I RETURNED TO my native country of Romania for the first time in six years. Six years ago I went there to cover a revolution and uncovered a lovely mess but reconnected myself to the land of my childhood.
This time, there was no revolution going on. The streets of Bucharest were peaceful. Beautiful girls and women walked holding flowers. Outdoor cafes and restaurants were full of diners and music. In my hometown of Sibiu, in Transylvania, the strollers looked sophisticated and relaxed. The evidence of incipient capitalism was everywhere. Young men with cellular phones. Hip-looking nightclubs.
To my superficial gaze, the change was astounding. My friends, the poets, who in 1990 had jumped innocently into the country's troubled political life, were now tougher and more patient with the excruciating process of change. I watched the election returns in Bucharest with them. Their candidate soundly beat the world-famous Ilie Nastase, who had made the mistake of running on the neo-communist President Iliescu's ticket. His defeat meant Iliescu would be next to go down. My friends drank to the future. If Russia, whose shadow covers everything, would also elect to leave the past, there was no telling what they could accomplish.
But this is not what I set out to write about. What I was truly struck by was the children.
In Sibiu, children owned the streets. There is a legend that the children who followed the Pied Piper of Hamlin emerged in Sibiu. I could believe it. Children played, strolled, talked and walked proudly without tension, without fear. In the houses of my friends, children sat at the dinner tables and followed the discussion politely. Children came with their parents to restaurants where we ate and drank for hours.
Granted, I was seeing only the children of intellectuals. Still, rock 'n roll is everywhere, and I couldn't see American kids sitting still for hours in the company of adults talking in complete sentences and discussing serious and boring matters. This, more than anything else, signifies hope.
Andrei Codrescu is writing his impressions of his native country.
Pub Date: 7/30/96