(Photo source: AFP Photo / Daniel Mihailescu) Protests turned violent once again in Pungesti yesterday when clashes broke out between armed police and demonstrators. Journalist Lucy Kafanov reporting for RT in Moscow (?!!) was there on site and reported that protesters broke down perimetre fences and briefly entered the Chevron area. Riot police arrived and the violence that has become so familiar to us lately then ensued. The conflict has been ever-increasing this past week after the government imposed a military-style blockade against the town. Roads were blocked isolating residents and stopping children from getting to school.
According to THIS article, dozens were arrested and detained yesterday while 14 were charged with damaging property and possession of knives. Activist Brianna Caradja told THIS site that weapons had been planted on protesters to discredit them: "they are trying to “plant” evidence of weapons. We will know later, seems they claim to have found molotov cocktails, and other BS." Private riot police were supported by the private security company hired by Chevron. This video shows the private security agents attacking villagers with stones.
Injured demonstrators were taken away in ambulances. Please see THIS video of Kafanov's report for RT and all that was going on around her at the time.
(Photo source: AFP Photo / Daniel Mihailescu) As Kafanov reported from the other side of the road, the riot police closed in. "We're not quite sure why," she told the camera. Obviously, it was in an effort to clear the area. And yet, she and the protesters were standing on private property - their OWN land. Hardly surprising people were furious at being manhandled on land that actually belonged to them. Had the rough treatment taken place on the Chevron site, that would at least have made sense, for they were trespassing. But there, on the other side of the road, it was the riot police who were trespassing, not the journalist nor the demonstrators.
George Barda, a social and environmental justice campaigner had this to say (see RT video):
"In Romania, we have seen a leader who says no to fracking because the people don't want it and then when he's in power, he starts dancing to the tune of these major players like Chevron." He goes on to explain the risk for those living in the area and the long-term problems the project would bring.
What a lousy, unfair fight it is. On one side there is profit, greed and military power. On the other, there are people with nothing much at all, trying to protect their land and livelihood. Hardly equal by any stretches of the imagination.
The unbelievable sweeping-under-the-rug as to how Chevron got hold of the land in the first place is hallucinating. It was leased by the mayor of Pungesti, Mircia C. Vlasă, to Chevron although he had had absolutely NO right to do so. According to TOTB, the land fell into his hands through an illegal exchange between Pungesti and another town, where Vlasă’s wife just happens to own land too. This mayor is said not only to have bullied and pressurised the citizens of his town, but also to have leased the land to Chevron without taking opinions of local residents into account. The locals themselves say that the exchange was made without proper regulations and if you saw the mug of this guy, you'd not doubt that for a second. See HERE for the DNA inquiry into the property rights Vlasă has over the land he rented out to Chevron. As far as legality is concerned, surely until it can be proven that Chevron obtained the land through the legal channels, they should get the hell off it? Right? Yes? No? At least a decision from the DNA should be heard before Chevron polishes another shovel or screws on another bolt.
Last month, Chevron filed a civil lawsuit against protesters in Poland who prevented the company from reaching one of its designated fracking sites, states RT. The company declared that the protesters had been violating its lawful right to access one of its four shale gas exploration areas in the country. If they have behaved in Poland as they are in Romania, then the 'lawful right' is certainly NOT on the side of Chevron.
(Photo source) Following yesterday's violent clashes, Chevron announced it was temporarily suspending activities in the area "as a result of unsafe conditions generated by unlawful and violent protest activities". Rather a short-lived pause however, for this morning it was business as usual at 8am...
When Chevron suspended plans to drill there back in October, withdrawing after protests turned nasty then too, some naïve souls hoped that would be an end to it - that Chevron would pack up and go home. The majority, however, knew that wouldn't be the case. Yesterday, the opinion was much the same. Pungesti is believed to be sitting upon vast gas reserves hugely coveted by both Chevron and the Romanian authorities. The country itself may hold 51 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and Chevron is NOT going to just give up what it has begun in Pungesti, and neither are the corrupt officials and politicians for whom greed is the faith.
(Photo source) The protesters show no signs of backing down either, however. As they stand brave and determined against the bullying tactics of a giant multinational and their own government, they also demand the resignation of PM Victor Ponta. What a disappointment he turned out to be for all those who were hailing him not so long ago.
