It’s early 1918 and the Great War has exhausted all the parties involved: from the Western Front, where resources are scarce, to the Eastern Front, where Russia has been engulfed in a bloody revolution. Having prevailed in the east, Germany could now try to crush France and Britain before the United States might intervene, or it could declare victory and leave the war to its drained enemies. This is the premise of James Emerson Loyd’s fascinating trilogy of alternate history The Great War Won. A small group of German officers led by General von Treptow risks negotiating across enemy lines with the French and the British in an attempt to influence the leadership into seeking peace in Europe. As the titles of the first and second book suggest (Who Desires Peace… and …Should Prepare for War), the conspiracy fails, paving the way for the American intervention developed in Book Three (A Power of Recognized Superiority). Yet the groundwork has been laid for a different outcome than the one we’re familiar with. Continue reading
You don’t need to be an immigrant or a minority to know what it feels like to be rejected by a desirable group, or any group for that matter, even a group that didn’t seem to exist until you walked up to it and the circle closed to exclude you. You just need to remember high school, or that sickening feeling you had walking down the street after a breakup and looking at all those couples holding hands as if they were touched by divine grace and you by plague. I do have this feeling of not belonging now and then, but I didn’t think I was going to revisit it when I picked up The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. Continue reading
These days, I read in the US news about a possible nuclear war with North Korea, a trade war with China, Mexico, and other countries, an invasion of Venezuela, of all places, and of course the reasserted racism of the right. Never before have I felt the urge to understand what the hell is going on in the world around me. I’ve always been an avid reader of history, and the more I read, the harder it is to see simple explanations to anything, but I needed some clarity, and so I picked up a copy of Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall, an experienced war and foreign correspondent for Britain’s Sky News TV. Continue reading
I moved to the United States from Romania in 2001, and it took a family tragedy for me to understand that I cannot straddle the world and have two homes half a planet apart. Now that I’ve learned the limitations of living in the real world, where the laws of physics apply no matter what we dream of or how hard we pray, there’s this feeling of anticlimax to being uprooted. Maybe my roots are now deeper into this American soil than they were out of the Romanian one sixteen years ago. Or not. Continue reading
At Mişcarea de Rezistență, Marina Constantinoiu and Istvan Deak continue their long investigative series Frontieriştii (The Border People) launched on March 15, 2016 and documenting the atrocities committed against those who tried to cross Romania’s closed borders between 1949 and 1989.
In their September 30, 2016 installment—In 1975, State Security Accused the Border Guards of Covering Up for the Border People—the two journalists write about a Romanian man who succeeded in fleeing the country and who might now live in the United States. His name is Ioan Timiş and he was born on October 30, 1958 in Borșa-Maramureș, Romania. Continue reading
A homegrown elf?
Yes, a homegrown, real-life elf with a tiny hat and a beard, an elf who talked and ate and, I assumed, pooped too.
This story happened a long time ago in my native Romania, when I was no older than fourth grade. It happened soon after a dusty patch in our schoolyard got covered in gravel. Rocks of all shapes, all colors, all textures, all sizes. One morning, a girl in my class had exciting news for the rest of us. (I don’t remember which girl, so I’ll use the name Dana so no one feels singled out.) That morning, Dana revealed to us that our school’s gravel patch was not full of rocks but of elf-eggs. Continue reading
I was born with ten fingers and ten toes. My mother was so relieved when she counted them, that she failed to notice that I was born without a national identity. Continue reading
“What’s war like?” I asked my grandfather once, when I was in middle school.
He was sitting on the sofa in his living room, rich Persian rug on the floor, dark wood furniture about him—a safe storytelling setting. He had a mellow Transylvanian accent and not a tooth left in his mouth. I don’t remember how he started to tell me about his four years on the battlefields of World War II, but I remember how animated he became when he described how his friend’s head was cut off by shrapnel and how it rolled on the ground with its tongue flicking in an out, collecting dirt. My grandfather mimicked the scene, his tongue flicking in and out of his toothless mouth, and then he stopped and didn’t speak for a long time. He just stared at the red-hued Persian rug at his feet. Continue reading
Nobody had died there, an elderly woman from Orşova recently told the journalist. Nobody had died there, it was all legends.
“It’s been more than 26 years since the Revolution, and Romania doesn’t remember them anymore. Or doesn’t want to remember,” writes Marina Constantinoiu, the journalist at Mişcarea de Rezistență who, together with her colleague Istvan Deak, is attempting to salvage a piece of history that everyone seems intent on burying.
Years ago, while studying for my US citizenship exam, I paused over the words “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Because I grew up in Europe during the time of popular uprisings against communist regimes, I was used to words such as freedom and justice and equality in revolutionary speech, so the pursuit of happiness sounded like it didn’t belong in a declaration of independence from tyranny and oppression.
It wasn’t the first time I wondered how had those Founding Fathers been so enlightened to consider the mental health of their people at a time of war and disease and superstition. Today we have counselors and self-help and wellness support groups, but they didn’t, back in 1776, yet Jefferson thought it was important to put those fine words in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Continue reading