A Balkan Comedy

A Balkan Comedy

William McPherson

Politics and daily life in Romania since 1989 have been as strange, andat times as sinister, as they were during the 24-year rule of Nicolae Ceausescu. Three recent events—two weddings and a funeral—drew the author into the absurdist drama of postcommunist Romania.

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Comedies are supposed to end with a wedding, where this one begins. The funeral comes later. The wedding, a royal wedding at that, involves an ancient dynasty that was but has effectively ceased to be. And, in a sense, it was a royal funeral too, in an incipient dynasty that would have been but never quite was. But first the wedding, which could not have taken place but for the events that began to unfold some 50 years before.

On August 23, 1944, the tall and handsome King Michael of Romania--now the father of the bride--threw the country's pro-Nazi dictator into a palace safe and turned his country to the Allies, thereby shortening the course of the war by some months. The next year at Yalta, the Allies thanked him by ceding his country to the Soviets, who then betrayed him--a kind of double double-cross. The Americans gave him a Jeep and a medal. By December 30, 1947, the Communists had completed their takeover of his country. Under threat of gunfire, the popular king, then only 26, was forced to abdicate, hustled onto a train and into exile. He was the last Balkan monarch to flee his country.

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