Abuse by authorities is two-fold in today's Romania: first, there is the passing of unconstitutional laws which go against citizens' basic rights and then there is the more visible direct abuse via riot police exercising force way above and beyond the call of duty, leading to the outrageous brutalising of unarmed citizens. It is impossible for ANYONE to turn a blind eye to either anymore. Pre-'89, such abuse was appalling, but post-'89 it is truly shocking and shows the terrible fragility of a young Romanian democracy.
Activist Brianna told PR, "Riot police (military in Romania) have been used in vast numbers, always extremely disproportionate to the number of protesters. We are calling for a stepdown (zic 'Ponta's'). Personally I would "step down" not only the government, but the whole parliament who sits fat and idle, passes crazy laws, and generally is only there to get richer (bribery is a proven fact)." I couldn't have put it better myself. They're nothing more than a bunch of shameless imposters and have one objective in mind - to enrich themselves on the backs of the people.
(Photo source) Protests continue tonight, whilst several hundred people are gathered in solidarity in Bucharest too. The atmosphere is tense. Hoards of police encircle the zone around Universitate, Academiei and the Facultatea de Arhitectura ready to intervene. Rezistenta Urbana says they are stopping anyone who steps off the pavement, asking whether they are there to protest or not.
The Chief of the Secret Service (SRI) has labeled the protesters at Pungesti eco-anarchists. If the definition of an eco-anarchist is one who fights for freedom, respect, dignity and integrity, then long live eco-anarchy.
UPDATE 17h50: Reports are coming in that locals have been arrested at random in Pungesti. Hotnews report that residents can't leave their homes without being questioned by police as to where they're going. Police have been posted in front of every single house. The road between Pungesti and Vaslui remains blocked and the entire area declared a 'special security zone'. A couvre-feu. In peace time...
22h:Bucharest: The number of police hugely outweighs the number of protesters. There have been serious skirmishes between jandarmi and demonstrators (as the absurdly named 'negociatori' stand idly by either watching or helping with the roughings up) - one in which a 16-year old was beaten up by police. There have been numerous arrests. Examples of police brutality can be seen all over FB via photos and articles by those who were there. FOR SHAME!!
Pungesti: Things haven't been much better there tonight either. Just one of many stories this evening is of Costel who went to his local shop in Armasoaia, and came nose to nose with police. As a result, he needed treatment at Vaslui hospital for head injuries...
Silent night, Holy night. Not.
If you haven't signed THIS petition by AVAAZ, please do so.
Gata for tonight. More news tomorrow.
(Photo source) You may remember back in October when Chevron suspended plans to drill an exploration well for shale gas in the north-eastern town of Pungesti after thousands demonstrated against the project both there and in Bucharest. Finally, Chevron was seen to back off, at least for a while. Some naïve souls hoped that would be an end to it - that Chevron would give up and go home. The majority, however, knew that wouldn't be the case. Well, six weeks later, Chevron have returned....
At around 4am on Monday morning, Romanian riot police, jandarmi and firemen joined forces in an attempt to break resistance lines. Police and Chevron vehicles blocked the road linking the town with Vaslui, and surrounded the protesters' camp in a privately-owned field right next to where the company giant plans to install its well.
The Nine O'Clock website reported that 40 people were beaten, detained and then taken to the nearest town for further questioning. That link seems to be broken, but I'll add it when it's working again. Romanian-Insider reported on the arrestation of thirty “for hostile behaviour” while the jandarmi blocked access so that Chevron could get on with the job in hand.
(Photo source) Activists claim that around 1,000 law enforcers took part in the operation. The police, however, put the number at three hundred. Journalists were reportedly permitted to 30 minutes at the scene under police escort, and all this in a country that considers itself civilised and democratic... See THIS video for a pretty good idea of what unfolded at 4am and THIS one a little later on in the morning.
"You would not believe what is happening here," said one of the activists during a phone call. "A chain of jandarmi is surrounding the entire area, private security forces all over, guarding Chevron trucks and workers. It's like a battlefield," reports TOTB.
A press release from Chevron representatives officially confirmed the recommencement of exploration procedures for shale gas. The Romanian Jandarmeria also issued a statement in which they said all measures were to protect the community and to establish proper conditions for Chevron to pursue its activity. 'All measures' meaning the beating of protesters with truncheons? Really? On their OWN LAND?!? And how does that protect the community when these people ARE the community...
