I met Alex for the first time at the Internations October ex-pat get-together in Bucharest. Alex told me he worked at The European Institute here in Bucharest and had an interesting background. A background he shares with many other Romanians. The expatriate.
Alex and I met up again to hear his personal story on Friday, when we had lunch together at the wonderful Caru cu Bere, in the old town of Bucharest.
Alex was 8 years old when he moved to Canada. Well, moved to Canada is an easy way to put it. In 1981 Alex’s mum was a journalist and his dad worked for the government. His parents wanted to get out of the country as so many others.
Alex’s dad was posted in Africa and at that time Romanians going abroad had to have a Securitate person joining them. Alex’s dad asked his friend, a Securitate agent, to accompany him. They both planned for the escape and then went to Belgium and Germany. However, Canada was the last destination.
I asked Alex if his father wasn’t afraid of what was going to happen to young Alex 8 years old and his mum , who was still in Bucharest.
– Yes , he was. But the drive to escape from Romania was one he shared with my mum, so they were in it together, Alex replied.
He continued :
– However, my mum lost her job, I lost my place in school and we were under house arrest for 18 months.
In the meantime Ceaucescu had some dealings with Canada to purchase Canada’s nuclear technology. Canada was pushing Ceaucescu to help families in Canada reunite with spouses and other family members in Romania. So three airplanes where set aside for those purposes and Alex and his mum went on one of them.
It was amazing to come to Canada, Alex said.
Most of all to see his dad again. His dad came to pick them up with a huge car and the roads were enormous. All the lights , the colours. It was all impressive for Alex.
His mum, who was a journalist and linguist, had been practicing English with him at home before leaving, however, they came to live in the Quebec area where people spoke French ! So Alex needed to learn how to speak French as well! He was the only immigrant in the village where he lived. He excelled in Math and later studied at a French Lycee when he was older.
Later on Alex spent two years in London, England, where he studied European Studies with a specialization on Romania, his home country.
In 2011 he came back to Romania and started to work for the European Institute. In the beginning people were looking and perceiving him as a foreigner and not a Romanian. They thought he had an accent and couldn’t really place him. Now after more than a year that is not the case any longer.
When lunch was over and we were parting ways Alex asked me:
–So how do you see me? Romanian or Canadian?
I don’t know, I say. He is speaking English with a North American accent but when I look at him he is purely Romanian.
That is the advantage of having lived in two different cultures.