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Three Days

Alin Bogdan and me, outside my hotel in Bucharest on Monday morning

Alin Bogdan was a journalist, but then he left to become a political consultant. He also founded a small conservative publishing house, Contra Mundum, dedicated to translating books into Romanian. On the Contra Mundum webpage, they describe their mission like this:

Contra Mundum [Against the World] is a publishing house for books that take us out of today’s world, a world dominated by intellectual and aesthetic conformity, moral relativism and the media-advertised lie sold as an indisputable truth.

Naturally, they were interested in buying Romanian rights to Live Not By Lies. The Romanian version came out there about a month ago. It has sold well. Alin welcomed me to Bucharest last weekend to do media promotions, and to give a talk about it at a church conference. Catalin and Ninel, the two other men at Contra Mundum, picked me up at the airport on Friday afternoon. That night, we met Alin and some others at a restaurant in the Old Town.

He was soft-spoken and serious, and I loved being around him. As I wrote earlier, it was an incredible time for me in Romania. The conference drew five times more people than Alin and his team expected, and we sold a blockbuster 400 books at that one event — something I’ve never done in America with any of my books, and something massive for Romania, they told me.

We all retired late Saturday night to a restaurant to celebrate our astonishing good fortune.

“This book might have started a movement here,” said Catalin.

“We are not even on the map as a publishing house!” said Ninel.

“Now you are!” I replied.

Alin just sat there quiet, looking satisfied. As well he should have. This little publishing house he founded had its first hit — and the book was such a hit that people all over the country were buzzing about it on social media.

The next morning I went to the Orthodox liturgy Catalin, Ninel, and some other Orthodox friends, but Alin, being Catholic, didn’t join us. He met up with us later, at the Antim Monastery. Here we all are in the courtyard there on Sunday afternoon. Alin is the short man on my left:

Most of us went later to the National Village Museum, and sat out back at the day’s end, drinking coffee and cold drinks, and talking about doom and gloom. “Somebody tell a joke,” said Alin, finally. We talked more about doom and gloom. “Really, somebody tell a joke,” he said. We continued on. Then he told a joke. That was Alin.

The next morning, he, Ninel, and Catalin arrived at my hotel to take me to the airport. I had expected to take a taxi, but they wouldn’t dream of it. On the way there, they told me how much my book and my talk meant to them, and to Romanian Christians. I told them that I could not possibly express how much being with them over the weekend meant to me, and how much these three days in Bucharest was balm to my soul. I mentioned a particularly heavy spiritual struggle that has been with me for a long time, and how much comfort and hope I took from this the weekend in Bucharest with these new brothers in Christ. I told them all that they were a gift from God to me, and that I would never forget the graces of this weekend. I meant every word.

From the back seat came Alin’s soft voice: “You aren’t the only one in this car who carries this burden.” I turned and looked at him. His eyes were so sad, but so warm. We agreed to pray for each other.

They walked me into the airport, and I checked in. Then I walked over to say my final goodbyes. Once more, they said how they never, ever expected a weekend like this, and I said the same thing. Orders are pouring in from all over the country for the book. The publishing house has now made its mark. The sky’s the limit! I promised them I would come back, and I meant it. They said we would make it happen. Finally, we had to say farewell. I gave each of them a big embrace. Alin hugged me especially tight. It touched me, and made me wonder about the weight of his cross. I felt in that moment that I had a true brother in this small, intense man.

He had less than twenty-four hours to live.

Alin Bogdan died this morning in Bucharest of a heart attack. He was 42, and leaves behind a wife and a nine-year-old daughter.

Please pray for him, for his wife and child, and for all who loved him. The Contra Mundum team went from their moment of greatest professional triumph to this unspeakable agony. Catalin wrote me with the news:

Dear Rod,

We learned with unspeakable pain about the death this morning of a dear and close friend, the journalist Alin Bogdan.

We spent the past few days with Alin, organizing the event at Precupeții Noi – something that I now see as a gift from God. These were days full of great satisfaction, with a conference attended by several hundred people, followed by hundreds of other messages and reactions. This event, which Alin made possible as the director of the ContraMundum publishing house, had something uplifting and I think gave hope to many. In addition, following the event, we have been able to read one of the most beautiful, profound, and generous stories about Romania written by an American journalist. I am referring to the material you published on your blog in The American Conservative.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/what-i-saw-in-bucharest-live-not-by-lies/

I hope that if God allowed this to happen, it was because the past few days, that we have all felt were touched by special grace, this particular moment in time has been a good time for the salvation of his soul.

Let us pray for the soul of our friend Alin Bogdan. God rest him in peace and may He receive him in His Kingdom!

The picture I’m adding here, taken two days ago, is the last one I took of Alin.

 

Just like that, my new brother is gone. I’m crying as I write this. The only consolation I have is the thought that I may have gained a powerful intercessor in heaven who will walk with me through this vale of tears.

We never know what tomorrow will bring. Right now, on this day, make peace with those around you. Tell people you love them. Don’t wait. Cherish every day. The memory of these three days in Bucharest will be with me for the rest of my life, as will the sense that Alin, that dear man, is with me.

UPDATE: Catalin points out that in this photo I posted here the other day, the man on the right, bending over an icon in a Bucharest church on Friday night, is Alin. He is venerating an icon of Christ the Savior. He had no way of knowing that within three days, he would presumably be face to face with his Lord.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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