Caught up in a changing story. The Iron curtain fell just when I was starting school, though I was already in university when the first bulk of formerly communist countries joined the union. There were all sorts of EU projects and initiatives aimed at intensifying contacts within Europe especially for youth. On top of it, the country was buzzing with international drive- all the American series poured in, two foreign languages were to be taught in school (with English usually being the first of the two), families (particularly in my parents’ generation) were looking to permanently migrate or help their offspring through it, relying on a discrete and exclusive network of scholarships and opportunities. Project children emerged (us), with parents’ expectations and glorified sacrifices, whispered success stories of settling in the great wide West, and perplexity in front of returns.
I started on English watching Dallas, and turned it into my secret personal language as a child (somewhat paradoxically). At university, I rode of the European international train into a year of Erasmus study in the Netherlands. I was in my early twenties, Romania had not yet joined the EU, and my family had mixed feelings about my leaving. In Eindhoven, I landed in a small world (but big enough) that functioned in English, made of Erasmus students, with their parties, trips and meals, joined sporadically by foreign PhD students, complete with some migrant lecturers and work on abroad sites- e.g. Istanbul- at architecture school.
I started dating in English, and had my first (and most) significant relationship in it. English then became the language of my emotions (romantic or otherwise)- realizations about myself, arguments and declarations, reflections and hesitations, anger and forgiveness were all intimately tied to it. The bubble burst with the 2008 crisis and I found myself stuck between worlds, with countries closing-in socially in a move toward the political right. English was code for enemy or at least for unwelcome alien, even more so when spoken with a “Russian” accent. My perceived special rapport to the language and my deep bilingualism were socially reflected, as I was being repeatedly re-assigned to Eastern Europe, particularly in my personal life and in everyday socializing. The Erasmus hype was gone, with its corresponding network, and it was becoming increasingly exhausting and banal to be a foreigner, a little ambassador always required to justify themselves and entertain the audience with exotic stories.
The return unfolded with sorting out complicated family relationships, deaths and arguments, and needing to build a rapport with formally assigned “home”, which meant a close friendship with an internal migrant (i.e. a Romanian-Hungarian from Transylvania at work in Bucharest) and long-term psychotherapy in Romanian. Some entirely new emotional depth emerged to a language that had previously been solely practical (including the management of social or family rituals or expectations).
Still half-rooted in the knowledge pursuing institution of the English-speaking world- flying back and forth to Scotland (not-so-coincidentally one of the very few remaining strongholds of the left in Europe) to meet with my PhD supervisor or examiners, writing chapters and researching philosophies…a fragile and I guess temporary circumstance of double-edge political empowerment, with English keeping its coming-of-age function. The language to introduce me to the acknowledgement and exposure of politics, to a voice and identity again in opposition to the wide professional role-playing of practicing architecture. The end- now.