True or false: an encounter with a singing legend

I think I once promised to share with you, which of the scenes in my first book “The Truth About Family” are true and which are not. Actually most of them are based on true events, but they were modified in respect to place, point in time and some aspects of how the events took place. The story is good when it has a flow, so the true events took sometimes a different shape or simply were taken from another time and another person.

For example the scene where my father has an encounter with the Moldovan singing legend Nicolae Sulac, of whom my father was a huge fan and who inspired him to have his birth place changed from the one given him at the orphanage to Sadyk (Sadîc), the birthplace of Nicolae Sulac:


“So the thing is that he was walking to the back door of the Palace of the Republic and I recognized him. There were other people entering the building as well. My friends and I were trying to guess who they were. But he looked nothing like what we’d seen from the pictures and from the small TV. He usually sang in a traditional white costume, with stitching at the shirt collar and cuffs. On that day, when I saw him in person, he was dressed in black trousers and a black shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He was deep in thought or in a tune, because his fingers on both hands were moving as if playing an instrument. He walked pretty close to where I was standing. So I greeted him.”

“Did he answer, or did he ignore you?”

I shook my head. “At first he was startled. I guess he didn’t expect anyone to recognize him, so he thought for a second. Probably to figure out who I might have been. Then he smiled, returned my greeting and carried on. …”


This scene is both true and false. It did happen.

But it didn’t happen to my father. It happened to me.

It was in the mid-nineties and I saw Nicolae Sulac coming out of the gates of the main market place in Kishinev. Nobody seemed to recognize him, but there was a slight space around him, which probably was what let me notice him. He was deep in thought and, I guess, he was sure that no one would know him in the middle of the day, in the market place where you would not expect to see someone famous, and the way he was dressed.

And he was dressed exactly as described in the excerpt above.

Later I saw him at a wedding I was invited to. He wore exactly the same cloths, or at least the very same type of them: black trousers and black shirt with sleeves rolled up above his elbows.

He didn’t recognize me at the wedding and I never played music with him (I never played mandolin either, whereas my father did), but I never forgot that encounter.

And after that encounter I became even bigger fan of him.

There are many famous stars, who remain with their feet on the ground and do not become arrogant for their achievements. But what I most liked about Nicolae Sulac is that he was never much interested in himself. In the interviews I saw with him, he always seemed to be surprised about the interest to him, and his private affairs. All he was interested in were the Moldovan songs and his fellow countrymen and -women, for whom he sang and composed those songs. Many of these songs needed a lot of courage to bring out, like the song “Oamenii de Omenie” (title of which can be translated as “Humans with Humanity”) written and presented during the anti-alcoholic campaign during Perestroika years. The song said for example, that whatever you do, a Moldovan couldn’t have a wedding celebration with tea. And that we Moldovans don’t drink wine, we take it for honour. I would interpret this saying as taking it to honour life.

And this is what both Nicolae Sulac and my father did, with their lives and the ways they lived: they honoured life.

Picture: This is me at the celebration of my PhD defence in 1999, dressed in a Moldovan national costume, expressing my gratitude to my German and Moldovan professors and my colleagues at the Technical University in Darmstadt, Germany, for their support during completion of my PhD course.