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The Lion’s Roar, A Community and Compassion Initiative tells a sad story.

In 2005 Laura Simms, a US storyteller and activist,  faced with the tragic reality of caged starving animals in a Zoo from a small Romanian town, had a plan:

“within four years the zoo will be up to EU standards, the animals will be healthy and Buhusi itself will have a practical and self-sustaining plan for industry, cultural activities, tolerance and tourism.”

After a few months the project initiators learned first hand about “greed and a kind of pride that stood between change and comfort” of local people responsible for the zoo. Players and partners were reevaluated in 2006 only to be challenged again in January 2007 as Romania was entering the EU. The Buhusi Zoo did not meet the European standards at that time and was closed down.  The initial dreams had to be reduced to a main dream of finding new homes for the animals. Two years later the last of the initial 45 animals found a better place to live.

The Lion’s Roar shared the story of this project and stories about the animals with love and compassion. Bella’s story is just one of them, one that has a happy ending.

The four-year plan was successful. At least for most of the animals. It took the hard work and the dedication of passionate people to save the animals from a reality that was killing them.

The questions that I have now are: who has the plan, how many years and where we could find the passion to fight for the people in Buhusi (and other places in Romania) whose lives during Communism and after resembled, in so many ways,  the lives of caged creatures.

Laura Simms tells stories on “How to find Romania“. I don’t know if she adds anything from The Lion’s Roar experience to her grandmother’s stories but I am very interested to listen to the (human) stories that she collected during her work in Romania.

Against its original purposes, the Romanian Securitate Archive  is used now by regular citizens to access their family’s past.  Oana Lungescu published a documentary on BBC about  State Secrets with very good examples of  Romanian Securitate legacy.

Here is a short piece from the article about the terrible family history of Ioana Voicu Arnautoiu and the way she recovered it.

“A concert violinist, she was born in a cave in the Carpathian mountains. Her parents were partisans, part of a small desperate band that resisted the communist takeover in the 1950s.They held out for nine years – surviving sometimes on boiled bark – before the Securitate hunted them down.

Now it is the Securitate’s own records that are revealing Ioana’s family history, in 85 thick files and a collection of black-and-white photographs.

One shows her mother climbing out of the cave and going down a ladder, carrying baby Ioana under one arm like a doll.

Before her father was executed, the Securitate took a last photograph of his gaunt face, with dark, haunted eyes. Her mother died later in prison.

Ioana was spared. Aged two, she was taken to an orphanage and adopted by a loving family. She grew up without knowing who she really was – until Communism fell and the archives opened.

Her story might be unbelievable – if the Securitate had not archived everything so thoroughly.” (Oana Lungescu- Romania Securitate legacy 20 years after revolution)

Lungescu raises interesting questions about the role Securitatea had in documenting life during Communism. The State had to know everything and now, people have access, at least in part, to what the State knew of them.  Ioana Voicu Arnautoiu says in the documentary that she is thinking about putting her family history into a book. Working on such books is a needed exercise for Romanian society. Even though affecting individuals this drama was felt by the whole society and Securitate practices combined with the lack of information channels changed our information habits.

Many are still amazed by the way people chose to act even though they have freedom to be informed and access to information. People that worked on the case of  Ioana Voicu Arnautoiu parents could, presumably, be  successful business men nowadays (as is the case with the Securitate person that had Herta Muller, the Nobel prize winner in literature, under observation). One needs to take a step back and notice the destines that, even though shared the same geographical space,  were parallel  as long the State was not “in danger”.

What the evil library did was to document those intersections.  Looking back at these documents can help us figure out where and why deviations in behaviors took place. That would help understand the current “informed” decision Romanians make and how they can be helped to take part succesfuly in the global Information Society.

For the first time in 5 years of living in USA I’ve  spent the 4th of July with a small group of Americans.  As natural as it is to say Our Father before dinner, God Bless America was sang before tonight’s dinner.  No unnecessary introductions, just the song, a few skipped words, goose bumps and small tears.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

In Romania a similar moment, even in a small crowd celebrating our First of December,  would be cataloged as right extremism. In USA you  don’t get a denigrating label (as far as I know) for this. Some say this is because you have freedom, some say because it is not politically correct. It may be also because people cannot really see you. As an Orthodox Christian(but not only),  you still have to wear a mask in the  society. Yes, you are free to worship whatever but why are you so different? …and at one point you get tired of explaining. (Nobody cares anyway).  Depending on the  community, you sometimes need to wear a mask in your own church.

We, who came to learn about freedom first from books and movies,   often don’t expect that, once established,  freedom is not free.  We have to continually give something in exchange for freedom for “our people” being them our community, our county, region, state, world.  Compared to other prices like someone’s life, dignity or identity,  a mask is a small one.  However, to get to this price,  many people paid much more along USA history.  (It’s market economy 101,  a friend of mine would say.)

Will the USA be able to allow maskless people to simply be? Don’t know. All I know is that, at the moment, in Romania, even though the Orthodox communities don’t have a mask they might, just might,  get used to the “right extremist” box they are put in and act accordingly.

Having a Communist past, we are just learning about how our face looks like. Some look in the mirror for this, some on the window heading West. In any case we don’t like masks. What we don’t know is that we are expected to wear one and figure very fast  how to wear it properly in the European society. You see, very few people (if any) are looking for God’s blessing of the European Union. And in Romania … we used to ask for God’s blessing even before cutting our bread at dinner.

Once upon a time, the story goes, that a red dragon was taken down in the land of Europe. In the same time a child was born…20 years later we are invited to celebrate.

During the celebration though, somebody from Poland raise the hand [and typed a question on EUTube channel] asking:
“Where is Lech Walesa?”
Well, this is “a story of child born in Berlin” was the answer. “Actually its about the child that was born on November 9th 1989. [If you cared to see the entire video clip.]”
Somebody else asked:
“And why was the child born on November 9th 1989 instead of June 4th 1989?”

At this moment in time, the host, EUTube, commented that the celebration is just what it is: a 20th Anniversary of democratic change in Central and Eastern Europe and is “about the child being born at the moment the Berlin Wall was brought down.”
[pause]
And…”Where is Walesa, Solidarity, 4th june elections? ”
[pause]
There was some time for thinking, changing statements and after two weeks we are invited to a new celebration. The Polish typing now on EUTube about SOLIDARNOŚĆ are also invited…

What a party!
We thank the host.

We leave wondering if the somebody that asked politely “excuse me, where is Bulgaria???”  during the first 20th celebration  will also be invited in a near future for a special party like this. After all, the red dragon had many heads and many warriors fought him.

If you listen carefully, in nights when the wind blows from the East, you can still hear stories about the old dragon. Some say he still has some heads left, some say it’s only his ghost but many talk about him wandering in the land of Europe.

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