Representatives for the Jandarmeria stated that protesters had illegally blocked the main road which, according to George Epurescu, a researcher at the National Institute for Laser, Plasma and Radiation Physics in Bucharest and supporter of the protesters, is pure fabrication. The protesters were on the side of the road and traffic was not hindered in any way. It was a peaceful protest against the usage of the land leased by the mayor of Pungesti, Mircia C. Vlasă, to Chevron although he had had absolutely NO right to do so. According to TOTB, the land fell into his hands through an illegal exchange between Pungesti and another town, where Vlasă’s wife just happens to own land too. Nu mai spune... This mayor is said not only to have bullied and pressurised the citizens of his town, but also to have leased the land to Chevron without taking opinions of local residents into account. The locals themselves say that the exchange was made without proper regulations and if you saw the mug of this guy, you'd not doubt that for a second. See HERE for a DNA inquiry into the property rights Vlasă has over the land he rented out to Chevron.
(Photo source) The people of Pungesti have been protesting against shale gas drilling in their region since at least early spring. Once again, the jandarmi showed up to intimidate them, refusing access to anyone who wasn't from the town.
This article says that Chevron was there in September handing out t-shirts, caps, kites and beer at the fair held weekly in Silistea, the village where the first drilling equipment is set to be placed. Moreover, one of the local counselors served sarmale to the locals to appease them. Les douceurs...
The exploration for shale gas in a community clearly rejecting the opinions of its residents goes against Chevron’s officially stated commitment to protect the people and the environment and to consult communities regarding local needs. Chevron faces not only opposition from Pungesti, but a very loud NU from the majority of the Romanian population. As for 'protecting the people', that's an overwhelming fail - those who were hospitalised as a result of police brutality on Monday bear witness to that. No need to even mention the 'environment' bit.
What happened on Monday must have seemed like something out of a Hollywood film: Local children were stopped on their way to school as the road connecting the town to others was blocked by police; any gatherings of more than three people were dissolved by authorities; some villagers were chased into the woods by police, who are said to have beaten them up; protesters who were taken to the Central Police Station in Vaslui were refused the right to contact press or lawyers.
Just like a film indeed - except it wasn't. For shame. It really happened. And why? Because corruption is the law, greed is the faith and if you don't bend the knee to both, then you get beaten up, thrown into a police van and taken away for questioning. Clearly, this was planned by the local authorities, police and Chevron in great detail so equipment could be installed and work could begin.
Greenpeace slammed the police 'intervention' yesterday as "a serious abuse against freedom of expression", underlining that the permits given to Chevron are currently being challenged in court. Challenged or not, Chevron has said its exploration work began on Monday as planned, despite the mayhem going on around them.
During a TV debate today broadcast on Romanian public television, Chevron Romania's CEO Tom Holst appeared supremely defiant and unbelievably arrogant, promising that the energy giant had absolutely NO intention of leaving Romania. His words have been seen by many as 'a declaration of war'.
This irresponsible attack on human and civil rights, a force deployment not seen in Romania during times of peace, comes just ONE DAY after Romania's National Day and a backdrop of national AND international protests against fracking and cyanide usage in Romania that have encompassed three long months. Who is listening? Chevron? Gabriel? RMGC? Ponta? Certainly not the latter. The Guardian reports: 'Prime minister, Victor Ponta, has responded to anti-fracking protests around the country, saying that "the actions of the gendarmes were 100% according to the law and I congratulate them for this." He can deny anything untoward happened all he likes, but victims (both locals and activists) have medical certificates attesting to broken ribs and other injuries. Such abuse, termed 'legitimate' by Romanian authorities, merit nothing short of MASSIVE international indignance. Over 28,000 people have signed a petition pubished by AVAAZ - see HERE - over the last 48h calling for a firm position by European and international human rights decision-makers to condemn the abuse undertaken by Romanian armed forces who behaved like a hoard of mercenaries against unarmed civilians.
It's as if the last twenty-four years never happened and the communist regime is alive and well after all. But then, we knew that, didn't we.
(Photo source) This is a happy update for anyone following the story of Cleo's Angels!
Last Sunday, Claudia left Bucharest via special animal transport to take nine sponsored cats to safety. If you haven't been following the story of Cleo's Angels, please see HERE, HERE and HERE. Bound for the one and only cat shelter in the whole country, SOS Animale Abandonate Resita in the Banat, it was a long eight hour trip by road, but I understand the cats were extremely well-behaved.
