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Carpe Diem, and all.

On the heels of the last issue’s piece I wrote, this time around I wanted to continue on the theme of culture. Living in Canada, a multicultural country, is a gift, there is no doubt about it. Opportunities abound, if only we’re ambitious and brave enough to seize them. Carpe Diem, and all.
And yet, is it possible that amid all this multicultural society, we lose something that’s much more important?
Something, maybe, like our identity as Romanians, as Eastern Europeans, or as Europeans, period?

One particular aspect has come up in conversations with my friends over the years. Most people (who live here) when they meet me are always surprised to hear I spent the first 11 years of my life in Romania. “You can’t even tell,” they tell me, as if I’m seeking some kind of approval, some kind of affirmation that “yes you’re Canadian enough for us”. It never fails to annoy me. Since when do I have to give up one side, in order to belong to the other?

That aside, in recent years I’ve developed a few close relationships with fellow Eastern Europeans - not always Romanians. These friendships feed my sense of belonging, and I also feel at ease expressing myself more uninhibitedly. We talk about the world, politics, life in general, and I’m always surprised to find how well in tune we are. Their views are not as biased, there’s not that black and white filter the Western society puts on everything, and it’s easier to actually converse without attacking each other personally.

Yet I’ve found that while my Eastern European friends are well-versed in the culture and history of our respective countries, or are showing interest in them, there is a big divide between the life we would have had living back home, or the one here in Canada. I don’t necessarily mean that one is better than the other. As I’ve already mentioned, Canada has a lot more to offer from an economic perspective. But what about cultural? Historical?

European youth growing up in Canada may end up going to specific language schools where they are taught their country’s language. But what of their history? Their culture? That little “something” that’s part of their identity? And there’s the other side… Growing without that, could it possibly mean they’ll be somehow less than they would have otherwise been?

No, it does not. However, our Eastern European identity is just as important as the Canadian side. And it’s a fine line to walk between adopting multiculturalism and forgetting one’s other culture in other to assimilate with another. There is nothing wrong with wanting to belong. As humans, we are social animals, and the desire to belong is in our DNA. Yet there is something to be said for the importance of teaching our kids their country’s history – as well as Canada’s. For teaching them the good, the bad and the ugly. That way when they get asked the expected “no, but where are you from originally” question that all Canadians love here, and they answer, they can actually hold their own in a conversation about their country.

We have to get our kids to know our history, because the schools here will not teach it. It’s too rich a past, filled with too much culture, to go to waste or be forgotten in the fog of current political corruption and poverty that has attacked our countries.

When I landed in university, I headed towards political sciences and languages. In so doing,

I narrowed my courses to focus on Eastern European politics, and history, in an effort to fill the gap the Canadian school system had left in me. I remember learning history, as well as language – and others – back home. Both aspects were important, neither more so than the other. Moving to Canada, I gained a lot – but lost that. Yet I found a way back to it, and that’s really all any of us can do.

Move forward, but without forgetting. Reach for the future, without losing the past. And remind our children – and ourselves – that distance does not have to mean ignorance.

Alexa Whitewolf,    8/23/2019


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