(Photo source) Delighted to hear our petition for the Brukenthal and for Romanian Culture made it to the Romanian national press this morning. Please see the articles HERE and HERE both from Adevarul, and also published in Historia.ro, Wall Street.ro, Ziarelive, Yahoo News Romania, Ziare.ro, Turism Istoric and Ziare Brasov. Furthermore, if you missed the earlier article in Cotidianul by Roxana Dascalu, you can read it HERE.
Citeste mai mult: adev.ro/mlg49aand another from last week in Cotidianul by Roxana Dascalu.
It was far less heartening to see news regarding the sorrowful state of yet more museums and memorial houses across Romania, however. The situation is, frankly, dire to say the least. Not only does THIS article mention the Brukenthal and those cited in the petition, but there are also fears for the Museum of Pharmacy in Cluj, the Memorial House of Liviu Rebreanu in Bistrita-Nasaud, a museum in Aiud, the Gheorghe M. Tattarescu Museum/Memorial House in Bucharest, the City Museum in Husi (today a ruin and closed to the public since 1993) and the seminary where Ion Creanga studied in Iasi to name but a few. Uff...
The Old Pharmacy of Cluj was nationalised and closed under the communist regime but saved by Professor Valeriu Bologa in the 50s, who turned it into a museum. Today, its unique collection is threatened because the old pharmacists' family, the Hintz, has demanded its restitution and intends to sell it. Paradoxically, the museum is better known to tourists than it is to the residents of Cluj, but blogger Andrei Aroneti has initiated a campaign in the city to increase awareness of both its existence and its plight. He is determined to save it. Please see Andrei's site HERE and PLEASE support his campaign.
Meanwhile in Bistrita-Nasaud, work began on the renovation of Liviu Rebreanu's memorial house early last year, but has been halted due to lack of funds....
(Photo source: The Gheorghe Tattarescu Museum by George Stefanescu, 1975) Gheorghe M. Tattarescu, painter and one of the founders of Bucharest's School of Fine Arts, bought his house in 1855. Here at str. Domnita Anastasia 17, the artist lived and worked for nigh on forty years (1855-1894). Today, however, it is closed to the public. Founded in 1951, this memorial house bang in the centre of Bucharest (just off calea Victoriei) cannot reopen without funding. Within the walls of this splendid house, one finds true treasures - over 1200 pieces: paintings, graphics (compositions, portraits, drawings), murals in neo-Pompeian style, decorative arts, antique furniture and some of the artist's personal belongings. This building which houses so many of the great painter's works is a listed historic monument, but nevertheless, it is closed and in dire need of financing... Apart from it being classified, it is also very much part of Bucharest's historic, cultural and architectural heritage, for the house was built in the reminiscent style of famous inns found in the old city. Sadly, from the street, one cannot see the part renovated so beautifully by the painter in neo-classic style at the back of the house 150 years ago...
(Photo source) As for the City Museum in Husi, it has simply been forgotten by the authorities. It has suffered a series of humiliations from neglect, notably weather-induced... those already familiar with the fate of such houses will picture its plight only too well. The decline began in 1990 following an earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter Scale, after which mould set in in the walls. In 1993, the museum was closed to the public when the building's degeneration really became noticeable. To add insult to injury, the institute was robbed in 2001 (supposedly to keep headlines out of the papers re: the suspicious death of the then director, Violeta Veturia Bazaciuc). Apparently today, the walls look like they've been in a war (and so they have, in a sense), the roof is weather-beaten and full of holes and most of the windows are broken.
Do see the Adevarul articles for more.
(Photo source) Back in 2011, I wrote a post on George Calinescu's memorial house having gone to visit it one summer's day and found it closed, despite nothing of that sort being reported on internet since I'd checked opening times beforehand - see The very suspicious tale of Casa Memoriala G. Calinescu HERE. Back then, it had been shut up for 'renovation', all contents of the house spirited away in the middle of the night (so I was told). There was confusion as to where the items/works were exactly. Personally, I have heard no more news but have remained extremely fearful for this wonderful, cosy nest of memory ever since. Does anyone know what's going on there today? Is it open to the public once again? Have all the pieces been returned? Or not? Online info says nothing at all...
Despite the messages and mails received pointing out that we are wasting our time; we should be working with NGOs rather than doing this alone (actually, we are); 'send it to me again, I haven't had time'; there are more important things in Romania to be fighting for, such as schools and hospitals (I agree completely, but everyone has their 'cause'); what's in it for you - a foreigner - and who is paying you to do this, etc etc (charming), it's of absolutely no consequence. One sees the above examples of a country's concern for its heritage and what is one supposed to do? Sit back and do nothing? Impossible. IMPOSSIBLE.
The petition addressed to 'the Minister of Culture of Romania, the Romanian government, the presidency, members of the Romanian Parliament's culture commissions', etc., is supported by Victor Rebengiuc, Maia Morgenstern, Serban Cantacuzino (President of the NGO, Pro Patrimonio), Bogdan Suceava, Ion Vianu, Raluca Stirbat, Sanda Golopentia, Patrice Eyraud (President of the NGO, OVR France) and Stefana Bianu (President of the NGO, RPER - Rencontres du Patrimoine Europe-Roumanie). It calls for a public debate on the fate of Romanian culture in the 21st century, involving the Ministry of Culture, museums, cultural institutions and NGOs to:
a) discuss the adoption and application of laws that would protect the country’s cultural heritage
b) define the course of reforms so desperately needed in this vital sector for the future of Romania.
Should you wish to add your voice to the 840 others so far registered, please click HERE. Thank you very much to all those who have already signed.
Now, onwards and upwards!
My thanks to Roxana Dascalu for... absolutely everything!!!
Citeste mai mult: adev.ro/mlg49a
Citeste mai mult: adev.ro/mlg49a
Citeste mai mult: adev.ro/mlg49a
(Photo source) BREAKING NEWS: More from Romania's culture scene that has left me so outraged I am not sure to be coherent... Well, here it is:
The first Romanian contemporary art museum in the country, The Visual Art Museum in Galati, IS DEFINITIVELY CLOSING ITS DOORS. Why? Because the Archbishopric of the Lower Danube has repossessed the Bishopric Palace which housed the museum, and has had them evicted. That's why.
The museum’s heritage section exhibited Romanian art from the second half of the 19th century (Theodor Aman, Nicolae Grigorescu, Octav Bancila, Theodor Pallady, George Petrascu, Dimitrescu Stefan Nicolae Tonitza, Camil Ressu, Lucian Grigorescu...), avant-garde art from the 20th century (Brauner, MH Maxy, Mattis-Teutsch, Marcel Iancu, Irina Codreanu, Milita Petrascu...) and artists known for having abridged the two periods (Corneliu Baba, Alexandru Ciucurencu, Ion Tuculescu, Henri H. Catargi, Dumitru Ghiata, Rudolf Schweitzer-Cumpana...).
According to a reliable source who has been a museographer for the last 30 years in Galati, the museum's heritage collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures is being moved to a disused factory, while their permanent exhibition will be on the ground floor of a communist-era block of flats - all this by order of the local Galati County Council (Consiliu Judetean).
The Museum of Visual Arts comes under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture and the Galati County Council. "We are going to pay rent and operate from the ground floor of a block of flats," said the museographer.
And that's not all. Oh no. There is even BIGGER news of the day, should that not be enough for you: The former residence of the museum is now being transformed into - wait for it - a future MUSEUM OF SPIRITUALITY, CULTURE AND OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH OF THE LOWER DANUBE. I'm sorry that technology doesn't allow me to put that in flashing lights with a hurdy-gurdy in the background for full effect. How has it been funded, I expect you're wondering? With 3.5 million euros of EU bani, PLUS funds from the Ministry of Culture. Very nice, too. They also say they have approved plans for the construction of a NEW contemporary art museum - BUT there is no financing for it. What a surprise. They have a location, but NO MONEY.
Good for the Church who repossesses its building, gets funds for a museum which will blend culture and spirituality together with mainstream orthodoxy aaaaand all that with EU and government money.
According to the museographer, they are living a real nightmare in Galati... I'm not surprised.
"We were the only art museum in the country to be a mirror for the evolution of Romanian contemporary art from the inter-war period to the present day," he said.
Should you wish to visit the museum in its old location, they are still on one floor of the Bishopric Palace, says the museum's director, historian Dan Nanu Basarab. You'd better hurry, because in a month's time, they will open on the ground floor of that block of flats in a rather unsavoury area.
Their major problem is not even their new 'home'. It is that the museum's collection will be housed in air-conditioned warehouses (in the disused factory, I guess) some distance from the new 'location'. To add insult to injury, they have an approved plan for a new and modern museum, as mentioned above, which would be fairly well situated - but the plan is blocked. From an administrative point of view, the museum is under the Galati County Council, but the financial decisions are not made in Galati or Bucharest. They are made in northern Suceava!!! According to my source, the construction plans depend on the Romania-Moldova-Ukraine regional development axis, and there, financing is blocked. Aoleu. I think I need more coffee...
There's more news - none of it particularly nourishing.
(Photo source) Romania's fifth largest museum of collections, Muzeul Tarii Crisurilor in Oradea, is to move to army barracks. Yes, you read that right. According to the director, art historian Aurel Chiriac, the beautiful Baroque Palace (a landmark in Oradea) in which the museum was located has been returned to the Roman Catholic Church.
"The museums are not protected by anybody," said Mr Chiriac. "They have been abandoned by the state authorities."
The barracks are large enough for the encyclopaedic collections - more than 400,000 pieces of ethnography, archaeology, history, and Mr Chiriac considers they were lucky to find it.
More evictions: In Brasov, the director of the Museum of Ethnography, Ligia Fulga, has started a petition - they, along with the city's Art Museum, were thrown out after the building was returned to the Evangelical Church (expropriated by the communists). The future of the Art Museum in Cluj is also uncertain since the Banffy Palace that housed it has been given back to its rightful owners - the Banffy family (once again following expropriation). The museum has been allotted five years to find an alternative location, in accordance with the law. The case of the museum in Cluj has fared a great deal better than Galati. Why? Because the decision for Cluj was made in Cluj, whereas the decision for Galati must be made, as previously explained, in... Suceava. Pas de foto... The director of the Art Museum in Cluj, Călin Stegerean, says however, that there is NO MONEY for a new museum. Sound familiar?
(Photo source: Brasov's Museums of Art and Ethnography) The issue here is not about the return of church/personal property. It is that the state authorities do not protect the museums when it happens, although the collections are state heritage.
Anyone who wrote to me saying, "Oh, the Brukenthal has received its funding now - your petition is useless," (and there were several) has missed the point. THIS petition is not only for the Brukenthal which has served as an alarm bell of high-decibel proportions. It shows that if such a thing can happen there, it can happen to ANY institution and the recent news above seems to prove it. This cannot be allowed to continue. It wouldn't be tolerated anywhere else in Europe so WHY is it happening in Romania with such agonising regularity? Romania's first contemporary art museum ends up on the ground floor of a communist block and its fifth largest museum of collections is now in an army barracks??? What planet are we on, for pity's sake?
To quote from the final paragraph of the afore-mentioned petition written in Romanian, English, French and German: 'We call for a public debate on the fate of Romanian culture in the 21st century, involving the Ministry of Culture, museums, cultural institutions and NGOs to define the course of reforms so desperately needed in this vital sector for the future of Romania. We must put an end to the silence and indifference. We must show that culture matters.'
And I won't stop yelling until we have 2000 signatures and spent our energy dry.
If you wish to read and then sign the 'Petition for the Brukenthal Museum and for Romanian Culture', please click HERE. And then pass it on. Thank you!
UPDATE: 9th April: Please see THIS article by Roxana Dascalu.
(Photo source) If you care about Romanian culture, are concerned by the happenings we have recently seen at the Brukenthal Museum in Sibiu - an example of the damage these cuts can do, but just ONE among many - and would like to add your voice to a chorus of others demanding a public debate defining a course of necessary reform within the culture sector, please read the petition below and sign it HERE (texts in Romanian, German and French). Perhaps, together, we can make a difference.
Petition for the Brukenthal Museum and for Romanian Culture
We invite you to read and sign this petition addressed to the Minister of Culture of Romania, the Romanian government, the presidency, members of the Romanian Parliament's culture commissions, and to whoever feels responsible for the fate of Romanian culture:
In recent days, the eviction of museums in Galati, Oradea and Brasov from their former homes have come to our attention. These beautiful residences were requisitioned under the communist regime and have at last been returned to their rightful owners. As a result, the museums themselves have been relegated to apartment blocks, army barracks or nowhere at all. There is no money for new museums and there are no laws in Romania that protect cultural heritage in such a situation, even though the collections are state property.
Last week, the lovely Brukenthal Palace (a complex of six museums) in Sibiu had to temporarily close its doors to the public due to lack of funds through budget cuts. It has since received a sum from the Ministry of Culture which should keep it going for a little while – but for how long and will it happen again?
Samuel von Brukenthal, the Habsburg governor of Transylvania, established the first of the museum's collections in around 1790 which were officially opened to the public in 1817 making this lovely museum the oldest institution of its kind in Romania. Built between 1778-1788 as a private home, the modern day museum complex is home to over 1,000 works of art by artists such as Van Mieris, Carriera, da Cadore, Raoux, Van Dyck, Rubens and Titian, and often includes contemporary works commissioned by local artists especially for the museum.
The under-budgeting of culture is chronic in Romania. The Brukenthal Museum has been under-financed for the last five years, and has been absurdly requested to self-finance. A cultural institution, especially one such as the Brukenthal, should NOT have to self-finance, especially when the revenues demanded have increased over the last five years. The budget put aside for culture in Romania is the lowest, and still cuts are made from it more than any other budget. The law of cultural management itself is a good one, but the accounting system dates back to the ‘60s whilst mentality and attitude smacks of the Stalin era.
The Brukenthal Museum, awarded the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage - Europa Nostra - in 2010, draws thousands of visitors every day. On 5th April alone, 4,000 visitors were counted despite its partial closure. It is a more than viable institution that lives and breathes the richness of culture, history, folk-lore and legend.
It is not by coincidence that Sibiu was elected European Culture Capital in 2007. As well as being known for the oldest museum in the country, Sibiu was also home to the first hospital in Romania (1292), the first pharmacy (1494) and the printing of the first book in the Romanian language (1544). The first documented mention for Sibiu dates back to Roman times and the city was founded on the site of an old settlement, probably Slavic, in the mid-XII century. The first mention of the fortress dates from 1191 and Sibiu has been a city in itself since 1366.
The shameful situation recently seen at the Brukenthal along with the evictions underway or looming in other parts of the country are part and parcel of the rapidly declining fortunes of Romanian culture, which will continue unless there is a complete overhaul of the antiquated system currently in place. We call for a public debate on the fate of Romanian culture in the 21st century, involving the Ministry of Culture, museums, cultural institutions and NGOs to:
a) discuss the adoption and application of laws that would protect the country’s cultural heritage
b) define the course of reforms so desperately needed in this vital sector for the future of Romania.
We must put an end to the silence and indifference. We must show that culture matters.
Sign the petition HERE. Thank you!
My deepest thanks to Roxana Dascalu, Cecilia Nicholas, Michael Astner, Oana Lăzăroiu and Nicole Monica
(Photo source) It is inconceivable (to me, anyway) that there can be such resounding silence in the press today concerning the threatened Brukenthal Museum in Sibiu, partially closed as I type due to lack of funding. Perhaps Daniel Morar's resignation from DNA is more important? But Romania's oldest (and probably finest) museum under the axe should have caused a massive public outcry, not to mention a loud surge of indignance. Sadly, however, only a handful of people seem concerned. Where are the petitions? Where are the protests? Where are the angry articles? I see none... There are many Daniel Morars in Romania. But there is only ONE Brukenthal Museum.
Looking for the latest news (and fishing in a dry pond), I stumbled on several other interesting titbits that may endear the Brukenthal and its art-loving founder yet further to your hearts:
1) To begin with, this is not the first time the museum has had its share of hard knocks, enough to threaten it with closure. Back in 2010, 30 or so of the 168 employees threw in the towel when cuts in the budget caused a 25% salary slash. Dr Luca, the museum's director, stated at that time that if a further 20 followed suit, there'd be no option but to close shop for he would not have enough staff to run the institution... Nothing else happened after that (at least, nothing I can find online), so I suppose a solution was found. Let's hope one will appear this time, too.
(Photo source: Ecce Homo - Titian Vecellio Da Cadore (1485–1576)
2) Many of you will already know about the Art Robbery at the Brukenthal in the springtime of 1968, but it was news to me. Apparently, thieves made off with eight highly valuable paintings in all, four of which ("Man With A Skull'' by Dieric Bouts; "Man With A Pipe At The Window'' by Franz van Mieris the Elder; "Portrait of a Woman'' by Rosalba Carriera, and "Ecce Homo'' by Titian) were eventually unearthed thirty years later in Miami by Customs officers and returned to Romania during Emil Constantinescu's presidency in the late 90s. It's quite a story.
The international press at the time marvelled as to how on earth 8 masterpieces could be pilfered and then smuggled out of Romania right under the noses of the Securitate, but I guess it doesn't take too much imagining... I expect the Securitate were entirely responsible, but that's just my opinion. The search continued until 1972 without success - the trail went cold. Romania was not a member of Interpol until 1973 which, I suppose, hampered matters.
