Ruxandra Lambru from the University of Bucharest is specialised in the Southern Slavic languages. She gave this interview, where she speaks about her experiences as a foreign lector in the universities in Bulgaria and about the academic and interpersonal relations between Romanians and Bulgarians
Ruxandra Lambru is a university doctor in the department for Russian and Slavic philology, at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures of the University of Bucharest. She was lector of Romanian languages at the University of Veliko Tarnovo between 2010 and 2017. She knows Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian and Bulgarian languages. She is interested in linguistics, Slavo-Roman paleography, epigraphy, Southern Slavic languages. As a specialist in Slavic Cyrllic paleography she has collaborated in many of the projects of the Art Institute “George Oprescu” of the National Art University and of the Institute of History “Nicolae Iorga”.
This interview was published on 17 July 2018 on the Bridge of Friendship blog in Romanian and Bulgarian.
Mrs. Lambru, in the middle of May 2018 the University of Bucharest has organised for the first time a celebration of Bulgarian culture as a part of the week of Slavic cultures, which also took place for the first time. How was this day of Bulgarian culture received among professors, students and guests? Could we expect that this initiative would become a tradition?
Yes, it was first of a kind in many ways. The department of Russian and Slavic philology organised in the spring of 2018 (14-18 May) a week of the slavic culture, which was thought as a fresh presentation of the Slavic cultures and countries. I say “fresh”, because it was made from the standing point of the young people. The students of this section were promoters and main characters of this week. Professors have guided them, have supported them, but the topics, the images, the artistic events were chosen, prepared and presented completely by students. In these four days there were special events, dedicated to Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. Russia did not make part of this list, because there was a special week dedicated only to Russian culture.
The guests were numerous: ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives, members of parliament from the Slavic minorities, high-ranking bureaucrats from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture, representatives of the University. But there was also another kind of guests, who were invited from the Slavic countries – a Bulgarian film director, a writer from Serbia, a folk dance group from Sofia, a museologist with a concomitant exhibition from Veliko Tarnovo, etc.
Almost all the mentioned people were impressive. The reactions were positive. There was even enthusiasm on part of those who participated – both guests and organisers. So I am convinced that this initiative will have a new edition.
You teach Romanian language abroad, but you are also an expert on Old Slavic language (which is called in Bulgaria Old-Bulgarian language). You are also a licensed translator in and from Serbian and Croatian. You speak other Yugosavic languages and Bulgarian. How did you decide to specialise in the domain of Slavic Studies? What made you learn in depth the languages and cultures of the Slavic people on the Balkans?
I had the luck to have extraordinary professors, who passed me their love towards the Slavic Studies. I am thankful to all of them. I think especially about the late professor G. Mihăilă, M. Mitu, Dan Horia Mazilu, who are a model for me in studies and especially in teaching. The love for Southern Slavic languages has come from my desire to get closer to “the beautiful unknown”, to the culture and language of our neighbours, about who we know very few things. I wanted to be able to read literature in as many languages as possible. It looks like only this way somebody can reach the soul of a nation.
You have teached Romanian language in two of the most important universities in Bulgaria – the University of Sofia and the University of Veliko Tarnovo. What are your impressions with regard to the level of interest and profoundness in the knowledge of Romanian language and culture in those universities? What problems did you confront in your work as a professor in Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo? What initiatives, reactions and successes of your students have given you satisfaction from your work in Bulgaria?
I am happy about your question. It allows me to say how much I recognise those stages in my professional road. Both in Sofia and in Veliko Tarnovo I was pleasantly impressed by the students who study Romanian language. Most of them were coming with a sincere desire to study Romanian language. They had a strong internal motivation and were resolved to end those studies and to use them in their professional career. I worked very well with Bulgarian students, who were teaching Romanian language. I thank all of them for what they have taught me through their curiosity and desire to find more about Romanian culture. I would like to mentional especially the Bulgarian professors, who teach this language in Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo. Their level as professionals and people is high.
