The Country That I Love by Marie Queen of Rumania

CHAPTER 14


SIX years have passed since then—six years—time flies and there is so much to do!

We had all pictured peace differently—we hardly any of us expected that our old Europe would be so utterly changed. We did not realize that so many problems would have to be faced all at once—problems which cut deeply into the old order of things, into our lives and habits, into our beliefs. We saw institutions crumble and fall, which we believed to be on an unshakably firm basis; we saw old traditions pulled down, old beliefs scoffed at; we had to get accustomed to a violence of speech which sometimes made us shudder We had to look on at a levelling of classes, a rising of the masses, at enormous strides made in a short time. We saw much that was beautiful to the eye disappear, much of the picturesquesness of life uprooted to make place for more practical but less attractive institutions. The world has become more noisy, more vulgar; everybody has more rights or believes he has; whether each man has really profited by the change still remains to be seen.

I was never of those who protested against real progress or liberty based upon order. I do not always approve, I often deplore, the uglifying of all things, but that is because at heart I am an artist; but thank God there are still certain solitudes into which those can take refuge who feel the world too full, especially in our Country of untrodden paths.

It took me about two years to shake down, if I may be allowed to use that expression—to get accustomed to the old-new surroundings, to put things to a certain degree in order again, to adapt to-day with yesterday I lost as little time as possible regretting, comparing. deploring; I am instinctively a builder, and builders must strain every muscle, not loose strength with complaints.

I always tried to take hold of things and make the best of them, and I am eternally persuading others to do so. Above all, complaints weaken, there is good in all things, or in most things at least, if we will only seize it, use it, make it ours.

Peace brought no rest, only a mighty new straining, an adapting of things incongruous, a great effort that peace should not become war once more.

We belonged to a very unsettled part of the world; besides, our country had become twice its former size. Not only did we come back into what used to be ours, but we now possessed vast new territories; they had to be visited, understood, taken up into our hearts.

Indeed, in every way my life had been cut in two halves, the first half lying in a past further away than the mere number of years.

I came back to Cotroceni, Copaceni, Sinaia, Horez; I sailed again up and down on the Danube, took possession anew of mountains, hills and plains. I rode once more on my long sea-shores—I watched the sunsets, the harvests, the deep winter-snows; I have been covered with the dust of our long, endless Roumanian roads, now become ever so much longer still.

All the dear old haunts mentioned in these pages were revisited. Even my old mother-abbess was still alive and looked at me over the chasm of those two fearful years with a smile become shadowy; there always seemed some fear in all faces I met in those places which had known the enemy's sway, some anxiety still dogging their steps. Two years' invasion leaves its stamp.

I actually did rebuild the little house at Copaceni; I gave it the solid white columned shape I had dreamed of, with a huge silver-grey roof of shingle—I planted my garden, each year a little bit, for everything goes slowly nowadays, as times are hard. I am teaching others to love their gardens, and the greater the effort the more worth while it seems.

It is strange and pathetic to watch how human beings waste their possibilities when times are easy and make incredible efforts to create out of almost nothing when hard days come. There is probably some deeper law of compensation in this, which I feel without being able to explain. I am too busy to philosophize, and yet I have learnt, and seen, and partly understood so many things since the war, and thought thoughts not habitual to Queens; but I am not going to bother you with them here.

But after-war is like a long convalescence after a fearful illness; one is never quite the same again; and this is not only because I am getting older but because such colossal strides had to be made in such a very short time.

Mircea knows nothing of these after-war times, he lies cold and still in his grave; I was not to see what face would have been his had he lived to affront the joys and pains of this world; but, when I enter the old church to lay the first flowers of each changing season upon his tomb, in stepping over that threshold I seem to step back into the days that are no more.

But the other children have moved on with me, each following his or her separate destiny according to the will of God. They all love this country, as I do; they, too, have learnt to be builders; we have opened their eyes to the times we are living in—we are conscious of the changes, but we are steadfast in what we believe to be right.

Some things which I dreamed of doing "after the war" have become impossible; money has another value, dreams have taken other shapes....

I am sadder than I was, yet stronger and more tranquil; I have learnt better how to help. My will has become more steadfast, I am less swayed by the appreciation of others; but earth, sea, and sky are dearer to me than ever, and all the sweet, strong, beautiful things that grow out of the earth.

Little by little I am wandering through every corner of my country—the old and the new parts; I want to know it, see it, understand it deeply; its needs, its aspirations, all there is still to be done. I can but do my small share and bring up the young ones with the ideal of continuing our task. One must not imagine that one is indispensable, that there is no limit put to the time given one to work in; but to be a good and useful worker one must believe in one's work....

I am still strong, my spirit is willing, my health unbroken. I have still many dreams; but time flies; he is no respecter of human effort, and how can I know how many years may still be granted me to carry them out?