Saturday, January 8, 2011

Historical digestion

I have much to tell you as I have just returned from Christmas vacation in Germany and for the last two days have been preparing for and celebrating the Orthodox Christian Christmas.  I promise that I will update you on all of these things complete with photos... but for now I want to tell you about someone I met.

Yesterday, I met my host mother's eldest living relative.  He is a medical professor at the state medical college in the country's capital.  A very intelligent, down to earth and emotional man.  He had been celebrating Christmas with his family in my town all day and the mixture of wine, food, family and darkness had left all of us in a physically uncomfortable and emotional states (literally, my belly was bloated and hurting).  As always when I meet new people they begin bragging about their own families and their successes.  His sister's daughter is a physician's assistant, his son-in-law works for this company, his granddaughter is going to be the best artist in Moldova, and on and on.  I enjoy these rants as it opens up another world to me.  I am just a foreigner here and the more intimate details I learn about my community the more I begin to feel a part of it.  He then began to speak about politics and economics (try explaining economies of scale in Romanian to a half drunk crowd of citizens angry about their economic status) and finally landed on the story of his family's history in Peresecina (my town).

Apparently, my host mother came from a very prominent family in my town, I believe her roots trace back to both Russia and Romania.  In the late 40's when the communists came to deport the more "threatening" individuals from Moldova in order to import specialists to help Moldovans build a "brighter" future, members of my host mother's family were deported including this elderly gentleman.  He told me he was five years old at the time when his mother, siblings and father were all deported.  He remembered the train ride was long, grueling and smelled.  He also remembered that his own mother gave birth on the train and his little sister was born.  As he began to cry he told me that he spent 10 years in Siberia before the communists would let him come back and that everything was changed when he returned.  The animals they owned, the land their family had, everything was gone, destroyed.  As he cried, my host mom and I tried to comfort him as his sister poured everyone another glass of wine.  We toasted to the future of Moldova and the historical discussion stopped.  He then began quizzing me about my family, my life and of course... why I wasn't married.

It's moments like these that I realize how very little I understand of the history and the terror that these people have lived through.  I tried to explain the irony in that the people of this country have a rich history and yet their nation is so young, and evolving.  I wish that in school I had learned more about this time period from a more personal perspective.  I think its the historical facts told from a personal point of view that help us to remember that we must never forget the terror that has occurred in the past so as not to repeat these actions in the future. 

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