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3/28/13

It’s Trendy to Donate for Orphans, but for Drunken Swines, Oh, No!

   Another excerpt from The Scourge.

I met reverend Levente Horváth [51 years old, dark hair, slim] on short notice on a Saturday, right before the end of my stay in Transylvania, through a friend of a friend who gave me his information quite hush-hush as if we were during prohibition times and he was sending me to a secret speakeasy. The speakeasy was in a lovely modern house on a steep street of a beautiful hill in Cluj/Kolozsvár. We talked at length, the reverend kindly putting his work aside.
His dear wife fed us crêpe suzettes with cherry jam filling.

Levente Horváth: I’m Levente Horváth. I’m a graduate in theology. I’ve been a Protestant Church pastor for 26 years. In 1993, I returned from a one-year study trip to Edinburgh. I was very interested in what they were doing in the West. How the church could be helpful with the drug problems coming to Romania since the fall of communism in 1989. We were not prepared for this. I knew that alcohol had devastated the population under communism. We were not doing much for that problem either... The mental hospitals were only relying on medication. There was no psychotherapy. In the West treatments using only medication were obsolete.
Alcoholics or addicts, who came to us, described their rehab experience, “I was admitted for two weeks into a locked psychiatric ward. I got scared. I was given medication, but no one spoke to us.” There was no individual or group therapy available.
In Edinburgh I spent a year visiting rehabilitation centers. I observed how they were working with drug addicts and alcoholics. On my way home I had a vision that something similar should be started in Romania. If the church showed interest, I’d be able help with the training. I’d write up a theoretical background, and someone with more experience would have to do the ground work, not me.
I'll tell you a funny story. It’s about God's sense of humor. It happened in 1979, when I was eleven. My father had a friend in Hungary, who came to Romania to stay with us for a week in Kolozsvár. We called him uncle Jóska. József Siklós was his name. He was a Protestant minister very experienced in helping alcoholics. He moved to Hungary before the communism take over in 1947. He was the head of the Blue Cross Mission for recovering alcoholics. He ran it together with a doctor friend. The Mission was disbanded by the communism government, but during the Kádár regime with the soft communism of the ‘70s, ‘80s, the restrictions of the dictatorship were slightly relaxed. President Kádár felt guilty for the blood bath of the 1956 revolution which was ruthlessly crushed by the Russians. Comrade Kádár was boasting about the flexibility of his regime and how Hungary flourished under his presidency. Though in reality it was just a shop-window masking a concentration camp.
So in the late ‘70s, the government realized that they couldn’t deal with the overwhelming problems of alcoholism. The bishops of different denominations were summoned, and ordered, “The Church has a long history in dealing with drunks, so get busy with them.”
Meanwhile Uncle Jóska had been exiled to a tiny, remote, falling apart village. His Bishop, who was quite a collaborator with the communist state, was angry with uncle Jóska because he constantly refused to obey orders.
When the government told the Bishop, that something had to be done about the country’s alcohol problem. The Bishop suddenly realized that the only priest in his church who could effectively do the job was uncle Jóska. With great reluctance he had to bite the bullet and recalled uncle Jóska back to Budapest. Thus in 1979 the Drunkards’ Salvation Rescue Mission/Református Iszákosmentő Misszió began. Though he started under modest circumstances, the results were striking.
One afternoon, during the week he was staying us, my father and him sat down and talked. I listened to his stories. My eleven-year-old mind was astonished. I went from one wonderment to another, that it was possible to help totally lost alcoholics who had been given up by everyone. That there could still be a chance for them.
I already knew that I was going to attend seminary. I wanted to be a spiritual shepherd like my father who was also a priest. When I went to bed that night, before falling asleep I said, “Lord, You know that I'm dedicating my life to You, wherever You send me, whatever service you ask of me I will do.”
That night I dreamed of the miracles uncle Jóska was working. Alas, it turned into a nightmare. I woke up screaming in terror, running away from dozens of horrid alcoholics who were chasing me in a drunken rage.
I prayed anew in a cold sweat, “Lord, I do hope that I won’t have to deal with alcoholics, because it’s beyond my ability.”
Well, the joke is, that I came home from Edinburgh preoccupied that alcoholics needed help, but I imagined that somebody else would be helping them, because I certainly wasn’t capable of doing it. I already told God so!
A few days later, my Bishop summons me. I thought, “He wants to know how my study trip went,” so I was preparing to tell him how we should educate the population about alcoholism, how the church could offer this service.