The four paintings that made it home again had somehow got to the US via a mysterious trip through Vienna and New York. At the time, Simona Miclescu, press secretary to the Romanian Embassy in Washington, said that the robbery had been a great blow to Romanian national patrimony. (A shame so few say the same thing with relation to the entire museum now being under threat of closure...)
(Photo source: Man with Pipe at the Window - Frans van Mieris I, The Elder (1635–1681)
An official explained that the paintings had been 'recovered from an unidentified individual' who 'volunteered' to relinquish them - American art experts estimated the value of the discovered works at over $25 million. The 'owner' had 'come by them' in Vienna, bought from a gypsy family for the song of $1,200 - surely the bargain of the century.
The exact circumstances of the robbery still remain rather foggy. It all came to pass one Sunday night and it was pretty obvious that it was an inside job, for the thieves knew the lay-out of the museums perfectly. They made a quick swoop, took what they came for and then legged it without leaving a trace. Voilà. Not only is the Brukenthal Museum famous for its art collections but it's also known for a robbery! Incidentally, as far as I know, "The Death of Cleopatra" by Van Dyke, "Portrait of a man" by Amberger and the two other chef d'oeuvres were never found. For more on this story, please see HERE and HERE.
3) Further information, all the more important and an even greater argument still for saving this beautiful museum - patrimony and heritage apart - is how WELL KNOWN and RESPECTED it is beyond Romania's borders. The prestigious Brukenthal collections have been exhibited in the splendid settings of the Palazzo della Gran Guardia, Verona; the Villa Vauban Art Museum of the City of Luxemburg and the Jaquemart André Museum in Paris to name but a few. The Brukenthal isn't some pithy little hovel containing a couple of art efforts by unknowns, but a NATIONAL PRIDE (not for enough of the Romanian population, it appears - and certainly not to its culture ministry) with an outstanding selection of Renaissance and Baroque works (Flemish, Dutch and German Schools); Romanian and Transylvanian works; European art (Austrian, Italian, Spanish and French); landscapes of Sibiu by Johann Böbel (1824-1887); contemporary pieces and abstracts by Brasov-born Hans Mattis-Teutsch. The Brukenthal Library boasts over 300,000 books and manuscripts ranging from rare, foreign titles to old Romanian books, as well as a small collection of magazines. The History Museum hosted in the Old City Hall, presents detailed life and traditions in the region of Sibiu, complete with a myriad of objects from neighbouring towns. This museum depicts the history of Southern Transilvania far better than any other institution, and with great care for historical accuracy. There is simply no other like it so rich in tradition, collections and legends.
(Photo source: The Slaughter of the Innocent - Pieter Bruegel I, The Elder (c.1525–1569)
The exhibition at the Jaquemart André in Paris literally stunned its visitors, not to mention the curator himself. Claudia Barbieri of the NYT wrote THIS article entitled "In Paris, A Great Collection Comes Out Of Hiding"
'For decades, art that was behind the Iron Curtain stayed behind the Iron Curtain. But it turns out that under the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe, some extraordinary pockets of history and culture survived in hiding. One of these is the Brukenthal collection from Romania, on view at the Jacquemart-André Museum through Jan. 11.
The collection encompasses an extraordinary wealth of 15th-17th-century Flemish and Italian paintings accumulated in the 19th century by a Hapsburg official. A sample of 45 of these paintings is currently on show at the museum, following their almost accidental discovery last year by the museum’s curator, Nicholas Sainte Fare Garnot.
(Photo source: Man in a Blue Cap - Jan van Eyck (c.1390-1441)
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Mr. Sainte Fare Garnot of the treasures he found on a scouting exhibition to Sibiu, Romania, with the Belgian art historian Jan de Maere. Showing for the first time outside the country, the exhibition includes stunning works by the Breughels, elder and younger; Memling; Van Eyck; and others.
Baron Samuel von Brukenthal, a court favorite of the Empress Marie-Thérèse and governor of Transylvania, started his collection after Marie-Thérèse gave him his first painting, “Soldier at the Window Smoking a Pipe,” by Frans Van Mieris. Also included in the show is an exquisitely surreal Flemish painting from the museum’s own collection, “Allegory of Virtue,” in which a Madonna, emerging from a jagged rock, is protected by two lions prowling in the foreground.
But the real crowd-stopper in the show is a “Massacre of the Innocents,” painted sometime in the late 1580s in the studio of Pieter Breughel the Elder, after his death. Cruel and violent, but painted with extraordinary verve and detail, the painting is a biting commentary on the repression of the Dutch by the Spanish Inquisition.'
For the Brukenthal to close due to something as shameful as lack of funding (read 'lack of interest and indifference' there, since, basically, that's what it is) would be as national a loss as it would be international. And for any smart alec thinking 'well then, let those snotty rich westerners pay for it', shame on you too. Hand-outs do not bring respect. Culture does, however. Pride (and knowledge) in one's history does. The desire to protect a national jewel and a country's treasures does. And a determination to show off one's cultural richness likewise.
(Photo source: Baron Samuel von Brukenthal)
So, come on. Let's have a LOUDER and MORE INDIGNANT show of respect and affection for the Brukenthal, Romania's oldest museum and the works collected so lovingly by its founder Baron Samuel von Brukenthal. The museum's FaceBook page doesn't have an update on the present situation as far as I can see, but please keep an eye on it, go 'like' it (you never know - it may help) and please, please let's DO something to try to make a difference. The once-governor of Sibiu must be turning in his grave...
(Photo source) Very distressing (and pretty darn shameful) news today from Sibiu: The lovely Brukenthal Palace (a complex of six museums) has had to partially close its doors to the public due to lack of funds through budget cuts - according to THIS article in today's Bucharest Herald (slightly edited below), the gas has been cut off, there's one light bulb per office and the heating was switched off four days ago...
'A dramatic situation at the National Brukenthal Museum in Sibiu: The museum will be partially closed due to financial problems. The Culture Ministry announced that it has asked the museum’s manager to “immediately resign” for breaking “professional ethic” and,according to the mandate given by the ministry, for “distorting” the museum’s situation. Asked whether he would resign as requested, Sabin Luca answered in the negative, stating that he "had done his job".
“We are forced to take measures to avoid corruption or upsetting Romania’s budget balances. And honestly, it’s no joke but this is life right now - one light bulb per office will be in use at the Brukenthal National Museum. The gas has been disconnected. The heating was turned off four days ago even though the law has stipulations - a certain temperature should be registered for three consecutive days before shutting the heaters down. We are helpless since we are already in a hole, with RON 150,000 in back payments,” Sabin Luca stated on Monday. Asked whether he would resign, as the Culture Ministry representatives requested, Sabin Luca answered that he would not.
(Photo source) “On March 29 the secretary of state and general secretary to the Culture Ministry informed the manager of the Brukenthal Museum via communiqué that the situation had been resolved, after a supplementary allocation of RON 700,000 had been made available for the first half of 2013,” a Culture Ministry posted on the institution’s website. The communiqué criticises the fact that although the museum’s manager was informed that the situation had been resolved, the manager announced that the institution would nevertheless be partially closed.
On Monday, Dr. Sabin Luca, the director of Sibiu’s Brukenthal National Museum, announced that he had decided to temporarily block visitors’ access to the ground floor of the Brukenthal Palace where the museum is located, but also to the History Museum’s “Thesaurus” exhibition, due to shortage of funds. The museum had received only RON 21,000 for March from the Culture Ministry he said, while it needed approximately ten times that sum - approximately RON 204,000.
(Photo source) According to a multi-annual report posted on the institution’s website, the Brukenthal National Museum was visited by 77,545 people in 2006, 245,067 in 2007 when Sibiu was the European Capital of Culture, and by 378,181 in 2012. The museum was in fourth place at national level last year, behind Bran Castle, the “Astra” Sibiu National Museum Centre and the Antipa Museum.'
Samuel von Brukenthal, the Habsburg governor of Transylvania, established the first of the museum's collections in around 1790 which were officially opened to the public in 1817, making this lovely old museum the oldest institution of its kind in Romania.... Built between 1778-1788 as a private home, the modern day museum complex is home to over 1000 works of art by artists such as Van Mieris, Carriera, da Cadore, Raoux and Titian, and often include contemporary works commissioned by local artists especially for the museum.
(Photo source) Sibiu is one of the most important cultural centres of Romania and, in tandem with the city of Luxembourg, was designated European Capital of Culture in 2007. Formerly the centre of the Transylvanian Saxons, the old city of Sibiu was ranked as "Europe's 8th most idyllic place to live" by Forbes. Rich with architectural mixes of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau, Sibiu is a bijou of a city with its small theatres, cellar bars, jazz hubs and cosy underground venues.
As well as being known for the oldest museum in the country (I could literally weep..), Sibiu was also home to the first hospital in Romania (1292), the first pharmacy (1494) and the printing of the first book in the Romanian language (1544).
The ministry of culture should be ashamed of itself trying to palm blame off onto Dr Luca. And where is the Mayor of Sibiu in all this? He hasn't been mentioned in any of the articles I have seen reporting on the closure, though maybe I missed some. This beautiful museum, one of the country's very finest (if not THE), is a true jewel in the rapidly disintegrating crown of Romania. To have poured so much money into Sibiu in 2007 so that tourists would see it gleaming, what about those tourists who continue to return? Don't they count for anything? And art/history-loving Romanians themselves? How about them? More heritage under the axe? Yet more? Indeed, the ministry of culture ought to be ashamed.
Reduced funds? No money? There is PLENTY of money to build roads no one wants; demolish patrimony; construct that hideous, useless cathedral in the Casa Nebunului's back garden; commission tasteless statues; dig tunnels and generally pay out to transform Little Paris into Little Kaboul, but there is NO money to preserve Romania's oldest museum? How utterly shameful. It is past sad. It is, frankly, odious.
(Photos source) Dr Luca has called on the community to help save the museum, obviously unconvinced he's going to get any aid from the ministry of culture... 'We do not want to beg,' he said, 'but please support us.' He has suggested that people buy some of the 500 Brukenthal products on sale (rather than 'giving money away') in the gift shop which could help bolster the desperately needed funds. Amongst the products on offer: chocolate, wine, champagne, CDs, posters and mugs. He has also asked the gas and electricity companies to hold off until summertime when he hopes he will be in a better position to pay their outstanding invoices. These pleas for help don't sound as though they come from a man who is inept nor one who should resign, but a man who cares very deeply for keeping the Brukenthal Museum alive for many years to come. They are pleas from the heart and I hope very much that they will be heard.
(Photo: Sarah In Romania)
(Photo source) April 1st 2013 marks 72 years since the Fantana Alba massacre in Northern Bucovina near the village of Fantana Alba, today in the Ukraine. Between 200 and 2,000 civilians were killed when their attempt to cross the border from the Soviet Union to Romania was met with open fire by Soviet border troops. Although according to some data no more than 48 civilians were killed, local witnesses assert a much higher toll of 2-3,000, claiming that survivors were tortured, killed, or buried in mass graves. Other survivors were allegedly taken away to be tortured and killed at the hands of the infamous NKVD. However many it was, one was too many. It was, in effect, Romania's Katyn.
'In June 1940, Romania was forced to withdraw from territory inhabited by some 3.76 million, submitting to an ultimatum given by the Soviet Union. The Romanian administration and military were evacuated, and the Red Army and NKVD quickly occupied the land. The rapid unfolding of events caught many families by surprise, especially those who had relatives on both sides of the new border. This lead to attempts to cross with or without official permission.
From the more remote areas of the Chernivtsi Oblast (the northern portion of acquired territories included in the USSR) - Cernăuţi in Romanian, 628 people from a myriad of ethnic and social groups crossed the border to find refuge in Romania - one Ukrainean scholar estimated the number of refugees flooding into Romania during the first year of Soviet administration to be at 7,000...
The Soviet authorities were not amused and reacted swiftly: First, border patrol efforts were intensified and then, lists were made of families with one or more 'deserters' who had fled to Romania, thus considered "traitors of the Motherland" and subject to labour camp deportation. On January 1, 1941, the lists made by the 97th Unit of the Soviet Border Guards noted 1,085 people. Tables for other localities featured 1,294 (December 7, 1940). At this point, even people merely suspected of intending to flee to Romania were included.
(Photo source) On 19th November 1940, 40 families (105 people) from Suceveni village with 20 guns between them tried to cross the frontier at Fântâna Albă. That night, a battle ensued with Soviet border guards in which 3 people were killed, 2 wounded and captured by the Soviets while the rest of the group (including 5 wounded) succeeded in getting to Rădăuţi on the other side of the border. The relatives of these 105 were all arrested and deported to Siberia.
On Easter Day, 1st April 1941, a peaceful but huge crowd of unarmed people from several villages carrying a white flag and religious symbols walked together as one towards the new Soviet-Romanian border. There were rumours circulating that the Soviets would now permit crossing into Romania. At the border, they were warned by Soviet troops to stop. The group apparently ignored the warning and the border guards opened fire....
The exact death toll remains a matter of controversy. Eyewitnesses estimate that around 200 people were killed directly by gunfire and many more wounded. Those who died outright seem to have been the luckier ones. Some of the surviving wounded were allegedly captured, tied to horses and dragged by their feet to previously dug common graves where they were killed, beaten with shovels or buried alive. Others were brought to the Hlyboka NKVD headquarters where they were tortured to death, while more were taken after torture to the city's Jewish cemetery and thrown alive into a common grave over which quicklime was poured.
(Photo source) An account of events is given by one of the few surviving eyewitnesses Gheorghe Mihailiuc in his book, "Dincolo de cuvintele rostite" (Beyond spoken words), published in 2004 by Vivacitas in Hlyboka. He describes what happened at Fântâna Albă as a "massacre", a "genocide", a "slaughter". He's not wrong there...
There is discussion as to whether or not the Soviet border guards warned the column of people to stop before opening fire. Some sources say that the Soviets summoned the column to halt, but that a flag-bearer at the front reassured the crowd that the guards were forbidden to open fire upon groups of over 20. So much for that. Seconds later, machine gun fire hit the group of unarmed civilians at full force.
During 1940-1941, between 12-13,000 Bucovinians (mostly, but not all ethnic Romanians) were deported to Siberia and the Gulag. As a result of emigration and killings, the Romanian population of the Chernivtsi region dropped by more than 75,000 between the Romanian 1930 census and the first Soviet census of 1959. It has been claimed that these persecutions were part of a programme of deliberate extermination, planned and executed by the Soviet regime.'
(Text: edited from Wikipedia)
I knew nothing of this terrible page in Romania's history. For more on the Fantana Alba massacre if you can bear it, please see Ziaristi Online, Basarabia-Bucovina Info, ...fantana, Nasul.tv (text and video), Frontpress, FTR.ro, Moldova.org, Magazin Cultural Stiintific and Timpul MD.
Why Romanian officials have not acknowledged nor condemned the massacre (Tismaneanu allegedly refused to commemorate it, too, though he says otherwise) at Fantana Alba and thus, journalists also remain pretty schtum on the subject (you will see that most of the hyperlinks above are blogs and sites rather than Romanian press) is a mystery to me. Perhaps they simply do not want to cheese off the Russians. Hmm... when one imagines the horror back then on the Easter Day of 1941, the agony, the terror, the brutality, the killings, I'd say that upsetting the Russians would be a small price to pay for memory and homage to one's own dead. Wouldn't you?
Lest we forget...
Post script: It appears that back in 2011, a law was adopted by the Romanian Parliament's Chamber of Deputies (initiated by Tudor Panţîru) for official commemoration and the laying of wreaths to honour the memory of Romanians from Besarabia and Bucovina. Each year, between 31st March and 2nd April, Societatea Română de Radiodifuziune, Societatea Română de Televiziune and Agenţia Naţională de Presă AGERPRES should broadcast programmes on the Soviet occupation in Northern Bucovina and Basarabia on a priority basis with mention of the terrible events at Fantana Alba. Excellent news! Today was April 1st 2013. Two years on. Unless there was a commemoration that was extremely private going on somewhere, I personally found nothing in the press and, as far as I know, there was nothing on TV or radio either. Doesn't sound very 'official' to me. So when? WHEN?!?
(Photo source) After a battle that has lasted nigh on three years between Bucharest City Hall who wanted to 'move' Matache Hall (Hala Matache) and NGOs trying to save it from demolition, oprescu's rats slunk out of their holes after dark last night (around 10pm, according to reports) and began to rip the roof off, shunning daylight like common thieves. There was no approved PUZ and therefore no legal demolition permit could possibly have existed at the time the so-called 'work' began and thus, once again, we are looking at the grossest and most illegal act of destruction to patrimony which was carried out on the very day the public debate to discuss urban plans for the neighbourhood and the future of Matache Hall was opened. If any authorisation was obtained, it was done in an emergency and, says Nicusor Dan, is illegal. He told EVZ that he would continue the fight in court.
