For the most part, the response to Nick Balamaci’s poignant article, “Resurrecting Aromanian Culture,” was positive and encouraging. One would think, however, that such a reflective article would induce more letters of support, especially given the size and diversity of this community, not to mention the capabilities. He voiced what many have known and felt for a long time, and I feel strongly that his ideas and claims could not have come at a better time.
Yet, on the other hand, the mere handful who have verbally lashed out at such writing, and at the Newsletter in general, have thus far been unwilling to submit their own works to this forum. They have their axe to grind and if they choose not to participate, they should at least walk away knowing that for the first time in the Society Farsarotul’s history we are finally witnessing action instead of listening to idle promises and empty words. The Newsletter is both innovative and vibrant; it is a perfect vehicle with which to communicate to our dispersed community, a literary device which reaches everyone, not just a select few.
Our community is clearly at a cultural and linguistic crossroads; we are often assimilated into the American mainstream, just as the new arrivals come here often deeply assimilated into the Romanian or Greek mainstream. Both of these realities must be recognized. Mr. Balamaci’s thoughts urge me to reflect on the conflict between growing up in a diaspora community listening to years of cultural obscurantists, and then finally journeying to the familiar Vlach villages of Greece, where the vast majority of our people live, and seeing for myself a far different reality. I learned one thing from a diaspora experience: there is no teacher like travel, especially when you can walk into an old Farsharot or Samariniat village and catch fleeting glimpses, here and there, of atavistic traits of thousands of years of history. One returns home to the diaspora and one sees how far we’ve traveled and how much we’ve lost over the years.
“Resurrecting Aromanian Culture” asks us to look at the Vlachs of Europe as we look at ourselves right here. Without knowing the Vlachs and their villages (with their own conflicts) we cannot fully grasp the significance of who we are — we cannot understand our “unique” culture, our odd survival. Because we have been very susceptible here to merely “accepting” what we were told of our identity, never questioning. And a community that never questions can never grow. The article implores us to come to terms with “what is” rather than “what used to be” or even “what should be” (often “what used to be” never really was).
No, the Vlachs in the towns and villages of Greece seek no liberation, as many would believe. Their feelings, their sentiments on being Vlachs, do not necessarily coincide with ours
in a distant land. They show no need, no burning desire, to look beyond the land of their birth for cultural nourishment. They must live in a world of reality, not of myth.
Thank you, Mr. Balamaci, for your innovative and honest article. It hopefully will inspire many, particularly the young, to realize and learn more about their ancient culture, and to see the significance of obscure and threatened ethnic groups (Vlach, not Greek, not Romanian). But most of all, let’s hope they invest in their culture by looking at it objectively and realistically, (whether through the Newsletter or by traveling to our villages) and by interpreting it in a way appropriate to our modern era.