My Peaceful, Multiethnic Village

I saw the light of day in an atypical village of Bucovina. It was a multiethnic village, a kind of summary of Europe. A European Union avant la lettre. It is there, I believe, that a direction in my life was traced, an ecumenical dominant feature, one of understanding of other nations. It was there that my conviction was born that life was a great village, my own village extended to a planetary scale. The village of Muşeniţa is in the north of Romania, near the river Siret. It is a village that in the past was strangely bordering on three empires: Russia, Austro-Hungary, and Poland. And since borders are permeable membranes, transfers took place there. Today Muşeniţa is a honeycomb with five sections. A village including five smaller hamlets, its nucleus was a village of Romanian yeomen, easy to distinguish from the others. They are the guardians of the traditions inherited from older generations. These families of yeomen have been attested by documents dating back 500 years. The very name of the village, Muşeniţa, comes from a martyr (Rom. muceniţa = martyr woman). The tomb of the martyr can no longer be seen. It is around this tomb that the village was formed. The cross of the tomb sinks into the ground at the rate of one centimetre per year, so that, measuring how deep it has sunk into the ground (4.5 metres already) one can approximately date the martyrdom. Soon the cross will be entirely buried into the earth as the profane finally covers the sacred. To this nucleus-village four more hamlets are attached. A hamlet of Poles (after the war most of them returned to Poland and the hamlet of Vicşani is now Romanian). Another hamlet follows, inhabited by Lipovan Russians, followers of the old tradition in Orthodoxy, who came here after their mystic escape from Russia in the 17th century. Yet another hamlet is inhabited by Ukrainians, whose roots in this part of the world can be traced back to their original infiltration here, associated with the marriage relationship between the prince of Moldavia, Vasile Lupu, and a Ukrainian hatman (military commander). A small lane in the village of Muşeniţa used to be inhabited by Germans (Swabians, I believe), who had been colonized here when Bucovina was an Austrian duchy. They equipped the village with mechanical mills and other technical devices that made the neighbours of Muşeniţa hold it high in their esteem. After the war, they, too, left for their country. Continuing the village, osmotically, lies the town of Siret, a former capital of Moldavia. Many Jews lived here when I was a child, and my first philosopher friend was a Jew, Fuma, who astonished me by the width of his knowledge, though he kept telling me that it was I who actually astonished him. My taste for "western" languages is due to my teacher, Edith Pariser, whose pupil I was in Siret. Traces of a formerly prosperous Armenian community (dating back to the times of the voivodes) could be still found when I was a child in the village of Siret. The Siret of my childhood had recently become an Asian enclave, home to a colony of Koreans that had settled there in the mid 1950s as orphans of the Korean war. I was a precocious teenager if I were to judge myself by the fact that I fell in love with a young Korean girl. We met surreptitiously, encountering lots of difficulties, I brought her corn on the cob and pears from my garden, as well as poppy pie; and it was from her that I learned the first words of a mysterious Asia. However, her instructor and my form mistress tamed our passion by telling us that only the little Korean girl was old enough to get married (she was 12), while I, who was 13, was still to young for that, according to the Korean law… I spent my childhood in the company of friends of various nationalities. I tried to talk to them in their own languages. This gave me the "universal" feeling that there are no linguistic barriers in the world. The only language my father knew was Romanian. My mother also learned a little of the language of the occupying Austrians (and spoke to me in German when I was a child). My father, however, would not learn it. Later, after World War II, my father would not learn the language of the occupying Russians either. When I asked my father why he hadn't learned their languages, he answered me curtly: "Let them learn Romanian." And all these members of the neighbouring minorities indeed spoke with my father in Romanian. My father was a man whose diverse skills were wanted by many. There were no horses in the village after the war and everybody came to ask my father to bring his horse and help them with the work in the field. They came and asked him in Romanian. My father also worked as a vet, he was often called for veterinary emergencies and our neighbours, who were members of ethnic minorities, would always call him in Romanian. He was an obliging man, he would always answer promptly. Most of the people in my village could actually speak two languages and sometimes even three. They were, therefore, anticipating the spirit of present-day Europe. As we ought to be at least bilingual in the European Union – which should not be a problem for the Romanians, taking into account their intelligence and their vocation for foreign languages. Unless, of course, they choose to adopt my father's attitude and say: "Let them speak Romanian." As I wanted to speak to every friend I had in childhood in his own language (just a little, using a couple of colloquial