Surya, Hermes (recovering well from his close encounter with canine jaws and subsequent surgery), Jackie, Dolo, Porto, Sonto, Dupli, Lunienka and Ariadna have settled into their new home pretty fast judging by the photos posted on FB, see HERE. The shelter itself is great - places to run, hide, climb and snuggle, whilst the director Ilie and his cat-shelter team are dedicated and, frankly, wonderful. Take a look at THIS lovely video of the day the cats arrived. Hee! Hee!!!! Marvellous!
(Photo source) Since last Sunday, sponsorships for two six-month old kittens, Lunienka and Ariadna, have fallen through so if anyone reading could help via paypal or bank transfer (easier if you are Romanian than living elsewhere as the transfer charges are nothing short of extortion), you'll find the details further down on this post. To keep a cat at Resita, the charge is 12 euros a month which covers food, vet bills, etc.
There is a contract between Claudia and Ilie, stipulating that all money received via sponsorship will be used for the sponsors' particular cats, and photos and news will be sent regarding 'their' cat at regular intervals.
Meanwhile in Bucharest, there are another 15 or so cats that need your help. Most of them are semi-wild or completely feral if I'm not wrong, and catching them is an issue as is homing them. Claudia has managed to neuter/spay and vaccinate several of them, however, and I'm in no doubt that she will continue down that rather exhausting though very responsible and admirable path.
There is something important that I would like to mention here: Claudia has been taking care of over 20 cats (although the numbers come and go) by herself for several years. She has neutered, spayed, vaccinated, fed and paid for vet treatment when necessary entirely alone. She has NEVER asked a penny from anyone and is mortified that she has been forced, now, to do so. She is afraid of being seen by foreigners as 'just another Romanian with an open hand', scared we will think badly of her for needing help after so long. Of course, those who have rushed to her aid do not think these things at all and admire her very much for managing alone all this time. Now, though, Claudia need not cope by herself. Let us show her that we can do a better job than the local townhall in sector 6 (who falsely declares it's a dog-free zone) by helping her find sponsors and/or forever homes for those tame enough to adapt.
(Photo source: the new arrivals explore their new surroundings) To everyone who helped with the transportation to Resita, all the sponsors so far, and for showing her she is no longer alone, Claudia thanks all who have helped, donated and contributed.
In the meantime, if you would like to sponsor Lunienka and Ariadna or send a donation to the cat-shelter in Resita:
PayPal account: SOSAnimaleAbandonateResita@gmail.com
Bank details: Asociatia pentru protectia animalelor RESITA ,,SOS ANIMALE ABANDONATE''
BANK: BCR, Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta Nr 5, sector 3, Bucuresti, ROMANIA
Registered Charity Number: 24989989
(Photo source - safe at last) If you would like to visit Claudia to meet her cats in view of offering one of the tamer furrballs a forever home, you can reach her on 0748.992.440 or via FaceBook. You can also adopt a pussycat from Resita, too, of course.
Thanks once again to Claudia, Ruxandra, the kind-hearted vet who vaccinated for a very low price at such short notice, Ilie and his team, and all sponsors and donators both present and future!
All photos by SOS Animale Abandonate Resita
(Photo source) The Romanian Senate rejected the bill on gold exploitation at Rosia Montana submitted by the government today, thus adopting the Special Commission's report (see yesterday's blogpost HERE). The Senate ruled on the rejection with 119 votes to 3, and six abstentions. A second and final vote is now awaited from the Chamber of Deputies on 27th November, or thereabouts.
PSD leader of the Senate, Ilie Sarbu, said during the preceding debate that the project and all those involved in approving it will be investigated by the Justice department. Not much peace of mind over the next couple of months, then, for those who acted illegally and made nice tidy profits on the side. I wonder if anyone will end up in the clink for their just desserts? See HERE for a list (by no means exhaustive) of potential porridge-tasters courtesy of the Romanian prison service...
Sarbu added that all documents pertaining to Rosia Montana need to be declassified for there is a Romanian tendancy, he said, to hide prostii... Nicely put. There must be loads of it.
The Rosia Montana Commission stated, according to the report, that the bill did not satisfy complex requirements needed for the business of mineral extraction in Romania, hence why they proposed the rejection.
"Given the deficiencies of the current law which does not take into account the specifically large mining project in question, the Commission recommends completing the legislative framework with measures to stimulate the implementation of projects of this magnitude. The Commission deems it necessary to establish conditions of fair partnership between majority shareholders and the company of the Romanian State, in compliance with community requirements and the principles of sustainable development in the regions of the project", said their report.
