King Mihai I of Romania is turning 85 today. After spending 42 years in exile because of the Communist the Soviets brought to Romania, Ion Iliescu's regime managed to continue the nightmare for 6 more years. In this time the King was allowed to pay one single official visit at Easter, in 1992. Romanians were incredibly glad at the arrival of the King together with Queen Ana, which scared the Social-Democrat officials. Afterwards the latter forbade the Royal Family to come to their own country.
Years passed by and the post-Communist political regimes grew milder, once Romania became a NATO member and was slowly heading the EU.
King Mihai is the last ruler of a state who witnessed the events that tore Europe apart during and after WW II. He shares his recollections with us. His memories about Romania's history are still very lively. He speaks about what a shock it was to sign the Hitler-Stalin Pact and split the country between Hungary and the USSR, about how dreadful it was to see the Soviet troops on Bucharest streets. The disgust he felt after being driven away in 1990 and his return to Basarabia after 65 years are just some of the things the King can recollect.
King Mihai will be celebrating his birthday at Agapia Monastery, when the Church celebrates St. Michael and Gabriel. He wants to spend Christmas amidst the peasants, wandering about Romanian villages. As for the New Year's Eve, he would like to be in a holy monastery when Romania joins the EU.
Happy Birthday from ZIUA, Your Majesty!
"When I visit villages, many hug and kiss me"
Rep.: After 1996 you have visited Romania more often. You have wandered about the country, sometime driving you car. How are your country and citizens after 48 years?
K.M.: I think it is the way I knew it to be. But in cities it is different. People recognize me out in the streets, they wave to me from buses and cars. When I visit villages, many hug and kiss me. This is how it was before too. But there are so many problems. There is general sadness.
K.M.: Yes, poverty. And then the houses damaged by floods that can't be rebuilt. I am trying to help them the way I can. Many tell me they wrote to institutions, but got no replies. I can't understand authorities. As for our places, there is no such thing as unanswered letters. The only field I can really help in is that of medical matters. There is an ex Romanian officer, now a doctor in Paris. Anytime someone writes he/she is sick, this doctor sends medicine for free. This is the only practical thing we can actually do.
Rep.: In 2005 you were invited to attend the Moscow events celebrating 60 years since the end of the war. Was it surprise to Your Majesty?
K.M.: It was more than surprise. I don't know if it was because of the tour in Slovakia or the Czech Republic. But I was invited due to the merits of our troops who had fought for the independence of Czechoslovakia first of all. The officials delivered all sorts of speeches, but I told them about how our soldiers had behaved, how they had fought on their own, without the Russians. I visited all the cemeteries in those places. Then I got an invitation to Moscow. I was in the Czech Republic when I learnt and I left Prague for Moscow.
Rep.: How was it? In Moscow there still are jewels belonging to Queen Maria, that got lost from the treasure the Russians took. How is the Royal House approaching this? What should Romanian authorities do?
K.M.: We believe it is almost impossible to do something any more. There were some questions on more belongings of Queen Maria. The answer was the typical one: we don't know, they don't exist. They are in their cases, they have got all they wish there. But Moscow is... Moscow.
"What he did to the country is the problem"
Rep.: Your Majesty, do you think there is need of a report to condemn communism officially?
K.M.: Everybody knows what communism as such was. People are the delicate issue. There were millions of people in the Communist Party. It doesn't mean they are responsible for what happened. Maybe just some of them are. But this is not the problem. We must know how who was forced into it and who wanted it. I don't know how many people know about communism in general, about the murders. They say millions of people died because of communism. Since we are Christians, we should consider that in Christianity there is not only revenge. Someone asked if I met Ceausescu, would I turn my back? I wouldn't turn my back on anyone. What he personally did is not my concern. What he did to the country is the problem. (...)
Rep.: What future is there for today's Royal House?
K.M.: A precise answer is difficult to give because the situation is very complex. Here it is in brief: Princess Margareta and Prince Radu live here, she has her Foundation and Prince Radu became a representative of the government. We are trying to make people understand what Romanian monarchy was and what it can still do. Public opinion makes a big different between now and five years ago. We must continue to analyze what we can do. There are more programmes.
"From Brussels they will tell us what and how to do"
Rep.: What about NATO and the European Union?
K.M.: NATO is a military alliance, it is something completely different. The European Union is something I don't actually understand. Of course I think we belong there. We are Europeans, we can't be left aside. Of course we must be there. But it will be more complicated than the NATO. From Brussels they will tell us what to do and how to do.
Rep.: What about the EU and national ideals? Do you have some advice for the youth?
K.M.: About the youth... I talked to many university students in Timisoara and all over the country. As far as I understand, they are looking for something they don't get. (...) They are after achievements, they don't know about state affairs and they no longer feel confident. As they distrust political parties, they don't know what to think any more.
As for the national feeling, an extreme attitude is to be avoided. But both nationalism and patriotism are morally deep. Since these people aren't taught about morals, then the meaning of the Christian faith is even more difficult. Because of the wars here and in more places, they are worse than before. There is no longer anything to support the youth. Sometimes a fundamental feeling is missing, a feeling to attract people to be together.
Rep.: Have you got any plans for the holidays? I know there will be a tour in the country.
K.M.: Yes, there will. At Christmas time I will be wandering from village to village, in the north. I will talk to the peasants and be with them. (...)
"The moral sense should become more important"
Rep.: You are turning 85, Your Majesty! Happy birthday! The Patriarch has turned 91 and I dare say he heads the Romanian Orthodox Church bravely. What relations are there between the Royal House and the Church?
K.M.: Monarchy has been at terms with the Church ever since Monarchy was established in Romania. There have never been problems. But it was rather impossible in the Ceausescu era. Relations with all Churches continue at present. Maybe the Patriarch doesn't like it too much, but I don't make a difference between Orthodox, Catholic and more. Faith comes from the same God.
As for the accession to the EU, as I have been saying, it will be complicated. We must think about what we can do. The youth must learn what Europe means and how we can have European achievements in Romania. It is a real pity. We have got exceptionally gifted youth. If they don't find some jobs for them, it is real loss. Europe will be crowded.
Rep.: A message for our readers?
K.M.: For our youth in particular: they should learn well how thinks work. The moral sense should become more important in our places. We have noticed that education is not what it used to be and then the moral sense diminishes too. The youth must not yield to temptations. This is not that we should all be priests or monks, but there is a limit. I talked to the Patriarch about the young priests. They should learn to teach people about what religion means, to use the rules of God. I think this is what many youth lack.