What Romania Taught Me


It’s December and I am reflecting  upon what Romania taught me.

“ East Germany is open for travels now. Berlin is not a two-parted town any longer like Nicosia in Cyprus. Have you heard about Hungary and Poland ? I want to write to Mr. Ceausescu. “  

Yvette Larsson, 17 years old, November, 1989, Sweden, writing to her 18 year old Romanian pen-friend in Constanta.

Romania has been part of my life ever  since I was 13 years old. My relation to the Romanians  has shaped me in a sense that I started to think of concepts like democracy and freedom of speech, at an early age.


My grandfather, my grandmother , my mum, the waitress , me. Dacia hotel, Mamaia, summer of 1985.

I don’t know if it’s true, if people who have little are the ones who offers to others the most ?

During my 6 years of having one foot in Romania and one in Sweden that is what I have learnt. It is not scientifically proven, but my impression is that Romanians are mostly the ones who offers , without a doubt, a place to stay, a meal to eat, a chair to sit on, a smile on a rainy day and a joke when the going gets tough.

The Romanians are the ones who, when I ask to borrow  a scale to weigh my suitcase before going to the airport , will give me, not only a scale to borrow, but also give me 10 chiftele to eat.

The Romanians are the ones who would ask a friend of a friend, to drive in the middle of the night, to pick me up from the Henri Coanda airport  when arriving from Sweden with a crazy arriving time, if they can’t be there themselves.  Never let me take the bus to town.

The Romanians are also the ones who would not offer me a small handful of walnuts, but would give me a whole bag of them. They offer  in abundance. Always. Everybody.

The Romanians are the ones who would go to the market 5 times during the week, to pick up all my favourite food, make a package, go to the bus station at 3 o’clock  in the middle of night to send it to me in Sweden. Imagine my happiness when I open the package in Helsingborg, Sweden, finding zacusca, hrean, onions, garlic, chocolate, wine, dulceata de ardei iute, sausages and pufuleti.

When I was a teenager and wrote to my Romanian pen friend, he always sent me birthday gifts. This was during the late 1980s and I was always wondering where this hospitality and readiness to give comes from. It is so natural and so omnipresent when you are in Romania. Growing up amongst people who help each other creates a community that is of course helpful and kind .


Story time in Mandra.

This is what  the Romanians are  to me,  a helpful and kind community.

Taken the setting , taken the day- to -day challenges that you meet when living in Romania, taken the recent history of Romania, I am even more blown away by the hospitality of its people.

Taken the way that the Romanians  are often met with suspiciousness when trying to make a better life abroad, yeah, the hospitality of the Romanians is a true sign of strength and beauty.  A proof that no matter what challenges struck them, their hearts still beat for humanity.

Romania’s history tells the history of humanity, a place between east and west. A place that was challenged so many times. It’s a story of endurance. In the Romanian villages you find proof of elderly who lived through all the storms. They keep on leading their lives, according to the rhythm of the day and the pace that nature gives them. They continue to pass the traditions and handicraft so that future generations can be part of the message sent from ancestors before us.

The Romanians melt me in winter when I am cold, they taught me to express all the spectre of my feelings fully alive, they taught me that I can’t plan for everything but to leave space for magic. They told me to cherish everything – to be mindful about resources. The Romanians’ never ending wit made me less serious and more easy going.


The Romanians showed me what real friendship is and what it means to stand close no matter what.

Thank you to all Romanians who came my way and opened my eyes.

Yvette Larsson

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