Romanians in 1948… and now?

Donald Dunham, an American diplomat stationed in Bucharest, said this about Romanians in 1948:
IMG_0430“The Romanians are a social phenomenon. As a nation among nations, they are westerners evolved in the East. They are Latins surrounded by Slavs. They are Romans two thousand years away from Rome. They are contemporaries re-produced on Trajan’s Column.
“They are peasants with the utmost in sophistication. They farm instinctively, but are suspicious of machinery. They speak a language like Italian but the majority of their words are Slavonic. They are superstitious but religious at the same time. They are astutely intelligent, but refuse to be intellectual. They submit to invasion but preserve their identity. They support great wealth and extreme poverty. They produce striking beauty yet can live in filth.
“As a collective personality, the Romanians are Oriental in their souls although Latin on the surface. Their patience is almost unending but they are quick to explode in argument; they are peace-loving yet would disintegrate without controversy. They are passive but strong in their resistance; spontaneously adaptable, still difficult to influence. They are romantic but never escape from reality.
“They are charming yet cruel in their ridicule, warmly emotional but calculating, generous yet concentrate on the ‘main chance.’ They are opportunistic but lose interest after they have gained the advantage; they seize the moment, still adopt the long view.
“The Romanians are a people of colorful contrasts and extreme extremes, born in classic times, ravaged by barbarians, indentured to the Turks, dominated by the Byzantines, the Greeks, dictated to by the Hungarians, Poles, Austrians and others, seduced by the French and not recognized as a country until 1878. Yet they emerge with a character that defies this confusion, that is definitely, emphatically, unmistakably Romanian.”

What do you think? Is this still fair to Romanians of today? 

Tourist sight is my neighbours’ life

Charming short article in The Guardian, by Rena Effendi, about the living tradition of haymaking as part of the still-extant peasant lifestyle of Transylvania. This picture (also by Effendi) was taken in Maramures, where the haystacks are tall and thin.

Maramures haystacks

Here where I live, in southern Transylvania, the haystacks are fat and stable to withstand tougher winds.

Magura132-1

Another article, this time in the Financial Times, suggests that Transylvania is the new Tuscany. An Italian living in the Saxon villages is extolling the ancient ways of Saxon Transylvania as being reminiscent of the old Tuscan lifestyle.

Candour or caution?

RJ headline & pic

Thanks to the Romania Journal for some keen questions in yesterday’s interview. I opted to be candid, since cautious answers make for an anodyne read…

What do you think – should I have responded more neutrally?

I live in a fairytale

My family came to Magura this month, for their first visit. My brother Charles couldn’t get over the beauty of the place and told everyone it was like being in a fairytale. He’s right, and I am grateful for that every day.

Not only it is very beautiful here – the landscape, the weather, everything – but life in rural Transylvania offers up constant treats. Here’s my neighbour Roxana with her two daughters, another neighbour, Georgi, and her schoolfriend. They were in traditional dress, on their way to a wedding in the village, where they were going to sing for the bride. They took the time, however, to give us a preview. How much more charming could you get?

Roxana & girls singing

{Thanks to Charles for the images – the light looks a bit weird because the sun was so bright the camera couldn’t quite cope with the contrast]