Appropriating my parents’ nostalgia for their world, a world I did not know: perhaps this has been the enduring theme of my life.
I was born in Bucharest, Romania. My mother was Romanian. My father came from Greece. My parents managed to leave Romania, thus avoiding my father’s imprisonment by the communists, when I was 7 months old. They struggled to survive in post-civil-war Greece for four years until they were able to immigrate to America, where I grew up and was educated.
In my mid-twenties, I decided to go out into the world and seek my fortune. With $1000 in my pocket, I flew to Europe. My plan was to get to Romania, to see the land of my birth. After many peregrinations, I reached my goal.
Life in a totalitarian system was an eye-opening and mind-expanding experience for me. Many aspects were intimidating, not to say frightening, but most of all it was totally different from the life I had known. I relearned my mother’s language and met many fascinating people there. I saw how people adapted to constricting circumstances yet struggled to preserve something of their individuality, their dignity, in the process. There I also learned about Balkan hospitality and the role of cunning in survival. Already more than a quarter century has passed since the fall of communism, yet even today I believe that my initial visit to Romania was the most profound experience of my life. I also met my husband then, Jan Willem Bos, a Dutchman studying Romanian literature, who brought me to Holland, where we have lived ever since. When my parents retired, they moved back to Greece. And for more than 35 years we have been visiting both my parents’ countries on a regular basis. These prolonged stays in the Balkans have enriched me. They have fed my love for this part of the world and stimulated my imagination. My two novels are the result of this experience.
Cornelia Golna in Istanbul, 2010