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Luca Ciubotaru - Places we never leave

Author: Luca Ciubotaru

Injustices and sacrifices

1. A few hours. That's how much time my grandmother had to gather everything she could and leave behind her life savings in Iasi County. In the Second World War, when the Russians were approaching, their village was razed to the ground as it was close to the front line. The grandmother and her five children, along with dozens of other families, were put on trains and deported to the west. The train journey to Caras-Severin took a month and a half. They left and had no choice.

2. A new social order had been established. "By unanimous vote". So it said on the sentence of 11 February 1950 that I obtained from the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives. It was the sentence in which my grandfather was sentenced on charges of conspiracy against the social order. He worked at the CFR and delivered correspondence to the anti-communist resistance in the mountains in the late 1940s.

After his conviction, he was sent to the Danube-Black Sea Canal forced labour colonies, where he spent almost two years. He had no choice either. He left with his loved ones and his home village in mind. I remember him from my childhood as if from a dream; he was a tall, slender man with crystal blue eyes. He carried those scars with him.

3. Years later, it was revealed that my father was the son of a political prisoner, a stigma that had followed him all his life. He was fired from his job and had to leave. There was no choice. He started life all over again, in Rădăuți.

I heard these stories of injustice as a child and didn't understand them well enough. I felt hopeless, angry, powerless, but also grateful. I had had the chance to be born into a democracy.

Elections and departure

4. I was at the end of high school and faced with a life-changing decision. I had been accepted to two universities abroad and only had a few days left to send my final acceptance letter to a british university. My parents gave me complete freedom and supported me unconditionally. They were happy that I would have the chance of an education and a better life, better than what they had been through themselves. At the same time, their hearts were very heavy.

I was in front of the computer. It seemed like time had stood still. With fingers like lead, it was the hardest "Enter" I had ever given. I didn't leave. I didn't have the guts, but I had a choice ahead of me. I was too tied to family, to friends, to hometowns, and in my mind, the ticket would just be gone.

5 I studied law in Iasi, I was closer to home. Around me, close friends, relatives, kept leaving home to work or study abroad. Suceava County is one of the counties with the largest number of people who have moved away.

There are thousands of people from Suceava who are far away from their homeland, but with their soul here. We all have at least one friend or relative in this situation. Mihai, Lucia, Constantin, Marinela, Sorin, Alina, Veronica are not just names. They are some of the close relatives who went abroad for a better life. Often there was no choice, there was only one option.

"On the shoulders of giants" and the responsibility that comes with it

6. The road took me further to France, Bucharest or the United States, to the Romanian government or the United Nations. I realized that much of what I am is due to the sacrifice of others: past generations, parents, teachers who put bricks in our formation, mentors we meet along the way.

7. "We are like dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants". We see ahead not for today not because we have a keener eye, but because our chances are built on their sacrifice. With all the hardships, the challenges, we are at the best point humanity has ever been.

8. I believe that this comes with a responsibility. At the end of high school, I promised myself that if I stayed in this country, I would do everything in my power to expand my horizons and give something back to my native places.

9. In 2017, I set up the Rădăuțiul Civic Association together with other friends, some of whom are right here in the hall, aimed at encouraging civic involvement and making, as far as it is concerned, a slightly better society. Since then there have been hundreds of volunteers, thousands of smiles, a community centre, meetings where we forget time, people whose doorstep someone has stepped on, actions to make elected officials accountable, masks, disinfectant, oxygen concentrators, patients better protected in the face of pandemics or 170,000 people affected by a war and given some form of support through a joint effort.

Call to action

10. At home or far away, at home or abroad, at work or at school, carried by life and what it brings, there are places we return to, physically or emotionally. Whatever the path, whatever the choices, part of us remains here.

Today, we can all choose to do something for the places to which we are attached. It is a joy that cannot be matched. No matter how small, no matter in what form: time for good deeds, a helping hand to the vulnerable, support for civil society, independent media, good causes.

The places we never leave are a part of us.

What would you do for them?

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