Wednesday, November 20th 2019

How nuns in Romania surprised me

How my visit to Bucovina and Transylvania broke some stereotypes about religion and nuns.

I consider myself an atheist in the sense that I don’t approve of religion as an institution, but of course, it has nothing to do with having faith. Faith helps people live through difficult times, religion earns money on people’s pain and superstitions. Churches, mosques, cathedrals, synagogues and temples are just monuments of architecture and history for me. I normally don’t interact with religion or its servants. Surprisingly I had quite close interaction in Romania.

So it all started with a phone call while we were sitting on a hill right above the Sucevita monastery. The mission objective got updated – go back to the monastery, meet a nun and get some monastery bread from her. Not clear why we needed bread, but I guess because it was the holy bread.  Mara asked for a nun at the entrance, a nun with the bread…nobody seemed to have any idea about this. We waited looking around with confused faces. Good I did not understand the language. It is actually an advantage sometimes. Suddenly a woman dressed in black appeared on our side, smiling at Mara like they knew each other for at least 12 years. As I don’t speak much Romanian I did my best to look like I understand something but don’t want to interfere with the conversation of two ladies. Besides who interrupts when a daughter of Christ is speaking. So as Mara translated later the nun started with: Where is the wedding? That put Mara in a state of shock for a bit. But she recovered fast from this blast and started discussing the possible wedding which will definitely take place in the monastery. The nun was offering to book some dates as this is very important for us to have the wedding there. While I was partly detached cause I was not participating in the conversation I was watching them too listening to the harmonic roll of Romanian sounds. There was something strange about the way the nun was speaking and the way her face was moving. After a while it just struck me – she is drunk….holy lord! How is this possible? The daughter of God?????? Anyway she definitely was. As I learnt later she is the “nun-econom” or the “financial manager” of the monastery, and she controls all of the goods inside, including the holy wine.  So I guess she was fixing the surplus of wine that afternoon.

Sometime later holy bread arrived, delivered by another nun. It was time to leave but we needed to make donation. We went to a shop on the monastery grounds with all the shiny crosses, icons and more gold then in any Jewish shop ;-) Donation for dead, donation for alive. All in all a bread cost us 5 times more than in the outside mundane world. But it is definitely worth it and if you ask me where I want to have my wedding, the answer is: Definitely in the monastery as long as we can party with the nuns all night long.  This was my first unexpected experience with religion in Bucovina.

Bucovina monasteries Sucevita 11

that is how nuns look, all clad in black.


Several days later on my way from Sighisoara to Sibiu I happened to sit next to a nun, who cleared a seat next to her and nicely offered it to me. 10 minutes later she suddenly asked me if I speak German…huh, do I look German??? …. well, I do speak German, though I almost have not used it for years. I don’t have German friends in Prague and use it on occasional trip to German speaking countries. And here you go – a chance to speak German. The nun was going from her monastery to Sibiu to take German classes, which take place twice a week. So she jumped at the opportunity to practice the language. Using a Romanian-German-Romanian dictionary we exchanged information about each other. When I told her where I am from and where I live now, she pulled our an A4-size world atlas and asked me to show my hometown and Prague. She was very surprised that I am from Ukraine, living in the Czech Republic, visiting a Romanian friend with my other Singaporean friend (was fun showing Singapore on the map and watch the nun’s face – the actual world is much bigger, and places like Singapore exist not only on maps). So our conversion continued with occasional pauses for peeking into the dictionary, or looking through the maps, or writing some words or sentences in her block note.

I was very surprised how freely she communicated with me, rubbing her elbow unintentionally against mine. Of course, there is nothing wrong about it, but she is a nun, and I am a mundane man, filthy dirty and ungodly man ;-)) I thought nuns cannot get into such close contacts with men, but ok, I understand we are all humans.

She showed me her ID. Interesting that her real name (Felisia) differ from her church name (Majka Marta), and both should not be used in the other’s domain. Besides on the ID picture she was in her religious attire covering her hair and ears. I thought it was not allowed. What if she becomes a terrorist? She showed me her official Romanian ID, her church ID, and her student card ;-)) Suddenly she pulled out a little laptop….wow a nun with a laptop. Oh yeah, forgot to mention, she was talking on a mobile phone now and then. So here you go, a nun of 21 century – mobile communication & laptops. She turned it on and decided to show me her monastery, her room, her brother visiting her, some old man (a German writer according to her) visiting her…I was shocked that a nun can just show to a random stranger her room, that she can so easily invite men into her room. I guess I had totally wrong ideas of what is allowed and what is prohibited to nuns.

Some time before arrival to Sibiu, she asked me if I don’t mind stepping out with her, and help her to carry her heavy bag from the bus to her car. She said she would take us to the center by car. Of course, I did not. So I and my Singaporean friend got off with the nun. The bag was really heavy. German books???? Holy wine???? Or AK-47s???? I will never know.

So we reached the car, loaded in and set off. 500 meters later, the nun stopped and said: Here we are. Hmm….that fast….cheeky nun. ;-) We waved good-bye and left.

That was unexpected but very interesting interaction. I have really got new ideas about nuns. But I guess if you stop thinking about the Church as something holy given by God, but just as of the oldest corporation of the world. Then it all makes sense. They wear special uniforms, they have their rituals, they have internal policies and regulations, as well as the Holy Strategy of the “company”. Exactly like many people wear office suits, have meetings and presentations and a company’s strategy. Well Business is Business even if it is a Holy Business.


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6 Comments on “How nuns in Romania surprised me”

  1. Such a blasphemy, Alex! )

    1. No, Pavel, drinking is a holy activity in some countries! Look at Ukriane ;-)

      1. Indeed!

  2. Don’t u remember the nun with skying gear ready for a day out in Prague’s metro?

    1. Oh, yeah. that was funny!

  3. […] a couple of images. I am afraid my place in Hell is reserved already. And even my connections with the Drunk nuns will not save me from burning in flames forever and […]

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