“Well,” I said, “There’s always Dragostea din tei.”
(There followed a brief explanation, culminating in my finding an MP3 file on the internet and playing it down the phone at her.)
“Hmm,” she said at the end, “that might not entirely fit the Commissioner’s style. Any other ideas?”
“Well,” I said, “the poet Pushkin spent a short time in exile in Chişinău in the 1820s. You could always find some decent quote from him.”
So a week later, she sent me the Commissioner’s speech, which did indeed end with the glorious declamation:
After all, in the words of Alexander Pushkin, for whom Chişinău’s main street is named, “we’re destined…to cut a door to Europe wide”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Delegation is part of your door to Europe.
And so it is with great pleasure that I hereby declare the Delegation of the European Commission to the Republic of Moldova open!
And I felt a little thrill of pride. So when my Moldovan friend took me out for lunch a couple of days after, I said to him, “Did you see the Commissioner’s speech when she was in Chişinău?”
His face hardened. “Yeah, she made a very strange remark about Pushkin. It went down rather badly.”
My plan to brag about my latest contribution to international understanding disintegrated. “What do you mean?”
My Moldovan friend explained. “First of all, she used a quote that is actually about St Petersburg. And second, Pushkin didn’t really like it in Moldova. He wrote that he felt like a lion among monkeys. It just seemed a little odd; I wonder who suggested it to her?”
I kept a discreet silence.