlin with a friend. It was an impulse - I wanted to see the Wall while it was still standing - and for the first time in some years, maybe in my life, I was free to act on an impolse of that sort. My wish was to spend the week between Chrismas and the New Year in Berlin, and in return I promised my friend that we would spend the next week in Italy, all of which we did: New Year's Eve at the Brandenburg Gage, a week overlooking the Grand Canal in Venice, then a few days in Florence and Rome. She returned to New York, and I went back briefly to the luxury of Venice, intending to go on to Budapest and Prague, return to Berlin once more and so to home.
   But plans have a way of changing. The images of the Romanian revolution - I had seen it on television in Berlin - were still vivid in my mind. I had a few extra days after all. The country was not far away. I got a copy of a map of Timisoara and secured a visa to Romania. I rented a car and loaded it with bananas, oranges and chocolate. A friend supplied me with some telephone numbers in case of an emergency, a couple of cartons of Kents - for purpose of bribery only; at the time I was not smoking - and two bottles of Johnny Walker Red should the Kents prove insufficient. 
And then, on 22 January, one month to the day after Ceausescu had fled by helicopter from the roof of the Central Committee Building in Bucharest, I set off in my newly rented Volkswagen Golf, equipped even with an extra can of diesel fuel: just enough, I was told, to get me through Romania without having to pay the prices the government was charging foreigners for poor quality motorina.
   I arrived at the Romanian border at four-thirty in the afternoon, darkness already fast approaching. It was very cold. Customs was taking a long time inspecting the Italian aid convoy ahead of me. Finally after half an hour it was my turn.
   "Any weapons? Drugs? Ammunition?" the customs official asked.
   "No, nothing."
   He inspected the car and asked me to open the hood. I fumbled around under the dashboard in all the likely places but couldn't figure out how to do it. I had neglected to look at the car verz closely when I rented it, and now it was dark. I tried to find my flashlight but couldn't, and I felt like a fool.
  "Is best you stop your travels tonight in Timisoara.", he said, more in the tone of an order than a suggestion. "No more far."
   Yes, I assured him, pressing an orange into his hand, the Hotel Continental. "I have a reservation."
   "Is the best." He flashed me a V-sign; I returned it, and so I was off, but not for long. A couple of hundred metres up the road a soldier waved me to a stop.
   "Parlez-vous francais?" he asked. His French was about as fluent as mine.
   "Un peu."
   "Venez-vous aider la Roumanie?"
   He was rubbing his hands for warmth and looking at the oranges on the seat beside me. I showed my passport again, flashed the V-sign and gave him an orange. And after negotiating another impromptu border check-point, and another, dispensing more oranges and exchanging more V-signs, I was on my way to Timisoara, sixty-five kilometres dintant. The raod was better than I had expected and free of traffic, but very dark; even in the villages there was no light. All Romania was dark, I was soon to discover, and Timisoara, when I arrived there an hour later, seemed the darkest city I had ever seen.

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