I remember that I have never thought of leaving Romania, but if by any circumstance this was to happen, I knew that the country I would go to would be without any doubt France. Till this day, I keep a deep connection to this land, its people and language. France has always felt familiar to me, a comfortable feeling of being at home every time I was there. And I believe that all of this is rooted in my first visit to a small village near Paris, called Escrennes, while on a school program. My first time ever in Europe, in Western Europe, 4 years after the fall of Communism in Romania. That was in 1993 and I was 12 years old.
In the summer of 2007, at 26, life brought me to Vienna, Austria, though! A move that my closest friends, family or people that knew me well, thought pretty bold and unfit. They told me that I wouldn’t fit there. I looked too French (style, gestures, haircut) and as my French was flawless I passed rather for a Parisian than for a Viennese. I worked in French institutions, I often traveled to France, I spoke more French than Romanian. I was French! What on earth was I going to do in Austria? France is a little bit further, they would joke.
It took me almost a year to decide that I wanted to experience something new! A new country with everything that comes with it: new people, language, work experience, new challenges. Maybe I was too much around the French expats in Bucharest after all and there I got my inspiration to try something different! So, full of confidence in my future and myself I left everything behind for the one I loved. And today I couldn’t be more grateful and happier that I took that decision, although it wasn’t meant to be with the loved one.
7 years later, Austria became home to me. Austria opened up the world to me in adulthood in the same way France did it when I was a child. It was deeply transformative. My years of transformation in Austria first started with the challenges of being an East European migrant, the prejudices and the labeling, the psychological pressure, the frustration. At the same time the very difficulties that I faced, the barriers I had to overcome brought me closer to people, made me change perceptions, listen more, be more tolerant and eventually stop judging. And it continued with all the beautiful people from far away that I met and who shared their world with me and made me see the world differently. Austria transformed me in ways I never imagined.
Who I was when I left my country, no longer represents me 100%. But it adds up to who I am today. It is the foundation on which I built myself up in order to become the present me.
Since March 2014, I have a new home. Holland is where I currently live and try to fit in. New culture, new people, new experiences. Where do I belong and what is really home to me? I guess that home is where my spirit is. And I feel I belong a bit to everywhere. When you are on the move, there is no other way!
The thoughts in this post wouldn’t have found a voice had I not, one spring day earlier this year, listened to four inspirational stories on identity and what do we call home, broadcasted on the TED Radio Hour Show. An invitation to reflection on who we are and where do we belong. Recommended to everybody!