Alexandru Budișteanu passed away. He was 93 years old. I had the privilege of being a friend of the Alexandru and Ileana Budișteanu family and of having worked with them during a period of my life.

On his 91st birthday, unfortunately the last one he celebrated with his friends at the Capșa restaurant, I told him that reaching such an age is a wonderful achievement for anyone. However, to live such a long and constantly active life and to have accomplished all the things that Alexandru Budișteanu has accomplished is truly a success story.

Alexandru Budisteanu’s 91st birthday.

He was born on August 11, 1928 in the commune Pârlița-Târg, then in Iași county, Romania, later Bălți county, the Republic of Moldova. He lived as he says in the title of his book published in 2014, Under four regimes on all continents. He had a fulfilled, intense life, with many trials, going through so many historical changes, but also with so many accomplishments, with wonderful moments, with difficult times, with people who have been grateful to him and, of course, with people who hated him openly or, perhaps, only in private.

I wrote here about how and when I met him and I remembered some personal landmarks of our acquaintance. I will not repeat myself now. But I want to talk here about the request that Alexandru Budișteanu made to me in March 2002 when I went to the US. He had asked me to discover and photograph a monument that had been placed under his supervision in the Garden of Nations in Cleveland. It had been a true adventure to discover the Garden. Remember that in 2002 the Internet was in its infancy: in most cases it could be accessed by dial-up while even if the phones were mobile, they were far from smart. Now, in October 2021, in a few seconds I found out the location of the Romanian Garden (founded in 1967) in the Cleveland Federation of Cultural Gardens. Looking at the website I became sad, but that’s another story, which I hope to tell another time. Here I will only say that in 2002 I found the Garden thanks to the help of the eternal nostalgic after Romania Nicu Manolache. It was a snowy March and it took us a whole day to inquire around until we got to where we needed to be. The photos below appeared in the bilingual, anniversary book, dedicated to Alexandru Budișteanu, Changing lives, we change the world.

What can you say in such moments? That departures, no matter how predictable, are still very painful? That I have been very happy that Alexandru Budișteanu existed in my life, in our life, as a model of a man from whom I tried to learn as much as possible? That he was asking me interesting questions, as a “failed linguist” as he liked to joke and push me to reflect on the ways in which languages adapt or draw realities? That we were joking about how we would celebrate his centenary, but, it wasn’t meant to be ?! Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, some things do not depend only on us, no matter how much will and love of life one has.

I stop here knowing that I cannot hope to illuminate even if only partially a life as complex as that of Alexandru Budișteanu in just a few lines. But, for those who may be interested, here are some places where you can find more information about his life. Here and here.

I am convinced, however, that our lives will be poorer without Alexandru Budișteanu. Likewise, I know that the lives of those he has touched with his spiritual and intellectual generosity, and there are many, will certainly be much richer.


12 – 26 February 2021 – Chinese New Year

The Spring Festival marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year. The Economist tells us in its daily newsletter that:

The annual return of Chinese to their hometowns and families for the new lunar year is a migration equal to any on Earth. Normally perhaps 3bn journeys are made aboard planes, trains and automobiles. For swathes of the country’s 300m migrant workers, heading to their villages for the week-long Spring Festival is their only chance to see loved ones. This year expect half as many trips. With covid-19 in mind, the Chinese are being urged to stay put. Employees of the government or state-owned enterprises have little choice—they are under orders not to travel. Everyone else faces a range of nudges: carrots including cash to work the holiday, and such sticks as reduced transport options and quarantine-on-arrival. Few could deny that Chinese virus controls are effective, however tough. New cases are rare; daily life feels almost normal. But for those kept asunder from loved ones, seeing in this year of the Ox will feel beastly.

A Happy & Healthy New Year to all those who celebrate it this Spring Festival!


On old age … or how we become invisible

I discovered Ursula K. Le Guin first through leadership and later on as a fascinating writer. She started her blog at 81 and wrote on it for eight years. Her last post was on 25 September 2017. She died peacefully in her home in January, 2018.

Approaching 70 myself, I’m amazed at the lack of interest for real, meaningful discussions about old age around me. So, when I discover Le Guin’s post from May 2013 I feel I know what she’s writing about. Her post is now part of her book No Time to Spare, published in December 2017, from which I reproduce the fragment below.

She wisely points out that the insistence of a lot of people that we are not old is somehow insulting, even if it is meant as a sign of respect or encouragement.  

Becoming invisible is something that happens today not only with the old, man or women almost equally. It also happens to a lot of other people as we become socially more and more distanced, masked and interacting mostly virtually. Some categories fade slowly, but surely away.


