Raluca’s family immigrated to America when she was 6 years old. At first, she didn’t fully understand or appreciate her family background or Romanian culture. Most of all, she disliked her name and wanted nothing more but to change it one day. She grew up embarrassed about who she was–but after going back to her country for the first time again at 16 years old, everything changed.
I remember that when I was little my Grandma would tell me stories about this Greek princess named Rulu and how my name Raluca came from her. I was born in Romania and when I was 6 years old we came to the United States for a new and better life. In first grade in America, I noticed that no one could really pronounce my name correctly, everyone always seemed to ask me oh what kind of name is that? And it didn't take very long for me to become very sick and tired of hearing that question.
My move to a new country brought many many changes, most of which I was too young to understand completely. Something I did realize however was I was really excited to come here and I remember my family was crying when we left, but I didn't understand why until I grew up a little bit more. I worked really hard to fit in because my biggest nightmare was just standing out in a crowd and I really tried to change myself to belong here. Whenever I met a new friend when I was growing up I would just tell them my name was something else and I would make up a name that was American because I wanted to pretend, just to see what it was like for a moment to be what I thought was normal. The thing that embarrassed me the most at the time was my parents and their accents. Especially my Dad, with his big thick Romanian accent, whenever we were in public I would sush them if they dared speak to me in Romanian or I would block my ears and I would say shhh. I remember just being so mad that they had accents, but I think that also comes with maturity at the time I just didn’t understand. Looking back I feel so awful now because of thinking like that just when I was little and I didnt know any better but now I look at that with admiration and respect and so much appreciation and I think that I would never get mad at them now for being talked down to because of their accents.
I never understood at the time how much my parents sacrificed for us and how hard they had to work to give us this glamorous life that we were able to have. I went from being just so embarrassed about my name and my culture and my parents and not being American to having this admiration and respect for it all when I was 16 years old. 10 years after our move to America, we went back to Romania for the first time. The city I am from is called Yash, there are these beautiful flowers blooming all in the trees there called florile de tei. What amazed me the most about my country really was meeting the people there. I felt like I saw kindness like I haven't really seen in America and I felt love like I never felt and I just felt this sense of belonging that I didn't feel here. I just felt like I was torn away from my home and that this is where I really belonged and my parents took me away and I had no say in that so I started questioning you know why did we leave. I just realized that this America had a better life for me but at the same time I grew up without my family. I guess it just made me realize that these are the only people that truly matter and honestly if anyone ever judged me in this country that it didn't matter that much.