CORNELIA GOLNA: Iroi lãspusits. Armãneashti di pi limba englezã di Maria Bara. (Go-Bos Press 2020. 541 p. ISBN 978-90-82608946.)
Recently, the novel Tainted Heroes, published in English in 2017, was brought out by a Dutch publisher in a Vlach (Aromanian) language edition, translated by Maria Bara. This publication is an extremely important and significant event for Vlach (cultural) history for at least two reasons.
The first reason is the novel itself: the author of the novel, Cornelia Golna, is a descendant of Vlachs, whose fate is very typical for an entire generation. Her father was born in a traditional Vlach area, now in Greece, and immigrated to Romania between the two world wars - as did several thousand other Vlachs. After the end of the First World War, Romania gained large territories, including Transylvania, Bessarabia and north Bukovina, as well as southern Dobruja, which had previously belonged to Bulgaria. The Romanian government’s aim was now to ‘Romanianize’ this area where, before, Romanians had been only a small minority. A practical way to do this seemed to be to settle Vlachs there, which is why in the 1920s and 1930s a corresponding propaganda was started among the Vlachs in their traditional territories in the Balkans to return to the supposed homeland of their ancestors. Soon, however, a certain disillusionment developed among those who had followed these calls, because, on the one hand, in south Dobruja they met with living and economic conditions completely different from those they were used to in Macedonia and the Pindus Mountains, on the other, Romania was forced to return south Dobruja to Bulgaria in 1940, by the Treaty of Craiova. This treaty stipulated, among other things, the forced relocation of the Romanian population to northern Dobruja, which remained part of Romania. Of course, this arrangement also included the Vlachs, who now established new settlements in the vicinity of Constanța or immediately migrated to larger cities, especially Bucharest. It is certainly not surprising that Romania’s further political and social development after the end of the Second World War has led many Vlachs to regard the decision at the time to leave Greece and settle in what was then Greater Romania as a historic misjudgment on the part of their ancestors.
Let us return to the author Cornelia Golna: her Vlach father, who emigrated from Greece in 1930, married a (Daco-)Romanian woman in 1944; their child, Cornelia, was born in Bucharest in 1951. Just a few months after Cornelia’s birth, the family left Romania, now under communist rule, and settled in Greece, where the family stayed only a few years before immigrating to the USA. So far, Cornelia Golna’s biography is certainly not an uncharacteristic example of a generation of Vlachs who experienced multiple shifts in their lives caused by political events before they finally found their home in North America – like many immigrants from other countries of the world – where most people quickly assimilated linguistically and culturally and gradually forgot their connection to their original homeland.
This is where Cornelia Golna’s special journey begins: as a young woman, she is curious to learn more about her family’s roots, and so she travels to Romania and later to the Balkans, and deals intensively with the peculiarities and history of Southeastern Europe. Her first novel, City of Man’s Desire, A Novel of Constantinople, set in early-20th-century Constantinople, was published in 2004. The protagonist of the book is a young Greek woman who lives during a period when Constantinople is inhabited by members of different nationalities and the city is on the threshold of modernity. The book was translated into both Greek and Turkish and achieved impressively high sales.
In her second novel, Tainted Heroes, which is now available in Vlach translation (Iroi lãspusits), Cornelia Golna remains faithful to the period of the first decade of the 20th century, but this time she leads the reader into the world of multi-ethnic Macedonia, where there are manifold conflicts both ethnic and religious. The author dedicated this book to her father and her grandfather, i.e., the representatives of the Vlach branch of her family, and the Vlachs and their way of life and culture are also at the center of the work. It is a crucial phase of Vlach history, which Max Demeter Peyfuss, a specialist in southeastern European history, described in detail in his dissertation. At a time when resistance by the various population groups in Macedonia grew and manifested itself in different ways against the Ottomans, the Sultan’s Irade of 23 May 1905, granted the Vlachs de facto the rights of a millet, though without religious autonomy. May 23rd is celebrated by many Vlachs around the world to this day as a kind of national holiday. In this first decade of the 20th century, the struggles of the various ethnic groups living in Macedonia also turned against one another and erupted even within individual groups. In the case of the Vlachs, for example, those who had developed a national consciousness and specifically supported Romania, which since the 1860s had promoted the establishment of a Vlach, or Romanian, school system, opposed those who were pro-Greek. In the end, both groups did not shy away from the use of force, even murder and homicide. This explains the title as well as the motto ‘One man’s hero is another man’s traitor’ – ‘Irou ti un easti prudot ti altu’ of Cornelia Golna’s novel, which grips the reader as it leads them into the complex Balkan world of the beginning of the 20th century, with all its ethnic turmoil, including the problems that come with the modernization of social life. It is a completely confusing situation for the individual, one that he cannot influence, as the protagonist, Agathon Galan, unhappily concludes after the Irade: ‘Makidhunia easti ca un gioc di shah cu ma multsã giucãtori di cãt lipseashti sh-tora elji vor sã-lj bagã Armãnjlji pioni. Iradelu easti scos di turtsã ta sã-lj dãnãseascã niheam gretslji tsi lã u luarã ninti’ (p. 297).
The Vlach translation of Tainted Heroes is, however, extremely important for a second reason: discussions have been going on for a long time about the creation of a written Vlach language, often quite lively and contentious. In recent years efforts to enhance the status of the Vlach language and to secure the status of a fully developed and functional written Vlach are becoming increasingly noticeable. An important aspect of these efforts is the production of independent literature, but also of translations into a written Vlach form that is comprehensible to most potential readers. Of course, the question arises here as to which alphabet should be used. Because of contact with the respective national languages, the Vlachs living in Greece, for example, are familiar with the Greek alphabet, while those living in North Macedonia are familiar with the Latin alphabet. If one has to choose an alphabet, the choice of the Latin is certainly understandable, especially with regard to its preponderance in the world and to the desire to make Vlach more visible. In the meantime, one orthographic system has been gradually gaining acceptance and is the one used by the translator of Tainted Heroes, Maria Bara. It is easy to read and offers solutions for ‘difficult’ spellings, which do not alienate anyone, but at the same time are distinct from Daco-Romanian orthography: sh and not ș, ã and not ă, â or î, ts and not ț.
Translations of literary works into Vlach have fortunately increased significantly in recent years. Cornelia Golna’s Iroi lãspusits has a very special place in this series, because it has a direct connection with Vlach history and culture – the novel sheds a captivating light on a historical chapter that has drastically affected the subsequent fate of the Vlachs. Both the author and the translator are to be thanked for creating a work that, in the combination of language and content, represents a milestone in Vlach cultural history.
Bamberg/Jena WOLFGANG DAHMEN
 PEYFUSS, Max Demeter: Die aromunische Frage. Ihre Entwicklung von den Ursprüngen bis zum Frieden von Bukarest (1913) und die Haltung Österreich-Ungarns, Wien u.a.: Böhlau 1974 (Romanian translation: Chestiunea aromânească. Evoluția ei de la origini până la pacea de la București (1913) și poziția Austro-Ungariei, București: Ed. Enciclopedică 1994).
 In the English original: ‘Macedonia is a giant bloody chess game with too many players, and they’re trying to use the Vlachs as pawns. This Irade is a new move, a maneuver by the Turks to hinder the Greek advance‘ (p. 233).
Tainted Heroes, translated into Aromanian (Vlach) by Maria Bara