The Scoundrelly Nature of the Phanariots

Shortly after I got married in the early 90s I went to visit Sasha and his wife in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. Sasha (Alexander) had been a political prisoner in Romania under Communism, and as he reported the story had while in his cell been visited by an angel, who had told him to persevere. I asked his wife if she believed the angel was real, and she rolled her eyes — yeah, right.

Sasha loved America and his only regret was that he had gotten here in his late 70s because he had missed the easy opportunity America afforded to become a millionaire. If he had gotten here any earlier, even if in his 60s, he would have become a millionaire. If you were an American and you were not a millionaire, he felt you were stupid.

But stupid was not his chosen word of reproach. That was “ticalos.” Google Translate provides the following translation for a ticalos: villain, scoundrel, knave, wretch, miscreant, and for the adjective, the adjectival forms with the addition of “skunk”, which, if you know English you know is actually a noun. These are all very old-fashioned words, and Sasha employed them to explain his view of the world. The Communists of Romania were ticalos. The fascists who preceded them: ticalos. The wealthy families who ruled Romania before the coming of fascism: ticalos. The Phanariot Greeks (the tax farmers of the Ottomans) foarte (strongly) ticalos.

What an old-fashioned way of looking at things from this man who had been imprisoned by the communists and made his way to a former race track in upstate New York where his only regret was he arrived too late to be a millionaire!

But look it up with google if you care to. The Phanariots were scoundrelly, there can be no doubt. Those who think otherwise are somehow for some reason unable to look reality in the face. And that shirking vision is at least part of the reason that they are not yet millionaires.

Despite his bracingly truthful way of looking at things Sasha was a very kind man.


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