Well, I enter the Bishop’s office, he doesn’t even let me get a word in... He says, “Listen, I'm glad you’re back. I have an idea for you. You’re going to start a rescue mission for neglected drug users and alcoholics.”
I thought I’d fall off my chair. All I could stammer out was, “In Edinburgh, I saw how they do this in Scotland...” In my bafflement I said, “Give me a week to think it over!” and I went home. I said to my wife, “Look at God’s humor... I’m not capable of doing this work! I’ve told God this, and the Bishop wants me to start a rehab!”
Well, after much prayer, a week of anguish, agony, rumination, fretting, I finally said, yes. [Laughing] This is how I became a rescuer of drunks...
My wife and I talked about what we could adapt from Scotland’s example for our work in Romania. We started under terrible circumstances. At first we had no rehab center. In the early ‘90s, it wasn’t possible to rent a place where an alcoholic could be locked up for two weeks. We lived in a small house. We decided to lock ourselves in our own home with the alcoholics. We put ourselves at risk. I found out later that in the West the patients in the rehab don’t even know where the workers live! Much less having them in their own homes!
We worked with lots of young enthusiastic volunteers. We made a lot of mistakes. Once a young man dragged in a woman who was dead drunk! “Here she is! I’ve just picked her up from the Main Square, soaked in her own urine. Get busy with her.” My wife took her, bathed her, put her in our own bed. We slept on a mattress on the floor. When the lady woke up in the morning she didn’t even know where she was!
One night when I wasn’t home a drunk who knew where we lived went around the house and smashed all our windows. We have five kids. My wife was very altruistic.
The problem was the Helper’s Syndrome got hold of us.
The Early Heroic Stage.
I remember a painter who was in the throes of withdrawal, he couldn’t sleep all night and I paced with him in the room below. He smoked one cigarette after the other. He saw a door and ran towards it. It was my kids’ room. I had to restrain him from bursting in... He didn’t know where he was... He would address me with different names, Ferenc, Bence, Tamás, Bálint, Attila, Márton, Csaba, Sándor, you name it. For ten days he stayed with us, struggling.
Eventually it became clear that patients needed their own space, some center, that was not a mental institution, where they wouldn’t be locked up in a degrading manner, or fear being attacked by violent patients.
We started to search. In the end, in Ózd/Ozd, near Marosludas/Luduş, 19 kilometers away, we found an old mansion. The mansion with 21 acres of land, granary, barns, stables, the state leased it to us for 99 years.
Half the roof was missing but we quickly covered it with a new roof. It was a beautiful, 500-year-old French Renaissance chateau with four wonderful svelte towers. It would have been a shame for it to fall to pieces. We got it, we roofed it, but we decided, “Well, to renovate it would be too expensive. Let’s renovate the barn and turn it into a therapeutic home.”
After the ’89 revolution there was a new law that said nationalized property could be reclaimed by its previous owner. The Baroness who owned the mansion lived in France. I sent a video of the reroofed mansion and the renovated barn. I told the Baroness over the phone, “The mansion is yours, Madam. We leased it for 99 years from the state, but you now have the right to claim it. We are prepared to give it up, though we have invested a lot in repairs. This is how it looks like now, but if you want, we could claim it from the state in your name. The decision is yours.” She watched the video, called me back, and said, “You’ve done a wonderful job. Were you not to repair the mansion, it would have collapsed in a few years. You know what? I’ll donate it to you for one symbolic franc.”
This miracle happened. [Laughs.]
E.V.: Can you tell me some stories about your patients?
H.L.: Every three years we have an alumni reunion. For a weekend they come back to their Ózd home. These occasions are very uplifting. They share what they’ve gone through since they left. It’s very interesting to hear them.
There was a journalist who worked for a newspaper in Bucharest. Because of his drinking his boss told him, “I could fire you immediately, but I’ll give you one more chance. Go to the Ózd rehabilitation center.” He’d heard about us. The journalist came, stayed for treatment, got out, went back to work. Now, he is the managing editor; his career took off. In six years he’s never relapsed. For the first time in his life he began to furnish his apartment, because until the age of 30, all he wanted to do was drink himself to death. He was a poet, but full of self-doubt, he fell into making a living as a journalist. He said, “Life is meaningless. My only goal is to drink until I perish.” It was a form of suicide. But here he realized, "I’m responsible for my life. It is a gift." His inner split disappeared. He returned to the living.