Statues – fallen or standing

We go (again and again) through a period of demolishing statues. In Romania, but not only, we’ve been somehow used to tearing down and wiping out parts of our history. It’s a primitive mechanism of both revenge on what had been unfair and oppressive to those who are now in the position to be able to order the offensive pieces away and of “if I don’t see it, it never existed”.

It’s just that this happens today in places which we used to admire for their balanced, objective and generally democratic capacity to discuss, analyse and preserve public records so that history does not repeat itself. Well, not anymore it seems. And I do hope I’m wrong. This article, on “What the Removal of a K.G.B. Statue Can Teach America”, raises some thought-provoking questions.

However, what happens to the statues that are no longer desirable? According to Joshua Yaffa, a Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker, they are dumped or, if you prefer, preserved in the Muzeon, the Fallen Monument Park. Is this because they are nostalgic, or just want to revive the old times or … you can imagine as many scenarios as you are capable of imagining.

However, in another article, another journalist is quoted as having said that waging war on bronze men doesn’t make your life any more moral or just. “It does nothing really.” An interesting point coming from an anti-communist expert.

But the most interesting point is made by the granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, Nina. “Denouncing Stalin was Khrushchev’s greatest achievement, but removing him from all public spaces, trying to delete that history, was a big mistake,” Nina Khrushcheva said. “Once you demolish somebody’s hero you only incite hatred and force feelings underground.”

And the article goes on giving the example of the Ukraine who tore down the statues reminding them of the Soviets, but the effects has not been beneficial. On the contrary it seems.  

We have our own stories of dealing with our past. The three pictures above are emblematic. The sources for them are below.

However, have we learnt our lesson/s?

1. https://www.agerpres.ro/documentare/2020/03/05/romania-post-revolutie-1990-demontarea-statuii-lui-v-i-lenin-din-fosta-piata-a-scanteii–460114?fbclid=IwAR2-886NZXcU1qLteQqAFQEDZ0-DfgSLn40KLkB4FPL-xXN4BBCn9xqPnQ8

2. https://www.forbes.ro/cover-story-100-cool-ioana-ciocan-transgenerationarul_0_5813-13007

3. http://ioanaciocan.com/


On plagues and other … hopes

This is a long, but rewarding story. It can be also listened to. While you do your walking around your flat, or do something else than watch some kind of … screen.

Every story of an epidemic is a story of illiteracy, language made powerless, man made brute. A plague, says Jill Lepore, the author, is like a lobotomy. It cuts away the higher realms, the loftiest capacities of humanity, and leaves only the animal.

Every plague novel is a parable of the human condition. Albert Camus defined the novel as the place where humans are abandoned to other humans. Lepore goes on saying that in plague novels all human beings abandon all other human beings. She quotes some wise words from Camus, particularly doctor Rieux’ thoughts at the end: “He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good . . . and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.”

The conclusion is that men will always become, again, rats. If you think that is bleak, think again. I just cut out the parts I wanted from this story so I might be wrong. Plus, there’s always hope in the wisdom of books. And we do change the world as we do our best to survive. Even though Riux “knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers.”

Listen or read – there’s no better time as now. And even read “The Plague” by Camus.


Creative Stockholm

Sweden is, according to our guide, a very creative society. For instance, the safety belt was invented by a Volvo guy (Nils Bohlin): every 6 seconds a life is saved on planet Earth due to this Swedish guy. And Volvo, though holder of the patent, allowed all car manufacturers to use it in their own designs. Why? Because the company decided that the invention was so important that it had more value for life saving than for profit. Food for thought!?!

Our guide is a lively woman called Åsa which is pronounced “osa” and means goddess. Åsa has travelled a lot around the world, has a lot of multicultural experience, is very proud of her country and unhappy with the Romanian and Bulgarian gypsies which should be dealt with by Romania and Bulgaria, not Sweden. She has a Ph.D. in medieval history and loves teaching as a volunteer in high schools, lecture on cruises, guide tourists around Stockholm, take care of her handicapped child and all this, besides teaching political science at university. “Swedish women are strong. We can do anything we want! That’s because we have Pippi Longstocking as our role model since childhood.”

Åsa – our great Swedish guide in front of the City Hall.

The Nobel prizes are strongly connected to creativity and to the power of ideas to change the world.  That is another story however for another post.

Sweden has only about 10 million people compared to UK’s over 66 million. It is a small Britain – again according to our guide – and I guess she meant in terms of creativity.

