The tragic death of Moldova's most famous poet, Grigore Vieru, is a huge loss for both Moldovans and Romanians. For Vieru, who died in a car crash over the weekend, had always been a passionate champion of cultural reunification between Romanians living on the two sides of the River Prut.
Vieru had long been recognized in both Moldova and Romania as a great Romanian-language poet. With his fiery, militant verse, and his impressive physical appearance, Grigore Vieru fought during Soviet rule and after for the recognition of Moldovans' right to speak their language, and for their right to call that language by its right name, Romanian.
It comes somewhat as a surprise, then, that Moldova's communist president, Vladimir Voronin, has decreed January 20 as a day of national mourning in memory of Vieru. A surprise, because Voronin has always been the opposite of Vieru.
Whereas Vieru called for the recognition of Romanian as the language of Moldova, Voronin has always pretended that Moldovan is a different language. Whereas Vieru saw Moldovans as Romanians, Voronin maintained that they are a different nation. Whereas Vieru had always hated communism and communists, Voronin is one.
How, then, that Voronin calls a day of national mourning for someone whom he had always been at odds with? Has Vieru's death triggered a sudden and unexpected change in Voronin's heart and mind? Has Voronin realized all of a sudden that Vieru was right -- there is no Moldovan language, and Moldovans are mostly Romanians living in a separate state?
Alas, I suspect that, no, Voronin has not gone through a cathartic change.
He may simply be preparing the ground for his Communist Party to appear more pro-Romanian and more pro-Western in the upcoming parliamentary elections in spring. Whether from pro-Russians or from pro-Romanians, votes speak no language for Voronin.
In a strikingly portentous poem, "Doina," Vieru anticipated his poetic legacy would be claimed by some who had denied it in his lifetime:
Sweet Mother, please tell God
And now I'll be forever walking
Holding my own grave in my arms.
Oh, and I don't know anymore
Where I should place it.
-- Eugen Tomiuc