Kirkwood Community College English Professor Mircea Tomus was born and raised in Romania and grew up near Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s castle.
Q: Could you explain your childhood? What was it like growing up in Romania when you were a child?
A: Fondest memories as a child, growing up in an old country, literally. Of course, being relatively insulated from “foreign influences,” we were able to both idealize the Western World and take full advantage of what we had around us, which gave us the best of both worlds.
Q: What are some stereotypes you’ve encountered while living in the United States?
A: Anything connected with Transylvania, which is where I was born and spent the first 28 years of my life. No need to elaborate, right?
Q: You mentioned how Vlad the Impaler was a national hero. What are some other notable people of Romanian descent that you looked up to, spooky or not?
A: Vlad was one of Romania’s 15th century kings. As a medieval ruler, he managed to bring some stability in the country; one may find plenty of information on the internet about his reign.
We were, of course, aware of the way his character has been “literalized” by Bram Stoker’s Dracula but these vampiric vagaries were never taken seriously in those days.
Things have changed recently as his legend has been commercially capitalized on and I am not sure whether for the best.
Q: Are you superstitious at all? If so, of what, and why?
A: Claiming that one is not superstitious is a bad omen.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about Romania?
A: Misconceptions change with the times. For instance, 30 years ago, people used to be delightfully surprised when I was telling them that I danced with Nadia Comaneci once. Now many don’t even remember who she is.
The biggest misconception, I guess, would be my very own. Romania today is no longer the country I grew up in and I remember.
Q: Dracula’s Castle, or Bran Castle, is a well-known monument. Have you visited it and if so, what was your impression? Is there, in your opinion, a creepier destination?
A: Bran Castle is one among several that claim to be Dracula’s castle.
Since Vlad was a three-times king, he must have had more than one. Bran Castle happens to be one that fits better the gothic imagery evoked in Dracula and that’s fine, for commercial reasons.
A creepier destination would be Jilava prison, not far from Bucharest, used by the Communists well into the 20th century to detain the enemies of the state—and, unfortunately, it’s anything but fictitious.