„please, i’d like to go to the airport.”
„of course.”
„so, madam, are you going far?”
„not that far. To Brussels.”
„you going to see our MEPs?”
„no, actually i live there, i came for the weekend to see my family”
„i see. Good for you. Don’t come back. Look how things are going out here. They have just said on the radio that a mayor or a mayor candidate was found this morning next to his car with his throat slit. He apparently had gone to bring some money to a friend and never came back home. The wife called the police. PSD he was.”
„that could also be a robbery, if someone knew about the money.”
„it could, the police say they don’t have news about the money. I think it’s maffia.”
„that could be true as well.”
„it’s good you left. Ever since I came back in 2000, this country… You know, i was a sportsman in my time. I competed for this country in 39 tournaments. I even overcame the world champion once, by almost a whole point. When i came back, they reinstated my rights, i got a life-long income of 1800 lei a month. For my performances. In 2010 the government just took it away, by executive order. We are some 480 people in this situation, we took the government to court. Last year we definitively won the appeal, they have to pay us everything retroactively. Do you think we have seen a cent? There is no country that treats its sportspeople like this, and i have been all over the world.”
„what discipline, if i may ask?”
„10 meter diving”
„that sounds spectacular.”
„it is. I was very good. I started with gymnastics when i was four, but the trainer for the diving team saw me and asked my father if he could give me a try. I was a skinny little kid. I remember him telling dad that there was a champion in me. And there was. As i said, i overtook a standing world champion by almost an entire point. They were almost perfect dives, one 9,96 and the second 9,98. So many medals, always competed for this country, even after i left. I didn’t run, i just left.”
„wait, but how was that possible?”
„i went to live in Serbia, where i married my wife, she was a gymnast. And then we went to Sydney, our children grew up there. They still live there. But we came back in 2000. We had friends. I wanted to try and run the olympic swimming pool, which had been built in 1981, it was world class. By 2000 it was a ruin. I had all the sponsoring ready from Sydney, i just asked them to give me a lease contract and i would restore it. We needed that for the athletes. They said no. So i just kept training kids.
It’s the kids that make me feel so bad about this country. How they die in hospitals. If you go to Fundeni, to the kids cancer ward, it’s heartbreaking. Mine is a sad story, because i lost my wife to cancer five years ago. A professional gymnast, never smoked a day in her life, we kept a spartan, clean diet all our lives, one she imposed. And then lung cancer. Look at this picture, how she looked just before. You couldn’t tell her age. We have both been physically in very good shape, i’m never ill. She was wonderful, and such a good mother.”
„i’m sorry. And your kids are grown-ups now, in Sydney…”
„two boys. Their own kids are in their thirties.”
„really? You do not strike me as the grandfather of 30-year olds.”
„i’m flattered, i know it doesn’t show. How old would you say i was?”
„well now i know it doesn’t add up, but i would have said 61-62.”
„that’s nice, in that case i should probably remarry, build my life over again. But i’ve been married to my wife 53 years. I’m 79 now. Next year i’ll be, like piersic says, four times twenty. But yes, physically – sports made me like this. I still go to the pool.
See, originally i only did a TCM, you know, a technical study, I was trained to lead an assembly section. i didn’t actually need to work in the factory where i was placed because i was competing. But i loved studying, i liked to know and understand stuff. Later, the law had changed, so i had to finish the IEFS to teach. And i did, to train top athletes. I let them work hard, like my trainer had let me work. And if i go to the pool now, i hear them tell the new kids the same: i want you to do your best so hard until you come out of the pool sweating. The kids always laugh. I had laughed too, i told my colleauges that our trainer had gone mad, you cannot sweat in the pool. But he heard me and proved me wrong. He made me come over and said ‘i’ll show you how’. He let me do half hour of ground training and then made me dive, again and again and again. Until i had forgotten how to breathe. He then told me to dry myself with the towel and looked me in the eye. A minute later, he said: ‘so, you are now dry or wet?’ and i swear i was drenched. And i had dried myself properly. ‘see, you fool, this is how i want you to work’, he said. And my former students tell their students now, when i come in, ‘it is he who taught me about coming out of the pool in a sweat’. And then they say, to taunt me, ‘he probably can’t show it to you now any more how he beat the chinese champion.’ They know i cannot have it. So i do a dive, it’s all there. It’s in my blood.”
„so good that you still go to the pool. But don’t you miss the children, wouldn’it be nice to be closer to them, especially now that you are alone?”
„they wanted me to go there. But i said no. My granddaughter even came to take me against my will. She came for two weeks.”
„and she tried to persuade you?”
„no, she was quiet. We did all touristy things and the last week i saw that she had packed a bag for me. And the last morning she woke me up early and said ‘come, we have to go to the airport.’. I said ‘sure, i’ll take you.’ and she said ‘no, we go together, grandpa, father bought you a ticket as well.’ and i drove her to the airport and said ‘ don’t come back to me with this sort of things. If you come over, you come to see me, you are welcome. If you want to trick me like this, please don’t come.’
See, my wife is buried here. I’m only abiding my time until i can be with her again. I just believe with all my heart that i will see her again, you know?”


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