Why I’m proud to be Romanian
November 5, 2015 § 4 Comments
I have often been ashamed to admit to someone I’m Romanian. There, I said it. In hindsight I think this was because I was afraid I would be judged strictly based on my nationality. I’ve lived through a number of episodes where I was called out on my nationality or singled out because of the country I grew up in – and not in a good way. I remember once when Elvin and my sister were renting bikes from the local bike center the guy there asked for my nationality, and to my boyfriend’s and sister’s disbelief, I said I was Croatian. It wasn’t the first time – I was on a train once when a guy tried to pick me up and when he started a conversation asking me the obvious question, I said I was Serbian (in case you’re wondering, yes, he turned out to be Serbian; you can imagine how this ended).
Shame is a very powerful emotion – it dominates a lot of what we do. Being ashamed of your roots – your nationality, your parents, your upbringing is very painful, as you’re negating a significant part of who you truly are, irrespective of judgements.
But over time I have not only come to terms with being Romanian – I’m actually proud of it. In fact, I consider myself blessed to have been born and raised in that country. Why? Well, let’s just say we Romanians did not have it all. Because of the hardships my generation and even 2-3 generations before us endured I understand what it means to be competitive, to have goals and work for them, to be frugal, to save money, to not have everything at your fingertips. I know the power of dreaming – after all, I wanted that scholarship at King’s College London with every ounce of my being. I understand cultural diversity very well – the combination of Latin and Slavic heritage is very unique. I understand middle Eastern influences too and at the same time I’m familiar with the longing for a higher standard of living similar with the one in Western Europe.
But it’s not just inter-cultural savviness that is at play here. There’s also empathy. Because I know hardships I am much more inclined to recognize them in others and react appropriately. I know how hearts expand with compassion. And I can do a lot with very little. Now, this may be translated as ‘I can improvise, and sometimes the quality is sub-par’. I know there is this stereotype about Romanians being superficial and performing below the standards. But having little and wanting more means you will need to be creative and resourceful. Being under a less than ideal political regime for 50 years (and some 25 years more) will definitely enhance someone’s resilience and capacity to rise above circumstances.
These days Romania’s face is changing before our very eyes and a huge wave of energy is surging. I’m keeping my eyes and heart fully open to see what the next chapter will bring.