I used to be ashamed and frustrated when people asked me how often I visited my relatives in Romania. Perfect strangers, friends, and acquaintances alike were prying into the most intimate details of my life which I did not have time do disclose in one sentence or two nor did I wish to discuss in those moments. I did not want to be rude, but, no matter how I answered, people were not satisfied or comfortable. "I'd rather not say," became my standard answer instead of launching into a lengthy explanation that was none of their business.
Should I have told them how pained I was at the thought of having to return to the misery that I had escaped? To them it seemed like a fun vacation to trek across the globe for 24 hours in a very cramped airplane, sleep in airports, take taxis and buses before I could even remotely reach a place where some of my relatives lived.
Was it fun to spend $2,000 on the flight alone, to forcefully exchange $30/day for the duration of my stay, whether I was going to spend that much or not? Was it fun to do without a shower or bath for days on end? Not knowing where my next meal was going to be? Was it fun worrying about my safety? Worrying about getting sick and being unable to receive proper treatment or medicine? Thirty dollars was a lot of money in Romania of the late 1970s. Was it fun to spend so much money I could ill afford in order to be used, harassed, and abused by the authorities for the duration of my visit?
Should I have told my questioners that I was a poor student and did not have that kind of money? I wanted to see my parents, my relatives more than anything in the world, but it was more than I spent on rent and food in a year! I felt poor, wretched, inadequate, and alone. Should I have told them that my children came first, they had to eat and needed a safe and clean place to call home before I satisfied my longing to see my birthplace and my relatives?
Often times I was too ill to travel. Twenty-four hours is a long way to go to reach my destination, with many stopovers and plane changes. When my dad passed away, I was unable to attend his funeral - I was in traction at the hospital from a ruptured disk. How do you explain the mental anguish and the physical pain? How can people possibly understand?
Now that I have more time and money to travel, I don't have many immediate relatives who are still alive. They have succumbed to communist abuse, neglect, or to the hard life induced by years and years of communist rule and micro-mismanagement of their lives and of the economy. The nanny state with its rationing of everything killed them all - from cradle to grave, was the communist mantra.
Things have changed to a certain degree, the economy is chugging on the path to capitalism, but poor people's lives, which is most of the population, have not. Only the former communist elites have the money and know-how to game the system in order to thrive in the post European Union economy.
A large chunk of the labor force moved to greener pastures to find employment, over 11% of the population - Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, United Kingdom, to name a few. They left their children in the care of elderly people who were themselves in need of care. Even gypsies took off to establish theft ghettos in EU countries that were so politically correct, they would be able to game the system and steal to their hearts' content without fear of deportation or retribution. After all, they are EU citizens.
My good friend Flor travels often to Romania on business and I hear about the misery and poverty that still exists, 21 years after the fall of communism! The state of disrepair is incredible, factories have been sold off piece by piece, or are rusting in the polluted air. Mountains of garbage are not being picked up, while wild dogs are allowed to run in packs and terrorize the citizens. Nobody seems to be in charge anymore. Political corruption, theft, and dishonor are the accepted norm. The justice system runs on bribes, the police is corrupt, the banking system is abusive, and the wolves are running the flock of sheeple. Nobody seems to manufacture anything anymore. Gypsies dismatle railroad tracks and sell them for scrap metal. How desperate must one be to try to take apart transformers to make an easy euro, electrocuting themselves in the process? Everything has been sold off to foreign countries. Sounds familiar?
I would like to take my adult children and my husband someday to show them where I grew up, went to school, where I came from. This is my home now, I've lived in America much longer than I've lived in Romania. Yes, my roots were there but home is where the hearth is and that happens to be Virginia. I pledged allegiance to the United States and I intend to fight for its survival, for my home, and my family's future.
Hopefully, sooner than later, we can all travel to Romania and lay a wreath at my father's tomb, my grandparents' memorial, and my aunts and uncles who have passed away. God rest their souls, they were great patriots who gave their all to their country!