Have you heard of Eastern Europe?


Disclaimer: Intentionally written as a rant-type essay, for the sake of writing.

Everyone thinks they know something about Eastern Europe.

“Oh, it’s the communist part of Europe, right?” Well, it was, up until 20 years ago. It’s not anymore, believe it or not. “It’s not?!” No. We do have television. And clothes to wear. And yes, they do wear shoes in Ukraine; they don’t need you to send any.

The world outside the borders was closed for us. Inexistent. Or better said, a Heaven, which we would never reach. We weren’t allowed to own a passport. Weren’t allowed to have any form of contact with foreigners. We were monitored at home, at work, on the street, on the halls of the kindergarten. We had allocated portions of food, monthly: 10 eggs, 250 grams of chicken meat, 200 grams of sugar, and so on. 1 liter of milk per day. Do you want more? Sorry, the State doesn’t allow you to drink more. Do you need 100 more grams of sugar to prepare that nice birthday cake for your kid? Sorry, not allocated.

They decided we don’t need more than 2 (two) hours of TV per day, so that’s all they were giving us. And during those two hours we would only hear our beloved President making his disgusting wooden language daily speech. Nothing else. No Married with Children, no Baywatch, no Captain Planet.

Nothing.

We didn’t really need light after 9 pm every night, did we? We had to get our rest anyway, to be just fit for tomorrow’s work. So, they were cutting off the electricity after 9, every night. We only needed hot water between 6 and 8 am and between 6 and 9 pm, they decided. The times when we’d prepare for work or deal with household chores in the evening. So they just ran it at those times.

And those famous gray buildings! Those morbid, tall, shapeless blocks of flats, in various shades of grey: light grey, dark grey, underground-rat-grey. Matchbox apartments, as we call them. The only vivid color those buildings had was from the freshly washed laundry hanging to dry in the balconies. Grey buildings with patches of blue and red and green.

That’s a tiny glimpse of the horror film, called The Communism Era. Not what you think, you ignorant fool who didn’t even read “Communism for Dummies”. But that was, thank God, in the past. As in, not present. There is none of that still happening.

“Eastern Europe is that dangerous part of EU, where there’s a lot of corruption and crime right?!” Well, not really. You might think it’s worse than anywhere else on the planet. You might say we have criminals running up and down the street with guns in their hands. Or even regular people carrying guns everywhere, just in case, because it’s so dangerous out there. Oh, wait. That’s the US. Yes, we can. We can have just as much crime and poverty as in the US, and that’s not a statement of pride. However, we are not worse whatsoever.

Eastern Europe is not the communist, shady part of EU. It’s the eastern part of Europe. It’s one of the most beautiful regions of the world, where various ethnicities fuse.  A colorful mix of Balkan, Slavic, Latin and Germanic cultures. A fascinating hybrid. We took the best of all worlds and put it together. Romanians, for example, are a Latin people with Turkish and Slavic elements thrown in the mix. Geographically speaking, Romania is a Latin island in a Slavic sea. Romanian is a predominantly Latin language with some Slavic influences.

Romanian is not Russian. I know, both of them start with R, but there’s more to a language than its name. They are not by far one and the same. There is absolutely no resemblance between the two languages. No grammar, no common origins, not even the same alphabet! So, why you would even consider it to be the same is beyond me.

Why doesn’t it ever happen that you confuse Romanians with people from Rome?! Isn’t that a linguistic resemblance??! Oh, but Rome is not part of Eastern Europe, not communist, so that’s why you didn’t think of it. I see now. To you, we all come from the same mother in Eastern Europe just because we had a somewhat common political regime, for about 50 years. Forget the other 2000 years.

Everyone thinks they know something about Eastern Europe. “Russia, Ukraine, same shit”. No joke! Well, it’s not the same shit, as you put it. It’s actually, quite different. For one, Russia stretches all the way from Europe to easternmost part of Asia. Yes, Russia is part of Asia as well. Russia is not only Moscow or the Siberia you’ve heard about accidentally. And Ukraine was part of the communist bloc, but it still has its own culture, traditions, architecture, different than Russia’s. It’s not the same shit, alright?!

Everyone thinks they know something about Eastern Europe. “I thought you liked me and now you are flirting with other guys. I should have known it. You are Eastern European after all”. This, coming from a Turkish male, of all peoples!

How can one categorize all women from Poland, Belarus, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and so on, under one simplistic stereotype / fantasy? How can all women from so many cultures, religions or ways of life be one and the same in the eyes of so many ignorant? Do you really think we are all prostitutes? Do you really think we would all give ourselves for your dirty fistful of quarters?!

We may have had it bad during communism, all of us, regardless of country.

We may have never seen oranges or pineapple or Swiss chocolate back then. We may have only heard of Coca-Cola from the sailors coming back from far-away lands. But we would never sell ourselves for such dirty money. Of course, there are some of us who would. Sure! But wouldn’t some women in your precious country do that?! Don’t some women everywhere on earth practice the oldest of jobs?! What makes you believe this is our specialty?

Or is it because you saw we are all so beautiful, that we couldn’t also be smart or independent? You saw us groomed up, stylish, feminine, always high-heeled that you thought we had to have a sleazy, rich Western-World man behind us, didn’t you?! That’s what you should remember about “Eastern European” women: we can be both beautiful and smart! Have a self-earned career and be good mothers! Forget all the rest ignorant crap you think you know.

Everyone thinks they know something about Eastern Europe. The crude, unrefined part of Europe, the opposite of the “civilized EU”. And what is exactly civilized about your ignorance towards less rich countries? What is civilized about your lack of knowledge of any other language but your own? What is civilized about not having travelled to Eastern Europe, to explore it like you explored time and time again the same masterpieces of the West?

What exactly is civilized about that and what is un-civilized about us?

That we had a violent, totalitarian political system? That once we came out, we were so hungry for knowledge and exchange and sharing? That we had to prove our “unsophisticated” nature intellectually and morally millions of times more? That we have learned all about your culture and past and your languages? That we accept your culture and look up to it and take only the good from it? Exactly like you don’t from ours.

Everyone thinks they know something about Eastern Europe. You know shit.

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9 comments

  1. My belief is that travel, around this great world would help many to understand that each culture is different, yet beautiful….

    Your expose in writing is very well stated, I enjoy your honest appraisal of your viewpoint. Your points are very insightful, the type of insight which comes from living in a world of opinions.

    I must tell you that many in the world believe that each culture, has many weaknesses. Yet, beauty and simple human compassion shine through. It may be dim at times, however; dimness in the evening, turns to a glimmering light once the moon rises….

    Enjoyed your comments very much..

  2. Your article describes a sensationally extravagant views of “Western Europe” on us. Embarrassing – so wise and yet so backward in thinking.

  3. Ignorance and frustration don’t choose their owners…“I thought you liked me and now you are flirting with other guys. I should have known it. You are Eastern European after all”. This, coming from a Turkish male, of all peoples!”…or: “…we had to prove our “unsophisticated” nature intellectually and morally millions of times more? ” – We all have to deal with the fact that “generally speaking” is a wrong aproach for understanding individual reality. It is in the Human Nature to judge others: this is why it takes an open mind and a strong self esteem to accept, understand and trust “the others”, no matter the political, social, intellectual or sentimental background… And this is exactly the Romanian’s aproach towards … mostly everything. 🙂

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