(Photo source) It isn't the first time we have seen this scoundrel oprescu sending in his demolition vermin in the middle of the night to escape journalists and the eyes of the general public, and it certainly won't be the last. What more evidence of bad faith does one need, for goodness sake. Clearly afraid of being blocked in court once again, oprescu proceeds exactly as he did back in February 2011 when he wiped out a whole street and several other historic monuments (the art-deco style Hotel Marna, the Nicolae Dobre House, the Constantin Radulescu House, The Dacia cinema...) without approval - once again in the early hours of the morning. Under the pretext of building a new avenue (diameter Buzeşti-Berzei), the megalomanically ambitious oprescu decided to decimate an entire neighbourhood, despite massive potential for urban regeneration. What happened last night to Matache was nothing less than an act parallel to mafiotic criminality.
Matache is (or was) a historic monument built in 1887. Since the hall came under ownership of City Hall, it has been devastated by iron thieves (encouraged by the afore-mentioned) although City Hall was supposed to be providing round the clock security to protect the building. The whole neighbourhood was kept in a state of underdevelopment and practically zero investment was made for infrastructure. Later on in the summer of 2011, having lost the case in court and also following protests by NGOs plus 120 of Romania's most known intellectuals at the previous frenzied destruction spree along with the shockingly speedy expulsion of more than 1,000 residents in the middle of winter, City Hall promised that Matache would not be relocated or demolished, but instead, would remain at its current location and restored. Associations and the Union of Architects proposed alternative plans to build the road whilst still preserving patrimony... "Today this promise has been broken," said Nicusor Dan. "The moving of a historic monument is illegal. It could only happen in the case of force majeure and not to construct a road."
(Photo source) Does anyone expect anything better from the mayor of Bucharest whose big dream is to make the Guinness Book of Records for the world's longest sausage and whose achievements (the National Arena and the Basarab overpass) cost more than twice as much as similar projects abroad? He is a puppet for USL, a typical product of a national communist society and does not even know the meaning of the word 'culture'. In addition to all that, he is an absolute disaster for intelligent urban development.
What is interesting in this continuously outrageous tale of cultural massacre is that a code orange weather warning had been given a little earlier, thus further encouraging people to stay indoors. Was it declared as early as it was to help oprescu's minions 'perform' well away from prying eyes? oprescu certainly took precautions: code orange AND unsociable hours. And another question: why didn't he wait until the better weather? Last night, there were dozens of 'workers' on site beavering away in sub-zero temperatures, and this morning saw the site covered with a blanket of snow. Hardly the best working conditions. So WHY now when he could have delayed a few days? What's the rush? Is there a deadline no one knows about?
(Photo source) In addition, City Hall started to "dismantle" Matache without knowing exactly where they're going to put it and without a draft for ressemblement. The 'chief architect' (he does NOT deserve such a title) of the capital, George Patrascu said several weeks ago that he would organise an architectural competition to determine the position of the hall, but the contest has still not yet been done. Does it sound normal to you that a historic building one wants to protect and relocate would be demolished by bulldozers? Nope... What on earth can be salvaged after such humiliating and violent treatment?
Nicusor Dan said City Hall have not paid the slightest attention to Bucharesteans' repeated demands made at debates (organised by PMB) for the hall to remain on its current site . He was at 15 debates held on the subject, probably established because the law requires it, but what was said during them was not taken into any consideration whatsoever.
If the serial killer of culture, oprescu, wants to build something and there is a historic monument in the way, it gets whacked. We have seen it time and time again, and no matter how many times Nicusor Dan drags him through the courts, no matter how often he is found guilty of abuse of power or illegal demolition, it's all much of a muchness. He pays no attention and carries on with his determined hacking of Bucharest, finishing off what Ceausescu began, and nothing and nobody seems able to stop him. How I pray that karma really does exist...
(Image source) The mystery is that it would be FAR cheaper to leave the hall where it is, restoring it with the attention it deserves than moving it. And in none of the debates was City Hall able to provide information on how to even move the hall nor how much should be saved for future restoration. Evidently, they have no intention of doing either. City Hall however says the contrary. They say moving the hall will be a million euros cheaper. Rather believe a holder with a REAL PhD in mathematics who devotes his existence to saving Bucharest than a bunch of hungry, ambitious scumbags sitting in cosy chairs at City Hall planning what to get rid of next. Demolish. Slash. Destroy. Maim. Deface. Scar. These are oprescu's by-words...
Please see HERE for a list of reasons (economic, judicial, administrative) as to why Matache Hall should NOT be relocated, as outlined by the Propatrimonio Foundation.
It appears that when up against the tsunami of oprescu and his real estate mafia, one cannot win, whether you are an NGO or Nicusor Dan with the law on your side. What does law have to do with it? Nothing. Laws are there, but not applied. And people like oprescu consider the law a waste of time in any case. Laws were not written for the supremely arrogant such as him. They were written for stupid folk like you and me. And if you try to make sure laws ARE applied, well, you get bulldozed.
For anyone out there (and there are many) who say "what's the problem? The place was a ruin anyway", well, they've kind of missed the point. You can't just demolish a building without proper legal approval because it's in your way. You cannot ride rough shod over the law when it suits you. And people who think it's alright to do so are as troglodytic as oprescu. How many just stood there and did nothing these last three years? How many locals attacked NGOs protesting against the demolition of a historic monument? And how many robbed and pillaged iron, wood, ceramic tiles from a building of patrimony? Answer me that. Once again, a people of such apathy, such pathetic indifference in the face of mass and wilful destruction of their own history is repugnant. Those who voted in oprescu at the last local elections are accessory to cultural genocide. Every single one of them. Without exception. A city gets what it deserves: the hideous monuments, the useless roads, the rubble and,of course, its officials. You who voted oprescu, I hope you're happy in your bubbles of nonchalence and irresponsibility. You deserve exactly what you elected.
(Photo source) What could have been a superb event for Romania abroad has turned into a scandal. How sad it is when culture becomes so polluted by ineptitude, politics, self-gratification and incompetence that those who really DO represent culture feel obliged to back away... The 33rd Salon du Livre in Paris is rapidly approaching and several notable Romanian authors have decided not to attend Paris's greatest literary event of the year in protest of ICR's degradation in the hands of its 'director' (entre guillemets), Andrei Marga.
Since Marga's arrival as Director of the ICR, he has been the protagonist of, to name just a few, a number of controversial public scandals:
1) The famous declaration in which he proposed to promote the lowly radiator which he deemed was invented in Transylvania
2) The cancellation of several very successful cultural events: TIFF, Festivalul de Jazz de la Sibiu, Festivalul National de Teatru al UNITER, and others
3) cheating in the 'concours' for positions in ICR branches abroad
4) Publishing his own book, "Cultura, modernizare, democratie" (dig that irony) at the publishing house of the institution he himself heads
5) the firing with NO motive whatsoever of ICR directors abroad, amongst them the director of ICR Paris Katia Danila, and her assistant director Simona Radulescu, who are both responsible for Romania being honoured at the Salon du Livre
6) The inexplicable opening of ICR branches in Targu-Jiu, Baia Mare, Cluj and Craiova. Reason given: saving money on activities carried out abroad... (that one remains a complete enigma to me)
Interviewed by ARP, author Mircea Cartarescu said, "My absence from the Salon du Livre is, above all else, a protest. In a Romania where the situation degenerates day after day (...), culture is going through dramatic times."
Poet, novelist and best known for "Orbitor" (winner of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt prize in Berlin 2012), Mircea Cartarescu was amongst 27 Romanian writers invited to Paris where Romania is to be honoured.
(Image source) Last summer saw a shot-gun reorganisation of the ICR, provoking international outcry and triggering a number of Romanian intellectuals to cut all ties with the institute. Hundreds of artists across the world including Noble Prize Winners of Literature Tomas Tranströmer and Herta Müller, the French editor Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens (Editions P.O.L), writer Jean Mattern, and Romanian film directors Cristian Mungiu and Cristi Puiu denounced the changes as a "purging", accusing ICR of intending to politicise culture.
Named head of ICR by the majority of the centre left, the ex-minister of Foreign Affairs Marga (and also minister of education for a short time before he was accused of plagiarism and forced to stand down) immediately set to making changes pertaining to ICR's main mission, announcing that the institution's goal was to "preserve national identity". This lead to numerous Romanian artists and intellectuals severing all ties with ICR, which had previously been focused on the promotion of independent artists, and sparked angry protest.
Mircea Cartarescu told AFP, "The new management of ICR has yanked us back forty years to the times of Ceausescu and his "kulturniks" - those activists responsible for culture. The Marga team has insulted Romania's greatest artists and has declared war on some of the country's most popular intellectuals."
Several other well-known authors invited to Paris, amongst them Dr Neagu Djuvara, Petru Cimpoieşu, D. R. Popescu, Paul Goma, Andrei Plesu and Gabriel Liiceanu have announced that they too, shall not be attending, marking their equal discordance with ICR's politics. A few days ago, Andrei Plesu told HotNews.ro that he found it "immoral to allow myself to be included in the programme of an institution going adrift."
"I believe we're going to need more courage and solidarity in the face of such cultural amateurishness," said Cartarescu. "If not, we will all be suffocated."
(Photo source) On Tuesday, Andrei Marga (left) directly criticised both Andrei Plesu and Filip Florian. In his scathing communiqué, he declared: "For those who have chosen not to accept the French invitation, the almost one hundred other authors present at the Salon will represent Romania in a manner befitting Romanian culture." Almost one hundred? But France (having consulted ICR) only invited 27 (Gabriela Adamesteanu, Radu Aldulescu, Savatie Bastovoi, Mircea Cartarescu, Petru Cimpoesu, Florina Ilis, Dan Lungu, Norman Manea, Marius Daniel Popescu, Razvan Radulescu, Adina Rosetti, Bogdan Suceava, Lucian Dan Teodorovici, Dumitru Tsepeneag, Eugen Uricaru, Varujan Vosganian, Ana Blandiana, Doina Ioanid, Nicoleta Esinencu, Alina Nelega, Matei Visniec, Lucian Boia, Gabriel Liiceanu, Andrei Oisteanu, Andrei Plesu, Ileana Surducan and Alex Tamba)!!
Unfortunately for the aforementioned Romanian culture, apart from a few exceptions, there now seems to be only the more minor authors attending...
Filip Florian told Observatorul Cultural that "an earthquake has hit over the last few months. It's absolutely shocking - like something out of a bad film or the theatre of the absurd. Excessive jingoism." He went on to criticise the personality cult which seems to have built up around Marga. "Everything on their website is nothing but Marga. (...) It's shameful! Scandalously shameful."
Nine O'Clock, an English language newspaper in Bucharest, points out that, apart from the list of Romanian authors drawn up by the French organisers, the ICR leaders found it appropriate to make two more guest lists (one fully funded by the ICR, the other, by the Ministry of Culture which includes Horia Bădescu, Gabriel Chifu, Riri Manor, Mircea Martin, Valentin Nicolau, Marta Petreu, Ioan Es. Pop, Eugen Simion and Dănuţ Ungureanu). THIS site also reports that ARH Prince Radu wants to present his 'chef d'oeuvre' in Paris, too.
"This is no longer about celebrating Romanian literature in Paris," said Gabriel Liiceanu. "The French organisers’ selection of Romanian writers was opposed to a Romanian-made list which reflected political and personal account-settling by the current leadership of the ICR." What a cheek Marga has... inviting another bunch of 'mates' to a party where the invitations have already been sent... the man is as brazen as heck.
The ICR list includes Augustin Buzura, Nicolae Breban, Stelian Tanase, Adrian Cioroianu, Cristian Parvulescu, Mircea Dinescu, as well as Dr Djuvara and Daniela Zeca Buzura. Augustin Buzura said he had decided against attending on health grounds.
Historian Dr Djuvara told Hotnews: "It doesn’t tempt me in the least to show off at book fairs. It tires me, and ICR now leaves me cold. I don’t keep in touch with those who run the Romanian Cultural Institute anymore and neither do they with me. I would be glad if they would leave me alone."
Asked why they increased the original guest list, ICR explained in a press release that "this is a major cultural event and it is only normal for as many authors as possible to attend. We wanted as comprehensive a participation as possible for Romanian literature at a moment honouring national culture”. Yes, but you forget, ICR, that the objective of the Salon du Livre is not to honour ICR/Marga arrogance but ROMANIAN culture...
Author and poet Ana Blandiana told Mediafax that she was going to Paris and would do so not to represent the Romanian government nor ICR, but for her own books and for Romanian literature, which is the real guest of honour at the Salon. "I will be in Paris as guest of the French Ministry of Culture and from a normal obligation I have to my French editor who launches «Les Saisons», a volume of fantasy short stories, financed by him, without any help from ICR,” she said.
Meanwhile, Victor Ponta has since announced that he will not be going to Paris. Romania will instead be represented by Culture Minister Daniel Barbu.
For friends coming all the way from Bucharest for the Salon in Paris this week, I am deeply sorry... we should be feeling proud to share Romanian literature together in such a richly cultural environment instead of the usual feeling of frustration caused by ignorant perceptions connecting the country to gypsies, rising crime, corruption and immigration issues. I very much admire the authors who have decided not to participate, understand them very well, but I grieve a little too. Anna Blandiana is quite right - this salon is to honour Romania and its written word and those who are going should be there for one reason and one reason only. It is NOT about preening Marga's feathers, slurping to his ignorance and boulstering his jumped-up ambition. The two people who made it possible for Romania to be honoured there at all through a huge amount of hard work and string-pulling have been fired for their trouble. Wouldn't it be better to go speak to as many journalists (thus profiting from the cohorts of them always present at this event) as possible giving way to future detailed reports splattered across the international press on the recent outrageous happenings at ICR, the attacks made on culture and the general abuse of power coming straight from Marga's chair. I, for one, intend to do just that...
For more, please read this excellent article for Hotnews by Vlad Mixich, THIS from Revista 22, THIS from Romania Libera by Sidonia Bogdan and THIS one from Ziarul de Iasi. For those wishing to add their voice to the cry for Marga's resignation, please sign THIS PETITION. In addition, if you have 'liked' ICR's page on FB and wish you hadn't, please join the movement to UNLIKE ICR since there is little there to still support and encourage.
"You have the difficult task of attending an event which would honour Romania, especially invited to the Salon du Livre. For Romania, we should be proud of this status. The President of France will be present along with dozens of Romanian writers meriting respect. However, certain people, always the same ones, do not miss the opportunity to provoke scandal and ridicule Romania." Without naming them, he lashed out at the "political enemies who are used to washing their dirty linen before the European public - the worst thing one can do against Romania."
He just doesn't get it, does he? Of course, a man who plagiarises (if that's not dirty linen, I don't know what is) couldn't possibly comprehend. He cannot understand that those cultural figures refusing to attend the Salon (which, I find, is an act of courage) are doing it FOR Romania, not AGAINST it, since everything he does is far from being for the country. As for the use of the words "political enemies", that sent a shiver down my spine... memories of years gone by? It sure feels that way.
In deciding against attending the Salon, Ponta has confirmed, perhaps unwittingly, how severe the attitude and opinion of Romania's writers and intellectuals have become - and how on target they are. A sign of inexperience and arrogance, IMHO.
Yesterday, both film director Radu Jude and choreographer Cosmin Manolescu spoke out in protest: Jude (in an official communiqué) in solidarity with Filip Florian after Marga's tirade against him and Manolescu (in a press release) in indignant condamnation at the way ICR was being run, demanding Marga's resignation.
Marga continues to minimise the boycott.
More as it happens...
(Photo source: ICR OFFF) BREAKING NEWS: The Salon du Livre opened its doors tonight for its 33rd show. An event of international repute, it is generally attended by approximately 30,000 trade visitors including book sellers, librarians and archivists wishing to update their knowledge on latest developments within the sector. Over 1,000 exhibitors take part annually to display their products and services, enabling one to buy on the spot. As well as books, the Salon du Livre also hosts translation events, talks and conferences.
All did not go quite according to plan tonight, however. A group of young artists united under the name ICR OFFF donned masks depicting absent authors Cartarescu, Liiceanu and Plesu, reports Digi 24, in protest against the current running of ICR and in support of the authors who stayed away. Things escalated to a head and the 'protesters' were removed by force by security guards, Madalina Alexe the Digi 24 reporter explained, who was pushed and almost had her camera broken - just minutes before President Hollande arrived at the Romanian section. According to Hotnews, ten people were involved - Romanians, French and one Japanese national. Apparently, they were held by the security guards for about an hour after which hey were asked to leave the Salon.
The news of the boycott along with its cause has had very little attention in France and thus, non-Romanian onlookers tonight probably had absolutely NO idea what on earth was going on... The Figaro, for example, gave two full pages to Barcelona and didn't mention Romania once. Some Romanian onlookers, however, were said to be 'offended' by the protest, amongst them Serge Celibidache (son of conductor Sergiu).
More on that as it happens...
According to the event programme, there should be a jazz concert going on right now performed by the Marius Preda Quartet and tomorrow is stuffed to the gills with excellent events. Oh, and I've just seen that Catherine Durandin is on the programme for Saturday directly after Lucian Boia and Ana Blandiana will be speaking in the afternoon.
Watch this space for more news...
