I often wonder, why do we, as people, regret someone, something, when they are no longer a part of our lives? Why do we feel so intensely any loss, any inch of soil lost, any half a smile which fades in the sunset when, selfishly, we want it to last another second, another minute, another season? Why do we tend to take for granted each step we are able to make during a day, the feelings someone has for us, the arrival of spring? Why do we only notice when something is missing, but not when something is added up? Why do we speak up when there is nothing left to be done? Why are we afraid?
Do you know that feeling when, after a long time, you listen to the sea by putting a seashell to your ear? It’s as if you are there, and you can almost feel the waves, but you are not. And after that, that sensation is imprinted in your braincells, along your spine, it travels in your veins, it exits your body when you exhale. You are here and there at the same time. I believe it’s the same with some people. Maybe you forgot about them for years and years, but one day, their name falls naturally on your lips, and you cannot do anything else except standing there, remembering everything. And after a while, the memory starts to fade, gradually, but a part of it remains with you for the rest of your life. A part of that person will always be hidden somewhere along the long corridor of your left kidney or at the intersection of two cells in your right palm, for that person was part of your past. And you can never run from your past.
Today is a sad day. I was happy, I was smiling, but then, at once, I became sad. In our world, it has become extremely difficult to tell when someone or something is true, because thick masks are attached to our index fingers, for we all need them, twice a day, multiplied by ten, mixed with the lilac in the last Friday of the year, served with a cup of fake blood. Today, our King died. Michael I of Romania, our King, died.
“The King is dead, long live the King!’’ – this is the proclamation, is it not? For Romanians, the proclamation sounds a little bit different. The King is dead; a part of us is dead. He was the last living piece of history; he was the bridge connecting us to a past that could have been understood better, a past that could have been addressed more, a past that could have taught us way more than it did. But we were too self-centered to listen anymore. We knew better. We knew what we wanted, we knew the way, we knew where to turn our heads… we did know, right? I do not think so. I think we are in the wrong, and now we cannot do anything anymore. I think we are all guilty, somehow. I think we should have listened, I think we should have turned our hearts toward him, as he did toward us. He always loved this country, even when this country rejected him. He loved this country more than anything.
The story of King Michael I of Romania is a sad one. It’s the story of a young man who fought for his country as best as he could. It’s the story of a Queen telling her scared 5-year-old son that he is a king and the son of a king. It’s the story of a 5-year-old trying not to be scared anymore. It’s a painful story of a soul who stood by his people and who died away from his country. It’s the story of a man who represented the essence of our nation, but whom we forgot a long time ago.
He became King at the tender age of 5; he did not really understand what that meant, instead he asked if he was still allowed to play, like he did before. He was only a kid, but he had to take on the role of an adult, he was told so, and he did. He matured overnight, like a prince in a fairytale. Michael I had to step back with the unexpected return of his father, but after some years, he was being called “Your Majesty” again.
He had a major role in Romania’s evolution in the Second World War — a country, which at that time was on the side of Nazi Germany. He was the one who ordered the arrest of Antonescu, thus declaring an alliance with the Allies. But his days were numbered, he was threatened by the Communists and had to leave the country. Over time, Romanians forgot him, but his heart was always with us.
After ’89, he came back to Romania, but he was forced to leave upon arrival. An insult which would have made any other person turn their back on the country which no longer wanted them. He stood by us, once again. He stood by us time and time again. He never left our side. Today, Tuesday, Dec. 5, he left us, but not our side. He left us, because he was old and weak and tired. He left us and only now do we remember his name — his story. Too incredible to be true, some say.
I wish he stayed a bit longer, because I feel we are in desperate need of someone like him. I wish he called us “fools” for not listening, for not remembering, but he knew we would eventually understand. Above all, I wish he left knowing some of us, many of us, still love and remember him. With the death of King Michael I of Romania, a chapter is closed. A chapter of the history of the world, not just Europe, because World War II — Communism. They affected the whole world, they shaped it into the world we live in today. They altered millions and millions of lives and will always stay with us. He lived in those times. He survived. And we have to remember. Always.
Today is a sad day. The King left us and now all the silent voices are rising and shouting and screaming, and I think it’s a good thing. All the voices are mixing up and nothing can be understood anymore, but this is good. This is better than the silence. Our silence, that horrible silence, a deafening silence, is now replaced by the sound of rough throats that had forgotten how to utter words. Shame on us, because we did not shout earlier. Shame on us for not standing by his side, as he did for us. Now he is gone, and all that remains is the history and our screams. May our voices become louder and louder. May we remember this day. May we shout so that our words reach the other side of the Black Sea and maybe even him.
What does this death make me think? That I am proud to be a Romanian, after all. That it is sad that we tend to talk about the people who really matter when they are not with us anymore. That I will tell my friends about the history of Romania, also known as “that country with Vampires.” I will tell them about our mountains and our sea; our roads and our castles and our people.
I will tell them how we fought the Romans, how we lived for centuries in the same place, how we came to have our first king and first constitution, how we gave the world people such as Constantin Brâncuși, Mihai Eminescu, Nichita Stănescu, Mircea Eliade, Victor Babeș and so many others. I will tell them about Ecaterina, our heroine in the First World War. I will tell them about how a Romanian poet almost won the Nobel Prize for Literature; about how, growing up, I was learning the poems of our greatest poet. This because my grandfather knew them by heart, and he would recite them to me while lifting me up in the air — exactly like a little gymnast, exactly like Nadia. I will tell them about the King, as well. I will tell them all the stories that deserve to be told, but maybe are not, because it’s so boring to talk about history when you have celebrities to follow, gossip to discuss and tabloids to read.
Your Majesty, thank you.