I was born in Deva, in communist Romania, on February 6, 1978. Having all the traits of an Eastern European citizen who was educated in the submissive spirit of a dictatorship, it took a lot of courage to learn to say out loud what I think and how I feel. Like many of those who came out of the Iron Curtain in 1989, shy and insecure, I also considered that I started life with a second chance and oscillated for a while between bragging and inferiority complex in front of Western European citizens.
I grew up among people to whom the Party assigned work, housing, food ration … practically the entire destiny. For many of them, the destiny could not have been elsewhere than underground, in the extraction of coal, or in a plant, melting steel. It didn’t matter that some of them dreamed of teaching philosophy in university amphitheaters, or of becoming investigative journalists. In communist Romania such dreams were forbidden for commoners without connections to the Communist Party.
I grew up among unhappy people, who used to numb their dreams in cheap drink and decompensate through episodes of domestic violence. The Communist Party, however, took care to tickle their egos from time to time with epic shows dedicated to the „working class.” They were not happy, but they belonged to a culture and in that culture strong arms and work efficiency were praised. They were not happy, but the illusion of virility was well maintained.
I matured during the difficult transition from communism to capitalism, in a confused society that did not know its history well, did not cry enough for the 1104 dead of the Revolution and never punished their murderers. First, we saw the cult of the „working class” disappear, and then the workers themselves left. Following the privatizations, many factories closed, people lost their jobs without assistance in the reconversion process and were forced to go to work in the West. These were the bravest. The others stayed at the bar next to the house, still numbing dreams with alcohol, which became more and more expensive as the national currency devalued. They still wanted to feel manly, or to decompensate through domestic violence, but not many wives to beat remained in post-communist Romania; Romanian jobless women had gone to take care of the elderly in Italy so that they could pay their debts at… the bar, the grocery store, the bank. They were not happy in Italy, but at least they felt valued. The italian elders depended on them, they made good money and solved problems at home. Hundreds of thousands of strong and hardworking women have forcibly evolved, at a fast-forward pace, without thinking for a moment that their emancipation will castrate their husbands once again.
Romania’s accession to the European Union took place when I was 29 years old and I had already seen too many Romanians crushed by the transition or swallowed by the corrupt political-administrative system. I considered European citizenship an ace up my sleeve and took advantage of it as much as I could. Following distance and part-time courses at The Open University in the United Kingdom, I had access to quality academic training and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences with Politics without having to give up my full-time job in journalism.
After the elimination of visas for Romanian citizens, I traveled a lot participating in conferences and workshops or simply discovering Europe that had finally become accessible to us. I hunted for opportunities and gained experiences that over time alleviated both my asperities and inhibitions towards Western European citizens. In 2019 I came to Belgium for a year of internship at the University of Liege. I immediately felt compatible with the values promoted by the university environment here, so I decided to continue the academic path with a doctoral program.
Today I am a PhD student in Geographical Sciences at the University of Liège and I live in Brussels – where Romanians became the second largest community of foreigners after the French, but I am always looking towards the East, always connected to the turmoil of the society I came from. I do not consider myself an immigrant but a European citizen with a transnational lifestyle who makes the most of both worlds. I often write about my generation and about that of our parents, this being my gift for the generations that will follow.