phrases), my sisters complained to my father, saying: "Look, Vasile speaks with them in their own languages. Is he allowed to?" And my father replied: "Yes, he is. He's got to know foreign languages as he is going to travel about the world." When my father said that, I was 12 or 13. Years later I remembered he had said it and I was astonished. I don't know if it was a prophecy or if he was simply foreseeing the times to come, the more so that he saw that I didn't like working in the field… Therefore I was not one of Cain's kind, a farmer, but rather one of Abel's, the migrant, the nomad, the wanderer. Anyway, I was astonished by his "prophecy". I crossed the Equator four times, I travelled around the world, I visited four continents, I temporarily experienced the status of an emigrant, I went on pilgrimages, I was a cultural missionary, I went on several Asian expeditions. And everywhere I had the familiar feeling that I was at home, that I was in my multiethnic village. And yet, maybe the explanation of my "adapting" should not be associated to Muşeniţa, but rather to something much simpler, the fact that God blessed me with a tranquil mind, with understanding, sparing me the xenophobic pathology… Liviu Ioan Stoiciu, a dear fellow writer of mine, who is, however, afraid of travelling, asked me: "What do you do when you arrive in an unknown place in the middle of the night? How do you manage? How do you proceed?" I answered him: "It's as if you arrived in a village of Bucovina or Vrancea in the dead of night: you knock at the door of a man as if you knocked at the door of someone in your village. And this psychological premise opens all the doors for me. At least, this is what has happened so far." Quoth Liviu: "What if, however, the other man doesn't consider you one of his fellow villagers?" Quoth I: "In that case, I knock at the gate of a monastery. There are monasteries all over the world. The Indian metropolitan bishop Mar Osthathios even told me: 'We live on a monastery-planet!'" The strange thing is that my father, the serene guardian of the Romanian language, is called Andrucovici, a name with an apparent foreign sonority. Is it possible that the blood of his forefathers should have been mixed with foreign blood? I have no idea. Family folklore has it that one of our ancestors came from a neighbouring village, the Polish one. My mother's name was Ecaterina Păun. And my father's mother was called Profira Miculescu. Cornel Regman, the literary critic, would tell me: "Andrucovici, you must be Ruthenian, like Eminovici[1]…" And I would retort to him: "It has been proved that the Ruthenians were free Dacians that were later Slavicized. Therefore, according to this theory, both Eminovici and myself are more of a free Dacian than Regman is…" A scholar from Jassy (my first biographer I would say), checked the archives and wrote that our name was however Andru and that it was Slavicized by the Serbian metropolitan bishop Daniel Vlahovici, who extensively Slavicized the names of the members of the clergy. My daughter Tamara inherited two more "alien genes", I guess, (hypothetical ones, of course[2]!) from her mother, whose father was Oltenian and whose mother was from Bessarabia. One day, when she was very young, my daughter suddenly tells me: "Andru, you Asian mixture!" Anyway, Tamara, who lives in France now, has a religious nostalgia for Romania, and for her Romanian origins. Language is a problem of kin. Ethnicity, too is a kind of "cultural gene" that you cannot get rid of but through death. The wise man, the visionary misses the planet when he has to defend his kin, his family in full process of globalization. Since human race begins, however, from his kin, from the family, man feels he is related to his species not so much by going back to Adam, but by relating himself to his family, to his closest kin. It is however important that this close relative should be a door opening to the rest of mankind and not a wall, separating you from it. If you cannot feel through illumination that the Indians are your relatives, you will certainly feel it if you marry an Indian woman. Marriage is a sort of illumination. One does not exclude the other. A wise man belonging to a small nation of Amerindians that was being wiped out of history in the very 20th century said: "On the other hand I feel at peace knowing that nations are made of people. Maybe we are brothers after all…" I dare claim that I share this feeling, maybe because of some illuminating moments of my life; or maybe it's a gift of God; or maybe it's because of my multiethnic village where I received this mental model of the transition from the native village to the world village. Vasile Andru (b. 1942) graduated from the Faculty of Philology in Jassy, completed a number of courses in anthropology in Rome and Paris, and holds a master's degree in Philosophy (Trivandrum-India). He worked as a university lecturer for 7 years and as a senior editor with the cultural revue Viaţa Românească for 27 years. He is a member of the Board of the Writers' Union of Romania. He published 24 books, among which the novels The Night of the Emperor, The Tower, The Birds in the Sky, The Mount of Calvary also sapiential writings, such as: Meetings with Masters and Visionaries, Life and Sign; The Therapy of Destiny.
[1] Mihail Eminovici, the real name of Romania's greatest poet, Mihai Eminescu (translator's note)[2] English in the original (translator's note)

by Vasile Andru (b. 1942)