Should I Tell a Young Relative That Her Grandmother Tried to Swindle Me?
I don’t want this story ever to get out. But, it’s important that it does.
by Raluca Stanca
I am a third-generation Romanian American woman, which means that I am half-Ukrainian. And I am half-Romani. Those terms are not always clear, because they also denote national, racial, and ethnic backgrounds that are both fluid and sometimes overlapping.
When I was a child, my mother told me a similar story. She was visiting relatives in Ohio. A few years before I was born, Grandma (as she was then) traveled to the United States of America to visit a niece, who would eventually become my mother. Grandma had never been to this land, though she had traveled to the UK, Italy, Spain, and other European countries. This year she was going to the United States, and she asked if I would accompany her to see her niece.
I was too young to have any memories of my grandmother at the time–though I always imagined that she was some kind of strong woman with a powerful personality; she certainly had a strong, proud side to her, but she also had a playful, loving side. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Grandma was telling me a story about her grandmother, who was an immigrant from Romania who often told terrible, romantic (and sometimes not-so-romantic) stories to my mother about how her life had been in America.
For many years Grandma told me these stories, which I believed at the time because I had accepted Grandma’s stories as truth. I loved that grandmother, and I was desperate to find out more about her story. As time passed, my childhood, and then my adulthood, became increasingly distorted and confused by all the versions of the story I was told.
My mother told a few versions of the story, and one of my first jobs in the publishing industry was to edit the stories of my childhood. What I discovered was that many