Guided tour of the city hall – one of the landmarks of Stockholm.

Nobel Prize Hall

The organ in the Blue Hall. Largest in Scandinavia.

‘Please look at the 3 golden crowns on the top of the 106-meter tall tower!’ says Åsa. ‘They are the national coat of arms of Sweden, very famous. Do you know what they symbolize?’

Silence in the group.

‘Neither do I.’ Laughter. ‘Well, what I mean is that there are so many stories, often conflicting, that I prefer to say I don’t know.’

We walk in order, being told not to touch things, as the city hall has the offices and session halls of the politicians and their staff. The mayor is a woman – remember Pippi Longstocking?!

The Nobel prizes banquet is held here. After dinner in the Blue Hall, the Nobel Prize laureates, royalty and guests walk up to dance in the Golden Hall which has about 18 million gold mosaic tiles. 45 kg of gold were used to cover the room in very thin leaves. If you want to rent it – no problem. It’s only 6,500 per night to rent. ‘When I was a student I was lucky and won an opportunity to volunteer for the organization of the Nobel banquet. I was so impressed – I could peep into the banquet hall from behind those curtains!’

Golden Hall


Lunch at  the city hall restaurant. Very fancy. Good food. Loved their bread.

Ready for lunch at the City Hall?

Ceiling of the City Hall restaurant

‘We have only healthy food here. Chickens in Sweden are not hormone fed which means they grow very slowly. No GMOs.’


notes Helsinki

Funny oldish lady with a great sense of humour & an accent.

2 official lgs – finnish & swedish. Everthi g is in 2 lgs – svhools, legislation, etc. Some complain.

Flea market – a fashionable business of recycling.

Got a small map + highlights map.

Go to a boat Julia.

Thw only submarine turned museum.

Ice breakers – imp. 70 cm thick ice in winter. The sea freezes.

Swedish army

3 mil saunasin finland. NOT  a finish invention. The black death. Most finns’ re born in saunas.
Saunas are a way of life. Sausage baked while you have yr sauna. When you are both ready – grab a cold beer. We’te in heaven.

Ver dry summer hre as well. No pickles.

600 euros/month for small studio to rent. For students.

All apt had to have a tiny sauna starti g eith the 60s. Very expensive electricity bill.

8ummer schòol holiday 1 Ju e – 9 Aug. They start at 7. First lg – En + 2nd is swedish or finnish. Comprehensive schools.

Zoo island. The flamingo’s – one was eaten by a fox. The others died of a heart attack.

Russian Onion domes – stylized fire image 4 prayer in orthodox faith.
Market place
Lutheran cathedral + Kisellef
Sibelius monument.
The birth of earth acc to finnish mythology.

Helsinki – a huge building site in summer. It has all to be ready before winter.



notes St Petersburg

Security zone arpund the docks.

5 mil inhabitants vs 9 mil informal.
Moscow 11 mil vs 25 mil.
Peter Hof

Guide Catherine Driver Dimitri

1 hr’s drive to SP.

Port built in 2003 ??

Apt. / 50 m. Bath, kitchen.
In st petersburg usd 230.000 in the city centre 1 studio. Outskurts usd 50.000.


notes Tallinn

Ere – welcome

Afta – thank u


Not an indo-european lg. It’s a ungro-finnic lg.

EU country

Prit Hendrik – guide.


Cruisade to conquer the last pagans in europe. Catholics or orthodox?

700 yrs of german rule – no matter what actually the power was.


Singing revolution. No victims in tallinn. Blocking tanks with rocks + human chain. Gandhi like – no violence.


Nevski church.


notes Wismar

Former Easter Germany.
Small city 40 000 inhabitants. Almost like Curtea de Argeș.
Stasi – my mom said no because she didn’t like uniforms. My uncle was working for them being a spy 4 the SU.
Soviet blocks of flats – they needed space. How about the Chicago school of architecture?

You can ask for your Stasi file. 2,000 Eur for the driver’s licence.

Alte Schwede – holy moly. . The oldest building in town.

Beer tasting at Hinricus Noyte’s brewery.

3 types of beer to taste + a pretzel. Breakfast.

Blonde -pilsen.

Dark – braun stiller, sweeter and bitter at the same time. The oldest historically.

Red – red Eric. No real character, fullness.

Free time. To do what?

Ice cream or visiting St Nicholas’ church?
Ice cream.

Music by two street musicians, probably students. They had a good classical repertoire.
A tuba and a clarinet playing.
It’s haleluia cohen.
Haleluaih by leonard cohen.
Oh. I’m not a symphony goer.