René’s Romanian alphabet

Dear friends,

 The four years of my mandate have passed and time has come for me to leave Romania, a country where I spent a beautiful time of my life. Before heading back home, I wanted to share with you some of my feelings, or rather flashbacks of those years… I helped myself with an alphabet, which also has a beginning and an end 🙂

A – Arabela – I have been called a hundred times Rumburak. More exactly “Pane Rumburaku”, with a Romanian accent. No one in the Czech Republic knows that there is a place in the world where Arabela is even more famous than home. The first time I saw Arabela in Romania, it was at Valea Cascadelor. It ran on a small portable TV (for sale) and one couldn’t pass through the corridor because of the crowd watching. I turned the ring.

B – (dublu B) Bicla, Bucuresti – Wake me up in the middle of the night and ask me what I remember most of all those years in Bucharest. It would definitely be the rides on bike through the city. Especially I will never forget getting lost on summer nights around Armenească (repeatedly), and breaking my ribs (once, and by my own fault). No other transport did I use more often than bike in Bucharest. Thank you once again, Ionuț.

C – (dublu C) Centrul Ceh, constellation – A small and great team, which mostly furnished new ideas over a beer, surrounded by friends and their friends. Plus Petra and Jiří at the Embassy, a unique constellation that happens very, very rarely.

D – Dianei – A spot where I always took my guests, played chess and often stayed too long. Or not long enough? One of few places in Bucharest where they know what berea taiata stands for.

E – Eclectica – Where else can one find such a beautiful mix of architectural styles? I have never seen anything like this before – classicism, art nouveau, functionalism, modernism, communist atrocities, crazy 90s… And altogether this somehow makes sense. My heart ached seeing some of the best of this being brutally destroyed.

F – The chord that took me the most time and effort to learn, as one has to use barre. I started learning guitar in Romania (mainly during the enchanting evenings in Muscel) and one of the most precious souvenirs that I bring back home is a new hobby.

G – Gradinița – My boys coming home in the afternoon and painting Romanian flag, making their first jokes about Bulă and reciting poems in a language, which hopefully will remain somewhere back in their brains.

H – Host – In Bucharest I was often in a role of a host. To several hundred Czech artists that were coming to our events and mostly didn’t want to leave back home. I am grateful for this opportunity to meet some extraordinary people, many of whom remained my friends. And also friends to many of you.

I – Izvor – The location where I did my first event – planting 400 dead Christmas trees in the middle of the park. But there were many other unforgettable experiences – negotiating with the Romanian army rent of a tank (got a cannon in the end), organising events in a garage or in the seat of the hunters’ association, remixing Dvořák… But back to Izvor – Christmas trees are gone, but the linden alley dedicated to Václav Havel you will still find there.

J – Johannis (I know he is with I, but that is taken already, sorry) – I believe that I experienced in Romania a remarkable period marked by growth of a civil society, something that is a prerequisite for a healthy development of any country. And the way people participated in the presidential elections symbolically confirmed to me the trend. This brings hope. I feel there is much less indifference around now than some years ago.

K – Karlův most – This is where I return. Prague has also changed a lot, I heard. Many Romanian tourists come and so should you. But make sure to go off the main tracks and check also Žižkov, and Letná, and make sure to travel out of Prague as well. Maybe we meet there!

L – Limba – When I came, I hoped very much to learn it by the time I would leave. I didn’t succeed entirely, but at least I happened to fall in love with the language. Dear Romanian, I forgive you for messing up my Portuguese and French, it was worth it. I will try not to ever forget you.

M – Mahmureală – The work at the Czech Centre was quite a demanding one, with almost a hundred events per year. And we are not Belgians that would have a chocolate company as major sponsor… But mahmureală is not here to be matched by paracetamol, but mainly because for me it is one of the most beautifully sounding words I heard in Romanian.

N – Nufăr – Delta is fascinating. I never thought I would learn Latin words for birds, nor that I would see those little fluorescent insects in the sea all around me, shining like aurora polaris. Anyway, no one believes me this, but they really exist. In mid-August.

O – One World Romania – A festival? Rather a phenomenon, planted in Romania by the Czech Centre years ago. May sound naive to you, but I really believe in its power to change things. And now, Petra expands with the One World to high schools throughout the country. So, good luck!

P – Parcare – This letter would deserve an entire page! Shortly after I arrived, the parking under Universitate started to be built in front of my balcony. As a “solution” to the dense parking in the centre, but in fact rather attracting more cars to the centre. Flashbacks: cars everywhere, moving the baby stroller over the parked cars, discussions with the police, breaking the windshields, concrete corner stones like mushrooms… Still I think the bike lane pe Victoriei is a miracle.

Q – Quido spent half of his entire life in Romania, Bruno three quarters of his life. I basically have Romanian kids.

R – Ravensca – Heaven on Earth. Some of the most beautiful moments I spent in Romania, happened there. An isolated Czech village in Banat, with 360 degrees of beauty around you. The way of life, traditions, language, and the cohabitation of local people with the surrounding nature. I have big respect and admiration for the wonderful people living in those unique Czech villages in Romania.

S – Sarmale (cliché, right?) – But has any of you tried those made by doamna Lucica? There were times I ate sarmale days in a row. Now as I write, I would have some, with mamaligă, smântână and ardei.

T – Maria Tănase – I have been lucky to be surrounded by good music in Romania. Contemporary, fresh, folcloric, experimental, classical, noise, jazzy. But in the end of the day I always got back to Maria Tănase. Add to this the great reinterpretation by Maria Răducanu, or the homage paid to Maria Tănase by Alexandru Bălănescu. Lume, lume!

U – Underground – There are two cultures in Romania, especially in Bucharest you may realise this easily – the official one, and the other – free, independent, short of money and full of energy. The two don’t really talk to each other.

V – Václav Havel – I moved to Romania when Havel was still living and I am happy that we could celebrate his 75th birthday through series of events in Bucharest. Now, three years after he passed away, things are different. But while representing the Czech Republic in Romania, I have always been aware and proud of his legacy.

W – Wim Wenders. Here the story is complicated. It was Wim Wenders and his Lisbon story that made me come and go to Portugal over the last 20 years. One day a friend told me that the post of director of the Czech Centre is being opened in Romania: “You like Portugal so much, René. Romania is exactly the same, just a bit more to the East“. I believed him, applied for the job and got it. I can’t explain why, but I remembered his words a hundred times. Maybe simply because he was right.

X – iks is a joke of the alphabet. We also did a joke. On April 1 we announced that the Czech Centre will close down (together with non-existing centre in Albania and other absurdities in the announcement). But the chain of events that followed went out of our control – the petition made in our support started to be signed by many, before we managed to put the things right. Many months later I still had to explain that we haven’t closed down. So, the Czech Centre is here, and I wish František all the best in his Centrul Ceh mission in this great country.

Y – Years – November 2010 – February 2015. They run so fast, it feels like yesterday when I went for a first walk in Centrul Veche. No streets, no lamps, almost no bars. Atelierul Mecanic freshly open. Not understanding a word in Romanian. First trip out – Hanno took me to Marșa to meet Nea Vasile. And the lady in the elevator of Laptaria lui Enache, she was making broderii – a Dacia 1300…

Z – Zâmbet – I spent most of the four years smiling. That is because I always felt so well here and was so nicely received everywhere I went in Romania. That is thanks to my family, thanks to you, my friends and colleagues, and thanks to all of you with whom I have crossed over those wonderful years. So, I hope to meet you again, sometime, somewhere. Be well!

René Kubášek
Bucharest, February 26, 2015