The Commission also drew attention to possible (possible?!) breaches of legislation during the development of project licensing for Rosia Montana and equally recommended the declassification of so far classified documents relating to it.
So, what does that mean? Are we done here? There has been much jubilance at the news - on FB at least. Personally, I believe this to be just a temporary breather and so cannot be as joyous. Although this is a step forward in the right direction, it is not a great victory in any other way than symbolic, showing that, with civil unity, se poate. However, perhaps today's result has been designed specifically to lull everyone into a false sense of security, encouraging the belief that the danger has passed. Any supposition that a victory has been achieved here, though, is dillusional. The Commission's conclusions mean there is still a long way to go. A MASSIVE win is required in order that real transformation can ever truly take place in Romania - and this isn't it.
Unconstitutional shenanigans full of irregularities and abuse of power have been rejected - great! But that is NOT a victory. It is NORMAL in a democratic country. It would be a HUGE error to think that because the bill has been thrown out (in its current state), the abominable threat against which hundreds of thousands have been opposed no longer exists. The report does NOT say that the RMGC project was bad for Romania, nor that it was unconstitutional. The conclusions relate to an expansion of the legislative framework for the mining of gold and silver, and that could very well disguise the interests of RMGC.
Please see HERE for what Eugen David had to say.
The Commission also endorses the point of view of Barbu, the Minister of the Uncultured, who believes that Rosia Montana has no unique features meriting a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list, contrary to studies by both Romanian and foreign experts. In short, the whole thing results in clear evidence that the Romanian government has not laid down its gauntlets. To be sure, pressure from RMGC will increase - and there will be a whole load of nervousness regarding potential press leaks telling of cosy relationships between the Gold Corporation and certain members of the 'elite'... Who can blame them?! They have an awful lot to lose!
We are in mid-November. Winter is just around the corner leading to a very plausible drop in protesters out there on the streets, which would only be to the government's advantage. The current politicians have truly learned nothing from the lessons of Rosia Montana. They are far too arrogant. The greed of the barons along with personal political interests still lord it over what is best for the Romanian people. Watch this space for the decentralisation law that Ponta's bunch of cronies want to see pass through Parliament without debate, which would permit a transferring of power to local authorities (all 'bought', of course). It would be the beginning of the end, and is a horror of a bill that MUST NEVER PASS. Many professionals and NGOs warn that it will seriously threaten cultural heritage (no kidding), but since when did that matter?
What has been gained by the rejection of the Rosia Montana project, then? Nothing, really. Just one abusive law to be followed by another, resulting in the same ends: the destruction of patrimony and the environment.
Unless we refuse to allow it.
When a general bill for mining has been put forward that outlaws misappropriation, bribery, corruption, illegal expulsion, lying, selling one's country down the river to foreign investors, hiding documents, infiltrating protests, purposely misinforming the public via media channels, poisoning the eco-system with cyanide and blowing up mountains and cultural heritage (with punishment clearly stipulated for those who dabble in any of the aforementioned), THEN we'll have won. THEN we'll have our victory.
Noi de-aicea nu plecam, nu plecam acasa
Pana nu vom castiga libertatea noastra...
(Photo source) What is it going to take for RMGC to understand and accept that their gold-mining project at Rosia Montana is NOT wanted in Romania?
Last Monday, the joint parliamentary commission for Rosia Montana voted NO to a draft bill submitted by the government that would have given the go-ahead for Europe's largest (and most dangerous) open mine to move forward in Romania. The news sent the Canadian mining company’s stock down 10%, or 9.3¢ to close at 82.7¢ on the Toronto Stock Exchange. No sympathy whatsoever from this corner, and certainly none from the hundreds of thousands of protesters out in the streets either.
Jonathon Henry, the chief executive of Gabriel Resources (the parent company of Rosia Montana Gold Corp.), remains 'confident' however that all is not lost. Romania's parliament is considering a general gold and silver mining bill which could still leave the door open for Gabriel’s project - a point that gives hope to RMGC and stokes fury and indignance for the protesters and NGOs who have been demonstrating for the last 14 years, along with those out there across the globe week after week since 1st September.
“It doesn’t mean the plan is dead in the water. What they have said is that they believed that a project that was as complex as ours shouldn’t go through as a separate bill,” said Henry.
