I used to have a friend who was an incredibly attractive young woman. She still is beautiful but in her early 20’s she was ethereally attractive. She was the kind of woman who needed no makeup, who looked beautiful both with messy hair in the morning and when she was dressed up for a formal event. She made any outfit, any old regular clothes, look phenomenal and she turned heads everywhere she went.
All of us, at some time or another, to some people, are attractive. But it’s a very rare thing to be considered beautiful all the time by everyone. Straight men, of course, followed her like bears to honey and straight girls always gazed at her with a mixture of longing tinged with frustration. And so in the years I spent with this woman, I got to see life from an interesting angle – that of a rare privilege that perhaps only the very famous get to experience.
Doors are opened for you (literally and metaphorically), infractions waved off, breaks always given, smiles greet you wherever you go. There’s always a special price or no charge. If you ask for help, dozens spring up to assist you. You’re always getting lucky when it comes to interactions with other people. You never have to wait and you’re never left alone, ignored or abandoned. Friends, whether genuine or opportunistic, are always a step away and life in general is just as easy, smooth and as trouble-free as it can possibly be.
If you were reading this website in January, you know that I promised all of you a lengthy post on the history of World War 1 and how it came to be that Unicorn City passed into Romanian control after some 600 years of Hungarian domination. I haven’t forgotten about my promise although there is no legitimate excuse for the delay. But in researching for that article, as well as all of the data the Eye brings me daily, as well as my experiences in living in this country, I began to realize that Romania is much like my beautiful friend.
Romania (today) borders five countries: Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Serbia and Hungary. Out of those five, Romania, even in cold hard cash statistics, is wealthier than all of them except for Hungary, and is only just behind Hungary, which currently has far more fundamental fiscal problems than does Romania. If you looked at this region objectively, it’s obvious that Romania is the bright, beautiful star.
Over the years I’ve shared with you hundreds of stories, links, photos and evidence of just how much the world loves this country, everyone from Asian backpackers to Prince Charles of Britain himself. Film stars, television stars, sports stars, famous musicians, other royals (esp the King of Norway), missionaries, volunteers, exchange students, backpackers, people here on business, people married to Romanians, people married to Romanian Hungarians, mountain climbers, bird watchers, people who are fans of Romanian music (Inna, etc), people who are gymnastics fans, car driving enthusiasts (Top Gear, et al), animal lovers (esp. bears), hikers, nature enthusiasts, people who love beaches, people who enjoy clubbing and nightlife, gourmets, those who enjoy quality alcoholic drinks, hunting and fishing enthusiasts, older people who are retired, preachers, pastors and priests, folk music lovers and many, many more, all these I’ve shared with you and all of them have one thing in common – they all unabashedly love Romania.
Doors are always opened for Romania, starting at least around World War 1 where the Treaty of Trianon was tilted heavily against the Hungarian Empire and Romania was the big winner. The greatest American propagandist in history took Romania’s side and gave her nearly everything she wanted. By 1943 she was feted and embraced yet again by the Allies. Even during the heart of the Communist era, when the Soviet Union and its allies were the “Axis of Evil”, Romania was treated differently, treated better. Romania received IMF and World Bank loans decades before her neighbors, given billions of dollars to build all of those factories that provided millions of jobs. Romania was the first Communist country to be visited by a sitting American president (Nixon). Romania was the only Communist country to participate in the 1984 Olympics where yet another Romanian gymnast scored a perfect 10.
After the 1989 Revolution, aid, volunteers, money and assistance poured in from every direction. Romania was fast-tracked to join NATO, becoming one of the first ex-Communist countries to do so. And last but not least of course was inviting and then accepting Romania into the European Union, where it is both a member with full rights but also even to this day the recipient of billions and billions of Euros in assistance, most of which never has to be repaid.
Here in my city alone, there are renovations, improvements, things made more beautiful all the time with the kind assistance of foreigners. There are visiting professors from all over the world, including Fulbright scholars from America, teaching at the universities. There are bright and talented students here on exchange programs and likewise bright and talented Romanians given the chance to study in top class universities abroad. There are parks made more beautiful with gorgeous landscaping and playground equipment for children (and the young at heart). The streets are paved or repaved. The trams are modernized and upgraded. The food and water is made safer and more closely regulated. Consumer rights are better protected. Houses are built for the homeless and the desperately poor. Top name entertainments acts are flown in from around the world to cheer people’s spirits and to improve morale. Experts are watching and monitoring and advising and streamlining the courts, the police and the judicial system as a whole. Ballots are monitored. Rights and freedoms are protected. There’s even a supreme court (ECHR/CEDO) to appeal to to ensure that the fundamental human rights of life, liberty and due process are not trampled.
All of this, all of the time, all of the energy, all of the kindness, all of the compassion, the money, the help, the volunteering, the expert advice, the regulatory bodies, the protection against infringement of rights, the encouragement to do well, the membership in elite international organizations, all of this is completely undeserved. Romania only gets it because the world finds it beautiful and wants to help, wants to assist, wants to be close and wants to have Romania around.
There are dozens of countries that I’ve been to where food is scarce, the political regime is harsh and punishing, where individual rights are few and far between and where there are no opportunities to study or work overseas. Every single day boats full of people from these countries wash up on the shores of Italy, Malta and Spain, people clamoring for a mouthful of bread, who are willing to do anything, take any job no matter how menial or degrading, just for a taste of what Romania has.
There are people from wealthier and more privileged nations, whether Australia, Japan, Britain, Germany or America, and they too do whatever it takes to come visit Romania, come live here, come settle here, finding some kind of way to make an income just so they can spend another day here in Romania. Your author, of course, is one of these but there are hundreds and possibly thousands more out there, many of whom I know personally or hear from in messages, emails and online communication after they read this very website, asking me how they too can come be a part of it.
And let’s not forget the ethnic Hungarians, all of whom are eagerly courted by the nation of Hungary, given the chance to emigrate there as well as to hold dual citizenship, which would allow them all kinds of unique opportunities (including being able to work in Britain). And yet they have not emigrated, not fled, not moved away, not left en masse. It’s the other way around. It is the Hungarians from Hungary who budget their vacation time, save up their money to come here, to visit, to spend time here, who have the longing and desire in their faces because they love it here so much.
So how does Romania take all of this love, this affection, this assistance, this praise, this generosity, these doors opened, these breaks given, these misdemeanors forgiven, this global embrace from people all around the world, the poor, the rich, the famous and the members of all of the most prestigious and powerful organizations in the world?
How do Romanians appreciate such a beautiful and bountiful country, with lush forests, sandy beaches, breathtaking canyons, misty mountain crags, mysterious caves, pure springs of unbelievably delicious water, rich fertile farmland and nearly perfect four-season weather? How do they esteem a land so full of abundance, so full of beauty and riches? How do they see themselves and their daily lives?
It is a goddamn tragedy is what it is.
And I really don’t know what to do about it.