From Bucovina To New Zealand, Or Destined To Three Countries

When I set out to New Zealand, I had a tape recorder and a tape with the bells from Putna monastery. And during the long flight, from Bucharest to Wellington – approximately 30 hours on the plane, plus two stopovers – I would listen to the bells from Putna and to the tape with the bell board from the Pestera hermitage. I didn't have with me the dust of the country, as some emigrants have, but "the walking church"…a sound from home – that I brought to the small communities of Romanians in the Diaspora, from Oceania, wherever I found them, for I found Romanians even there at the Antipodes.But I am not a nostalgic of the native bells. I am the "Abel" type, the trusting kind. This immensely long journey gave me a religious bliss; like when you walk in your new house, unknown, but intimate. Like when you go in your new country, where there isn't a winter season, where the trees are forever green… Before the trip to New Zealand, India was my first geographical and spiritual choice. Now I feel a great tenderness towards New Zealand, a special relationship, some kind of kin.I remember the Latin poet Virgil, who felt that his country was made up of three cities or regions he was deeply fond of. He said: Mantua me genuit. Calabri rapuerit, tenet nunc Partenope… That is: "Mantua gave birth to me. Calabri seized me, and now Partenope holds me tight…"Changing the terms with Romania, India and New Zealand, I have summarised my whole inner country. And the bonds with these places are not only sentimental but, even more, they are kinship: something based upon genetic resonance, ancestral, updated.I feel the Indian space as intimate, like a comprehensive Moldavia, much more comprehensive. When you study India, you can see that it has the gentle, traditionally Moldavian sense of rites, and the Bucovinean solemnity. The Indians, especially those from the South, resemble, absolutely all of them, with the peasants from Sadoveanu's prose. I believe that something in the structure of our being is Dravidian. I do not believe in the myth of reincarnation, but I believe in something higher: in Indo-European continuity, in blood, in culture and in spirit. In the Indian village Mulavatham I felt as if I were in Branesti. Maybe all the villages of the world are alike, or have something in common. But I only sensed the Moldavian peasant type in the Indian villages.The pre-requisites for becoming fond of New Zealand were different. Obviously there was the human bond, it is my Victoria due to which the space really becomes home. But there are also the qualities of that world that is in harmony with me. I found the Moldavian sense of rites I have mentioned, here, in New Zealand, in the slightly refined version of the city. If in India I discovered the peasant, in New Zealand I discovered the boyar – I'm referring to the elegance in the relationships, to the warm, informal politeness of the public servants.From the social point of view, New Zealand is an admirable anthropological experiment. Here all emigrants are treated in the same delicate, unconventional way. The Saxon haughtiness has been blurred completely, maybe because the percentage of Polynesians, of local people ("tangata fenua" in the Maori language) was very high and it succeeded in balancing the social status.Today, the country offers an original synthesis of pastoral and hyper-technical: a synthesis of an ancient civilisation based on initiation and one of computers of the latest generation. It is the country with the most numerous sheep, but also with the greatest number of computers. When I said before that the Maoris and the Polynesians resemble my Dacians I expressed, obviously, the surprise of my spontaneous encounter with our eternal ancestral life.Mihai, my countryman asks me:Regarding New Zealand and Australia. Is it true that you feel there as if you were upside down? Judging by what you have told me about New Zealand, geographically, I understood one thing: the parallel 48, which is close to our Radauti, of the Northern Hemisphere, is repeated, in a shocking way to me, by the parallel 48 of the Southern Hemisphere on which you have walked in New Zealand. Have you thought about it beforehand? Was it a secret of your journeys to get to that point, symmetrical and opposed?I answer him: Your image of feeling upside down amuses me: it is subjective and is folklore. When you are there you can, somehow, have the feeling that you here, in Europe, are staying upside down… Literally and especially metaphorically!It is true that New Zealand lies between the parallels 33 and 48. It is a long and thin country… I haven't thought beforehand, that is before the trip, at the