The longing for Bessarabia


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.

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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.

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About Tavi's Corner

Blogging on ancient philosophy, communist persecution in Romania (including deportation to Siberia), and Orthodox Christianity. I've translated books from Romanian to English, and I also write about them from time to time.
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4 Responses to The longing for Bessarabia

  1. It is a sweet thing to read about your love for your motherland. What little I have read about Bessarabia tears at the heart, but you have conveyed how happiness can exist even through decades and centuries of war and suffering and persecution.

    Were you born in Bessarabia? Are you forced to live as an expatriate? I loved to read about polenta with cheese — can you recommend a recipe? — and your mother’s prayers. God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your words. God bless you too!

      I am not from Bessarabia. I am actually from Transylvania, but for some reason I am in love with Bessarabia. It may be its painful past, I do not know. You are probably aware of stories of deportations, of the hunger that took place immediately after WWII… I posted on this blog fragments from a book that I translated with testimonies…

      I am not forced to live as an expatriate. I actually came to the US for my graduate studies. One thing led to another, and I am still here. I often say that I have not made a decision to stay or to go back, but I rather respond to whatever life offers.

      As for recipes, polenta is quite easy to make :). You need corn flour. If you live in a place where you may have a Mediterranean or Eastern European store, the flour is a bit different, and I would recommend that one, but yellow corn flour from any store would do. Boil some water with salt, and once it is boiling add flour. You would need to mix it well while you pour the flour. I can’t tell you how much: it depends on how hard you want polenta to be.Then continue mixing it until you see that the polenta is boiling as well. Put in on a plate and then divide it with whomever you eat it, add cheese (feta cheese would be best) and sour cream and enjoy :).

      You can see a picture here: http://bucate-aromate.ro/2016/02/mamaliguta-cu-branza-si-smantana/. In this picture, the polenta is quite hard; I prefer it softer :).

      Just google “mamaliga cu branza si smantana” (polenta with cheese and sour cream) and look at the pictures. You will see several versions :).

      Like

      • I also came to love polenta some decades ago, and I have prepared it in various ways, often with some weak chicken stock, butter, and Parmesan cheese. Italian flavors, mostly. I wanted to know your Romanian/Bessarabian variation, and now I will try it with feta cheese and sour cream. Thank you!

        I really appreciate your sharing further about your own life and experience. I will look further at other posts on your blog. I’ve been following it in my reader for some time, but for some reason there are certain blogs that I still miss most of the time. All the best to you.

        Liked by 1 person

    • One more note: you can eat polenta with anything. Here is a recipe in English for sarmale: Romanian cabbage rolls: http://www.homecookingadventure.com/recipes/romanian-cabbage-rolls.

      Liked by 1 person

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