Frontline World


Romania, My Old Haunts, October 2002



Read through archived FRONTLINE/World conversations around this story.

Adam Hedinger - Calgary, Alberta
It was interesting to see how another former Communist country is handling the transition to the "free market" of the West. While the piece was very interesting, what he [Andrei] showed regarding the "pain of transition" is nothing new. My roots are Polish and I can attest that Poland has gone through much of the same turmoil and difficult times that Romanians are now experiencing. I think any former Soviet Bloc republic is going through the same "shock therapy." But it's good to SEE the piece. Now that interest in Eastern Europe has largely faded in the western (North American) media, (over a decade after the collapse of the Berlin Wall) it is IMPORTANT that people realize that life over there is very difficult for many people.

Kahlil Johnson - Boston, Massachusetts
Truth is that if there is an economic opportunity it's worth grabbing. Is true Romania is more than Bucharest and Dracula, [and] has also a good economic advantage driving from tourism. However the best economic stability will come from their knowledge workers in science and technology that can really make an economic rush on the area.

Ioana Petru - Hyattsville, Maryland
All atrocities against the Jews took place "after the Vienna Diktat of August 1940 made Maramures County part of Hungary". The soldiers who took the Jews were Hungarians. I am glad you stressed this historical fact.

Alice Bardan - Emporia, Kansas
It is sad for me to see the image of Romania presented as if there were no hope for it. Most of the things presented are true, but I felt their presentation was biased and came from someone who really did not know my country. The irony of the strangers who noticed only the bad aspects reminded me of many things. For example, the documentary ends with the image of a street vendor selling placenta that "can relieve stress." I know he may have been ridiculous, but at the same time I thought about who gets to write the history...why do we always have to be presented as "others?" A whole other world is left out there, unnoticed...It is as if I decided to make a documentary about the US by presenting in an ironic tone different bad aspects that I see around me. Assuming that the rest of the world knows not much about the US, I would present selected information - such as, for example, images with people selling silly products on US channels, people who take drugs, etc.

AK Gary - Boston, Massachusetts
We have just had visitors from Romania - the minister of our partner Unitarian church in Transylvania - an ethnically Hungarian area. One should not overlook the indecencies performed on these people during communism and since. Don't romanticize arch rightist, Tudor, he campaigned saying, "the only good Hungarian in Romania is a dead Hungarian". The EU should look closely to ensure that reforms are not just lip service, that all minorities...indeed all the people of Romania are treated with respect and given opportunity. Great report Andrei.

Catalin Soare - Boston, Massachusetts Responds:
You are right Mr. Gary, the EU should look closely about that, but I am afraid that if EU looks impartially closer, they will find that the "rights " you are talking about are missing and used for propaganda. Also they will find that in a poor country like Romania, the minorities ask for EU and international help to have thousands more financial aid and developing programs than Romanians do. Next time, be sure you talk not to only people from a singular point of view

Sebastian Burca - Chicago, Illinois
The problem with Codrescu's story is the fact that he has followed too closely the typical Western press approach to Romania: Dracula, gypsies, women working abroad as exotic dancers, etc. Only the orphans were missing. Romania has so many other things to offer, besides those mentioned above and good pretzels. Why not show those also? How about a story on the country's brilliant students or rich cultural heritage? Codrescu's approach only reinforces Western stereotypes of Romania.

Longwood, Florida
Codrescu is enjoyable and enlightening, as always. Dracula was only a sideshow. The conversation with the local poet was an eye opener. It appears the gypsies must still be on guard, lest they awaken in a new camp.

Simion Alb - New York, New York
I loved the story about India. Cambodia feature was well done. However, I was so disappointed with the story about Romania. The producer wasn't even capable to interview intelligent people who really understand and can explain the situation in Romania. I know a lot about Romania but I missed Codrescu's point. Was there any??? PBS and Romania are and can do much better.

Mark Higgens - New Orleans, Louisiana
I love Andrei Codrescu's work and read the interview with Frontline World. I look forward to the television piece. However, I must admit, I hope it is not the usual dracula song and dance. Romania is more than Transylvanian misinterpretations. I hope you'll cover the stark reality and abject conditions under which many Romanians still struggle today.

Vicentiu Pasol - Brighton, Massachusetts Responds:
I am really amazed and obviously revolted by the story and reactions. First, I want to congratulate and to thank to Mr. Mark Higgens for his reaction to the story. Even though he is not Romanian, he can see more clear and just[ly] about Romania than the reporter.

Andrei Codrescu is a poet and should be seen as a poet. All his poetry and writings are made by a wonderful and beautiful imagination, but please don't let such a story be on a national broadcast. The story is 90 percent wrong as a reality and it doesn't reflect anything [of] the Romanian spirit. What I want to say is that this story created a wrong idea about Romania and its people. If we search in his bibliography (Andrei Codrescu), we might find different opinion of what Romania and Romanian spirit means. I took this story as another modern poetry of his, but what about the millions of Americans? Please don't let only the "hot" stories about a country (be transmitted) through the television.

In newspapers I read about Romania only when a monkey escapes from a zoo and comes back every night to feed its baby or stories like that. Fact: please check the top 100 universities in the USA (or Europe) to see how many Romanians are successfully getting their degrees or are already professors/researchers. (Andrei Codrescu is just one of them).

About the facts presented: Gypsies are (as much) a part of Romanian population, as Jews, Hungarians, Germans, Armenians, Turks, Russians, Bulgarians, Arabs, Greeks, Serbians, etc. It is true that is the poorest [are] the (least)-educated part of it, but whose fault is this? As I know (I lived there for more than 24 years and not that long ago), gypsies have the same rights( and not only gypsies, but all the minorities) as Romanians do PLUS some imposed by the European Union. The fact is that they don't want to have more education than they think they need, therefore after they learn how to count and/or to write, they quit school (or they never attend). A story about gypsies should be done, but please relate the truth. -To make them a victim of the holocaust??? Please... In World War I more than 10 percent of Romanians died in the war and nobody said [anything] about the atrocities [against] Romanians, moreover, we were marked as traitors.

Please also note that Mr. Andrei Codrescu left Romania in 1966 and he declares that he left Ceausescu's Romania. Well, the story is that Ceausescu was "elected" in 1965, so I don't think he knows about the Ceausescu regime, or about how it is to eat 100 grams of bread per day and 300 millileters of milk per week, or to have two hours of hot water/week and approximately 10 hours of cold water.

The final conclusion: "He never pretends to stick to the facts, even when they are the 'facts' of his life. "

I quoted here Mr. Richard Collins about Andrei Codrescu in "Andrei Codrescu's Mioritic space".

Luisa Isaza - San Francisco, California
The diary of the priest is tragic. But I am glad that Romania has put up its own memorial to its Hungarian minority and once flourishing Jewish population. Reading that reminded me why it is there are so few Jews left in Romania today. I just hope that there will be more "testaments to memory" so that the ostensibly sweet and simple (but frighteningly xenophobic) songs of demagogues like Vadim Tudor do not fall on vulnerably memory-free ears.