Preserving Tradition

Interview with PETER RILEY

Poet, Cambridge, UK

maramures_traditie si familie_mic“If Bucharest does not consider preserving Romania’s rural tradition as a treasure of humankind, you may say good-bye to the Romanian specificity within the European Union”

After having travelled to Maramureş once, many foreigners’ lives change unawares.  They become “addicted” to the villages of Hoteni, Bogdan Vodă, Breb or Vadu Izei. Nothing is the same as before. Much more sensitive than the Romanians when faced with values that they themselves have lost forever at home, these foreigners believe that they have found “the meaning of the universe” on the Iza or the Vişeu rivers. While the Japanese, with their kamikaze spirit, buy themselves graves in the Cemetery of Săpânţa, the Americans, the French or the English go out of their way to buy “signs of life” or not miss celebrations that take place throughout the year, such as weddings, nedei [traditional festivities], and Sunday dances. More than once, due to their direct impact, traditional dances have resumed in some villages, traditional dress and customs have been preserved, old wooden houses (otherwise threatened by bad-taste, through the offensive tide of the little gypsum pillars and coloured ceramics) have been left standing. Without any exaggeration, if Maramureş is still the dreamland of a strong traditional lifestyle, this is partly due to the foreigners who love this unique area. Almost every Maramureş family is linked, by invisible threads, to one or more families abroad. When someone is born, gets married or dies in Maramureş, no one could care less in Bucharest, Timişoara or Constanţa. But they are sure to care in Paris, London or Washington. In a way, what happens in Maramureş today will happen tomorrow to the entire Romania, when it gets to be really discovered by Westerners. At least this is what a British poet and his wife, Peter and Beryl Riley, from Cambridge, believe.

“We cannot conceive spending our holidays outside Maramureş any more”

–         How has a remarkable English poet as yourself come to spend his holidays in Romania, particularly in Maramureş?

–         To us, 1993 may be considered as the year of our discovery of the Romanian music, and 1998, the year of our first visit to this country. We were in a pub one evening, in Cambridge, when strange sounds of celestial beauty resounded next to us. We immediately inquired about the magicians who were interpreting those unheard-of tunes. “Romanians from Soporu de Câmpie”, said the bartender. It was an evening unlike any others we had had. Continue reading