(Photo source) 22nd March: Seems like Agerpres have told a pack of porkies regarding last night's so-called protest, misleading all those who were not present to see what happened first-hand (me too, had I not had info from ICR OFFF itself). The 'protesters' were NOT wearing 'masks' - a gross exaggeration. As you see from the photo (left), there were black and white pictures held up to faces. Masks? Mon oeil. Masks are attached fixedly to the head and have eyes for holes. see any? Nope.
Digi 24 reported 10 people last night (this is correct), and I for one would rather believe Madaline Alexe since she was right there, was shoved by the security guards who were excessively over-zealous to the extent that her camera was almost broken and she was pretty shaken up - probably because Francois Hollande was about to arrive and the security dudes didn't want any breeches or histrionics. See HERE also (in French). As for 'under the influence of alcohol' as reported by certain rags, not a bit of it. They were as sober as judges. The videos linked here attest to that.
According to Alexandra Barrault (who's she when she's at home?), as reported by Adevarul, these young people 'are known within the Romanian community in Paris as trouble makers'. Ah bon? And who is this Madame Barrault to make such a statement? I know one of 'these young people', a Romanian artist here in Paris, and she is far from being a trouble maker. Faaaar from it. Let me tell you something: On the day of Martisor, she made hundreds of Martisoare and went out into the streets with friends to give them to passers-by, sharing the joy and tenderness of this lovely festival with them - its background, its symbolism... does that sound like a trouble maker to you? No. She is a good, kind and decent person. Flamin' cheek. Why would anyone say such a thing? What do they have to gain? A load of piffle.
The group united under the name "ICR OFFF" are comprised of artists here in Paris. Contrary to what was reported by Agerpres, they were Romanian, French, German and Japanese (artist Azusa Kurokawa). For more, please read THIS article from Gandul where members of ICR Offf are interviewed, THIS from Le Courrier des Balkans and THIS by Luca Niculescu (of Digi 24) who gives his own accurate account via FB.
As you can see from THIS video made by Café des Roumains, it WAS completely peaceful on the part of the 'protesters', but they were in fact hassled by other Romanians - see how Mihai Dobrin from the Toti Romani association yells at them. The so-called 'protesters' were doing nothing but stand there with the photos held up to their faces. There was NO chanting, NO trouble from THEM, NOTHING to merit the crock of bull reported by Agerpres and absolutely NOTHING to shame their country - that is done entirely by politicians and officials. They need no help whatsoever..
If we are to believe the likes of Agerpres, in which it is written that the 'protesters' do not deserve residence (in France) for that is only for respected artists, one would consider their action deplorable, tainting the name of Romania yet further. But it was NOT like that, and such reports should be taken with the condescension they deserve.
Citeste mai mult: adev.ro/mk23mg
23rd March: Not long returned from another afternoon spent at the Salon du Livre, Porte de Versailles, Paris - and do you know what? It was marvellous. A fascinating interview by French (of Romanian parents) prize-winning journalist (Libération), Marc Semo with Lucian Dan Teodorovici and Varjan Vosganian (whom I think took the place of Liiceanu on the programme) entitled 'Dévoiler le Goulag' in the CNL literary salon. Following that, I was spellbound (and a bit star-struck!) for an hour by the round table discussion, 'Poezia în spatele Zidului' with my very favourite poet Ana Blandiana, along with Mircea Dinescu, Dinu Flamând, Ion Muresan and interviewer Jean-Pierre Siméon. I really didn't want it to end... I even managed to get my copy of 'Les Saisons' signed by Ana Blandiana which was the highlight of my Salon. I have always liked her work so much (very successfully translated into both English and French) - and admired her greatly as a person, too. She is one of the few who NEVER compromised herself, no matter what the commie-style slandering tried (and continues to do so) to do to her reputation. She is simply a warm, caring human being who has stuck to her principles despite it all. A shame we can't clone her.
So many books, so many people. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, was smiley, friendly, glad to be there (of course, I avoided Marga, N.Manolescu and anyone else I couldn't abide!!). And why were we there, anyway? Well, perhaps for some it was the occasion to be seen and able to name-drop at the next dinner party, and for others it was so as not to miss anything, but frankly, after a great deal of time spent in the Romanian section these last two days, I really do not care anymore - if that is the priority of certain individuals, that's their problem, not ours. Romanian LITERATURE was the honorary guest this weekend at stall R78. NOT politics, not revenge attacks, not slagging-off polemics nor other such histrionics since Mihai Dobrin's (and others) shameful outburst at the ICR OFFF artists on opening night. "LIT-E-RA-TURE!!" I kept thinking to myself. Yes, of course people talked about the whole ICR issue, and of course people gave their opinions, but there was a very strong feeling of "we are not here for that today - we must not smear Romania's reputation. We must not denigrate our country." I was proud to be there. Proud that my heart is Romanian even if my blood is not. And what a joy it was to hear the sound of the language I so miss all around me.
The queues to pay at the cash points organised by the FNAC were so long that sometimes one had to wait at least 10 minutes to be served. As I looked at what people were buying and struck up conversation with as many waiting in line to pay as I could (that is one of the purposes for the Salon du Livre after all - networking, n'est-ce pas), there were MANY French buyers absolutely delighted to find more Romanian authors translated at last. Popular sales (noted as I 'mingled'!) were Gabriela Adamesteanu's 'Situation provisoire' ('Provizorat'), 'La porte interdite' by Gabriel Liiceanu translated by Marie-France Ionesco (daughter of Eugen), 'Venu du temps dièse' ('Venea din timpul diez') by Bogdan Suceava, 'L'aile tatouée' ('Orbitor - aripa dreapta') by Mircea Cartarescu as well as plenty of Ana Blandiana, Mircea Dinescu, Princess Bibescu, Lucian Boia and Matei Vişniec from what I could see.
There were still far more books in the original Romanian than there were translations, but there certainly is progress in that department. I continue to wait for Andrei Plesu to be translated so that I can at last read him without requiring a dictionary every three words or so.
Along with the novels and history books were dictionaries, guide books, cookbooks, CDs, DVDs, poetry of course...oh, I could have played for hours.
No matter what may be happening in Romania right now, both in politics (I hear Blaga has won the election for PDL leader, with Udrea in second place and Monica Macovei in 3rd), ICR and anywhere else, no matter how outrageous or burlesque things are, Romania should be proud - and I mean really PROUD - of her presence and performance at the Salon du Livre this year. The section looks great to a non-Romanian eye with the big red tree in the middle of it which is eye-catching to say the least; the Brancusi-style tables, benches and stools; the generous amount of space between stalls so people can circulate comfortably and the organisation in general. To a Romanian, however, it is probably disappointing since it appears minimalist (not portraying the Romanian mentality in the least), the tree is impossible to explain (some said it was a hint at Brancusi but others said that if that's true, it's a failure!), the books are all low down and without posters or higher shelves at eye-level - it does look rather IKEA-ish. And of course, the indications that the stand is indeed for ROMANIA would need a magnifying glass to find. It is visible just once, vertically, on the far right of the section. I heard two French ladies ask "what stand is this?". No flags, no iie, no diddly-diddly. But perhaps there is a reason for all that. What do I know.... As I said, to the non-Romanian visitor, it's very pleasant.
In any case, there have been very interesting talks, some fascinating guests - and even if one could perhaps reckon that there were only 'minor' writers present, actually there were major ones, too: Ana Blandiana, Mircea Dinescu, Ion Muresan... they are pretty major to me, at least!
On the programme for tomorrow: Matei Visniec (now based in Paris, I understand), Norman Manea (a major writer, too, IMHO), Dumitru Tsepeneag (also living in Paris. Tsepeneag is extremely popular in Romania and known for his activities as a dissident after the communist party stripped him of his citizenship in 1975), Eugen Uricaru, Ana Blandiana once again, Marta Petreu (another of my favourites), historian Lucian Boia (another 'major'), Matei Cazacu and Dan Lungu. I won't be able to attend until the late afternoon, however - oh no! I'll miss Ana's talk, 'Poetry and Memory' and Matei Cazacu too, but will try to get there in time for Norman Manea's exposé on exiles at 16h.
LITERATURE. Not politics. I say it again. LITERATURE.
Citeste mai mult: adev.ro/mk23m
(Photo source) And so, Romania hopes to have the remains of its most famous sculptor, Constantin Brancusi, returned to his home country. A court decision will be taken here in France in two weeks time. Puiu Hasoti, a previous Romanian Minister of Culture and National Heritage, told French RFI that hopes of returning the remains of Brancusi to Romania rest on the goodwill of the French Government.
"The government is calling upon a cabinet of Parisian lawyers to obtain all the necessary decrees and legal permits necessary so that Constantin Brancusi's remains may be exhumed and brought to Targu Jiu," Ponta said.
There are many arguments both for and against, and I shall try to outline them all as I see them...
Points in favour of Brancusi returning to Romania:
1) On 16th March 1957 from his deathbed, according to THIS site (and many others), Brancusi allegedly told Father Theophilus Ionescu, the Romanian Church's bishop in Paris, that he wished to be buried in Hobiţa, his native village, beside his mother’s grave. The great sculptor had lived in Paris for many years 'in his own Romanian way', and spent his last years speaking only Romanian. "He died as a Romanian”, says Laurian Stăncescu, the man who walked across Europe, inspired by the legendary story that Brancusi himself walked to Paris when he emigrated there in 1904. Stancescu said he was speaking for 84 of the sculptor's relatives. (See more HERE on the Brancusi Legacy Project.)
(Photo source: Casa memoriala Constantin Brancusi – Hobita) 2) Brancusi is indeed Romania's national sculptor. The Casa Muzeu "Constantin Brancusi" in Hobiţa, where the artist lived until the age of twelve, is amongst the most visited tourist attractions in all Romania next to Castles Bran and Peles - and the number of visitors has increased over the last two years. Inaugurated in 1971 and renovated, it became an architectural monument and today displays belongings (documents, photographs, books, letters) of the Brancusi family along with the original country furniture typical for the beginning of the XX century in Romania. For more on Brancusi's childhood home, see HERE (video and article in Romanian).
3) Mircea Diaconu (a brief ex-Minister of Culture at the end of last year) said Romania owed Brancusi so much. Burying him in his home village would be just a small gesture towards mending the injustices of the former Communist rulers made against the sculptor.
Points against Brancusi returning to Romania:
1) We have only Father Theophilus's alleged word for it that Brancusi asked to be returned to Romania, which makes it hearsay.... Who did the bishop tell? And how did Stancescu know? Since the bishop shuffled off this mortal coil a long time ago, there is no way to corroborate the story. Libertatea reported back in 2012 that, according to Brancusi's son, the sculptor's last will and testiment stated that he wished to be laid to rest in Paris's Montparnasse cemetery. There was no mention whatsoever of Hobita. (Note: His son, who resulted from a passionate love affair with famous Australian pianist Vera Moore, was not recognised by his father and inherited nothing from his estate following his death. Nevertheless, John Moore is determined to fight for his father's last will to be respected.)
2) Back in November 2010, an auction including some pieces of Brancusi's work took place in Paris. Romania's then-minister of culture Kelemen Hunor told Agerpres: "This year's budget does not have money to buy either buildings or mobile heritage or items put up for sale or auctioned." This came at a period where a great deal of money was thrown into useless, ugly and unnecessary projects that were clearly more important than the heritage of Constantin Brancusi. Romania didn't seem the least bit interested in the works then, so why the interest in Brancusi's remains now apart from the evident boost to tourism it could bring?
(Photo source) 3) Brancusi cut all links with his home country in 1951, after his work was praised all over the world as revolutionary, but criticised by the Romanian Academy as "decadent". An angry Brancusi then burst into the Romanian Embassy in Paris and handed in his Romanian passport, applied for French citizenship and obtained it the following year.
4) A reconstruction of his one-time studio in Paris is open to the public at Place Beaubourg here in Paris just behind the Pompidou Centre in rue Rambuteau. After being refused by the Romanian Communist government, he bequeathed part of his collection to the French state on condition that his workshop be rebuilt as it was on the day he died. It was indeed. Overseen by Renzo Piano and today managed by the Pompidou Centre, it is a wonderful place to visit of peace and spirituality. Furthermore, entrance is free and pamphlets of information on each work widely available (also free) for all visitors. He left all his personal belongings to the two Romanian friends who had cared for him, Alexandre Istrati and Natalia Dumitrescu.
5) Politicians and the dinosaur members of the Academy have been preoccupied elsewhere it seems, for they have had their paws on all but the 'last wish' of Constantin Brancusi. Or maybe their usual lack of initiative when it comes to culture may be due to the desire to keep good diplomatic relations with the French. Who knows? The Romanian government and its officials have a dreadful track record when it comes to putting culture first. It seems that, unless they can make money on it, it's not worth getting out of the leather swivel chair for... Rather demolish than save, rather sell off than invest. Frankly, they simply don't deserve to have Brancusi back. They have done nothing but destroy heritage and memory post-89...
Constantin Brancusi was celebrated in an event at the Scala Cinema in Bucharest on February 19th of this year to mark 137 years since his birth. But was it organised by the Romanian Ministry of Culture? No it was not, although representatives of the said government were expected to attend (I don't know whether they did or not). It was the Canada-based International Constantin Brancusi Society that took the intiative. Does that sound like a government keen to have the remains of their national sculptor back on their soil?
6) It's absolute rubbish that the decision rests on the 'good will' of the French government. Once again Romanian ministers are talking tripe. Why? Because the only person entitled to ask for Brancusi's repatriation is the executor of his will, Theodor Nicole, nephew of Natalia Dumitrescu. However, he has done nothing up to now and does not seem to be showing any interest whatsoever to change the present state of affairs in the future either. “We have no knowledge of any official action referring to the transfer of the remains to Romania”, representatives of Romanian Embassy in Paris said. Except, that is, for the two written demands from Laurian Stăncescu. In exchange, said Ziua News in January 2012, Theodor Nicole prefers to make EUR millions from the works of Constantin Brâncuşi through auctions... It should be said here, however, that although this may well be true, Nicole has donated objects from the artist's collection to Centre Pompidou National Modern Art Museum in Paris. That doesn't sound like a greedy profiteer to me.
Demands from Stăncescu, ministers or anyone else for a transfer of Brancusi's remains are useless without the permission of the executor, whether France shows 'good will' or not.
(Photos source: Casa în care s-a născut Brâncuşi) 7) Here's a story you either may or may not know: The actual birthplace of the sculptor, only 200m away from the Casa Memoriala in Hobita, is nothing more than a shameful ruin. See HERE and HERE. Wouldn't you have thought, once again, that if a country really loved this highly-estimed figure of art and creation so admired abroad, the place of his birth would count for something? Instead, it has been left to fall to pieces. Total hypocrisy.
The house is in a lamentable state. The roof was 'removed' twelve years ago, leaving it open to and at the mercy of the elements. Even more shocking, if possible, is that this house was CLASSIFIED on the list of historic monuments, but no one has lifted a finger to do anything at all about saving it. What happened to the roof? Here's another tale: The sculptor (soit-disant- you'll remember him - the one who did the dreadful mock-job of the new King Ferdinand statue now standing in Bucharest having used the original moulds without permission from the Mestrovic family) Florin Codre bought it and wanted to shift it to Bucharest. One night in June 2001, he appeared with a bunch of workmen and began to demolish it, but was stopped by local residents. The local mayor wouldn't allow him to continue as there was no permit for demolition and he fined Codre on the spot. Since Codre's demolition derby, there's been no roof and absolutely NOTHING done to preserve this 'historic monument'. Iulian Camui, a specialist in restoration asked back in 2000 for the house to be saved and renovated and that it be included in the complex of the Casa Memoriala, but up until now, there is no change.
Citeste mai mult: adevarul.ro/locale/targu-jiu/fotovideo-135-ani-nastere-brancusi-fost-uitat-olteni-casa-parinteasca-artistului-lasata-paragina-1_50ae36227c42d5a6639ab5cb/index.html
7) To exhume remains from a grave is apparently against Orthodox Christian doctrine. However, having said that, it has been done often just lately, eg. the Lahovary crypt at Bellu, where the bones of those lain to rest were thrown away like rubbish to make space for Vanghelie's family... admittedly, Vanghelie said he didn't know that it had been the Lahovary family and couldn't even pronounce the name, but that is hardly the point. Even the communists wouldn't have done such a thing. [Post scriptum added 02h: this argument actually doesn't stand up as I've just been told there's no issue with exhumation in the Orthodox faith providing it is done seven years or more after burial. Thank you, Carmen.]
So, there you have it. My opinion? The Romanian government does not deserve to have Brancusi back on their soil. There is NO concern whatsoever for patrimony, heritage or culture, not from officials nor the majority of the population. If Brancusi left Romania, it was for a reason. If he took French nationality, it was for a reason. And if, in his will, he stipulated that he be laid to rest at Montparnasse, it was for a reason. May he remain there eternally in peace.
Citeste mai mult: adevarul.ro/locale/targu-jiu/fotovideo-135-ani-nastere-brancusi-fost-uitat-olteni-casa-parinteasca-artistului-lasata-paragina-1_50ae36227c42d5a6639ab5cb/index.html
Citeste mai mult: adevarul.ro/locale/targu-jiu/fotovideo-135-ani-nastere-brancusi-fost-uitat-olteni-casa-parinteasca-artistului-lasata-paragina-1_50ae36227c42d5a6639ab5cb/index.html
Citeste mai mult: adevarul.ro/locale/targu-jiu/fotovideo-135-ani-nastere-brancusi-fost-uitat-olteni-casa-parinteasca-artistului-lasata-paragina-1_50ae36227c42d5a6639ab5cb/index.html6) It would be against Christian tradition to exhume the remains (though that didn't stop Lahovary's tomb and others too being desecrated, the bones flung far and wide - a sign of the times, perhaps, this lack of respect? Not even the communists would have done such a thing).
