The country that is no longer our country

It’s them, the Romanians who emigrated. Every time they return, they find the same city they had forgotten for a couple of months, maybe even years, and the same country from their passports, mentioned in embarrassing conversations with foreigners.

Upon returning, the impact is even stronger on them, and the encounter with the country they no longer live in, brutal: starting from the long minutes they wait for their luggage at the airport, bobbing around impatiently until the moment they go to the house that is no longer their home. They are more cautious, almost shy, and they move as if they were on a mine field they grew up in, but have forgotten.

And then there’s us, those who haven’t emigrated yet. For a few days – as long as we are out of the country, we belong to a normality we accept, forgetting that, in the end, we will have to go back to the place we actually belong to, but whose normality we cannot accept. But we at least fight and vote for it as we know best, even though, with each passing each year, it seems to get worse and worse, and the voter participation is not necessarily encouraging either. We are a minority. And in our temporary world, from a shining tower in the city centre, we are the image of an office that stops working, of people who disrupt their lives to watch the press conference of a man sentenced to prison.

Up until this point, we have forgotten – the same as other people who are barricaded in the shining towers of Bucharest or in their small lives – that we have a problem that concerns us all. And the image of people who disrupt their lives is replaced by the image of people who are negotiating their future or justice in the middle of the street.

On the other end, there are the comfortable lives of those who emigrated, lives that brought them beautiful families, lots of money and new teeth. They are our childhood friends, relatives or high school colleagues who left the country. We meet each other once in a while for some coffee when they come back, we keep in touch on Facebook or over the phone. They have beautiful jobs and matching lives – or at least so it seems from the photographs where they smile with their new teeth. Some of them however, are struggling with loneliness, to which their soul-destroying jobs contribute, as well as the large, slightly alienating cities, and ultimately, society, which is fundamentally different from the one they grew up in.

But most of them have something in common: once they get back in the country, they are constantly complaining about the roads, the way people travel in Romania or, more recently, about the prices. Even the smallest interaction, with a waiter or with a public servant can cause a massive storm of dissatisfaction, inevitably following the “good” examples of the countries that adopted them. Within a few minutes, we are told, rather jokingly, but seriously that we live in a country where we cannot live.

It’s them, those who transpose themselves into the moralizing voice, which the rest of us who stayed behind buried, allegedly in our subconscious, in our area of denial. Conscience, good examples and wisdom – with all its solutions – the applicable ones of course, are brought by plane from Germany, Italy or Spain, sometimes in rounds of applause that follow a successful landing on Romanian soil. After giving us a good reprimand, they leave the same way they arrived, and we remain with our problems, that we indeed know best.

Beyond ironies, maybe we are to blame, those who are left here, maybe it’s a collective guilt, from generation to generation, including those who emigrated in subsequent waves – however it may be, it is irrelevant. I believe we are long past the moment where we should be pointing fingers at those who are guilty; it is perhaps time to come up with solutions that would make our part of the world a habitable place.

And I, like other young people my age, have considered leaving the country. And to be clear: I’m still considering it.

Originally published in Romanian on Dilema veche.

Laurențiu Ion

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