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Romanian National Culture Day and the New Normal

Romanian National Culture Day and the New Normal

Do not worry: this is going to be short and… bitter. Bitter is good. In drinks, according to personal taste, and in real life, because it prompts reflection.

Therefore, here is what I want to reflect upon today – once again on the National Culture Day of us, Romanians, that is January 15, and how this day connects to the new normal, that is life after the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously, the connection is mostly in my mind, but considering my long experience in higher education, mainly in soft skills development, my constant discussions with master students from various universities on and beyond the syllabus, as well as my interactions with a large diversity of professional and personal contacts from all over the world, I might be justified in my attempt.

Deciding on having a National Culture Day [1] in 2010 and celebrating it on January 15, the birthdate of Mihai Eminescu, was a brilliant idea as, since then, it has offered an occasion for lovers of Romanian culture to celebrate a special and so little known internationally cultural heritage.

From ambassadors in Bucharest who recite Romanian verse [2] to international pop singers who sing in Romanian [3] or simply to young people in Japan who deliver a speech in Romanian or recite Romanian poetry [4], January 15 is all about Romanian culture and, obviously, about Eminescu.

So, what is bitter about that? Isn’t that sweet news? Shouldn’t we be happy and continue to celebrate according to preferences, prose, poems, dance, creative arts, etc., etc., and mainly according to our budgets? Do not worry, I will not go that path, although I’m really tempted as on December 3, 2020, I was reading a call for projects launched by the Ministry of Culture for the funding of the 2021 National Culture Day [5]. The deadline for the submission of projects being 21 December by 10 pm. I will not comment.

But, again, I cannot help reminding readers and, why not, ourselves what we are teaching students or people interested in project management and funding in terms of setting credible and achievable deadlines and objectives. And how do we explain and document the need for sustainable public policies in the field of culture and education only to discover with anguish that Romania is a country where a child is expected to achieve only 60% of her or his productive potential as an adult simply because a lack of quality in education? If the same child moved to another country in the European Union where one can have access to high-quality education and a developed health system, the expectation of personal achievement would rise to 100%. This is what the 2020 World Bank Report on Markets and People: Romania Country Economic Memorandum [6] says on page 138, providing clear statistics from official sources.

And the same Report, on page 83, in the chapter on Romania’s Human Capital Deficit, points out that Romania’s HCI (Human Capital Index) score is the lowest in the EU. The Human Capital Index measures the amount of health and education that a child born today in a country is expected to achieve by adulthood and is made up of three components (survival + school + health)*. The report points out significant differences among counties even across Romania: children living in Bucharest-Ilfov, the region with the highest human capital indicator, have human capital levels similar to those in Bulgaria or Greece. Children living in the poorest counties have levels equivalent to those in Tonga or Tunisia (p. 74).

“And what does this have to do with the National Culture Day?” – some of our readers might ask. It has everything to do – in my humble opinion. Starting from Maslow’s simple needs hierarchy and getting to the more complex analyses based on big data and AI, which only confirm what we already know, even if it is difficult to acknowledge, we are helped to see beyond the political discourse of whoever is in power that culture and education are not a priority in this country and children without basic living conditions for the 21st century cannot be expected to be interested in learning or in poetry, in singing or dancing or whatever their hidden talent might be. They are too weak or hungry or simply no longer alive.

I may be exaggerating – however, not much. And I do it for a good purpose – this is yet another wake-up call for decision-makers at all levels for what is happening right now around us in terms of online education or COVID-19 health issues. Which means that returning to the new normal, however that looks like and when it happens, will not be easy and may, unfortunately, widen the already existing deep disparities in this country and the gaps between Romania and the rest of the EU.

And yet, let’s look at the bright side, at the silver lining of a generally overcast sky which is our current life. And the silver lining is the very existence of a National Culture Day and its capacity to channel so many energies inside and outside Romania, and return them under multiple forms and versatile genres towards the ever growing and diversifying publics all over the world.

And there is more bright news. I am delighted to mention here a jewel of a book that is about our very own beloved Mihai Eminescu. The book is Mihai Eminescu – The Legend of the Evening Star and Selected Poems translated by Adrian George Săhlean. You can see its lovely cover in the picture, but you cannot feel its amazing texture and enjoy the admirable quality of the print work unless you buy the book and hold it in your hands.

Săhlean did an amazing job with his translation of Eminescu into not only palatable English for today’s readers. He also managed to render the music of Eminescu’s poetry into English. Why do I say this? Because Eminescu is viewed by many, mostly Romanians, as Europe’s last great Romantic poet and was celebrated by UNESCO as Year-2000-Poet-of-the-Year, and yet… Eminescu is so little-known outside the Romanian speaking world and, so sorry to have to say this, he is also becoming less familiar to an increasing number of Romanian young people who find it more and more difficult to remember titles of poems or, God forbid, to recite some verses. I wrote here [7] more on the subject. Therefore, a wonderful bilingual edition like this is one of the most beautiful gifts anyone can make or receive as a gesture of true friendship and, why not, of love.

I myself bought the book from: If you follow the link, you will read more on the book, on the translator and, through the Look Inside! Feature, can have a taste of what is between the covers.

You can find the book through the Amazon system in USA, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada and Australia. However, the book in itself cannot survive. No book can. It needs the support of people and organizations, but that’s more difficult over here, if it is to move beyond the awareness of Romanians only and into the English-speaking world.

I still dream of a time and “new normal” when organizations in Romania would access funding to buy such a book in significant numbers and endow the public libraries in this country (they are alive and doing much better than we can imagine in the world) and, why not, in others, with such admirable works of art. 


* For a more detailed discussion of the HCI and how it is computed, please see pp. 80-84 of the World Bank Report.





[3] Toto Cutugno,



[6] World Bank. 2020. Markets and People: Romania Country Economic Memorandum,




The Market For Ideas Association

The Romanian-American Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture (RAFPEC)

Amfiteatru Economic