Families in U.S. Worry About Loved Ones Abroad


Amber Cazacu

Rafila Bartos holds up picture of husband John Bartos, who is stuck in Romania during the corona virus outbreak.

Amber Cazacu, Editor

The COVID-19 outbreak in Italy shocked the whole world, with 25,085 deaths, and 187,327 confirmed cases. Panic grew throughout Europe, everybody was put in danger, especially people 65 years and older. In the U.S., family members of hard-hit European countries began panicking, not being able to protect loved ones that were 4,903 miles away. I was one of them.

My family is from Romania, a country that borders northern Italy, a worldwide epicenter of  Coronavirus deaths. My grandpa, John Bartos lives in Bistrița-Năsăud, whereas of now there are 137 cases there, ranging from elderly to young adults. As a 73-year-old living alone with no immediate family members can be tough on him. It’s tough on us too. 

“It’s hard making sure that he has enough food, and supplies. Him going out is too risky at his age,” said Rafila Bartos, his wife, who moved to the U.S. years ago.

Bartos has lived alone in Romania for about five years now. He moved to America in 1987 and lived here for 25 years. He began moving back and forth from America to Romania, until 2013 when he decided to stay in Romania. His wife, however, lives here in America. She couldn’t move to Romania with him due to her work and taking care of her grandchildren.

“I do worry when he’s in Romania alone. Something could happen and nobody would be there, but I do visit him every summer,” said Grandma Bartos. 

He has some relatives that help him get necessities such as milk, eggs, and vegetables. Although, he does get lonely being away from his family. 

“I feel alone when I miss major events that are important, but I remind myself that one day I’ll go back and see them,” said Grandpa John. 

He keeps himself busy by working outside in the garden and fixing things around the house. Whenever he has free time he’s on Skype with at least one person from the family.

“I miss everybody. I love seeing their faces and knowing how everybody is doing,” said Grandpa Bartos.

Romania’s health care is the worst in all of Europe. It spends less on medical systems than any other country in Europe. Currently, they are short-staffed and have widespread corruption making it impossible for them to treat this emergency.

“Knowing that the hospitals aren’t the best and that they aren’t prepared makes me anxious, I mean, it’s scary to think that you don’t have much help there,” said Grandma Bartos.

Times like this can be scary. With the deaths increasing everyday you never know what tomorrow may hold. The hardest part would be losing a family member in times like this. Social distancing is very important.

Grandpa John’s two kids, Dina and John Bartos are worried but not too worried at the moment. My family knows that he is staying inside at all times, and avoiding any contact with people that could put him in danger. The thought of him getting sick during this time, makes our stomach turn. There’s no way of traveling to help him, and if worse comes to worst, we wouldn’t even be able to attend his funeral, which breaks all of our hearts. The thought of losing a loved one during times like this is scary, but my family and I keep our head high and hope that nothing like this would ever happen. 

Although Romania does not have the best health care, they do have the best security to ensure that everybody is inside their homes. The army has been brought onto the streets to help police impose the new restrictions that everybody should be inside quarantining. This gives families across the country a sense of security, knowing that they are at least doing something to prevent as much spreading as possible.

“We pray that everybody stays safe, including long-distance families,” said Grandma Bartos. “The most important thing to do in times like this is have positivity and stay home as much as possible.”