Elie Wiesel in Transylvania

by Judit Gellerd


The invitation from my professor at Boston University to escort him to Transylvania--our mutual homeland--came last year.  We were supposed to fly to Romania on President Iliescu’s private airplane.  The beauty in this irony for me was as thrilling as the honor to visit the birthplace of this great Nobel Peace Prize laureate author, as his assistant.  September eleven and the Jewish-Palestinian tragedies afterward halted our plan, until late July.  Already in Europe, Wiesel flew from France, while George and I came by bus from Hungary to Sighet, at a very short notice.

The surprise and joy on Professor Wiesel’s part to see his student there was genuine.  “I came in the name of all your students at Boston University,” I told him in his embrace.  Then he proudly introduced me to Romania’s President, Ion Iliescu.  I wished my father had seen me!  George’s filming the event at least made it possible to share with my mother!

The invitation of Elie Wiesel for a state visit, inaugurating his birthplace as a museum, and awarding him Romania’s highest medal by Ion Iliescu, did not lack a clear agenda from the President.  Elie Wiesel’s prestige was paving the road toward Romania’s entrance into the European Union.  In exchange, Wiesel did not hide his agenda either.  His open and harsh criticism of Romania’s ultra-nationalism shook many.  His passionate appeal that Romania recognize its responsibility in the Holocaust, brought the response that  all the statues of Antonescu, the infamous Nazi leader of Romania,  within 24 hours all over the country were removed!

In this fervent exchange of agendas, there was also an agenda of the Hungarian-American Coalition, wanting Elie Wiesel to pressure Romania for the return of the historic Hungarian church properties in Transylvania.  Prof. Wiesel matter-of-factly reported to me that he had already spoken to the President about this matter. “Let’s hope for the best!” 

If ever there is a time for, now we may truly hope for something better.