Bucharest (Photo: © Paul Antonescu/iStock)

Bucharest: "What world are you from?”

From topics covered in class to charitable work. A teacher in Bucharest recounts the proposal she lives with her students.
Lucia Calzolaio

In September, I began teaching Italian and Latin in a high school in Bucharest. It is an adventure that I am living with my teacher friends, Dado and Almudena. Every week, since mid-October, we have used flyers to invite students from our school to meet with us. We simply offer them a place where they can discover that everything the heart desires has value and can be answered. Driven by the desire to experience how beautiful it is to give oneself to others and that there is more inside them than the corruption they believe to consist of, we proposed a charitable gesture: spending time with some Roma children in a home run by the Pope John XXIII Association. Five girls came and it was incredible. We baked some biscuits together with the children, then we played and sang. I was struck to see the changed faces of our students. Usually when you mention the word "Roma" in class they look at you negatively, but instead there they cared.

At one point, I saw one of my students take out her pencil case of colouring pencils and leave it for the children. As she was leaving she said to me: "If you came here every day, I would come with you." I asked her, "Why?" "Because here you breathe great positivity."

Last year, this girl almost failed her exams and a few days before coming to the charitable work, she had written in an essay that she no longer had a reason to do things. In the last line she posed this question: “How can I not feel different, not feel alone all the time?" Handing her back the essay I asked her: "Did you realise that what you were looking for has happened?" "Prof, I had not thought about it, but it is true." I was amazed that something happened that did not make her feel different. Dade and I came to the conclusion: "Do to understand."

In a text in which I asked: "Who am I?", a girl had written to me that she did not really know who she was and that no one had ever asked her a question like that. "In my only 15 years so many people have asked me: ‘What would you like to do in the future?’ or ‘What would you like to study?’, but never ‘Who are you?’." And in speaking, she added: "I have many goals, many still unclear. My mind is a big question mark that needs complex answers, and to find the solution to all my unknowns will take time, even though I am still anxious that time will pass quickly and that I will not find the ultimate answer that will bring me peace.”

I had often asked her how she was, until I gave her the flyer to invite her to our weekly GS meetings. She came and brought her guitar saying that she had tried to learn some songs. In her shyness, in recent weeks she has not missed a Saturday meeting. After our our meetings she has never not said to me: "Prof, last week was beautiful".

In one of my classes there is a boy whose family situation is complicated: at 15 he no longer expects anything from life and the best he can do is to throw himself into alcohol to forget. In class we read La casa degli sguardi [The house of gazes] by Daniele Mencarelli. When we got to the point where the nun meets a child with a disfigured face and says to him: "You are mummy and daddy’s boy, aren't you?", I asked the students if they had ever seen anything similar. He replied: "Prof, the world is now full of tragedies. It is not possible to see something like this anymore.” Evidently he could tell from my eyes that I did not agree and so he added: "But why, have you ever seen anything like this?" And I replied: “Yes, I have seen a gaze like that.” He replied: "What world are you from? Where do you live?"

This question struck me greatly, because it was evident that for a moment he succumbed to the fact that there could be the possibility that what he is looking for exists. It is the same question of John and Andrew before Jesus and it is the same question that I ask myself when I realise something in life that is inescapable. I have often invited him to GS, and he still has not come, but faced with the fact that for a moment they find what they are looking for is the most beautiful miracle in the world. The point for me is that something happens that is so great that it breaks through the wall of cynicism of forgetfulness or nothingness into which we all constantly fall. That morning, that front was touched.