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February 27, 2011


Diana Sisu

Hi, I'm Romanian. I almost cried reading your comments. I confess I felt resentful too but I empathise with you because I had similar feelings. I grew up in Romania, moved to the UK when I was 20, I've lived here 17 years. I travelled exactly the same journey you did. I moved to the 'West' and the picture I had of it, didn't match what I found. The people seemed very different from what I had imagined they would be. I found them self-righteous, lazy, taking things for granted, precious, easily upset, indulgent, self-pitying, the list went on and on. I remember thinking to myself how can this lot live so well, they are no better, no harder working than I am!!! I had always thought West = great work ethic but instead I found a don't break your back attitude and 40-minute coffee breaks. I grew quieter and quieter and talked mostly about the weather. Then Romania's orphanages came to the world's attention and I had to put up with agressive looks from people. I tried to engage in charity work but I was demoralised by what I saw. Money made out of suffering by both Western charities and corrupt officials back home. I've been to charity events which cost thousands of pounds and raised £200 or so. Watched charity workers congratulate each other, speeches from some local politician on a hunt for votes. Business networking mascarading as charity work. The hypocrisy, the well-hidden racism. Most people in the UK despise the Roma although they claim not to do so, but as a Romanian I know it. They think we are Roma and because I'm pale enough, they don't feel afraid of being labelled as racists if they trash me. The media has played this game for years and done really well financially out of it. The sanctimonious preaching of race equality in a country where two camps of travellers were dismantled because they brought down house value in the area. The kitsch Scottish tartan-industry, coupled with nauseating nationalism, built on distorting history and packaging it for schools. The list goes on and on. I'm fine now. I realised such is human nature, I shouldn't resent people because they fell off the pedestal I had them on. So I'm doing well, I have good friends and I am so happy I've had the experience to live in another country, culture. My biggest gain is that I managed to get rid of that self-loathing attitude Romanians seem to be burdened with. You know what I mean, you mentioned it yourself, the Romanians-are-useless-so-I-can't-be-blamed-for-anythying type of thinking. I have a small community of Romanians around me too, largely students, who appear to me mentally healthier than my generation. Anyway, coming back to the matter in hand, when I was reading your postings, I thought to myself oh, no, he's turned Romanian, one of those who spew out venim because things didn't go according to their plan! Plus a tinge of Western-style burgeois tantrums: my cute pets, my horses are hurt, I hate everybody!!! I see you're slowly coming round, which must feel good. I wish you the best of luck! Sorry for the lengthy ramblings. My lunch hour is almost up, must dash and, so what if I come back late, everybody else does it ;-) All the best, Diana

Diana Sisu

One more comment. Romanians denying the Holocaust isn't a unique phenomenon, the British are guilty of that too. Not a week goes by without the media mentioning the WWII. However, you never hear Britain's alliance with Stalin being mentioned. If both of us were to dig in our heels and be unforgiving, then I wouldn't forgive the British for jumping into bed with Stalin, who killed even more people than Hitler. Here I am quoting you approximately, most British people don't seem to know or care.

White Horse Pilgrim

That's a really interesting and comprehensive set of comments, Diana, thank you. I have to admit to coming down to earth hard back in Britain, what with blinkered attitudes, a lack of gratitude for how good life is for most people, and an inability to sort out the antics of the banks. People here really don't understand how well off they are. On reflection, after eight years in a Romanian village, I had pretty well lost touch with the West. As you'll see from most of my posts, I did very much enjoy life in that village. The hard bit was to make a living there, for reasons that I'm sure you will understand. I liked my neighbours and we got on well. The final year contained some difficult events that shattered the dream, and I was on the rebound from that. Well, I'm back on the level again, and quite nostalgic at times.

Remember that, over those eight years, I took a thousand broadly well educated and interested tourists from forty countries around Romania showing them some of the most beautiful and interesting places, the authentic traditions, natural food and so on. Most of that money went to suppliers and employees in the villages. I think that I did quite a good job as cultural ambassador.

Yes, there were frustrations, and the rubbish in the rivers was one of the worst. I got the feeling (you might have a view on this) that Romanian cultural identity is based on language, food, religion, Stefan cel Mare, etc (good things too) - all except the land itself on which Romanians mostly were second-class citizens under foreign rule. Therefore a Romanian might be blind to a dirty river because he or she is looking at something else as a source of pride. What do you think?

The charities that flooded Romania in 1990 irritated me too. There was hypocracy and a desire to "make them like us" - often recruiting for some neo-protestant sect or other. Some of the most dishonest people I've encountered worked for certain UK charities. Yes, good work was done too. For my part I ran an event that provided a tractor and machinery for a community and the people there built on that. I understand that today the orphanages are a great success story - so, of course, they are not noticed by the news.

You do amuse me about the tartan industry. Of course it makes a lot of money, just like the painted eggs and decorated bowls in the Bucovina. The modern kilt was invented by Queen Victoria to make her estate workers look picturesque. I think that Scots, in general, have a much more robust self-image than is projected by the kitsch. They just use that stuff to take money, and good on them for it.

You are stretching the point about the Holocaust versus fighting Hitler as Stalin's ally. Somewhere between a quarter and a third of a million Romanian Jews were killed, a fair proportion in pogroms at the hands of their fellow citizens. Now I will be fair and say that modern Romanians are relatively peaceful and tolerant so, no, I don't think that whatever drove common people to kill their Jewish neighbours is still there. But equally, be fair, ordinary British people had no contact with Stalin or the Soviets, and Churchill's relations with Stalin were difficult and distrustful. It just came down to the Red Army having a great many men and being willing to lose millions of them.

Britain is one of the most tolerant countries racially though current "islamophobia" isn't helping. The people called "gypsies" most often ethnically are not so. People object to the lifestyle associated, the crime and animal cruelty and so on. That's not to say that there isn't prejudice in Britain, there is. But the eviction of some criminals and welfare scroungers from a campsite doesn't make a pogrom.

So, yes, there is a part of me frustrated at the waste of opportunity and natrrow-mindedness back here in Britain. There is a part that rises above that. There is a part that enjoys relating to educated people and doing high-cultural things. And I miss the countryside, the small farms, the friendly and versatile neighbours, the monasteries, so many things really. I don't miss some other things that you can guess. There is no perfect place. And most probably, whilst there are some absolute standards, each nation should be judged against the background of the cards that it has been dealt rather than a rich neighbour or some fabricated straw man.


"Yet each man kills the thing he loves"

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