On the Road 2012: Day Eighteen

June 13, 2012

By hammersmith

Each summer an entire class of Flinn Scholars engages in a group study-travel seminar. This year’s seminar, held in Hungary and western Romania, runs from late in May to mid-June. Here’s a day-by-day account.

Katherine Richard (’11)

June 13th began with a truly atrocious breakfast. Who would have thought that eggplant paste, white bread, and cold slabs of butter would not have been a mouth-watering hit?

The day improved – I promise.

Bogdan Radu (arguably the most unanimously adored speaker of this trip) began the day with a lecture about Religion and Democracy in Central Europe, moving from a discussion of transitional democratic states, to one concerning the effects of religion on political participation. Following him, Cosmina Paul presented topics of the Romanian Holocaust, the Romanian dissidence under communism, and the Romanian Roma minority.

Where Bogdan’s lecture was a fascinating investigation of a region that we still know so little about, Cosmina spoke about sensitive issues that have been greatly overlooked in our time here. She spoke of the ways in which Romania has avoided blame for their massacre of Jewish individuals, failing to admit to their true involvement independent of the Nazi Party’s well-known practices. She spoke of the ways in which the Romanian people failed to revolt against communist governments unless under the wing of another people’s instigation. She spoke of the forced relocation of hundreds of Roma people to a town built on top of a garbage dump just eighteen months ago.

In the afternoon, we followed these lectures with a discussion about minority issues with local Romanian students. This two hour conversation/debate/misunderstanding was, in many ways, a sobering experience, demonstrating potential for vastly distinct world views. Many of us were made uncomfortable and made others equally so. But being able to interact with our lecture material in such a personal way was invaluable – one of my favorite parts of this trip so far.

[These intense portions of the day were followed by some time spent drinking coffee on a terrace and eating together at the Romania farewell dinner. These were both great things, especially since no fried cheese was served.]

June 13th was not an easy day. It was a challenging day and a humbling day. What I write here does not adequately explain this day, maybe because our last full day in Romania was a sobering confrontation of injustice that remains ignored. I wish that we could have learned about these things earlier, just as I wish that we could have discussed them in more depth. But I am grateful that we were able to listen to such educated speakers, and I am thankful that I could experience this day with such an excellent group of people.