(Photo source) Wow! Bucharest has gone nuts for St Patrick's Day this year, what with turning the Casa Nebunului green, concerts, a ball at the Marriott and other such shenanigans! Fantastic! Check out THIS video :o)
There are five whole days filled with a variety of events throughout the capital which started Friday evening with the ball, and then there's a whole heap of stuff organised in partnership with the Irish Embassy running through until Tuesday. I wish I were there to see mad leprechauns bouncing around the Old Town with pints of green beer in their hands!
Underway right now is the "biggest" (but, of course) float parade in Continental Europe at Piata George Enescu. See HERE. I only hope the weather is better there than here, or there'll be some rather soggy shamrocks!
(Photo source: Raiffeisen Sky Tower) Tonight at 17h, why not pop along to Lipscani for an outdoor concert featuring Córas, Vyvienne Long, Aoife Dermody, U2 Zen Garden, Antonia, VUNK, The Dada, Mojo Band and DJ Kormak Blackbeers. Nothing like a jig to get things going!
Tomorrow night, you can catch a concert of classical music at 19h with the Irish cellist Vyvienne Long and the Adagio String Quartet at the Anglican Church and that's not all - Tuesday evening (19th) will see a gala concert with Irish soprano Patricia Brady and tenor Florin Ormenisan accompanied by the Wiener Walzer Opera Orchestra, under the baton of Lucian Vladescu at the Cercul Militar. Talk about spoilt! Oh, and entrance is free.
So, why has Romania suddenly decided to host the biggest St Patrick's Day festival the country has ever seen, as I've been scrambling to find a connection... Well, apparently, it's to mark the Irish presidency of the European Union, Mediafax reports. And of course to make some dosh. Good for them's what I say. If anyone knows how to party, it's the Romanians. Add the Irish to that and you've got a recipe for a St Patrick's you won't forget in a hurry!
(Photo source) Furthermore (as if that wasn't enough to have you too knackered for work tomorrow), Guinness celebrates St.Patrick’s day in pubs all over Romania, all weekend. The brand aims to bring 'the spirit of Irish parties' to the main pubs around the country, preparing a series of surprises called “Paint the Town Black”. This event is made up of ten strict rules for Guinness drinkers, and apparently, one must knock back three pints during an evening, enabling them to win a number of prizes. Between March 7-17, Guinness has been organising such events in 85 partner pubs of Brasov, Sibiu, Ploiesti, Constanta, Cluj-Napoca, Iasi, Timisoara, Oradea, Craiova and Bucharest.
In order to celebrate St Patrick properly, perhaps we should know a little of who he actually was. As famous as he may be, his life actually remains something of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.
(Photo source) Here is an account from THIS site: 'It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the IVc. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala.) During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)
After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice—which he believed to be God's—spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.
(Photo source) To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation—an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than 15 years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission: to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. (Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.)
Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish. Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick's life became exaggerated over the centuries—spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.' (Text: History.com)
So there you go. Now you know!
By the way, a little Irish may come in handy (Just click on the hyperlink for pronunciation). Here are some helpful phrases to get you through the weekend:
Pionta Guinness, le do thoil: A pint of Guiness please
Cá mbeidh tú ag fliuchadh na seamróige? : Where will you be wetting the shamrock? (to wet the shamrock - to go for a drink, especially on St. Patrick's Day!)
An bhfuil tú ar meisce fós? : Are you drunk yet?
Éirinn go brách: Ireland forever
Go raibh maith agat: Thank you
Tá fáilte romhat: You're welcome
Beannachtai na Féile Padraig oraibh (St Patrick blessings be upon you)! Enjoy the craic!
(Photo source) I watched the winning entry for the selections chosen to represent Romania at this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden in May, Florin Cezar Ouatu, with a mixture of amazement and horror. I couldn't, to be honest, believe what I was hearing... a falsetto prancing about the stage dressed like Adam Ant and singing terribly off-key. The opening bit was far too low for him and then, loe and behold, he turned into what one can only describe as a crazed Madame Doubtfire on hormones... Aoleeeeeeeeeeeeu!! See the video of "It's my life" HERE. Chronic. Yet another reason for Romanians to feel embarrassed by someone representing their country in an international setting.
The votes from the public made half of his score, and even if the judges’ favourite was for another song, he won all the same. I understand that there was some kind of scandal that followed due to one of the judges giving a fat '0' to Luminita Anghel, but they seem to have since abated... Actually, the whole voting system is an enigma to me since the public were allowed to vote up to 11 times each. There were 9775 votes received, apparently, but that doesn't mean there were 9775 voters - far from it. How come people were able to vote so many times? To make the show look more popular? Seems daft. Anyway...
I wandered off to find more about the very handsome, suave Florin Cezar Ouatu and was bowled over. Wow! This guy is a very successful, not to mention talented, counter tenor, with an extremely promising career in front of him. Listen to THIS lovely performance by Vivaldi or THIS from Haendel's 'Agrippina'. Marvellous!
Wikipedia says: 'In the 2003 International Singing Contest Francisco Viñas, he won the "Best Countertenor" prize and has sung at several European opera houses, including the Opéra de Lausanne as Nireno in Giulio Cesare (April 2008) and as Ruggiero in Alcina (2011/2012 season).'
Why oh why then, would he put himself in a situation that clearly won't do his future any good. Did he actually want to do it or is his manager, Sergiu Stoiadin, a masochist? It's not a criticism. It's an observation. True, many male opera singers have successfully flipped from opera to pop songs & musicals (eg. Bocelli, Fragoulis) - easier than their female counterparts, incidentally. Kiri Te Kanawa did her best with West Side Story (ouch!) but it really didn't do much for her and Leontyne Price performed in Porgy and Bess (written as a 'folk opera') back in 1953. Renée Fleming too tried her hand at jazz - and is the exception in my opinion, for she did it pretty well. But could the marvellous Ruggero Raimondi have sung Bon Jovi, for example? Or Placido Domingo sing Prince? The very thought of it makes me roar with laughter. Florin, please, please don't wreck your very promising career... please don't. If it's world fame you want, you'll probably get it - but perhaps not in the way you wish.
Orlando Gough on whether or not opera singers can sing pop says the following: "It's tricky. The exaggerated vibrato is tricky, but not as tricky as the inability to throw notes away, which is a key element of pop and jazz – singing through all the notes kills the swing. It's more than that, though. Part of becoming an opera singer is about making one's voice cast iron, invulnerable. Of course one learns to do vulnerability on stage, but it's a guise. Underneath, there must be no chink. Folk or pop or jazz is different – the balance between vulnerability and control is always evident in the voice, and the tension is palpable. It's not to do with lack of technique; it's about allowing the vulnerability to show."
Opera singers 'doing' pop sounds so terribly stilted, to me anyway. Perhaps it is due to the extraordinary control that is so necessary, but there is also a definite and very evident lack of 'naturalness' in operatic singing which is glaringly apparent when they try pop.
Opera singers are not taught scat. They are taught to sing what is written on the score. Basta. I know, because I had classical voice training from the age of thirteen and I found it terribly frustrating. One must sing the right notes in the right places as determined by the composer's instructions. They hammer out the beat accurately instead of placing notes gently behind or in front of it. The great singers in all forms of popular music on the other hand hardly ever do this. They flatten out the melody, giving it a form without stating it directly, sometimes changing it quite dramatically (Billie Holiday singing 'I Can't Get Started' is a sublime example). Pop and rock are 'free'. Opera is everything BUT. One needs pop-singing 'instinct' and I do not believe there are many classical singers out there armed with that. Florin Ouatu, like many of the Greats too, is not.
Furthermore, there is the point of physiology. Physiologically, opera-singing is very specific in nature and takes years and years of training. For example, the pharynx needs to be open to develop the placement of the voice, and then there is the breath support and the technique. If you have spent years battling with all the rules that roll around your head when you begin an aria and have managed to perfect it as Florin Ouatu has done, it is then most unconducive to change style (particularly for a counter tenor). Opera simply comes 'naturally'. Pop does not. The reason for this is muscle balance. Using your voice to sing in a particular style means using your vocal muscles and body in a particular way. Opera singers can adopt a muscle balance that is really hard to get out of, making other styles extremely difficult to master physically, as well as for the other points already mentioned above. Some opera singers CAN sing pop. I'm not saying they can't. But when she/he tries to do a version in operatic style, it is a disaster. And this is Ouatu's case.
The jokes are already coming in thick and fast. Here's one: "Mi-e ca din cauza problemelor cu Salmonella la pasari, pe Ouatu nu-l lasa astia sa iasa din tara." ('since there is a problem with salmonella from chickens, Oatu might not be allowed to leave the country' - unfortunately for Ouatu, his name in Romanian means 'to lay an egg' - o gaina a ouat un ou: the hen laid an egg. I'm not kidding)
Here are some more via Twitter:
La cum o cântat Cezar Ouatu ăsta la #EurovisionRo, trebuia să-l cheme Neouatu.
Au ouat și i-au adunat!
De fiecare data cand pronunti numele intreg al castigatorului #EurovisionRO un blogger se ineaca cu un piscot
An interesting point to bear in mind: Ouatu's manager Sergiu Stoiadin also managed Mandinga, the group who represented Romania in last year's contest and came 12th... no further comment on that from me.
Bref, Florin Ouatu, my message to you: Please don't do it. Pleeeeease don't... I truly believe that you have a marvellous voice. For opera. Particularly Baroque. And I am also convinced that you have a bright and shining future. But not, and I repeat NOT, in pop. If you go ahead with this, it could well be shooting your future in the foot and that would be a terrible tragedy. Better be known for the evident talent you have in the classical world of opera than the disaster of "It's my life", right? Oh, and please fire Sergiu Stoiadin... Romania needs something to be proud of at the Eurovision. Please let a singer who has the 'instinct' make them proud (preferably not like last year)....
(Photo source) The latest scandal to rock Romania (there's always one) has lead to massive diplomatic failure for any hopes of Schengen accession along with calls for , the present foreign minister (doesn't deserve capitals), to resign from his post. Corlatean stated that if the European Commission postpones viewing the Schengen issue, Romania would not insist on a review. What's that meant to be? Blackmail? A mega sulk? He clearly doesn't understand how diplomacy works. How can such an imbecile possibly end up in the position of Foreign Minister. Silly question, really - just look at the rest of the motley crew of so-called ministers and you have your answer.
“We have lived without entry to the Schengen zone for a long time, and we can live without it for longer,” Corlatean said. Such arrogance beggars all belief... Is he desperate? Mad? Or just utterly stupid?
Also in his speech: "Since the Romanian State, through its institutions, has been a weak state and, after accession to the European Union, failed to promote its interests in a dignified manner, without kowtowing, without negotiating petty interests, through a fair and solid domestic policy that respects the citizens, through a correct economic policy and a dignified positioning inside the EU, such matters should not surprise us. The time has come for us to act decisively. We have to spell it out: if we, Romania, have done our job, then we have a legitimate European expectation of being respected and waiting for a positive decision to be adopted.." If that really WAS his speech in English, God help anyone trying to understand it... One thing comes across though - Romanians have done their job, he says. Have they? Really? How? What have they done? Nastase jailed and then released with a comfy seat still there for him in PSD, looking terribly well after his time in Jilava? Remes and side-kick Muresan (both ex-ministers of agriculture) sentenced to 3 years for influence peddling, probably out in one? Seriously? WHAT has Romania honestly, truly done to fight corruption? Almost the entire government is made up of thugs with criminal records and/or cases pending, who should be behind bars right now - and everyone knows it.
(Photo source) If the PM's own thesis is a fake along with the whole pretense of a respectable government, Corlatean, Ponta and company are all the more arrogant to think that no one has twigged.
Germany certainly has and announced that under NO circumstances will it be supporting Romania's entry into the Schengen zone. EU interior and justice ministers meet in Brussels on 7-8 March with this issue on the agenda.
"Should Romania and Bulgaria insist upon a vote [at the meeting], then the proposal will fail by virtue of a German veto," German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told Spiegel. "Even the possibility of partial approval - for arrival by air, or seaports - is off the table." Not improved by Corlatean's arrogance and utter lack of brains, for sure.
Friedrich went on to add that both Romania and Bulgaria still had work to do on the other requirements for Schengen membership, saying this was why Germany would block an eventual motion at the present time.
USL just doesn't seem to get the very simple fact that Romania needs the EU a great deal more than the EU needs Romania... As for, he's a danger to Romanian national interest and indeed SHOULD resign - along with the rest of the shameful criminals running the country and its reputation tirelessly into the ground.
(Photo source) Back in February, President Basescu urged Ponta to send a letter addressed to EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council signed by the aforementioned along with the head of the senate Crin Antonescu and the head of the Chamber of Deputies Valeriu Zgonea, describing how problems identified in the most recent Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report were being solved. Basescu said that if Romania wants a better Justice and Home Affairs report in March, the country needs to show clearly that it is addressing EU concerns. He also said that diplomacy alone would not secure Schengen Area accession, hinting that countries like Germany and the Netherlands would want to see hard evidence of progress in Romania. Correct. Ponta, however, responded that sending such a letter would be a “big mistake” as it would link Romania’s Schengen Area accession to the CVM reports. Logical? Not at all. The more I hear, the more convinced I am that Ponta and his cronies really DO want the EU to throw them out, leaving them a nice clear route so that they and their cronies can enrich themselves without hindrance, on the backs of their long-suffering population, via mind-boggling corruption and the destruction of state ressources. Not to mention international isolation.
Well, if that famous 90% don't care, so be it.
(Photo source) This time of the year is packed with wonderful traditions in Romania. To mark the beginning of a new cycle of life through the arrival of spring, Mărțișor is held on March 1st which, according to the old calendar, is also the Spring Equinox. It is specific to Romania and Moldova and dates back 8000 years, although similar customs are found in Bulgaria (Martenitsa), Albania (mărțiguș), Italy and Greece.
So, here is some background for the existence of Mărțișor (from the word for the month of March - Martie, with the endearing suffix 'șor' meaning 'little' or 'dear'... as we call Nicole "Nikișor" or Flori "Florișor", the 'ș' being pronounced 'sh'), why we exchange the adorable charms and pins on red and white string or ribbons on 1st March and what it means for eastern Europeans, particularly Romanians (since I don't know much at all about the other countries that celebrate it). It really is a very pretty festival and makes me yearn for Romania even a little more than usual.
Wikipedia says, 'initially, the Mărțișor string [offered as a gift by men to the women in their lives and usually with a talisman attached, most commonly a 4-leaf-clover, chimney sweep, horse shoe or ladybird - Sarah's note] was known as "The Year's Rope" (‘’funia anului’’, in Romanian), made of black and white wool threads, representing the 365 days of the year. "The Year's Rope'" was symbolic of the link between summer and winter, black and white representing unity of all that is contrary: light and dark; hot and cold; life and death. The ‘’Mărțișor’’ is the thread of the days in the year, spun by Baba Dochia (Old Dochia), or the thread of one's life, spun at birth by the Fates (Ursitoare). White is the symbol of purity, the sum of all colours and light, while Black is the colour of origins, of distinction, of fecundation and fertility, the colour of fertile soil. White is the sky, the Father, while black is the mother of all, Mother Earth.
According to ancient Roman tradition, the Ides of March was the perfect time to embark on military campaigns. In this context, it is believed that the red string of Mărțișor signifies vitality, while the white one is the symbol of victory. Red is the colour of fire, blood, and a symbol of life, associated with feminine passion. Meanwhile, white is the colour of snow, clouds, and the wisdom of men. In this interpretation, the thread of a Mărțișor represents the union of the feminine and the masculine principles, the vital forces which give birth to the eternal cycle of nature. Red and white are also complimentary colours present in many key traditions of Daco-Romanian folklore.'
(Photo source) These days, and especially in urban areas, the mărțișor has lost much of its meaning and is better known as a symbol of friendship or love, appreciation and respect. The black threads have been replaced with red, but the delicate woollen ropes are still a ‘cottage industry’ amongst country people who comb out the wool, dye the floss, and twist it into thousands of tassels. In some areas the amulets are still made with black and white ropes to ward off evil, thus bringing luck.
In bygone days, the mărțișor was attached to a rose or a blossoming tree for luck or thrown in the path of wandering birds with the cry, "Ia-mi negretele si da-mi albetele” ("Take the black and bring me the white" - calling for what is bad to be replaced with good...).
A gold or silver coin (or sometimes a medallion) was often attached to one of the threads of a girl's mărţişor. The coins were thought to have protective properties and were intended to be kept until St. George's Day (April 23rd). Then, she would use her coin to buy fresh cheese and red wine, so that her skin would be as white as the cheese and her cheeks would blush as red as the wine.
