As we know from modern anthropological research, and as Beverlee Fatse Dacey illustrates in this issue, language is by no means the only component of a culture, nor even a necessary part of it. It is just one of many aspects of culture–an important one, no doubt–yet it is quite possible to have an Aromanian identity without knowing the language (beyond the several dozen key words we always seem to know, such as pita, maia, apa, tsi fatsi?, ghini, Dumnidzau, etc.). There are families all over central Europe, from Vienna to Skopje, from Tirana to Bucharest, who have not spoken Aromanian for two or three generations and yet who retain Aromanian identity and culture. At the same time, there are others who know Aromanian but who do their best to adopt another culture wholesale, in the mistaken belief that more developed cultures are somehow “superior”– they are not, and it is perhaps this realization more than any other which is leading people back to older cultures in search of values which might be longer-lasting than those offered by “modern” civilization.
This description seems to fit our American community particularly well: We are certainly losing the language, but we retain enough of our culture and ethnic identity to be able to return to them when we sense it is needed.
This is a different approach from that of the generation of Aromanians who were born in Macedonia, many of whose lives were permanently and painfully marked by a political struggle between Greece and Romania for our allegiance. In those old days, it was felt that the language was absolutely crucial, even sacred.
Even though we know now that language is not the only issue, nevertheless some old ideas have persisted even to this day; a good example is the so-called “Aromanian Anthem,” a poem by Constantine Belimace entitled Parinteasca Dimandare (“Will of the Forefathers”), which, however appropriate it may have seemed 100 years ago, has an extremely discomforting ring to it in this day and age. A rough translation follows:
|Parinteasca dimandare||The will of our forefathers|
|Na sprigiura cu foc mare||Commands us with a great flame|
|Fratsi di muma si di-un tata||Children of the same parents|
|Noi, Armani di eta toata.||We, the Aromanians from time immemorial.|
|Di sum plocili di murmintsa||From beneath their gravestones|
|Striga a noshtri bun parintsa:||Our good parents cry out:|
|“Blastem mare s-aiba n-casa||“We curse you if you have at home|
|Cari di limba a lui si-alasa.||Someone who leaves his language.|
|Cari-shi alasa limba a lui||For whomever leaves his language:|
|S’lu arda pira focului||Let him be burned by flames|
|Si s-dirina yiu pri loc||Let him be destroyed alive where he stands|
|Si lli si friga limba n-foc.||Let his tongue be burned in flame|
|El ‘n vatra-lli parinteasca||Before his ancestral hearth|
|Fumeallia s-nu shi-hariseasca||Let him not enjoy a family|
|Di fumelli curuni s-nu bashe||Let him not see a family get married|
|Nat ‘n leagan s-nu nfashe.||Let him not rock a child’s cradle|
|Cari fudzi di a lui muma||For whomever leaves his mother|
|Shi di parinteasca-lli numa||And his ancestral name:|
|Fuga-lli doara Domnului||Let him ever lose God’s grace|
|Shi dultseamea somnului!”||And the sweetness of sleep!”|
At a recent “Congress” dealing with our people, objections were at last registered by some who were repelled by the deep curse this poem invokes upon all of us here in America and aroundthe world who do not speak Aromanian–as if that were all that counted.
There are alternatives to this bitter poem as a focal point for our culture, such as the sensitive, graceful poem by George Murnu entitled Grailu Armanescu (“The Aromanian Word”); it is not so much concerned with rote language as it is with the entire cultural milieu–the mountains, the home hearth, a natural environment, freedom, occasional strife, and family. I hope the hasty translation below conveys some of the images the poem has in the original version:
|Grailu a meu di muma,||Sweet word of my mother,|
|grailu a meu di tata,||sweet word of my father,|
|Vatra mea iu n™~i ardu||Home hearth where the years burn|
|an™~lli tsi am banata.||with the logs upon the fire.|
|Graiu picurarescu||Sweet sounds of the shepherds|
|di paduri shi plae,||in the woods and on the hillside,|
|Sbor tsi avdzai dit gura||Words spoken by father’s father,|
|a paplui shi ali maie,||words spoken by his young bride;|
|Sbor di budza vruta,||Words from lips beloved,|
|dumnidzeasca nila–||speaking holy mercy–|
|Niurisma di franga||Scent of rose and berry,|
|shi di trandafila.||cure for all that hurts me.|
|Lava di cashare,||Noises of the sheepfold,|
|boatse di caliva,||voices from straw houses,|
|Sufla vindicare||Borne by gentle breezes,|
|a ta dultse liva.||soothing as they rouse us.|
|Bana ni cutreamburi||Playing for me my life,|
|ca una flueara||like the air of a flute which|
|Tsi di dor pitrunde||With its pain can pierce|
|noaptea tu pundie,||the wilds in blackest night,|
|Inima-ni ti canta,||Making my heart sing you,|
|mana-ni tut ti scrie.||making my hand write.|
|Stau, ts-ascultu plangul,||Wait–sounds of your tears come,|
|jalea shi niholu,||grieving, singing slowly,|
|Ved ncrutsiliata||Visions of my own kin|
|soia-ni ca Hristolu||crucified, made holy,|
|Shi mizie lli-si-avde||And then barely a whisper–|
|sborlu a tau dit gura.||the breezes stop blowing.|
|Scumpa mea fantana||Dear and friendly fountain,|
|tse anarga cura,||always gently flowing,|
|Mani, poati mani||Next time, maybe next time|
|di dushmani biuta,||to quench a foe, one violent,|
|Va si-armani tu eta||But you’ll remain through ages,|
|ponda shi tacuta.||placid and silent.|
The difference in tone is marked; which do you prefer?
We cannot afford to devote ourselves here in America to an idea which simply excludes perhaps 90 per cent of us. It is plain to see that, like all other immigrant groups in this country, ourlanguage is mostly lost by the third generation, which is the generation whose responsibility it is to carry on the Society Farsarotul now. The fact that most of us cannot speak Aromanian does not mean that we haven’t got a feeling for our community and for our cultural background–quite the contrary, as shown by our membership in the Society and our interest in its affairs.
We must face these facts maturely and change the tone of our cultural discussions to one which is more inclusive of all who feel an Aromanian identity, no matter what language they speak or what church they attend. To reject the actual, living community — our sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, our cousins and godparents, friends and compatriots — over the language questionis like throwing out the baby with the bath water: a hugely misplaced importance.
1927, 20 Jul.
A typical straw hut (caliva) built by nomadic Farsarotsi in their travel
through the Pindus Mountains. Such houses are rarely found anymore.