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The Fear Of Living In A Minority Called Romania

We took to the streets once again to protest against the Government actions which we consider to be abusive. To protest against the assault on the independence of Justice in Romania, which has been going on for over three years. We took to the streets alongside the thousands of people in the diaspora who briefly returned to the country after having crossed the borders to fulfill their dreams. There were many of us, over 100,000 people, in a united protest in Bucharest: those at home, who haven’t emigrated yet, have united with those in the diaspora.

Only that this time, we found ourselves in the past: in the early 1990s, in the shadow of communism, when any form of protest was suppressed with the use of tear gas, baton strikes and water cannons before it even had a chance to unfold. This is the exact period of time I was born in, during a democracy which was more fragile than my baby bones. Now I feel like I have taken over my parents’ mission from the point in which it was abandoned.

I am 27 years old, and the struggle I’m leading alongside other young Romanians, is not with a corrupt and abusive Government, but with the past that seems to be swarming back on us. It is the past that this Government fully represents.

A very small part of the millions of Romanians settled abroad came back home for a protest that was supposed to be colossal. From the sea of people gathered in Bucharest’s Victory Square on Friday, August 10th, I could see how the flags of the countries that adopted them were rising in triumph above their heads: the American flag to the right, the French flag to the left, and in front, the European Union’s flag together with the Romanian one— larger, but more wrinkled. They came back and found the same city they had forgotten for a couple of months, maybe years. The same country from their passports, mentioned in embarrassing conversations with foreigners, and once roared in the streets, in the middle of the protests organised in the diaspora. They are now in the country they were born in, and the impact is brutal as if it were a clash with a new civilisation.

And then there’s us, those who haven’t emigrated yet. We live in the temporary world of a shining tower in the city centre, and we are the image of an office that stops working, of people who disrupt their lives to watch the press conference of one of the most powerful political leaders in Romania, sentenced to prison for corruption. Until this moment, we have forgotten, barricaded in our own small lives, that we have a problem that concerns us all.

It’s not the current ruling party’s attempt to dynamite the pillars that support the rule of law. The real problem is the mass abandonment of the country, the decay of the halo that still kept us together as a small nation, the fact that more and more young Romanians, products of this fragile democracy, don’t see themselves staying here. As a country, we are now divided by our beliefs, and ultimately— spread out by land.

Before 1989, Romanians passed the border on their knees, guided, or swimming. People were leaving because they’d had enough of the darkness of communism: they weren’t leaving, as they do now, in the hopes of getting rich in a more prosperous economy. Thirty years later, Romanians continue to leave massively: nine Romanians leave the country every hour. First the parents, and then their children, who grew up alone. We are a scattered generation, with no common path. No matter where you go in this world, in the most hidden corner of the planet, you will run into a Romanian who abandoned the country that disappointed them.

Romania is becoming a minority today: in Europe, in the world, and in its own territory. I, like other young people of my age, do not know if I still wish to stay here, to spend the best years of my life fighting for something that my parents fought for thirty years ago, and other parents died for. We protest against corruption, but most of all, we protest out of fear: the fear that we will also be banished in the end, from our own country. Or— even worse— that we will have no way out of a country that started to become a minority itself, in its own territory.

August 2018

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Laurențiu Ion

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