Struggle. Love. Cry. Hope.
For Romanian click here.
A novel first published in Romanian (Eikon 2017), available in English (translated by Mihaela Alecu) on Amazon (click on the image).
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Amanda and Ioan arrived late, after the contest section had ended, but, as they had promised, before the concert. In order to get there faster they grabbed the taxi. They were coming one behind the other, slowly moving ahead, making room for themselves through that crowd of people, apologizing all the time. Luckily, Ana had texted them, so that they would know where they were, therefore they could take the shortest way. Even so, it took them longer to go through the few meters of crowd then it took them to get to Piaţa Sfatului from home, by car.
When she saw them, Ana jumped from Mircea’s arms and kiss Amanda on both cheeks as if they hadn’t seen each other for years.
“Amanda, did you two do it?!” Ana asked her immediately after the boys left, after they walked them home, to Ana’s house.
They kissed a lot during the concert, they kissed almost during the entire walk home, and now, when they said goodbye, the two pairs kissed under the big, old chestnut near Ana’s house, which wisely protected them from indiscreet eyes, preventing the light from the street lamps to reach them. Lost as she was during the kiss, Ana composed herself immediately after the young men left. As soon as they were out of sight, and they passed the gate and reached the front door, Ana asked the question, in fact she put emphasis on it, but in a low voice, silently.
“Ssshhh,” Amanda whispered to her, when Ana unlocked the door and entered the front hallway. “We shouldn’t wake up your parents!”
Ana made a sign which meant “Never mind, we’ll get upstairs!” They left their shoes by the door, then slowly-slowly they climbed the stairs to the first floor, where the master bedroom was, that of Ana’s parents, and another room, smaller that was now empty. It was Ana’s room when she was little, but for a while now she decided to move to the attic where she had a bedroom and a small bathroom with a shower, it was perfect for what she needed. But, moreover, here ‘in the Land of Faraway’ as she had named her attic, she had all the privacy in the world.
If someone would tell her that in few years she will give up her house for good she would not believe it. When Azade asked her why, Ana waited a second, then quickly dropped her words as if they would pressed her soul for a long time:
“I must tell you that Romania is a country of paradoxes. There are so many wonderful things in it, but at the same time, just as many awful things. I assume, in fact I am certain that one shouldn’t judge an entire country just for the negative examples, but one cannot ignore them either as if they wouldn’t exist. Because they do, if not more than the positive ones, then definitely the ones that affect us more.
“Let me give you just one example, the health system of which I should be part of, and which concerns us all directly. If you can imagine, in Romania it’s awful. And the education system stands by it. Therefore, two of the most important, in my opinion, and I believe not only mine, the spinal cord and the brain of a nation, are left on the lowest gear, instead of being headed. Anything else is a priority there, except for Health and Education.
“Oh, my dear, what you are telling me is really sad… I didn’t know there are so many problems in your country. A country pertaining to the European tradition!”
“Yes! But this didn’t change things at all, even though we’ve hoped for it after the Revolution. Another disappointment… The corruption and bureaucracy in the country remained the same, at such a high level that you cannot even imagine…
“Of course there are improvements, in respect to the quality of life, jobs, no one contests it – for example, salaries have grown year after year; my mother, who teaches Romanian in primary school, has now a salary of, let me think in Francs, almost 200 Swiss Francs; but, a few years ago she had only 50-60 Francs per month…”
“Oh my God, but this is incredible!”
“And this in not all. A doctor earns in his first year of residency approximately 150 Francs per month–”
“I cannot believe it! I mean a PhD candidate earns here almost 3000 Francs, a resident probably 4000…”
“That is correct. But you see, this is just a small part of the problem. If salaries would be low and balanced everywhere I would understand. The country would have recovered after fifty years of communism which destroyed it, although I must add, it came out of this black period with its entire foreign debt paid. And now, I don’t even know how much it is…
“But there is no equality: whereas some starve, and most are at the border of a decent living, there is a class which lives high of the hog and not because its members have worked hard and succeeded in life, but because they deceived. Politicians are the first ones, then all their acolytes, the so-called business men, whom receive preferential contracts for no matter what. A lot of bureaucrats in key-positions receive bribes for everything, from mayors to traffic policemen. And so on… the list goes on forever. However, anyone could find the explanation: power corrupts. And it shouldn’t be like that.
“But let me come back to my first idea, despite all these things, what I hate the most isn’t this situation, but the dissolution of values, the social disorder to which we got to in Romania – otherwise a country with such beautiful places.
“We have wonderful mountains, an enviable seaside, secular forests and bloomed fields, villages in which tradition is still alive, so many beautiful customs and so on.”
Ana stopped, and you could read delight off her face. Then she came back to her previous distress.
“But indeed, the fact that some take advantage – and believe me, they are extremely creative in this regard – of the general population and they get rich on its back without being responsible is extremely bad, but what worries me is the population itself, the people I used to like…
“As days go by, we are more and more selfish, and more hateful, it seems. I am convinced that it is primarily due to disillusions and loss of hope. When you see that some people do whatever they want and get away with it unpunished, even in the most concrete case, such as car accidents, when innocent people have died, killed by the larger than life and speeder cars of some. And these, if you can believe it, got away with suspended sentences, namely without spending one day in prison. These individuals have created a pattern, proving that they are above the law. So there is no wonder that common people believe they can break the law as well, if they bribe someone with the necessary position, either a cop, to escape a fine, or a judge, to escape a sentence and so on.”
Ana made again a pause for several seconds.
“Of course, I wouldn’t want you to think that everybody is like that. Of course there are a lot, a lot – definitely a few millions – decent people, good people and, of course, people whom I don’t know, but with whom I interact in shops, at the market, or, why not, at the theatre. But these are anonymous, their voice cannot be heard in the huge noise made by the others, with big mouths and unlimited nerve.”
Ana took a deep breath.
“Oh, my dear,” Azade told her, “I see you are really upset. But I think all these will change. After all, as you said, people still need to recover after the long and dark communist period–”
“Yes, I think it is the darkest period in our history!”
“You see? Therefore, on the other hand it is understandable: people have gained a freedom for which they were not prepared, they did not know what to do with it, how to handle it. The road to adulthood is long. It needs to be taken one step at a time, it requires time and effort! But, you will see, things will be better, I am sure.”
“You are probably right, but I have no more time to waste. I’ve lost my entire youth hoping that change will occur. I’ve waited and I’ve hopped, especially after I found out how terrible the communist period was, from parents, friends, documentaries or books. You know, I was born not long before the 1989 Revolution, and I have no memories of that terrible period. Therefore, I was happy and lucky to grow up in a free country. When I was little, I was still very optimistic! But, when I became big enough to understand, and when I realized how things were, I was very, very disappointed.”
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