I would mention among the successes of my students the fact that one of them started a doctorate, specialised in teaching Romanian language, another student, M.A., who specialized in translation in and from Romanian language… Most of my students got jobs in domains where knowledge of Romanian language represents an advantage. These are firms that cooperate with Romanian partners, sites or call centers, where there is a need for Romanian language, hotels, restaurants and other places, where Romanian tourists go. There are other similar occupations as well.
What is the level of bilateral cooperation between the Romanian universities where Bulgarian language is studied and the Bulgarian universities, where Romanian language is taught? To what extent the existing relations are sufficient so that a better knowledge and cooperation between the universities cadres in both countries is achieved?
The level of cooperation changes from institution to institutions. The level is very good in general. There are signed bilateral agreements, through which exchanges of students and professors take place through the programmes Erasmus. The Romanian language is studied at the universities of Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo. Each year there are new groups. While Bulgarian language is taught at the University of Bucharest, where there is a new course every two years and in Craiova as a lectorate (a facultative specialisation). The Romanian students participate in the summer courses, organised in Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo, while the Bulgarian students go for summer courses in Alba Iulia, Craiova and Constanta. Unfortunately, the University of Bucharest (Faculty of Letters) offers only two places for Bulgaria, which are allocated to the University of Sofia. It is probably done, because philology is being taught only there. As far as the university cadres are concerned, they participate in the conferences, organised by the universities and the institutions of the academy in both countries. It is a chance for meetings and exchange of ideas. As far as I am concerned, this year I was in Sofia in May in order to hold two lectures within the programme Erasmus Plus, and in the beginning of June I will participate with a work at the conference Language, Culture, Communication, organised by the Faculty of Contemporary Languages in the University of Veliko Tarnovo. As an answer to your question, I think that there are close connections between the universities, between the students and professors in both countries, but there is always a place for more.
Apart from the scientific and teaching dimensions of your activity in Bulgaria, you have probably had more interpersonal contact and impressions about Bulgarians. What have you learned about us and our country in the times, when you lived in Bulgaria?
Indeed, I discovered a lot of things about Bulgarians and their culture. I didn’t know a lot of details about the medieval Bulgarian history and I was pleasantly surprised by the artefacts in the museums and the archeological sites in the country. I visted a lot of interesting museums, fortresses and monasteries.
In your work in Bulgaria and Romania you act as a bridge between our people. What do you do in order to encourage the Bulgarian students and Ph.D. candidates to construct their own bridges towards Romanians?
It is maybe a bit of a sign of pretense to say that I am a bridge. I would rather create bridges, when I have power to do that. I was a lecturer of Romanian language in Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo. I promoted the Romanian language, literature and culture on many occasions. I organised Romanian cultural evenings and film screening. I participated in meetings with writers and I made travelling with the students in Bucharest (or at least I was their guide). Now, when I return to the university of Bucharest, I keep connections with the universities in Bulgaria. I am a mentor for Bulgarian students and Ph.D. candidates, who came to the University of Bucharest through the Erasmus programme. I encourage young Bulgarians to continue their contact with Romanian language, with the Romanian space, in spite of their previous occupations. Some are close, come for an excursion in Romania, other have remained in distance. A former student now lives in Las Vega and given that I have remained in relation with her through the social networks, I notice with pleasure that among the photos with palm trees, with crazy parties and with beaches there are also posts with quotes from Panait Istrati – her favourite author. I am not a cultural snob and I am happy even when I see such small things, which come from a discussion or from a seminar, which have really meant something for somebody.
To what extent do you support Romanians who are curious about relations with Bulgaria?
If I exclude the academic sphere, I can say that every time when I speak about Bulgarians, I try to overcome some prejudices. Don’t ask me what they are… Romanian’s defect is that they find defects in everybody else! If I leave aside the joke, I encourage all who are interested in Bulgaria to read at least a little bit about history, about architecture, about medieval art and last but not least, to read the novels “Natural Novel” by Georgi Gospodonov or “Glass river” by Emil Andreev, which were translated in the last years in Romanian language.
Read in Romanian language!
Read in Bulgarian language!