Another story. In Sepsiszentgyörgy/Sfântu Gheorghe there was an alcoholic man who worked as a paramedic. He constantly saw alcoholics reaching their last stages, but he kept drinking. Paramedics see a lot of things. They’re surrounded by death. Slowly he became estranged from his wife. His children were afraid of him because when he was drunk he’d go into black outs and become violent. When he came to, his wife and kids told him how destructively he had behaved. He wouldn’t believe it. He got angrier thinking they were slandering him.
After this man was in our rehab for a week, he heard that his wife was filing for divorce. Thoroughly in shock he wanted to rush back home. After a long struggle the team workers convinced him to stay, because if he was going out to save his marriage, he couldn’t since he was still a drunk. He accepted our help and understood that he had to work not on the marriage but on himself—he’d leave that one for now.
When he left the home, he discovered his wife was with someone else... He would have had no chance to fix his relationship. He tried to reconnect with his children. He realized that he was responsible for everything that had happened. He struggled for two years, strengthening the relationship with his children, putting up with his wife’s angry outbursts, her rules, strict boundaries, and the other man.
Two years later seeing how much he had changed, his wife relented, “Come back. The children and I miss you.”
E.V.: “…and your gulyás. And paprikás. Swear: no more pálinka.”
H.L.: [Laughs]… Perhaps. Their relationship flourished. The kids are happy, the whole family is thriving.
E.V.: Why did you undertake this work? Wasn’t it a stigma?
H.L.: Oh, yes. To this day I realize that I’d be much more popular were I to be working for orphans. Everybody pities the orphans. “The orphans deserve our donations. It’s trendy. But to those drunken swine, villains, good for nothing scoundrels?!... To think that you stoop to talk to them! You’re supportive of them!” Often I get such accusations. My colleagues as well.
Once one of my co-workers asked a businessman, “Would you like to share in the privilege of supporting our work?” “I won’t help your drunken pigs and druggies. I gladly help with the orphans, but those drunken pigs, no!”
It was very interesting.
My colleague said, “Alright, Sir, I understand. How old is your child?”
“One is four, the other six.”
“Good, but if your children or grandchildren become addicts, what will you do then? What if when they are 14 or 16 years of age, they begin to use drugs? Would you still not support this work?”
He got frightened.
Often people don’t think. They just stigmatize. They don’t see it’s also about his own life, or his children, or grandchildren, or a close relative. I could understand, maybe his father was a drunk and he hated drunks all his life.
I had to come to terms that the work we’re doing would be very unpopular. Even in our own church, they barely understand it.
How did I get over it? By realizing that I'm no different than the worst alcoholic.
E.V.: How did that happen?
H.L.: I believe in God, in the Bible, that all people are sinful. Even Goethe, who wasn’t a fervent church-goer, said toward the end of his life, "There is no sin, that I might not have committed sometime in my life." I’m capable of any sin. Even if I haven’t committed a sin de facto. What makes me think I’m different from a murderous robber?! Someone in a black out that commits a terrible crime? No, I'm potentially no different or better than anyone.
So, now when I talk to a decrepit and malevolent alcoholic I can see what he could transform into, and I respect that in him. Faith helps me. The Bible says all men were created in God's image and likeness. I see the drunk as a God-faced man. No matter what mask he wears now over the face of God, even if that mask is devilish, vicious, hideous, someday, he’ll voluntarily take it off, saying, “I was a liar, a pig. I pushed everyone way to get alcohol. I destroyed my family.” He’ll tear off these masks and he’ll shine beautifully.
Then he is my teacher.
Everyone is a teacher. I don’t teach a drunk, he teaches me. I watch and learn from how he processes my words. Even if he is the least fortunate of people. Everyone that’s been given up, is still my teacher in some way. It’s an exciting adventure to learn from watching my interaction with drunks. Watching the world, watching God, our relationship with each other. What he does, the way he relates to himself, helps me with my self-knowledge.
Those who recover and return to us often say, “What shocked me when I got here was the love and respect they showed me.” Usually, they kick drunks out of the mental institutions. Doctors yell at them, “You drunken pig! Why drink?!... Just don’t drink anymore!”
But the unfortunate alcoholic can’t stop drinking.
That’s why he ended up here.
If I tell a diabetic, “You’re just like me. Come on, have some sugar...” and he does, “Well, I'm not reacting badly. Why are you?” Or if I say to someone allergic to elderflower, “Smell the flower! I don’t have tears. Why are you crying and sneezing?” Or I tell a lung patient, “You’re coughing too much! We have company. Stop it! Don’t cough!” This can’t be done. So to say to an alcoholic, “I can stop after a glass or two. You can too!” He can’t because he’s not me. I haven’t walked a mile in his moccasins. He isn’t able to stop.