coincidence of opposites Radauti-Wellington. Or Mucenita-Wellington…There I found that there is also an island called Antipodes. The French discovered that island long ago and named it as such because it is situated at the opposite side of Central Europe, at the antipodes of Paris. The AntipodesIsland belongs to New Zealand, on the way to Antarctica.My countryman asks: Have you found, have you discovered there Romanians too, and Christians? I am well aware of the fact that wherever you are you try to find Romanians. You take interest in other peoples as well, but, I can see that from discussions as well as from what you have written, that anywhere you go, you are looking for Christian men or women!I answer: Yes, that is true. In New Zealand, especially. I took interest in the anthropological Polynesian phenomenon, but also in the religious aspect. Especially that, in many places where there are Romanian communities (small, in general), there is no Romanian church, and the people are attracted to other churches, religions, and you can find a very colourful religious diversity. And the need for spiritual life, the intensity of such life, under the circumstances of the tough life in the Dominion, drives them towards a musical religion, a folk religion… intermingled with prophetic episodes, an insular Messianism, and "healing" crusades that turn alternative medicine into a space of religion, or religion into a space of alternative medicine.My countryman asks me if my journeys to far away places (I have crossed the Equator four times…) have been, by any chance, the consequence of an historical seclusion, of the trauma after the annexation of our native state by the Russians. He says: "You have departed in a spiral, you left for the Balkans, then for Italy and France, then you climbed on Athos and the Himalayas, then went to Canada and the U.S.A.… then to Australia and New Zealand. Didn't you feel as if you were trying to escape something?I say: Not escape! But an extension of the soul. I felt I was going on a pilgrimage, in this life that, on the whole is a pilgrimage on Earth. Pilgrimage meaning exploring, going deep under. I felt I was connecting Asia and Romania… And I have always felt the joy of returning. In Canada, where I found myself in some most pleasant circumstances, and I had some professional prospects, or in the U.S.A., which I liked in 1994 and I found it deeply akin to my soul, the problem of my remaining there was raised! But I didn't stay, I came back with the peace of one who comes home. I felt that Bucovina is an open space and a closed wound.As far as you are concerned, it is possible that part of your destiny as "victim" should be explained by the trauma of the Russian invasion. The fact that you never had a home, the fact that you never settled somewhere, that you are a wanderer… may be the consequence of an invasion shock, the deportation of your mother, an awful biographical fact. You see, only my grandparents were deported, grandparents that I have never even seen; but my parents escaped deportation and, running away from the village invaded by the Russians, they took refuge in the Romanian motherland. The Russian invasion traumatised your childhood. Maybe this explains your being a misfit, a rebel, but also the anxiety of escape, because you weren't able to have a home either in Chisinau, where you got married, or in Moscow, where you were also married, or in Bucharest, where you wanted to get married but you didn't find a bride because there were no more brides…or maybe your now white beard discouraged them.My journeys weren't escapes, they were voyages of initiation. In India, in Polynesia, on Mount Athos. They were meditation on the move. Journeys that produce mutations in the mind, from worldly to spiritual. The search for those places of wisdom, as there are still on the globe, to bring home knowledge, in our Carpathian space, subdued to a great isolation for a while. I thank God that he gave me an inner home, and a good balance, and a capacity for understanding people. There rose from Bucovina a man of spirit who hates all around him (especially foreigners). He explains this hatred through the fact that he comes from Bucovina and that this region was always tyrannised by foreign regimes. I come from the tyrannised Bucovina as well and still I am capable of loving the foreigners. Even if I feel the need of protecting my nation, the Romanian nation, in one circumstance or another, still I am not capable of hating other peoples. I think that hatred of your fellow beings, foreigners or not, is a psychical disharmony. I thank God for giving me the ability to understand the world and for giving me zeal and knowledge.

by Vasile Andru (b. 1942)