The Abiding Wounds

excerpts Most traditional stories move from a bad start to an agreeable conclusion. The story I am going to share with you falls short of the traditional canon. For one thing, it begins agreeably enough, only to draw to an unsavoury conclusion with ambiguously loose ends. Consequently, mine is a modern story. It opens in the year 1890 somewhere in Eastern Europe, in a place currently known as Romania. By way of introducing you to my country, I'd like to let you in on the lives of two anonymous men, largely unknown beyond their respective circles of family relations and acquaintances; they were indeed involved in history-making events, yet on the victims' rather than on the makers' side. These two men were my grandfathers. My maternal grandfather was born in the south-west of Romania, in a province known as Oltenia. At the time, Romania was a kingdom ruled, for political reasons, by a family related to the German royal house. My maternal grandfather descended of purely farming stock. Far north, at the opposite end of the country, in a historical Romanian province known as Bucovina, my paternal grandfather was born, shortly before 1890. The territory of Bucovina had been annexed by the Austrian Empire in 1775, subsequent to one of the frequent peace treaties concluded between one or the other of the three empires claiming sovereignty over Eastern Europe around that time: the Austrian, the Ottoman, and the Russian. Inclusion into a great civilised empire subjected Bucovina to an earlier, more radical process of modernisation than any other province of Romania would know. On being restored to Romania in 1918, Bucovina had been better and more thoroughly modernised. In a certain sense, the region was better developed and more civilised. Although the social environment of my paternal grandfather's family was the village, just as in the case of my maternal grandfather, the village population of Bucovina was far from being traditional. From an ethnic perspective, differences to the village of my maternal family were even more striking. While my maternal village was, ethnically speaking, pure, due to its protracted isolation from the outside world, my paternal village was extremely varied in this respect. It was populated by loosely defined groups of Romanians, Ukrainians, Ruthenians, Jews, Poles, Austrians, Germans, and Russians… Not one family could boast about the purity of their blood, since mixed marriages were the rule rather than the exception in their community. Presumably, my grandmother was of Polish-Ukrainian extraction, while my grandfather was of Romanian-Austrian descent. I cannot be any more specific than that, I'm afraid. Communication, likewise, was not restricted to one single language either: although German was the official language, locals would talk to each other in Ukrainian, Romanian, Yiddish, Russian, Polish. It was, if such a thing can be imagined, not a traditional, but a cosmopolitan village. Discerning Modernisation – 7 lectures on extant circumstancesHumanitas, 2004 Horia-Roman Patapievici (b. 1957), a Physics graduate, is a member of the National Council for the Study of the Securitate (former communist secret police) Archives (2000-2005) and President of the Romanian Cultural Institute (from 2005), a founding member of the Group for Social Dialogue, a member of the Writers' Union of Romania and PEN Club Romania, an honorary member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Romania, and also a prolific media presence (contributor to many periodicals; the National Audiovisual Council Award for the best cultural show in 2003; Great Prize of the Romanian Association of Television Professionals in 2004; Director of Ideas in Dialogue magazine), as well as a private researcher in the history of science and in the history of ideas. He wrote The Sky Seen Through a Lens (1994), A Flight into the Arrow's Path (1995), Politice (political essays, 1996), Recent Man (2001), Beatrice's Eyes (2004), Discerning Modernisation – 7 lectures on extant circumstances (2004).

by Horia-Roman Patapievici