(Photo source) Yeah, right. The so-called promised 'scientific and technical' report presented was anything but scientific and technical - there was no mention whatsoever of a single constitutional flaw within the government's draft bill, eg. the infringements of private property laws or the grave violations of Romania's Constitution. And neither did it address opinions and arguments made by experts. It excels, however, at going around the houses to circumnavigate the law and is nothing more than a list of transcripts and calls for re-negotiation instead. It is, basically, killing time.
"We can already anticipate that the lobbying made by the Prime Minister for the mining industry will turn to new tactics, no less harmful for the entire region of the Apuseni Mountains. Our protests continue and we will insist on the resignation of all those who initiated the draft bill. Recent declarations from the political leaders show clear intentions to find new means to deceive public opinion. Their new ideas are even more graceless and dangerous, but I rest assured that people who have taken to the streets over the last months will shout down any of their plans, because they are much more intelligent and skilful than any of the cyanide addicts in Government", declared Eugen David.
Indeed, the largest public protests in post-communist Romania are not going to cease and the protesters themselves show absolutely NO sign of letting themselves be manipulated into violence, though efforts have been made through provocation and infiltration - an old communist tactic - for them to do so. 11 weeks of perseverant street protests have been solid proof of a powerful and intelligent civil society determined in its decision to oppose a corrupt political class that is completely detached from its peoples’ interests.
The Save Rosia Montana campaign has denounced the commission from the very beginning as being utterly useless - and this simply proves their point.
(Photo source) If Romania needs an eco-safe and profitable mining contract, THIS is NOT it. Until the people of Romania have proof of a responsible and competent political class that is not blinded by self-interest, such grandiose projects should not even be contemplated. Surely, Romania finds herself in an extremely strong position today, for Gabriel is not the ONLY mining company out there wanting to profit from her gold. In that case, Gabriel should be given the boot once and for all, and another eco-conscious, reliable company found (preferably not a Canadian one, see HERE for why) that could put forward a cyanide-free, law-abiding project that is beneficial for the Romanian people as a whole. Right?
Romania will NOT profit from RMGC's project. Not today, not in years to come, not ever. Gabriel MUST GO. 900 jobs over 16 years? Is that the best of the arguments in its favour, for it is no reason to string out these negotiations yet further still - and I would bet my bottom dollar that the majority of those jobs would be outsourced to lower labour-costing countries such as the Ukraine, in any case. In addition, the number of local jobs that would actually be LOST as a result of such a project are in their thousands.
As for the money to be made by Romania, frankly, everybody knows it's peanuts. For those still arguing on the tax the Romanian state would receive from RMGC, well, documents leaked have shown that the mining company is exempt and will only start paying up once their own debts are paid off. For all we know, the company may not generate any profit at all thanks to financial loopholes, and thus end up paying no taxes in the long run. The Romanian state itself is set to make a paltry 2-4 billion euros over the entire 16 years, whilst anything more is pure speculation. The biggest winner for the whole project is, and has always been, Gabriel. Is it really worth it?
(Photo source) It is certainly not worth the toxic water; a cyanide lake visible from the moon; a screwed up eco-system: four exploded mountains; mass expropriation (974 households and over 2000 people); the destruction of 10 churches, 12 cemeteries, 40 houses (listed historic monuments), 50 historic monuments (7 classified); the huge and invaluable loss of heritage and patrimony (Roman galleries unique in the world); the eradication of 250 hectares of forest and the total devastation of one of the country's most beautiful regions. But RMGC and its backers seem to think it is.
There is, in fact, NO amount of money that would justify such an environmental massacre.
RMGC has promised over and over again that the area would be 'cleaned up' after all gold has been extracted. 'You wouldn't even notice we'd been there,' Dragos Tanase declared on more than one occasion. Well, maybe those 4 blown-up mountains would give the game away for a start. How would they set about 'rebuilding' those, much less hiding them?
Gabriel has threatened to sue the Romanian government for over $4bn, should the project not go ahead. But on what grounds? Do they have a legal basis to do so? It is UNACCEPTABLE for a company to threaten a country - and the hundreds of thousands of protesters out there on the streets echo the sentiment. For that reason, and for that reason alone, RMGC should be shown the door. NEVER should they be permitted to extract a single ounce of gold from Romania's soil. Ever.
