January 28, 2014
I am European. Before anything else.
I have assumed this identity. I was lucky. I grew up in a decent sized town just outside of Bucharest, Romania’s capital, that offered me a wealth of opportunities to develop my personality – I wrote at a student magazine and I worked as an editor for the same magazine. I learned about publishing software and how things move from my screen to the printing press to the final result you can hold in your hand. I played theater with a young company, full of interesting personalities. I was involved with politics. I met and have been in the company of great people, that today are leaders in their fields. I was exposed to literature and philosophy, to cinema and a carefree existence. I lived in a city that saw the opportunities of the EU long before Romania ever joined. In 2003, 4 years before accession, the town I grew up in was already involved in various pan-European programs, most of them with a direct effect on my everyday life.
Then I moved to Bucharest. The student life. Different experiences, learning a lot about the culture of Europe. History of architecture, history and evolution of cities – I could recognize most European landmarks, and then tell something about them. And it is the curious way of architecture and urban planning that you don’t have to learn just about the bricks and the mortar, the stones and scaffolding, you also have to learn about the why’s and the who. Why did those people do that, at that point in time? What was the driving force, and how did society at that time reach the level where they could support such activities. I learned about the people, and the evolution of the society. Mostly about Europe.
And then I grabbed an Erasmus opportunity and moved to France for a year. Great opportunity to learn about other people, about other ways to live a life. Ping backed between Switzerland and France for a while. Learned a lot about two similar cultures that lived different lives. We were still outside of the EU then. We were close but not yet in. Met a lot of other Europeans, shared stories, cooked together, laughed at similar language patterns, exchanged views and experiences. At one point there were 9 languages spoken at the same table. West europeans, central europeans, east europeans. We got along. We debated on politics and economy, history and society. We were all strangers there, but we were all European and that created a bond.
Had long talks over brilliant wine about the French experience within the EU. Argued pro EU at a time when French people were not so happy with the Union. All prices where in Euro’s everywhere yet many people still calculated everything in French Francs. It was miles away from what happened at home, where the Euro was the currency of choice for all calculations, even though Romania still uses the Romanian Leu even today. We still think in Euro’s though. Met a lot of immigrants, mostly North African. Had great times. Learned about their experiences.
I returned home before the accession. I became a EU citizen at home. January 1st 2007. I can’t actually remember where I was or with whom, but I do remember the EU flag flown for the first time. The joy and the feeling of accomplishment.
I was however European well before that specific point in time. Everything I knew, all my cultural references pointed in that direction. I read the press in 3 languages. I read books and watched movies in 3 languages. I knew just as much about what was going on in France, Germany, the UK, Belgium or Italy as I did about what was going on at home. I had friends all over the map. I did an experiment and mapped out recently the people I know and talk to daily and their position across the map – 35% are in Romania. The rest are all around Europe, from the West to the East, from the North to the South. My core group is spread around the EU.
I am European. I will always be.Horatiu Ferchiu