I’m being Manuela because my father chose this name for me. It means “God with us.” Here we are together in this Christmas 1953 photograph: my father, myself, and my doll.
A political prisoner from 1959 till 1964, my father – Dr. Luca Mihailescu – had passed away in September 1977.
I decided to start this blog today for a sentimental reason. Thirty-three years ago, on May 2, 1980, a few days short of being thirty years old, I left Romania – an emigrant taking the one-way street to the unknown. I spent most of the previous year alone in Bucharest, waiting for an exit visa. My mother and my sister were already in the States, and so was Jon, my future husband.
I left Romania as Manuela Mihailescu and I decided to always keep my maiden name in my father’s memory. To make it easier to pronounce, I changed its spelling to Michailescu when I became an American citizen.
May 2, 1980… Saying good bye to dear family friends and one courageous cousin. My half-brother, afraid of losing his job if anybody learned about me leaving the country, didn’t see me to the airport. I had next to me my beloved friend Liliana, pregnant with Suzan, her daughter to be born a few weeks later. Liliana lived in Istanbul, Turkey, and that was the first stop on my way to America. Liliana passed away twenty years ago. Thanks to Facebook I know where in the world is Suzan: a French lawyer living in China.
May 2, 1980… Getting out of Romania for the first time in my life. Because of Ceausescu’s totalitarian regime, we were not allowed to travel even to Bulgaria, the Communist country next door.
Partir c’est mourir un peu… To depart means to die a little… Thirty-three years ago today, I died a little walking on the road to freedom.
Le Rondel de l’adieu
Partir, c’est mourir un peu,
C’est mourir à ce qu’on aime:
On laisse un peu de soi-même
En toute heure et dans tout lieu.
Song of Farewell
To part is to die a little,
To die to what we love:
One leaves a little of one’s self
In every hour and in every place.