Mărțișoare are worn on Zilele Babelor, between 1-9 March when girls pick a day during this period. Whatever the weather is like on their personal day is an indicator of their luck for the year to come. Mine is the 5th, so pay attention!
(Photo source) In some regions of Romania, the mărțișor is worn for the whole month of March, then attached to the branches of a fruit tree. In early April, one can often see trees full of mărțișoare throughout Romania and Moldova and it never ceases to move me.
Not surprisingly, different regions have different customs. THIS site says that in Transylvania, mărțișoare are hung on doors, windows and horns of domestic animals to frighten evil spirits. In Bihor county it is believed that if people wash their faces with rainwater fallen on March 1, they will become healthier and more beautiful. In the Banat, girls wash with snow so they will be loved. In Dobrogea, mărțișoare are worn until the arrival of the cranes, then thrown into the air so that their happiness will be given wings. Lovely. In Moldova, girls give mărțișoare to boys who return them on 8th March.
As with all ancient traditions, there is a myriad of legends attached to Mărțișor explaining the traditional red and white threads.
One of them says that on the first day of March, a beautiful, personnified Spring came out to the edge of the forest. She looked around and saw a tiny, delicate snowdrop in the blackthorn trying to fight its way out of the snow. Kindly Spring wanted to help the snowdrop and began to scoop away the snow and the thorny branches. When Winter saw this, she was furious. She conjured up a bitter wind and a snow storm to wipe out the little snowdrop, but Spring protected it with her hands. In doing so, she pricked her finger on a thorn and a drop of her warm blood fell onto the flower, reviving it. Beautiful Spring had won over perilous Winter and since then, the little mărțișoare have symbolised red blood on white snow.
And here's another: There was a time when the Sun used to take the shape of a young man and descend to Earth to dance among the folk people. A dragon found out about this and followed the Sun to Earth, captured him and threw him into a dungeon somewhere deep in the bowels of his castle. Suddenly the birds stopped singing and the children could not laugh anymore, but no one dared to confront the dragon.
One day a brave young man set out to find the dungeon and free the Sun. Many people joined in and gave him strength and courage to challenge the mighty dragon. The journey lasted three seasons: summer, autumn and winter. At the end of the third season the brave young man finally reached the castle of the dragon where the Sun was imprisoned. The fight lasted several days until the dragon was defeated. Weakened by his wounds the brave young man however managed to set the Sun free to the joy of those who had believed in him. Nature was alive once again, people smiled once more but the brave young man could not make it through spring. His blood continued to drain from his wounds into the snow. With the snow melting, white flowers we now call snowdrops, harbingers of spring, sprouted from the thawing soil. When the last drop of the brave young man's blood fell on the pure white snow, he died with pride that his life had served a noble purpose....
I do so wish that there were Romanian legends that didn't always have to end with good people making massive (and often ridiculous) sacrifices to save beauty or nature. It depicts Romanian mentality perfectly: That from anything beautiful comes immense sacrifice and that you can't have a single good thing in life unless you suffer terribly for it beforehand
(Photo source) Another legend is reminiscent of Dragobete and Baba Dochia. As you already know if you read this blog regularly, Dragobete was Baba Dochia's son and was married to a girl that his mother loved to torment. One cold winter's day, Baba Dochia sent her to the river to wash black wool until it turned white. This was impossible, of course. The young woman's terrible ordeal as she washed the black wool in the frozen river impressed Christ so much that he came to earth as a young man, Mărțișor, and gave her a red flower that would turn the wool white. She returned home and told the story to her mother-in-law. Bad idea. Baba Dochia, on seeing the flower, believed that winter had come to an end and left with her sheep to find them some lush pasture. With her, she took 7 warm coats – but it was rather warm outside, so she got rid of them one by one. When the cold returned at night, Baba Dochia froze, along with her sheep. Legend has it that they finally turned to stone, hence the group of rocks known as Babele ('the old women') in the breathtaking Bucegi Mountains above Busteni. Not a very happy story for Baba Dochia (even if she probably deserved it!), but one of likely great relief for the abused daughter-in-law!
La multi ani de 1 Martie! Sa aveti o primavara frumoasa!
Really, you couldn't make it up... Two former Romanian Agriculture Ministers, Decebal Traian Remes and Ioan Avram Muresan, were sentenced yesterday to three years in prison without parole for corruption (bribes and influence-peddling) in what has become known as The Sausage Case. The High Court's decision is final. According to the DNA prosecutor’s indictment, on 13th and 23rd September 2007, Remes, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development at the time, received promises for mici and palinca worth 1,500 RON (wow! How much mici and palinca could you get for that sum? Just sayin'...) plus 15,000 euros ($21,000) from Muresan on behalf of businessman Gheorghe Ciorba for helping his son win two public auctions. An Audi Q7 car also features on the list of swag. Ciorba, however, reported the bribe to authorities before the auctions could take place, triggering the prosecution of Remes and Muresan. Ciorba, for his part, received an 18-month suspended prison sentence yesterday. Pretty mind-boggling really - he was the one who set the bribe in the first place and then snitched - and for all that, he gets off with less than Remes and Muresan...
(Image source) There is a little background to give you before continuing.
Back in 2007, **a privacy bill was passed that many said would squash efforts to fight corruption. This bill aimed at jailing anyone caught releasing contents of intercepted conversations. Interestingly enough (or not as the case may be), the aforementioned bill was passed just weeks before TVR broadcast a video on October 10th of the then-Agriculture Minister Decebal Traian Remes accepting a bribe. Some said that the country's political leaders appeared more anxious to punish investigative journalists than to deal with the corruption at hand.
When the scandal broke, Remes resigned. The video also implicated the previously cited former Agriculture Minister Ioan Muresan and Gheorghe Ciorba.
SE Times described what happened:
'A hidden camera recorded a meeting in a Bucharest cafe between Remes and Muresan, during which Muresan gave Remes an envelope. The TVR broadcast also included taped phone conversations with Ciorba, who is heard saying he wanted to win tenders worth millions of euro in institutions that were co-ordinated by Remes.
In the phone calls, Ciorba asked Muresan to be an intermediary with Remes, offering 15,000 euros, traditional sausages and a new car.
After the broadcast aired, Remes was asked to leave office by Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, while authorities began investigating the source of the story. "It appears that the images were produced by the organisation that was investigating the case," Tariceanu said.'
(Photo source: Decebal Traian Remes) For many, it was considered normal that TVR had broadcast the video, enabling people to see exactly for whom they had voted. Others said the video should have been 'balanced before showing', for in fact, it was 'a bomb'. I don't honestly think anyone was the least bit surprised to unearth yet another pair of crooks, one in government and one an ex. For Remes to have refused the money would have been far more of a surprise.
The US Ambassador to Romania at the time, Nicholas Taubman, was scandalised by the criticism TVR received for the broadcast and called on parliament not to "intimidate" independent media or "criminalise" journalistic efforts. In 2013, nothing much has changed for journalists are still intimidated for revealing such cases.
This, along with last year's Nastase case, is one of the reasons why Transparency International, an NGO based in Berlin, has ranked Romania one of the most corrupt countries in the EU.
(Photo source: Ioan Avram Muresan) Romania Insider reports that Muresan is already in the clink, sentenced in June 2012 to seven years for embezzlement. He's quite a character, our Muresan. Nine O'Clock states that he is 'most likely to apply for the two sentences to be merged into one. If his application is accepted, he will serve the longer of the two sentences.'
Meanwhile, Remes generously gave himself up to the Maramures Police yesterday. He was sent home, however, since the detention documents hadn't yet shown up.... Remes, continues Nine O'Clock, 'will only stay behind bars for one year, since, like Adrian Nastase, he will be able to benefit from stipulations in the Penal Code and the Code of Penal Proceedings that state a male of over 60 years old and good behaviour while in detention may be released having served one-third of his prison time.' If anyone can explain the justice in that, I'm all ears.
**The politician privacy bill was first submitted to parliament in April 2004 but rejected due to protests, only to be adopted in 2007. For more on that, please see HERE.
Dragobete is the Romanian version of Valentine's Day celebrated tomorrow on 24th February. It is sooooo much lovelier than Valentine's without all the commercial bruhaha and is steeped in tradition. Dragobete (also named Dragomir), traditionally the Romanian god of love and well-being, was the son of Baba Dochia, the main character in the pagan myth related to the arrival of spring and the end of the harsh winter.
The legend of Dragobete goes as follows:
Baba Dochia is said to have been a very cruel mother-in-law, who never missed an opportunity to mistreat her son's wife. One February day, she sends the girl to pick berries up a mountain - an impossible time of year to find such fruit. God, however, helps the girl in her task and she returns with her basket full.
On seeing the fruit, Baba Dochia, believing spring has arrived, takes her sheep and her son, Dragobete, up the mountain. Although she loads herself with 12 lambskins, she loses them. The story has two versions at this point: they either get wet due to rain or she throws them away as she gets too warm. Either way, both she and her son freeze to death on the mountain.
Here are some charming traditions connected to this (literally) heart-warming festival:
- On the day of Dragobete one doesn't work - not in the fields (if you do, Dragobete will punish you by stealing your voice and replacing it with that of a bird) nor in the house. You may however do a little spring cleaning, symbolic of everything new and fresh (unless you're like me and chronic at housework). Carpets and other textiles are shaken out on this day in order to bring wealth.
- It is believed that any man who hurts or upsets a woman on Dragobete is doomed to bad luck for the rest of the year (see, I told you it was lovelier than Valentine's Day!!).
- If the weather is nice enough to be outside, the guys must go into the forest (if they are near one) and gather snowdrops from under the snow. Those who can bring the snowdrops back home before they melt prove that they are ready to begin wooing a potential wife.
- Couples wanting to stay together must kiss tomorrow (presumably more than other days!) and if you're a single lass and are fed up with being so, then make sure you see a man at some point tomorrow or you'll remain single for the rest of the year.
- In some parts of Romania, single women gather the last snow and melt it, for it is believed that the water is very effective when used in a love potion.
- Tradition declares that on Dragobete, as all birds are considered messengers of love, it is therefore forbidden to hunt them and that includes chickens and turkeys. Birds obviously love Dragobete, too.
Dragobetele saruta fetele!
(Photo source) Sorin Antohi is a name that chimes controversy. And a lot more besides. He had what should have been an illustrious career ahead of him, but screwed up bigtime. Born in 1957, Antohi is described by Wikipedia as a 'Romanian historian, essayist and journalist'. He held the position of head of history at the Central European University in Budapest and was an active member of GDS (Grupului pentru Dialog Social). He was also a Securitate snitch and should be shoved in the same bag as the likes of Cornel Todea and Balaceanu-Stolnici....
There's no scoop in this post. It's an 'old' story, but one I had not heard up until now. The case of Antohi and his sordid past didn't make much noise in the Romanian press - or at least, not as much as you'd think it would, but Truth v Ambition is a regular game in Romanian politics which these days leaves most people relatively unfazed. It is a tragedy that someone with so much promise ended up conducting both audacious fraud and profound deception that were both so supremely shameful...
So, what happened? In a 2006 open letter published in Revista 22, Antohi admitted to Cotidianul that he had collaborated with the Securitate during the 1970s and '80s under the codename "Valentin". That isn't particularly shocking really, since it happened all the time. What is shocking is that this snitch went on to become a leading authority on the issue of how Romania and countries like it should deal with their turbulent histories. Antohi was also a participant in the official process by which the Romanian government declassified Securitate files and passed judgment on those who secretly served the security services. As part of a campaign called “Clean Voices” – aimed initially at identifying former Securitate agents among the country’s leading journalists – Antohi’s files came under scrutiny. He was forced to confess his secret past, and made to step down from the commission set up by President Traian Băsescu to study such cases that had happened under communism.
He also claimed that he had been persecuted, and physically abused by the same Securitate as a member of the Iasi Group of anti-communist intellectuals, which included Dan Petrescu, Liviu Antonesei, Luca Piţu and others. As an informant, he claimed that he offered non-detrimental information on the political views of many of his close friends. I wonder if these 'close' friends saw it in the same light.
Worse still, THIS site says, 'Antohi actively sought to make sure his own past would never become public knowledge. According to reports in the Romanian media, the government of Adrian Năstase – who, before serving as PM in 2000-2004 was a communist apparatchik, and once published an article entitled “Human Rights: A Retrograde Concept” – intervened to re-classify or destroy the Securitate files of numerous leading public figures, including Antohi. But even if these charges are not proven true, the body then in charge of vetting Securitate files, the CNSAS (National Council for Studying the Securitate’s Archives), apparently broke the law by not disclosing Antohi’s collaboration. (Legislation passed the year before Năstase’s election mandated disclosure for executives and founders of public institutions, such as the Group for Social Dialogue, which counts Antohi among its founder members.) “The CNSAS itself has been in violation of Law 187/1999 due to the non-disclosure of Antohi’s previous collaboration with the Securitate,” said Dan Visoiu, a Romanian-American lawyer who helped found the Romania Think Tank, a leading research and advocacy group based in Bucharest.'
Apparently, his files disappeared for years. We are talking about someone who participated in a very high-level cover-up
But that's not all. Wikipedia says: 'On October 20, 2006, the Romanian press reported that representatives of the Romanian Ministry of Education discovered that Antohi never defended his doctoral thesis in the country. It appears that he failed to write his PhD thesis, and was expelled from the doctoral program of the University of Iaşi in 2000. His CV at the Central European University also listed several books that Antohi claimed were published by Polirom press, but which journalists from the Ziua de Iaşi daily were unable to locate; Antohi was unavailable for comment.'
Pants on fire... For more on that, see HERE. As for why Antohi thought he could get away with it, one answer would be his reputation as a networking genius and self-promoter, and another - his supreme arrogance.
As a consequence of these scandals, he resigned from his position in Budapest and also from the Pasts, Inc. Institute for Historical Studies. He remains an editor of the academic journal East European Politics and Societies to this day, where Vladimir Tismăneanu is chair of the editorial committee.
More scandal saw the light of day in July-August 2008 in Germany and Romania, after Antohi co-directed a Conference with the financial help of the Institute for Cultural Studies. Newspapers in both countries alleged that he had represented himself as the director of two research institutes (one in Germany and one in Romania) which did not exist. At this time the scandal was, in part, revived by Herta Müller who, in a letter to the Frankfurter Rundschau, asked how Antohi, an informer from the age of 19, and someone who had falsified his PhD., could possibly have been invited to an event at a Romanian cultural institute in Berlin. An excellent question indeed.
The Pestiside.hu editor sums Antohi's fall up perfectly: 'What drove him to live a life of monstrous lies – first betraying his friends as the informant “Valentin,” and then his students and colleagues as the fraudulent “Dr.” Antohi – was nothing more or less than simple ambition; the willingness to disregard inconvenient boundaries to his own advancement. (This is assuming he didn’t volunteer for Securitate snitch duty out of a sense of duty to a regime he supported.) What makes him more noteworthy than the average liar and betrayer is that he did this while allegedly dedicating his life to the search for truth.'
One of Antohi's 'subjects of interest', shall we say, was Chris Lawson, a British writer/editor, TESOL teacher and published journalist who was living and working in Iasi in the '70s. This post is principally to share his article (2006) with you, for it makes fascinating reading.
Over to Chris (and thank you for allowing me to copy/paste!):
By Vivid writer: Christopher Lawson
Vivid’s man in Iasi relates how he was implicated in the investigations that revealed Sorin Antohi’s Securitate past
Guildenstern: Our names shouted out in a certain dawn … a message ... a summons ... There must have been a moment, at the beginning, when we could have said no. But somehow we missed it. Well, we’ll know better next time.
Rosencrantz: We’ve done nothing wrong. We didn’t harm anyone. Did we?
Guildenstern: I can’t remember.
Guildenstern: All your life you live so close to truth it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye. And when something nudges it into line it’s like being ambushed by a grotesque.
(Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, 1967)
(Photo source: Sorin Antohi, Securitate collaborator) Since his resignation on 23 October, his name and title at his workplace have disappeared into cyberspace, although he has hardly been absent from the Romanian press over the past several weeks. I am belatedly adding to the column inches for an English-speaking audience, confident that Sorin Antohi’s cunning, calculating face will soon return to our television screens.
The former professor of history at the Soros-funded Central European University, Budapest, and founding director and principal fundraiser of Pasts Inc., the Institute of Historical Studies, resigned all his positions on 23 October when Ziarul de Iasi revealed that he had lied about a non-existent doctorate from the University of Iasi. A month before, he had published a lengthy confession in Cotidianul admitting that he had been an informer for the Securitate in his late teens and early twenties. Like more notorious figures such as Dan Voiculescu, he claimed that nobody had suffered as a result of his activities. Most shockingly, Antohi had also been a member of the CNSAS, the Council for the study of the Securitate archives (www.cnsas.ro), an independent body accountable to Parliament, until he resigned for “health reasons”.
As in all scandals from Profumo to Watergate, the cover-up rather than the case itself constitutes the real offence. The CNSAS, a commission appointed by Parliament six years ago to declassify and pass judgment on servants of the security forces, did not disclose Antohi’s collaborationist past. His records “disappeared”. An ambitious academic who became an authority on the oppressive past of his country, supposedly dedicated to the search for truth, is revealed as an opportunistic liar.
