This is the story of when Victor Mitroi, my Romanian teacher, went to a dentist before Romania made progress away from Communism. First, I will introduce you to Victor. Every body liked Victor. He was funny, friendly, and happy. He was very Romanian! He had black hair, black eyes, white skin, a mustache, a long hooked nose, and a big tummy. He was always laughing. He was one of those people who tried to help our stay in Romania to be much better. He was actually an English teacher and one of the first people we met in Romania because he volunteered to be our Romanian teacher. He was extremely honest. Many Romanians try to hide things out of shame. They don’t want people to tell how it was in Romania because it embarrasses them, but not much embarrassed Victor. He is a classic Romanian in as much as he loved to make tuica (pronounced tsoo-ee-kah). Tuica is plum brandy. He called it the Romanian national drink. He was always drinking, but never drunk. He said his dad taught him to drink without getting drunk. He was always ready for a party! He had lots of interesting stories to tell, and my son called him “Victor have a brandy.” Victor was quite a character!
Victor needed a dental operation, but the revolution had just happened, and there were no dentists with modern equipment in Romania yet. He decided to go to Cluj, two hours away to see a dentist. It was winter time and snow was on the ground. Victor, like most of Romania, had to go on a train to Cluj. However, the heaters on the train were broken. They were going full blast all the way there and back, and the train compartment was just too hot! He took his belt off and hooked it around the handle on the window and pulled the window and and held it down for most of the trip to stop it from being too hot.
When he got to Cluj, he went on to his dentist’s office on foot. The dentist was all set up, and Victor went in to sit in the dentist’s chair. The dentist said he didn’t have any disinfectant, so they were going to have to use gasoline to disinfect Victor’s mouth, and Victor had no recourse but cooperate. The dentist began his operation. Half way through, the chair broke! It fell to the ground with Victor in it! Victor got up with blood streaming out of his mouth down his face. He helped the dentist fix the chair so the dentist could continue the operation.
After they got the chair put back together, the dentist took Victor’s blood pressure. The dentist said, “Oh my! your blood pressure is extremely high!” Victor’s response was, “What do you expect after what just happened to me?” They finally got through with the operation, and Victor walked back to the train station to catch a train to go home. The train was too hot again, but Victor struggled more this time because he was feeling terrible after what he had just been through and wanted to sleep, but couldn’t sleep because it was too hot. He couldn’t hold the window open the whole time trying to keep the temperature from getting too hot.
When he got back to his town, he was sicker than a dog and had to walk back to his house. He went to bed and stayed there and finally recovered from his ordeal.
Victor’s face was similar to this mask.
Conditions are better in Romania now. There are new, modern dentist’s offices. However, the Romanian wages are still rather low, and not all of them can afford to go to the dentist’s office. There are many differences, though, between now and how things were in Romania. After learning many stories like this, I wasn’t so sure that Socialist medicine was the way America wanted to go, but I don’t think it is the Socialist medicine that caused it, but Communism in general. We have problems in America because doctors and dentists are too expensive, but they are much more affordable here in Korea, and there is government insurance here for everyone who has a job. The medical costs in Korea are a fraction of the cost of those in America.