The famous Romanian “cozonac”, a traditional cake made on all important celebrations, but also a lot of other goodies that remind Romanians of their childhood, can be found right in the middle of Norway. They taste like they have just been made by granny, maybe because, beyond the recipes and good ingredients, Monica Mandru makes them with a lot of love. She’s been living in Norway for 5 years, they moved in here after her husband tried to have his own business in Romania and failed. They now live in Finnoy, close to Stavanger, and she loves her new country, the system, the chances they’ve had here. She said that if they weren’t here, their 7 years old little boy, diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, could’ve lost his battle with life today.
If you are looking on her Facebook page, Monica’s homemade goodies, you almost feel the smell in her kitchen, that good all those cookies look like. She makes traditional Romanian cakes, 2.500 kilometers away from her native country. The most famous is certainly “cozonac”, a kind of equivalent to the Italian “panettone”, a long kneaded dough filled with different ingredients like nuts, cocoa, raisins or poppy. But she does a lot of other cookies, one tastier than the other. You can order “cornulete”, also a dough filled with different ingredients, the delicious “amandine”, a cake made with syrup and cocoa cream, or “eclere”, also filled with vanilla or cocoa cream. And many others.
“Cozonac” sent by post
Monica (35 years old) discovered her passion for cooking and for homemade cookies after she moved in Norway. In Romania, she didn’t have time for cooking. But in here, she started and then everything just matched. “If you ask me where this idea came from, I simply can’t tell you” she says, laughing. She just tried, then some friends told her that if she makes more they will order, and things simply went on.
She can’t say she made a business from that, she has a regular job at a kindergarten and does this in her free time, it’s a passion first of all. “I wanted to do something to relax, to feel good. And my friends tasted and told me that if I make more they will order. Then I kept on improving my recipes”, she says.
“Most wanted” is certainly the famous “cozonac”, which she had even sent by post. But people also want to taste the others. “One of my recent clients told me you know, they taste like home, and that made me very happy”, she says, smiling. It’s actually not only surprising but also a reason for you, as a client, to be happy – to find in Norway “granny’s cakes” you thought you would taste only when you visit Romania.
New life from scratch
As very many immigrants, Monica didn’t plan to leave her country. Trey tried to have their own business in Romania, her husband had a car service in Constanta, their native town and one of the biggest in Romania. But they faced the Romanian system, her husband made more of the tinsmith part and the car insurance firms didn’t pay good and in time and this made him go bankrupt.
Yet, they had a good situation and could’ve stayed. But they didn’t want to, they wanted something else for their child, first of all. And they simply loved the country ever since they got here. Her husband was the first, after he succeeded in getting a good contract as a mechanic at a fish factory. Monica and their little boy moved after one year and a half. They first lived near Alesund then, when the factory where her husband was working closed, they moved to Drammen, closed to Oslo, thinking that, being closed to the capital, it would be easier for her husband to find a job. But it wasn’t. They stayed there for one year, he changed some jobs and kept on applying for a good, suitable one.
And that’s how he got the offer from the fish factory in Stavanger. It was a good offer, and they moved in Finnoy, a small island close to Stavanger, two years ago. They had never been in the area before, but she just loves the island and found many Romanians in there, and this was quite unexpected. Then, she succeeded in finding the job at the kindergarten.
The drama. A rare form of cancer for their 7 years old boy
Monica and her husband love Norway, the country, the system, people, mentality, everything. But, maybe more than others, they are very grateful to this system because, if they were still in Romania, they could’ve spoken about their beloved boy at past tense.
Everything started with a small ganglion that was inflamed. But the results of all the analysis were good. And maybe somewhere else the doctors would’ve stopped after those good results. But the Norwegian doctors insisted for the surgery, to take the ganglion off and make the biopsy. They got the result after one month, and if the doctors hadn’t insisted for the surgery probably the cancer would’ve been found too late.
“I really want to insist on this, because you hear a lot of things about the doctors in here, about the medical system. If you reach to the specialist they are more than ok, they are very good, have everything they need and certainly do all their best. I think this actually kept me strong. They did a lot of tests, analysis, there was an oncologist in Oslo who told me to calm down because they have everything they need in here, they have good doctors, very good technology, they have all they need. And he was perfectly right, they have really been more than ok from all points of view”, she says.
Now, the treatment is over and her little boy is ok. And she keeps on hoping that things will remain like this.
Never look back
Monica and her family don’t want to come back to Romania. Beyond everything else, it’s the chance for their boy to grow up in a normal, healthy system. I think this is the first thing we realize when we actually live in another country, not just visiting it. It’s the system with everything that in means, from public services to infrastructure.
They can’t say they miss the country very much, maybe because they had been visited by their Romanian family and friends all the time. The fact that they didn’t feel any kind of discrimination was also very helpful, they were very well treated, and this was also a big surprise, she admits she had expected other reactions. The first thing she had to learn was not to be stressed anymore.
And then comes the native country. “Romania is a wonderful country, there are so many places that simply take your breath away, but I don’t recommend any Norwegian to go on holiday in there. This year, in Bucharest, a taxi driver explained to us naturally that he takes more money to the foreigners, and it’s not correct at all. Some friends took some Norwegians friends with them on holiday, and some people started to fight in the street, right in front of them. They were shocked”, she says.
And she can’t stop comparing – I think we all do that. She had seen how her boy was treated here, and looked at her father, who had gone with terrible stomach pains at the emergency room in Constanta, one of the biggest Romanian cities. They diagnosed him with gastritis and gave him a pill. He was lucky to have the financial possibility to ask for another opinion, so he went to Turkey, where the doctors discovered a stomach cancer. He treated himself there, paying for the treatment. Most of Romanians don’t have this possibility.
“We will never come back there, we haven’t even thought about that”, she adds.
After all they had been through with their boy, happiness means a totally different thing now. “Just to be healthy, this is happiness to us now. To be healthy, the rest will all find a way to be solved”, she says.
You can find Monica and her cookies on her Facebook page, HERE.
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