His will is a prisoner.
I don’t know if this answered your question...
E.V.: Yes, you did. Yesterday at the university I gave a lecture on how to address social issues through art. Afterwards a professor asked me why I was attracted to such taxing topics. You see, Reverend, alcoholism is not the only utterly depressing subject that I work on. After I started this research I went on a tangent, and started researching the discrimination against Gypsy people.
H.L.: Oh, how great!
E.V.: It’s not great at all!
H.L.: I respect you very much for this. Few people are willing to deal with these matters.
E.V.: The professor asked me kindly. She didn’t attack me, why I wouldn’t rather deal with orphans. I began to gather people’s stories about alcoholism in 2008, primarily because I grew up in the midst of it. I saw what was happening to my family. My father was never sober, my younger brother died because of drinking. I couldn’t go home to attend his funeral. I was waiting for my greencard to come through. So I wrote several short plays about my family. But when I finally was able to travel, and I went to his tomb, as I entered the cemetery and looked around, there were so many young men dead under the slabs of marble, as if we’ve been through a war! As I walked through my hometown at dusk drunks were staggering about. It was not just my brother and father. So I wanted to write a full-length play, or a book, including other people’s experiences, enlarging the circle, learning more about alcoholism, not just from my own perspective. I interviewed about fifty people, recovering alcoholics, mourning mothers, doctors, policemen, scientists…
Well, it’s now 2011, and I’m just now finishing the interviews. Sometimes I feel I’ll succumb, crushed by the mountain of material I’ve gathered, like an ant trying to carry a Ioaf of bread. It’s so tormenting.
I collected interviews from people to share their stories with the world. These people trusted me, talked to me, encouraged me, respected me. I thought that this process would work wonders for me, heal me. At times it does, when certain questions I had get answered in an interview, but most of the time people talk about how terrible alcoholism is.
Their sorrow nested in me. It burdens me.
I want to do something good with all this suffering. Friends, like the university professor, ask with good intentions, because they see me suffering. “You live in New York City, for God’s sake. Why can’t you interview American movie stars? A lot of them are drunks and drug addicts! Why not?! Why not?! Interview accomplished people. What’s wrong with you?! You used to be joyful?! Why don’t you write a comedy?!”
Which is ironic, since I found in this miserable topic a lot of humor.
Last week we had a staged reading of some of my short plays. A high school friend showed up. She’s a serious woman, she works in IT. She works hard to pay her son’s college tuition. She doesn’t know anything about Gypsy issues, or drunks. Why would she? She came because she was fond of me, though I warned her my plays were about stigmatized issues. After the show she encouraged her friends to come telling them, “I felt so very relaxed and energized after Ella’s show...” We talked about Gypsy villages burning and alcoholics dying like flies, and she felt relaxed! Isn’t that interesting?!
H.L.: These topics are not easy for people to accept. Even at first sight, conflicting feelings can arise. I always looked at Gypsy as my equals... I guess I suckled it with my mother's milk.
This memory flashes by: my mother was a teacher in Bonyhád. Her father was a minister there. Many of my mother’s pupils were Gypsy children. My mother visited all her pupils and so she went into the Gypsy quarter too. Well, the whole village was gossiping and putting her down, “The priest's daughter goes to the dirty Gypsies! How can she do such a thing?!”
My mother always ended her stories saying, “My son, all people are equal! Romanian, Hungarian, Gypsy!”
It’s been a struggle for our children to accept this. Children are very cruel to each other. They’d come back from the playground or school and we’d always have to dismantle their ethnic stereotypes. Fortunately, they grew up to be tolerant.
I was proud of my mom. She was defying the whole village as they stigmatized her because she cared about the Gypsies. This was a valuable lesson for me. My father always tried to help disadvantaged people. Even in his old age with help from his friends in the West got a wheelchair for a disabled young man, at a time when no one had access to wheelchairs in Romania. For a young girl a hearing aid.
He was always sensitive to social disparity.
This is a great legacy for me.
However, it’s important to know when you’re working in a social assistance field, you’re always risking burnout. After a while dealing with people’s problems can become extremely overwhelming, weighing, stressing you out. If we don’t take proper care of ourselves, in the end we can lose our love for life, end up seeing the world much too dark.
This goes with the territory.
