Today my heart was filled with desire: I was overwhelmed by my longing for Chisinau, a beautiful city in Eastern Europe, the capital of present day Moldova, and the place where I felt truly alive. It is a strange thing to say that a place can make one feel alive, but Chisinau did this for me. Perhaps it is even stranger to say that this feeling sprang out of tears. But this is what Chisinau (and the entire Bessarabia) is for me: a tear that calls upon its sons and daughters to hear its story.
I am Romanian and, regardless of where this life will take me, I will die Romanian. This is not because of any citizenship–I do not believe that any government can sanction who you are–but rather because of the words of prayer that I heard from my mama-mare (grandmother), because of the fragrance of the kitchen when she was making placinta cu mere (apple pie), and because I cannot think of any other food that is better than bulz cu branza (polenta with cheese). Even so, it was not within the borders of current day Romania that my heart beat “Romanian,” but rather in a place in which one feels the longing for home. Chisinau, or rather Bessarabia, is a “prodigal” son by force. Stolen from the father’s house, it was forced to eat the pods given to pigs, and nobody gave Bessarabia anything. Now, when it slowly comes out of bondage, it looks to the house of the father, but, unlike in the story of the Prodigal Son, the Father is old and in sickness, and the house is often run by the brother who remained home, who measures all things according to cold calculations, and not according to the love of an all-encompassing heart.
I think that I long for Bessarabia precisely because I, a real prodigal son, found Bessarabia, a prodigal son by force, to be my forgotten home. It is in Bessarabia where I was revealed a meaning of love. One day, I went to a book signing. The author had written about the controversies surrounding the deaths of Mihai Eminescu, who is considered the Romanian national poet, Alexei Mateevici, and Grigore Vieru. I won’t discuss the controversies here, but rather one position expressed during the presentation of one of the invitees, Ion Ungureanu. He said that Eminescu is loved in Bessarabia with the love that a mother has for her child, a love that cannot understand when someone says that the child is evil or that the child is dead because the connection between her and her child goes beyond any characteristics that may be attributed to him. It is not that these things are true or false; rather, this love does not work with such notions. Love itself is the truth, and the only thing the mother can understand is that the child is hers and that her life is essentially connected with his. She cannot be without him. Bessarabians love Eminescu with the same love a mother has, Ungureanu said. Bessarabians cannot consider whether Eminescu died of a sexual disease or whether he lost his mind during the late years of his life. Eminescu is one due to whom we have remained who we are, and we would not be ourselves without him.
I long for Bessarabia. I long for her because I cannot be me without her. I long for Love, which is the true Home of those who have the same heart.
P.S. For those who speak Romanian (and even for those who do not), a video with a song about the tearing apart of this love.