After all, he had had 16 years to come clean about his past as an informer for the communist secret police. In 1990, as a servant of the new Iliescu government, he had even presented himself as a long-time opponent of communism. The Romanian word for copper’s nark is turnator. Somehow the Zulu and Xhosa word impimpi (BrE: collaborator, scab, spy) from the apartheid era, is more expressive.
Impimpi probably lied about his doctorate when the CEU hired him simply because he thought he could get away with it. Antohi, whose learning and intelligence blazes as brightly as his less admirable qualities, had completed nearly all of the formalities required for a doctorate except the defence itself. Universal acclaim greeted his books, although checks are being made on some of the publications he listed.
I write as someone named in his confession. But in the comparatively benign 1970s, as a British lecturer, I was a mere foreigner. My name has been plastered across the Romanian press linked to bird-brained allegations. But that’s the worst that’s happened to me.
Many Romanians suffered unspeakable horrors in the years between 1948 and 1964. As far as I am concerned, it is a badge of honour to be considered “hostile” to a system which had been responsible for the deaths of at least one million people in the whole country, intellectuals, believers of various faiths, village and factory leaders, and old-established families who had created modernity in a previous era.
A further quarter of a million had perished in state institutions, thousands on grandiose construction projects. Countless family members were traumatised. Individuals were kept in a state of permanent terror or forced into exile. Hundreds of thousands of womens’ lives were ruined by Elena Ceausescu’s lunatic ban on contraception and abortion. Even if this semi-literate, vindictive woman may not specifically have forbidden sex education, her actions created several generations of young women deprived of the most basic family planning procedures, many of whom died after botched abortions.
I came to Romania to further my career as a TESOL teacher. I wanted to work at university level, and, newly qualified, knew I would make myself interesting to future employers if I survived a two-year contract in a “difficult” communist country. I chose Romania because I felt that Romanian would be easier to learn than a Slav language.
Although British Council presence in Romania dates from 1938, when Bucharest was one of the first five cities where it set up an overseas office, government-inspired xenophobia reigned in the mid-Seventies. Many Romanians simply could not understand why foreigners came to live in the Socialist Republic. In what passed for humour at that time, British lecturers were told that they had had a reputation for being homosexuals, Jews or spies, or sometimes all three. This so-called joke neatly summed up the homophobia, anti-Semitism and paranoia prevalent in that decade.
Antohi, who was then a teenager still at high school, visited my apartment one Friday evening, and then came regularly. I had a large collection of LPs, which included the complete works of Bob Dylan, kept open house at weekends, and welcomed all and sundry. Most were university students. Antohi had no business coming. I did not know him at all. One of my students introduced him as a rock music fan.
After a number of further visits, when I assumed he was practising his (very good) school English, he started provocative, rather aggressive discussions, and assumed an air of over-familiarity. His behaviour became so strange that I soon smelt a rat. This pipsqueak was too transparent in his dedublarea (BrE: duplicity) to be a good spy.
All the foreign lecturers were spied on, their telephones tapped, their letters opened, their conversations reported, their movements noted.
In this atmosphere I decided that my only recourse was to be myself. Antohi’s controller, a Securitate colonel, lived near the Zona Industriala, the location of my casa de oaspeti (BrE: guest house.) It was very convenient for Antohi to visit both places. My file says I was “unduly sympathetic” to the “co-inhabiting nationalities”, especially the Transylavanian Saxons. Well, I spoke German and found the Saxons far more westernized than the average Romanian intellectual. One young Saxon in particular, an architecture student, visited frequently.
Most entertainingly, I “reported to the Cultural Attache at the British Embassy” and “recruited Romanians” for the service of Her Majesty.
Impimpi is the only possible source for this nonsense. As the heroic veteran dissident Doina Cornea points out, informers typically exaggerate so they appear invaluable to their bosses. In fact, I wrote one annual report each year of my stay about my working conditions at the university, and what it was like to live in Iasi. These reports, entirely concerned with educational matters, did not even name names. I delivered each of the two reports by hand to the British Embassy.
My teaching scrupulously avoided politics. Female students in my classes told me within the first two weeks which students in my classes were informers. My lessons contained only non-political themes, either literary or based on humanistic psychology, an intellectually shaky approach which nevertheless encouraged students to talk about their personal lives, their hopes and dreams. With the American lecturer, I projected documentary films from our embassies on an ancient Russian projector. We ran a borrowing library for students and started an English club for secondary school teachers and pupils.
With a group of dedicated first-year students, I put on three dramatic evenings at the Casa Tineretului, as it was then called. I scoured the work of modern British dramatists to find non-political material, and lighted on Tom Stoppard. A short play A Separate Peace, which concerned a mysteriously healthy man who checked into a hospital formed the centrepiece. The would-be patient just wanted to be looked after by pretty, sympathetic nurses. A brief biography and short extracts from other Stoppard plays made up the rest of the evening.
I was just in time. That summer in London saw a performance of Every Good Boy Deserves a Favour. Andre Previn had challenged Stoppard to put on a play containing a symphony orchestra. The Czech-born playwright chose a Russian prison camp as his setting.
Antohi went on to study English at Cuza University, when he wihdrew from his work for the Securitate. Subsequently he was resident at the Universities of Michigan and Bielefeld and one of the universities in Montpelier. He wrote and published voluminously.
Central and East European, as well as Russian poets have always had a special relationship with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the almost-definitive version of which was first performed in 1601 in the dying years of the Elizabethan police state. Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster, had set up and run a tentacular network of secret agents from Rheims to Constantinople to prevent Catholic assassination plots against the Virgin Queen. Modern writers from the then-communist states instantly recognised and identified with Elsinore, a walled city seething with spies, and reserved especial scorn for Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Polonius.
Antohi, described by his erstwhile colleagues as a shining light of Romanian intellectual life, may have fallen like Lucifer, although his demise hardly ranks as Shakespearean tragedy. When the Treens invade Romania from the planet Venus as the first step to world domination, he will certainly re-emerge as National Security Adviser to the Mekon. Even as a scared 19-year-old, he could have said No. Am I sympathetic to his self-induced plight? I quote the Danish prince on the fate of the attendant lords: “Why, man, they did make love to this employment. They are not near my conscience.”
(Photo source) 11th Feb (morning): The "fake beef" scandal which has spread to both producers and consumers in at least six countries - Ireland, Britain, Luxembourg, Poland, France and Sweden - seems to be developing into something more and more appalling. Not only has it raised serious questions on food safety, as well as the possibility of outright fraud in an industry with a history of grave, if episodic, lapses despite efforts at stricter regulation and reform, but I've just read that the "fake beef" could, in fact, be donkey...
I have to admit that I am revolted. Romanians will perhaps laugh, although as far as I know, horsemeat isn't eaten there either (at least, I've never seen it on a menu). Here's a little cultural awareness for those who find this funny, are posting all kinds of groan-worthy jokes/posters online or having a laugh at the silly articles circulating which I personally find offensive. Some say that Romanian abattoirs are being "blamed" by the UK as another excuse for negativity in the immigration issue. Piffle. The abattoirs which supplied the meat have been proven to be Romanian. Whether or not the fraud occurred in Romania is yet to be proven, but the jibing should stop now. Pardon me for pouring buckets of cold water on an excuse for a laugh, but to a Brit, this really is NOT funny. Not at all. I truly DO have a sense of humour. But NOT in this case. Why? Well here are several reasons:
1) Horsemeat is, on the whole, a taboo food in the UK (and throughout most anglophone countries and cultures) because of the role horses have played as companions and workers throughout our history, along with concerns about the ethics of the horse slaughter process. Horse and donkey meat was eaten in Britain, especially up north in Yorkshire, until the 1930s, and in times of post-war food shortage it surged in popularity in the United States where it was considered for use in hospitals for a time. During rationing in the UK's 1940s, it was eaten as an alternative to the unpopular whale meat available.
Today however, horses are NOT bred for their meat but as companions/pets or sporting animals ONLY. We don't even have a specific word for horsemeat in the English language as we do for pork (meat from a pig), beef (meat from a cow) or lamb (meat from a sheep).
Linguistically as well as culturally then, anglophones from the Queen downwards are sentimentally very attached to horses just as we are to our dogs and cats, rather than being in the same group as, say, pigs (though I truly love them too) or cattle - the very idea of eating them is, to most of us, repugnant. Personally, I'd rather chew off my own hand than eat horsemeat - and donkey, even more so. True, I have never lived a war, rationing or such lack of choice, and true also, I'd rather not eat meat at all, but you get my point, I hope.
2) It's not illegal to sell horsemeat in the UK, but it is illegal to sell food containing ingredients that aren't listed on the label. When something says "beef" then that's what the consumer expects to get. If it says "horse" or "donkey", ditto. But when it says "beef" on the label and you get horse or donkey, it is fraud, pure and simple. The consumer has a RIGHT to be assured by what he reads on the label. He does NOT expect to be lied to. And he has a right to CHOOSE what he eats. Where's the joke there, or am I missing something?
3) Religious observance: The products in question also included traces of pig DNA, which is considerably more shocking if you believe that a religious ban on eating pork carries more weight than a moral aversion to eating horse (although horsemeat is also forbidden under some religious dietary laws such as judaism, for example). See anything funny there? I don't.
4) The health risk: Of course, human beings can eat horse. That is not the issue. The problem is the unknown provenance of the meat. Brenda Proctor writes: "Farm animals in Britain are subject to strict controls: every move made by every animal from auction to farm, farm to auction, farm to farm, is recorded and controlled. There are laws regarding medication received by every animal, all recorded and banned from use for a period of time before slaughter. Veterinary inspections are mandatory at sales and abattoirs, and the latter have to reach high standards of hygiene and humane treatment. Fallen stock has to be removed from farms by licensed firms, and recorded so that the meat does not enter the human food chain. Herds are regularly checked to eliminate TB and other diseases. Thus everything possible is done to ensure that British farming can deliver safe meat to the public. When this has failed, it was because the rules were broken by criminals."
The FSA (who were FAR too slow to react IMHO) has said there is no evidence to suggest horsemeat is a food safety risk, but tests have been ordered to determine whether samples contain the analgesic drug phenylbutazone – otherwise known as bute – which is not considered safe for humans. And so, not only is one eating meat from an animal one didn't bargain for, but it may also contain chemicals/drugs harmful to one's health. Is that a reason to laugh? Nope, unless, of course, that's a side-effect of bute on humans.
Voilà, there are my four reasons why this should be treated seriously and carefully rather than with howlers all over the social network.
Meanwhile in Romania, officials have said one of the two Romanian abattoirs suspected of having provided horsemeat had been cleared of all suspicion: "I believe that, even though the investigation isn't finished, everything left the country properly and officially," Constantin Savu of Romania's food safety authority was quoted as saying by state news agency Agerpres on Sunday. "I find it hard to believe that such errors could exist."
Me, too. Owen Patterson, the UK Environment Minister said participants were determined to get to the bottom of a scandal which he stated was either caused by "gross incompetence or what I suspect is an international criminal conspiracy". The French and British governments have promised to punish those found responsible with sanctions, and rightly so. But I hope and pray that the abattoirs in Romania will NOT be at the origin of such gross breach of contract/negligence/fraud or whatever one chooses to call it, for it'll give 'the west' just one more reason to slander the country and her people. A Romanian food industry official pointed the finger of blame at the French importer, Findus, saying it was up to that company to verify the quality of the meat. Hardly the point, really, since the system relies on producers and importers to properly identify their meat and shelving blame can only be seen as either pathetic at best or an admission of guilt at worst....
(Photo source) These 'clever' pictures and jibes at British dietary preferences (and so on) on Facebook etc are not helpful. They have missed the point entirely, or are perhaps posted by people who are simply ignorant of these cultural and moral differences listed above that one really should make an effort to understand in cases such as this. Not everything can or should be counteracted with humour.
Having said that, the notoriously trashy British rag, The Sun, should be sued for its outrageous article published yesterday headlined, "Nabbed, stabbed and beaten... wild horses go in our beef" which stupidly states that Letea horses ended up as exported meat and there was no way of telling where it ended up. The journalist would obviously like us to reach a conclusion that these poor, abused horses ended up as lasagne. Funny? Not one bit. I didn't even crack a smile. Cheap, lousy journalism from Nick Parker who should be ashamed for writing such utterly debased rubbish. The Letea horses horror was too indescribable to be even mentioned in such an uneducated, crappy text.
Meanwhile, Findus has said it believes the contamination to be deliberate. Perhaps. Perhaps not. It remains to be seen. But in the meantime, please cut the hilarity. It is inappropriate and insensitive.
UPDATE: 11th February (evening): France and Britain have called for the "criminals" who disguised horsemeat as beef to be tracked down, as Romania angrily denied any responsibility for the 'Horsegate' scandal, as it has been called, spreading across Europe and blaming a French cover-up as the origin. Comigel saidit got its meat from another French firm, Spanghero, which said it was supplied by two abattoirs in Romania who allegedly passed horsemeat off as beef. Hmm... Round and round it seems to go.
According to Christian Fraser of the BBC, 'throughout the weekend, the Romanian government has been following the paper trail. At the request of France, it has investigated two abattoirs outside Bucharest - one that trades only in horsemeat and another that slaughters both cattle and horses.
The Minister of Agriculture, Daniel Constantin, said it had checked records all the way back to the beginning of 2012 and he was confident the certification was in order.
What was more, he said, the orders, which had been checked prior to export, had been for horse carcass, which was easily distinguishable from beef. Neither of the abattoirs, he said, had had a direct contract with the French processor that had made the allegations, and as far as he was concerned, the Romania investigation was over.
The Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, who has looked at the minister's report, said he was satisfied Romania had responded in the correct manner. "But am I angry? Yes, I am very angry," he said. "I can guarantee consumers in Britain and in France that Romania did everything responsibly. We cannot be held accountable," he added, "for the supply chain once the meat has left our borders." '
I don't quite understand that. Does this mean that the orders made to the Romanian abattoir were for horsemeat and never for beef? Is that what this says? If so, then indeed, the fraud happened beyond Romania's borders. But where?
Ponta said it was “quite clear” that the French company involved did not have any direct contract with Romanian companies and that, “for the sake of credibility Europe-wide, it should be established where the fraud occurred”.
“They delivered the meat to someone in Cyprus,” he told the Financial Times, suggesting the fault lay not with Romania’s abattoirs but with middlemen traders further along the supply chain.
Romanian authorities have so far refused to identify the slaughterhouses alleged by France to be involved, saying that since there is no evidence of wrongdoing they want to protect the businesses from inaccurate negative publicity.'
“It is in Romania’s interest for the place of the fraud to be found, those responsible to be identified and drastic penalties to be levied,” Mr Ponta declared earlier today. For once, I agree with him. I just pray that the 'place of the fraud' will NOT be Romania for they will be hit with such sanctions they won't know what the hell hit them...
With regards the outrageous article printed in The Sun yesterday and noted below, Romania's ambassador, Dr Ion Jinga, had THIS to say. Good for him. He also added that he believed the spat of anti-Romanian stories in the newspapers, centring on immigration and on meat imports could have unintended consequences. He could well be right.
In the meantime, Comigel and Spanghero have said they are innocent of anything dodgy and will sue suppliers who duped them. The plot thickens...
(Photo source) UPDATE 13th Feb: Well, things seem a bit clearer and along with that, UK and France will probably have to eat humble pie, grovel and apologise MOST sincerely to Romania for making them the scape goats when, actually, it is becoming more and more evident that Romania wasn't responsible (alone, at least if at all) for the "fake beef" scandal. AFP reported that Comigel had blamed French meat-processing company Spanghero, which blamed Romanian abattoirs where it said the meat was bought via traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands.
One of the Romanian abattoirs implicated, Carmolimp, issued a statement that its meat was properly labelled as horsemeat, adding that it had not exported beef in 2012. Therefore, it is evident that the order was made for horsemeat in the first place and NOT for beef. The 'client' was therefore at fault, NOT the Romanian abattoir. Carmolimp called attempts to blame it for the scandal "shameful," suggesting that only an incompetent French meat processor would mistake the horsemeat for beef. Romania has some 25 horsemeat abattoirs and exports horsemeat to Cyprus, France, Poland and the Netherlands, often through middlemen, officials said.
An initial investigation by French safety authorities determined that French company Poujol bought frozen meat from a Cypriot trader. That trader had received it from a Dutch food trader, and that Dutch company had received the meat from two Romanian slaughterhouses. How flamin' complicated... and plenty of opportunity to fiddle around with labels.
Up until now, the British ministers have claimed that the horsemeat scandal was a labelling issue from the 'continent', but today, the smell of a rat has moved much closer to home. A West Yorkshire plant was thought to have supplied horse carcasses to an Aberystwyth plant, which were then allegedly sold on as beef for kebabs and burgers. Peter Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse, in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and Farmbox Meats Ltd, of Llandre near Aberystwyth, have had work suspended. I'm not quite sure where they tie in with Findus, but it shows that all is not well in the land of 'it's-coming-from-abroad-and-we-are-the-victims-of-organised-crime'. It could well still be proven to be organised crime, but the abattoirs of England's green and pleasant lands are now under scrutiny.