Now, you asked me how I have the strength for humor and why my work is not overwhelming. I always share the burden with God. I feel it’s not my job to save the world. There’s a charming Hassidic Jewish story: A young man goes to the rabbi and says, “Rabbi, I can’t believe in God, since I’ve accepted the ideals of the Enlightenment. Rabbi, there’s no God! I have to tell you, I’m not coming to temple anymore. This is it.” The rabbi listens to him... “I see, I see, my son... I feel great respect for you. You have a huge job to do and you’ve taken a very big responsibility upon yourself. Since for you there is no God, if a poor man, or a wretched cripple, or anyone suffering in their hour of need turns to you, you can’t entrust them to God to help them. You alone have to alleviate their suffering. [Laughs] A huge thing! I deeply respect you, my son, that you're ready to take that on your shoulders alone, and you can’t delegate anything to God. You alone must solve the world's ills.”
I love this story. In it flickers a light that fills me with enormous gratitude because God really exists for me. I don’t have to save the world. I don’t have to solve everything. The typical Helper’s Syndrome is that I have to save the other. Everyone changes when they take on that role. It’s extremely dangerous, because often more harm is done than good. I can let the other person be, because there’s also God, there’s also Heaven that stretches above him too, and Providence/Fate/Destiny as well.
I was in a position when I had to say, “Don’t come to Ózd, don’t come to therapy because you’re not on the floor yet. You might freeze this winter,” because he was homeless, “but you’re not ready to come yet.” He looked at me, “You don’t want to help me?!” “That’s why I’m saying this, to help you.” “What kind of help is that?! You’re refusing to take me in at Ózd?!” “I’m telling you again: you have to be sure that you don’t want to come here just because it’s warm in the shelter, but because you really want to give up drinking. I don’t feel you’re not yet knocked out on the floor, because you can only rise up when you’ve reached rock bottom. Now, this seems merciless to you, not to let you come. Even more, because you could easily freeze to death this winter and then there’ll be no one to come next year.” I had to talk to him that way. I wholeheartedly loved this man, but that does not mean that I’d pussyfoot with him. Quite the contrary.
Before this guy I had an experience with a lady who was a big phony, I really enjoyed her style... Well, addicts become great con artists. The problem isn’t the alcohol but the falsehood that turns everything into a lie. This cripples the soul terribly, but as the alcoholic sinks, there is no other road to take.
This lady was a genius. She cooked up some story, “Your Reverence, I broke my eyeglasses. Could you buy me eyeglasses? I can’t read anymore!” Very educated, very well-read she was. Quoting magnificently from Origen and St. Augustine, and other early Christianity theologians. She had culture wrapped around her little finger! She knew The Scriptures, everything she knew! She was a philosophy and psychology teacher at one point, but now a hopeless alcoholic. “Your Reverence, I’m in sorry need of a Bible!” She knew what to say to priests. “Could you give me a Bible and a pair of eyeglasses because mine have broken?”
Well, I had enough sense not to give her money, but I did buy the eyeglasses for her. She received a Bible as well. A week later, she sold the Bible at the flea market and went drinking. She played this game with churches of every Christian denomination. You see, one can always push the buttons of devout Christians. She was a genius at this. She perfected her scheming over many years.
In the Adventist Church they baptized her three times, they immersed her in water. They perform adult baptism. Of course, after a while she began to drink again. After three immersions they stopped dipping her in the water. She was not convinced in the least by their faith, she did it just to be able to chow down at their weekly gatherings.
When I found out about her three immersions, I understood. With all my heart I understood. The next time I saw her I looked into her eyes full of kindness and said, “Dear XY, I love you. I love you so much. I haven’t met such a good-for-nothing villain like you in a long time. Listen to me: you play such a charlatan’s con game. You wrap every priest around your little finger... You’ve become a master of the con artist game. I love you so much I want to tell you my sorrow: You’re walling up your life, you can’t be yourself anymore. You’re sinking, caught up in these compulsive games, while someone is crying inside... Your true self, who can’t stand tall and be open anymore.”
She looked at me, tears running down her face, “Your Reverence, no one ever talked to me like that. You really love me. I was never loved.”
E.V.:... Won’t you buy a Bible for me?...
H.L.: [Laughs!] Well, she knew that her trick wouldn’t work with me.
But being homeless and out in the street, I let her come to the rehab for two weeks in winter. She ate like a hungry animal. She ate with her whole being. It was all about being in a warm shelter, where there was food. She couldn’t concentrate at all. She fell asleep in the middle of meetings. Toward the end I said to her, “You got away nicely these two weeks. You always said, ‘I love you,’ so I owe you the truth. You’ll never set foot in this place again, until you’re willing to give up drinking for good.”
