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It was difficult to grasp all the willful, systematic pursuit of impoverishment, to establish a general tabula rasa, on which the new ideology could be imposed. People did not have the antibodies necessary to oppose such a sinister absurdity, which they could not even grasp. They could not imagine it would last; “Normal times will be back,” my father kept saying. Such times breed paradoxical patterns for survival. In spite of everything, we still kept the illusion of completeness. There was that inertial forma mentis giving us our sense of being unique and privileged; we felt that the key for overcoming times would be the same as always – hard work, unity and fairness. The past would protect the future, even if the present moment was a void. To hope is almost to live. We had so many things (or maybe just thought we still did, after collective ownership and systematic waste had become the rule): grains and fruit, the only spare parts manufacturing in Romania. We had the mill and the butcher’s (people still called it “Schneider’s”, even after nationalization), the same Herr Muehsam now worked as an employee in what used to be his own pharmacy, there was Hajdu the carpenter, and a wooden toy factory which produced knitwear before they nationalized it. And the swimming pool in the FortressValley, the many ovens for Baumstritzel, the delicious Saxon pastry, the many smoking homes all around the village and the ball room for weddings and Fasching.

It was around that borderless border of ours that one of Europe’s major axles had turned. Romanian shepherds passed over the mountains down to the sea, some even as far as the Caucasus, for many centuries on end. The multinational, multilingual city of Braşov had traded not only with the rest of Europe but also with Asia. Thus it is that the BlackChurch in Brasov (Lutheran) is decorated with one of the finest collections of Oriental rugs in Europe.

This is also the central point from which the modern, standard Romanian language spread. Soon after the Honterus cosmography of 1530 had started making its way to European academies, Deacon Coresi’s printing house started producing Bibles and prayer books for the Romanian-speaking world. I personally believe that the refinement of Romanian may well be due not only to Gutenberg’s technology, but to the fact that other languages were also spoken in this center of Romanian culture. So the conscious construction of modern Romanian as a language of the Book may have been also solidified through comparison and differentiation, by studying examples and defining contrasts.