BBC reports: 'Mr Paterson said of the latest developments: "It's totally unacceptable if any business in the UK is defrauding the public by passing off horsemeat as beef. I expect the full force of the law to be brought down on anyone involved in this kind of activity." ' As do we all, I am sure. See HERE for a list of withdrawn products from supermarket shelves.
Patterson told MPs during a Commons debate earlier that "too much is taken on trust" when it comes to verifying meat supplies. How outrageous is that? I had a lesson this morning with a director of a huge supermarket chain here in Paris affected by the scandal. He was convinced that the problem lay not with abattoirs in Romania as France and GB had claimed (and stick that in your eye, The Sun newspaper and other rags making up guff to sell a story and stir up further national nastiness) but in the distribution chain from Romania's borders to the supermarket shelf. He explained that controls are lapse, follow-ups rarely carried out and added that all this didn't surprise him in the least.
French consumer safety authorities continue to report that companies from Romania, Cyprus and the Netherlands, as well as its own firms, were involved. There will be a big pow-wow in Brussels later today to discuss the scandal with counterparts in EU countries.
In the meantime, the revelations have unsettled consumers across Europe and revolted many meat eaters in the UK, where horsemeat is generally considered a no-no, although it is common in France (sold in speciality butchers), China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Italy.
January's discovery of pig DNA in beef products is of particular concern to Jews and Muslims, whose dietary laws forbid the consumption of pork products. Jewish dietary laws also ban the eating of horse meat.
At least now, though, authorities are no longer worried about health effects, but it has most certainly raised questions about producers misleading the public - and that is the issue here, rather than whether horsemeat is yummy or not.
More as it happens...
(Photo source) Okay, the time has come to be unpolitically correct because I'm sick and tired of hypocrisy. I'm going to just come out and say it. What is REALLY going on for the anti-Romanian and Bulgarian negative ad campaigns in the UK to have come about? Is it truly about foreign workers taking jobs away from the Brits? I don't think so. It is about finding an excuse because everybody with a ha'penny worth of common sense knows perfectly well that the job situation in the UK is due to government policy and nothing whatsoever to do with foreign workers.
No, this is about the Rroma.
What? Gasp! How racist of you, Sarah! How discriminative. How xenophobic!! Yes, guilty as charged, probably. But that's what it is and I may as well say it than think it and fester with frustration.
For the last few years, I have blogged typical stories such as Britain's Forgotten Children, The Sad Return of Pierre Michel, More on Pierre Michel, Predoiu in Wonderland, Roumanian crook jailed in UK benefit fraud, Update on Schian who ripped off the UK tax payer and many more. Of course, I don't write on things like this every day or even every week but the UK press has a great deal of similar stories far more frequently. The British public who have never been to Romania, have no Romanian friends and don't know the ethnic history of the country and its people read such stories and consider that all Romanians are Rroma and all Rroma are Romanian. They are sick of them. They don't want them anymore. They are fed up with the begging, the abuse, the pickpocketing, the child trafficking, the child-thief gangs, prostitution, petty crime and far bigger stuff. They've had it up to the eye teeth with hearing about child abuse. They are sick of reading reports of Brits thrown out of their homes because when they come back from holiday a Rroma family has moved in to squat and produced some fictitious tenancy agreement. And they are even sicker of the benefit frauds and allocation scams. They are sick, basically, of being ripped off.
And then they read about what all the 'nicked' loot and booty made in begging, etc actually gets spent on. See HERE. There are even articles on-line about how to spot and foil gypsy gangs in Europe. Yes, yes, I have linked the Daily Heil several times here, not because I LIKE it but because THAT is what a large percentage of the UK population reads. Bref, they have had enough. And who can blame them. I certainly can't.
Since the Brits are notoriously politically correct, bordering on hypocritical, and since there are a vast number of human rights activists and do-gooders who feel terribly sorry for the Rroma and consider them all without exception to be victims of circumstance (true perhaps depending on how you see things), one is labelled a nasty if one dares say 'it's those Rroma again'. Instead, one says 'Romanian'. Voilà. This is where it's at. The Brits are sick of the Rroma, cannot say so, and have found a way to hit back at Romanians in general because at least, that way, they may be able to get rid of them. Via the present job situation. We all know it's absurd, but that's the way it is.
Now then, with that off my chest, the question is what to do next? First, if no one is going to come out and say, "we don't actually NOT want all Romanians. We like them. They contribute greatly to our economy. They are excellent IT specialists - ranked 6th in the world, in fact - and they are well educated and hard working. We just don't like the beggars, the thieves and the child traffickers. We don't like the Rroma", then nothing is ever going to be openly addressed. It doesn't matter whether the statement is fair or unfair. It simply is.
The common argument I hear so often is that it is the job of the Romanian and Bulgarian governments to deal with this. They are the origin of the problem. They should give them education and see to it they have jobs. Yes, in an ideal world, indeed. But the majority do not WANT to be educated and they do not want jobs either. Call me racist, call me ignorant, call me whatever you like. But it's true. Those that DO want to learn and also want to work are a minority. I have known a few and have helped any way I could both as a teacher and as a nurse. But they are a rarity.
France has also had its fair share of 'ennuies'. Their solution some time back was to pay them to return home. What an idiotic idea that was, for they just came straight back for more. Here too, Romanians are not popular because, as I wrote on a post recently, the media and thus a large majority of the population do not differentiate between Romanians and Rroma - they're all Romanian nationals - bad press for all. The anti-Romanian feeling here in France has become quite appalling. In UK it seems not far behind.
Meanwhile, Germany is struggling to "absorb newcomers from southeastern Europe" and are finding the influx of Rroma "especially challenging". At least they dare utter a direct reference. See THIS article from Spiegel Online. According to an internal paper produced by the German Association of Cities, German municipalities face "significant costs as a result of this poverty migration."
(Photo: Sarah In Romania) So, Cameron and company, PLEASE will you just tell it how it is. Be responsible. Cut it out with the negative ad campaigns, stop blaming Romanians and Bulgarians for all that's wrong in the labour market or anything else in Great Britain and be honest. Be truthful. Only THEN will you be able to sit down and deal with the issue like grown-ups. Let's have an end to the hypocrisy. For the Rroma that want to integrate, want to work, want to abide by rules of their host country, give them the help they need. For those that do not, send them home. And not just the Rroma either but ANYONE who decides that laws are for idiots rather than themselves. Benefit fraud is a no no. Child trafficking, too. Children not put into schools is illegal. One is NOT above the law. If the Brits are too scared to stand by their laws for fear of looking un-PC, that's their problem. But don't blame anyone else for it and certainly not an entire country. Blind ideology has absolutely no place here. Why should honest, hard working Romanians and Bulgarians have to suffer because of ignorance and/or hypocrisy? Why? It's outrageously unfair.
Voilà. Now I've got that off my chest, I'll go and make some tea...
(Image source) I'm stunned! Speechless! And in SUCH a good way!
Ever since the 'potential' negative ad campaign began in the UK on Wednesday with readers of the Guardian newspaper encouraged to send their suggestions for posters aimed at detering Romanians and Bulgarians from moving across the puddle, there has been a massive - and I really mean MASSIVE - outpouring of the most incredible national pride I have ever seen from Romanians for their own country. EVER. The social networks are full of superb articles from journalists such as Florin Negrutiu, CTP and Liliana Ciobanu whilst those fabulous posters have been published all around the world by Reuters, the BBC, AP, Spiegel International, The Telegraph, Washington Post, Le Monde, Huff Post, The Independent, Channel 4 and a realm of others... My God, it has made more impact than any demonstrations, any petitions and any anything else. Incredible - and for once, it's all in favour of Romania.
I don't mind telling you in the least that the good humour, the affection and the elegant intelligence of it all has moved me, several times today, to tears.
Who would have thought that after everything we have seen, particularly lately, being met with the usual indifference, the big kick in the pants yelling DESTEAPTA-TE ROMANE! which actually had the true desired effect for a stirring reaction so much required would have come from Great Britain. Not me, anyway. So... THANK YOU GREAT BRITAIN! Thank you very much! Despite the fact that your whole 'potential' idea is stupid, discriminating and contemptuous, the result has been utterly amazing, teetering on miraculous, and I cannot get over it.
In all these twelve years that have seen me coming and going to the country of my heart, I have never known a time when people were so PROUD to be Romanian, keen and indignant enough to defend their country, their traditions and their rights and it does one's heart good. So much good.
The "Why don't you come over?" campaign masterminded by Mihai Gongu of the GMP ad agency alongside senior art director Alina Zaharescu for Romanian newspaper Gândul has shown a tsunami of posters from readers promoting Romania. Neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Ministry of Tourism (not to mention that ridiculous Carpathian Garden rubbish that cost the country its eye teeth) could (or did) have done anything anywhere NEAR as successful - which just goes to show that Romania really does belong to the people and NOT to the passive, petty, squabbling, useless politicians governing it. And it also shows that we can MOVE, ASSEMBLE and DO SOMETHING IF WE TRY!!!! Aaaaaand that we can do it TOGETHER! Hallelujah!
(Photo source) Here's an article published in today's Gandul on how the press in UK, France and Germany have reported on Romania's reaction via "Why don't you come over?" The BBC rather unfairly uses the word 'mock' to describe Romania's media campaign - but then again, the BBC is not famous for a sense of humour - unlike the Romanians. It reports that the campaign is 'poking fun' at British anxiety. Well, if they didn't want to have fun prodded at them, they should have shut up. Don't throw stones if you don't want them thrown back!
The Huffington Post (see same article) reports 'anti-British ads'. Actually, I would prefer to call them Pro-Romania ads for that is EXACTLY what they are. The Independent, however, described "Why don't you come over?" as 'cheeky', The Telegraph said it was 'tongue in cheek' and Le Monde generously gave it a 'plus ou moins' humourous thumbs up. Personally, I think it's all bloody brilliant!
THIS article was published in The Telegraph (far from my top bunch of favourite sources, but bare with me) on Friday. I posted it on FB at once and received, just for the record, this sensible comment from C.O summing up the background to all this perfectly:
"British employers prefer workers from abroad because they are first of all CHEAPER and sometimes harder-working (because more desperate). They are the ones responsible for attracting so many foreign workers to Britain over the last decade. By employing them through foreign subsidiaries or agencies, employers can also get round restrictions imposed by UK labour laws (that is a key factor, which they tend not to publicise too much). But having seen the impact of this excessive liberalism on British families and communities, I know it's wrong and something needs to be done about it. In my family, I know of half a dozen hard-working people who just can't get jobs while foreign workers brought into the country by firms are being employed to do a lot of the work going. This inevitably creates resentment and I have heard many people in the South of England complain about the Eastern European immigrants coming to "steal our jobs". It has turned the foreigners into the "agressors" in the eyes of some British people, unfortunately. Cameron's stupid campaign, which is certainly in response to a mounting concern about the number of foreign workers in the country, is just about passing the buck while letting some British businesses carry on as always, putting profits before people. These companies are the true culprits, not the enterprising foreign workers who are simply taking up opportunites offered to them." Thank you, C.O. Very well-put.
Please see some latest posters from "Why don't you come over?" below taken from Gandul and if you're Romanian, BRAVO for the very moving and long overdue show of national pride and the flooding of affection which are both so tangible, just by looking at them! If you haven't yet made a poster to send Gandul, then you can do so HERE. It's not even really about content. It's about bothering. If I can do one, then so can you! Even if it's not to thump Great Britain with, it is a thoughtful opportunity to consider how you want others to see you as a country as well as a people and why Romania is worth defending, protecting and keeping safe for our children and generations to come.
Again, and with all my heart, BRAVOOOOOOO!!!
by George Cazac - source
by Coman Muscatel - source
by Bogdan Basarab - source
by Andrei Petruţ Şerban - source
by Andra Precupanu - source
by Sair Jay - source
by Dan Pandrea - source
by Mihail Vasiliu - source
by Adrian Goleşteanu - source
by Szilagyi Istvan - source
by Claudiu Rossi - source
by Gabi Dudea - source
by Lucian Suciu - source
by Sorin Bogde - source
3rd February: LATEST UPDATE: This evening, Gandul has come up with another gem. It's called the Cosy Couch, where Romanians are invited to pin their couches on a map for Brits to crash on when they 'come over'. Eeeexcellent!!! BRAVO!!!
There'll be more, I'm sure, so watch this space :o)))
(Photo source) Well, it was sure to happen and it has. Hurrah! A very bright Romanian campaign has hit back in style at the proposed negative ad absurdity in Britain aimed at keeping Romanians and Bulgarians OUT. Oh-You-Tee. That's right. OUT. Concerned about a possible (and groundless) influx of new arrivals when immigration restrictions for Bulgaria and Romania are lifted at the end of 2013, the British media is reporting that ministers are considering a negative ad campaign that would dissuade wannabe migrants from heading to the UK.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the proposed campaign would "focus on the downside of life in the U.K., majoring on the changeable weather."
The plan, however, has met with mockery. The Guardian asked its readers to make their own absurd suggestions to deter prospective visitors and the results are pretty funny as you can see from just a couple of the images here, not to mention daaaaaaaaaarn true!! See more from the gallery HERE.
(Photo source - and my favourite) But it ain't going to work. As Liliana Ciobanu points out on her blog for the Huff, "if such a campaign actually takes place, it is unlikely to change their mind. Many of those who are leaving the country are doing it because they seek a better life than the one they have in Romania. No matter how hard their life would be in other Western countries like Britain, for many of them it would be better than the one they have in their native country. They will move there anyway, so why bother with such a denigrating campaign, really?" I couldn't agree more.
MP Keith Vaz called the proposed ad campaign farcical. "I have asked the home secretary several times to give us an estimate as to how many Romanians and Bulgarians will enter the country in 2014 but she has not done so,” he said. “Successive governments have failed to provide accurate estimates."
"On the one hand the Home Office doesn't want them in but on the other hand, the minister for Europe is saying there is freedom of movement. The government is actually in danger of encouraging more people to come … Ministers would be better off working with Romanian and Bulgarian counterparts and the EU to address the reasons migrants want to come here in the first place."
The Guardian reports: 'Campaign groups such as MigrationWatch have predicted that 250,000 will come from both countries over the next five years, although these figures are disputed. One Tory MP, Philip Hollobone, has claimed that Romanian and Bulgarian communities will treble to 425,000 within two years.
(Photo source) These figures have been questioned by experts, because they are based upon the numbers of Poles and Czechs who moved to Britain in 2004. Then, only three countries opened their borders. This time, all of the 25 EU states will lift labour market restrictions.'
With governments around the world spending millions on hiring London-based consultants to undertake "reputation laundering" according to The Guardian, it would be rather ironic if Britain decided to trash its own image, highlighting, perhaps, winter flooding of homes or football hooliganism or drunken brawls on a Saturday night. More fool them and I hope they know how very painfully they could be shooting themselves in the foot. The effort made and the billions of pounds spent during the Olympic Games to promote the UK, along with a guide to Britishness launched by the Home Office for wannabe citizens which opens with the words: "Britain is a fantastic place to live: a modern thriving society" would all have been a mega-load of bollards...
It is not the first time that advertising has been used by EU member states in some kind of immigration message. Perhaps you'll remember le plombier polonais (Polish plumber) in France, Germany, Austria and Great Britain and in 2007, Eurostar ran charming ads in Belgium for trains to London with a tattooed skinhead peeing into a china teacup. I'm not entirely sure what that was all about, but anti-nation branding was clearly the goal.
It is interesting, really to see how something that is so seriously racist and deeply xenophobic (IMHO it's not the ethnic Romanians and Bulgarians they don't want - it's the Rroma, so why don't they just come out and say so - it'd save so much time and hassle and the issue could be addressed in an adult manner. Ah yes, I forgot. Brits are so PC it is hypocritical) has become funny - probably thanks to the fact that Romanians have a fabulous sense of humour particularly in the face of adversity.
(Photo source right) Romania's reply to all this has truly gone one better with the "Why don't you come over?" campaign masterminded by Mihai Gongu (click on the link and scroll down to the video) of the GMP ad agency alongside senior art director Alina Zaharescu. Each advertisement has the slogan: “We may not like Britain, but you will love Romania.” No truer word is said in jest. I've never met a Brit yet who has visited Romania and not liked it!
(Photo source left) Gongu told journalists that "it is a bit disconcerting to see yet another piece of news that builds on the idea that Romanians are the No. 1 problem on the agenda."
He went on, "we felt we owed it to the tens of thousands of decent tax-paying Romanians who live in the U.K. and the millions at home to do something about it."
"We have grown quite familiar with negative publicity directed against us - not necessarily from the UK, it used to come from other parts of Europe," Gongu told Channel 4.
"We tried our hand at British humour and, like with all things in the beginning, we probably didn't get everything right. Some of the messages are also self-ironic, addressed at us, Romanians.
"But the invitation is sincere. If you come over to Romania you will see beautiful places, meet wonderful people and, most importantly, get rid of some of the nuisances back home in the UK. What better argument to convince you that we will not head for the UK in our hundreds of thousands when the labour borders open?" he said.
(Photo source) "We'd love for this to become a dialogue between the two people - the British and Romanians, relaxed and humorous. We'll chat and eventually meet anyway - whether it's at your place, or - as we suggest it - ours."
Good for him! At least someone is being intelligent about all this.... and for now, it sure ain't the Brits.