Her story dragged on for 11 more years. Finally, she ended up in an old folks’ home and died. She was already old.
She was the last person I let stay at Ózd, who I knew didn’t want to give up drinking.
Jesus is my teacher in this.
He could simultaneously say the truth ruthlessly while showing the greatest love. This balance is the best mental equilibrium one can aspire to.
Again, where are we, we’ve talked about so many things. [Laughs]
E.V.: I’ve been asking myself why I’m drawn to this material…. When I was ashamed of my father’s drinking… My brother died drinking…
H.L.: You needed to work through it.
E.V.: Maybe. I also wanted to speak publicly about what happened within my family. There was violence. I wrote out of anger.
H.L.: It doesn’t matter. It’s alright...
E.V.: It was great when I interviewed a man who got sober... But there was a case where a man who when he drank tortured the entire family, his siblings, his mother. What hurt them, hurt me. I'm not sure I’m doing all of this out of love. Maybe only love could help me finish this work… Maybe it’s my desire for revenge that blocks me. I’m ashamed.
Now what do you intend to do next? Are you waiting to retire? Or you’ll continue to do this work?
H.L.: I hope so.
E.V.: When you were eleven years old you didn’t want it, but now you hope to do it until your death? How does this change come about, that first we don’t want, and then we surrender to it whole heartedly…
H.L.: If I can help just one person out of a hundred that is my joy...
E.V.: What kind of success rate is that?!
H.L.: A drop in the ocean. The Talmud says, “If you save a man, it’s like you saved the whole world!” I can’t save the whole world, but through the grace of God I can save one or two people, here and there. Then, it’s worth it. I know it’s a very small percentage, but it’s more than nothing. Think about it: was there anything in history, any positive social change, that didn’t start small and seemingly hopeless in the beginning? It’s always started that way. Elizabeth Fry's vision to bring about prison reform began like this. Hopeless struggle that it was. A fragile woman defied the world. Who would have believed that a hundred years later, the change she fought for would be embraced by an ethical consensus throughout society?
It's okay if you didn’t start out doing this out of love. After what you’ve experienced, please know, that this dark burden doesn’t have to be carried moaning alone, but some way out must be found. It’s okay that you started simply from the desire to put to rest the struggle with your feelings of, “Why is it that I have to feel ashamed?!” of, “How do I escape this engulfing fog of acidic revulsion!”
We start instinctively at times on the road to recovery. Maybe a heavenly love urges us, brings us towards our own healing. Maybe I’m not doing it out of love right now. After a while, this might turn around in me and love could appear.
Everyone is an open world, full of surprises. My life is full of surprises. God is a God of surprises. Human existence is made up of small surprises. One who starts to face her own wounds and decides, “No matter what, I’m going to show my pain and anger to the world. It's important for me to see the truth: What happened to me? What did they do to me, those who were close? I loved them! Why do I have to be ashamed? Maybe I don’t have to... Maybe others are rowing in similar boats but they don’t dare talk about it. So, let’s meet. Let’s conquer this darkness. Let us row out of this cloud of uncertainty.’
Looking into each other's eyes, healing slowly starts.
I’m very pleased with your endeavor.
E.V.: Thank you. I come to Romania often, but I don’t feel at home. I suffered a lot here. My hope is in New York City. Oddly, when I received my American citizenship in April, I immediately planned to return, to stay three months. “Let me see if they really need me or not. Is it important for them what I do, or am I day dreaming that they care?” As I’ve told you I’ve presented fragments of my work to the public. Not many came, twenty people or so.
H.L.: There’s still a lot of taboo around alcoholism.
E.V.: The philharmonic orchestra performed that night on another floor, and many people came to hear their music... I was featured in newspapers, TV interviews, radio talk shows, “Here, please, this is my work! If you're interested, please come. Things need to change.” Actors read three monologues. I see that a man goes out and then after awhile comes back. He said, “It’s so realistic. I’m surprised. I’ve expected a chirpy feather-brained American, but you’re a seasoned writer! It’s painful to witness the expression of human suffering.” It touched him, he made my efforts worthwhile. That’s what I came back for.
H.L.: That's right. That's right.
E.V.: I thought there will be hundreds of people I could share my knowledge with, but...
H.L.: It was worth it for only one man.

E.V.: I don’t know how the rest of my material will arrange itself, but your words will make a fine ending.

March 28, 2013
New York

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