For those who leave ?unexpectedly?, acting on existential impulse or seizing an opportunity, the search for an adequate niche may continue for a long time, either within the space of a single country, or while moving from one country to another (one remembers the joke with the poor emigrant asking the officials who expell him for another terrestrial globe to pinpoint his next destination). I have written on several occasions about such zigzag exile or emigration processes: the emigration of the French to Canada during the 17th and 18th centuries and their leaving, after 1860 and again pushed by poverty, toward New England which was then at the peak of its industrial revolution; or, on a personal level, the exile of the Russian linguist Roman Jakobson, of the Romanian historian of religions Mircea Eliade or of the Romanian ethnomusicologist Constantin Brăiloiu, that numbered many years of living in many different countries before finally settling down (in the U.S. for the first two, in France for the third).
By taking into account the distance between the departure point and the arrival country, we can come to distinguish between what I propose to call a near exile, a middle exile and a far exile (in the same way in which we speak of the Near, Middle and Far East) and, likewise, between near, middle and far emigrations. The Romanians exiling themselves may choose a relatively close country (such as France, for example, where, due to successive generations of notorious writers and politicians who came to live in Paris in 1848, after WWII and after 1980, there is already an institutional tradition and a certain level of visibility for them) or, on the contrary, a truly distant space (the U.S.A. for example, where those who left in 1940, 1970 or 1980 hoped to set up institutions that would be positively contaminated by the dynamism and efficiency of the New World; or Australia, which got its share of Romanian immigrants, especially in the eighties.). A good example of middle emigration is that of the departures for Israel, where many people still speak, write and read Romanian, Romanian newspapers, magazines, exhibitions and shows abound and the connection with the country of origin is not radically discontinued, despite the geographical and cultural distance. Or Canada, where, despite the geographical distance, pluriculturalism and French define a space in which it is easier for Romanians to establish their niche.
If we are to ponder the success or failure of both emigration and exile processes, the political, cultural and economic dimensions of the hiatus between the departure point and the arrival point must be carefully evaluated. The question also arises of what in fact counts for success or failure and why. Which are the parameters that could guide us in such an evaluation? Is it the efficiency of the bodies created by the exiled and the fertility of their contacts with the country of origin? Or, on the contrary, the degree of assimilation of the emigrants to the country where they established themselves? A close study of the institutions of the Romanian exile and emigration still needs to be done. Does the material, professional, existential success matter, and if so, to what extent? Is the visibility (or invisibility) of those who established themselves in another country a true dimension of their success? It is high time we begin to answer such questions both in Romania (for our own immigrants, especially after 1989) and in the archipelago of Romanian emigrant islands scattered by now in so many other countries.
After the morphological (and phenomenological) description sketched above and its general interpretation in terms of success or failure of the exile/emigration process, the issue arises of evaluating, from an economic, cultural and political point of view, the cost and benefit exiles and emigrations represent both for the country of origin and for the country of destination. Romania, France and Germany are currently losing an entire layer of educated young professionals who used to immigrate to the United States until most recently. In exchange, they gain an extended network of connections within which their estranged specialists become, whether they perceive it or not, unpaid diplomats without portfolio, proving on a daily basis the quality of education and the capacities of the country of origin. On the other side, the host countries lose workplaces for their own population, but gain, without investing in their education or training, valuable professionals whose formation would have been most expensive.
In order to understand its present and future perspectives, Romania needs to know its emigration as a whole, the so-called Diaspora, and to maintain an active contact with it, by using it as a vanguard for its international projects, as a potential market abroad for specifically Romanian products, and as an economic, political and cultural bridge to the countries where most of the emigrated Romanians live nowadays.
The way attitudes about exiles and emigrants vary in time and within different cultures both in the country of origin and in the country where they settled, cannot be known without a special research. The openness, the reticence or the fear with respect to emigration, migration or exile in the prosperous targeted countries are most of the times due to the image or the absence of an image about the country of origin of those that knock on their door. In order to be able to elicit an image and in order for this image to be a positive one, small and medium sized countries such as Romania need long-term perseverance in the economic and cultural battles of the present and future, as well as an alert inventivity and a smart way of speculating anything that could help in the unequal David vs. Goliath confrontation that awaits them. Inventivity, in turn, needs to be prepared through close gathering of information, learning how to interpret it and the contrastive study of the way cultures, religions and political systems connect in the minds of those whose attention and interest we wish to attract.