(Photo source) I am hoping Henry is wrong. I am hoping that, though I have no respect for the Romanian government whatsoever and trust them even less, they will NOT be prepared to take a final gamble with yet another mining bill that could mean losing their hold on power for the sake of Gabriel - a foreign company known world-wide for its disinformation, its unlawful PR campaigns, its bullying of journalists, and its employees heavingly spamming media outlets and blogs with propaganda using proxys when necessary. It is repugnant. Enough is enough.
Gabriel/RMGC, get out of Romania. Your time is up.
Romania will NOT be held to ransom. And it is NOT for sale.
For all of you following the story of Claudia's 24 cats now known as 'Cleo's Angels' in Sector 6, Bucharest - see past posts HERE, HERE in Romanian and HERE - there's good news and there's bad news...
Let's start with the good news: News is just in that Princess Rouge has been adopted in Bucharest by the parents of Nicoleta B., a lady who has already given a home to one of Claudia's cats in the past. Princess Rouge will leave Claudia's tonight. A happy ending for one little innocent soul who deserves nothing less than a safe and loving home, tender arms and long-term adoration.
(Updated at 21h) And now for the bad news, which turned out far better than expected...
Gorgeous, affectionate Hermès was caught and brutally attacked by dogs this morning. There are photos of him and his horrific injuries, but I cannot post them here - I cannot even look at them.
Following an exploratory x-ray earlier on today, the vet miraculously diagnosed no bones broken and no organ damage - however, the external injuries took approximately two hours to repair in surgery tonight. It is unbelievable that Hermès escaped with nothing more serious, and how he did so is beyond us all. Thank God.
He will stay at the vet's tonight for observation, and be taken home to Claudia's tomorrow.
He will obviously require a lot of care, time and love over the next few weeks as he convalesces, and I have absolutely no doubt that Claudia will be there for him as she has always been, ever since she found him.
Hermès was always in more danger than the others because he is so tame, so friendly. Now, more than ever, Hermès needs a forever home. Not a foster home, not a shelter, but a forever home. Long term, permanent, sure and safe. This can NEVER happen again. It is the second time he has survived a vicious dog attack - the first killed his sister.
Sector 6 was known for its aggressive maidanezi particularly around Drumul Taberei, Pasajul Lujerului, Gorjului and Bd. Uverturii. Poor things - starving, terrified, cold, I'd be aggressive too. And dogs, when in packs, are not known for their elegant table manners. As always, please know that this post is NOT anti-strays. Far from it, for the dogs are not to blame. This post, like all the others, is anti- the greedy, incompetent officials responsible for putting them (and the cats) there in the first place. In the first half of 2013, there were 500 incidents of people attacked by street dogs in sector 6 alone. In September, the area underwent a clean-up of its street dogs and was declared a 'dog-free zone'. Huh! Yeah, right.
Mr. Manescu, Mayor of Sector 6, could you explain then HOW there can be 17 dogs (sometimes more, but never less) ALWAYS hanging around outside Claudia's if your officials have done their jobs efficiently (and hopefully responsibly, ie. take the dogs to shelters to await adoption, rather than dumping them on the outskirts of Bucharest, pocketing the budget earmarked for the job)? What are they? Ghost dogs? No - because they are killing cats. The animal rights ONGs have been so very focalised on saving the dogs that the cats have been completely forgotten. Well, "Cleo's Angels" are a reminder.
Ruxandra has created a lovely Facebook page entitled 'Cleo's Angels'. Please go and visit it. It is full of photos, updates and news. If you could 'like' it and share it, that would be a great help - perhaps someone else will fall in love, leading to other little souls being as lucky as Princess Rouge.
If you would like to go visit Cleo's Angels with a view of adoption, please call Claudia on 0748.992.440.
Claudia was planning to go to Resita to visit Ilie, the director of the one and only cat shelter in Romania, who has agreed to take 15 of her cats. She intended to talk to him about a written agreement so that everyone knows who is sponsoring which cat, etc - but she will probably put the trip on hold to take care of Hermès.
Rares Manescu, Mayor of Sector 6, you are an utter disgrace. You have the blood of both Cleo and Hermès as well as all those others (with four legs and two) who have suffered at the jaws of the strays of sector 6 on your hands, though I don't suppose you care. As for oprescu, don't even get me started.
Hermès has survived a terrible, brutal attack and will live to see another day. All our thoughts and prayers are with him for a speedy recovery - and a forever home....
(Photo source) Some GOOD news to share with you tonight:
Following an outpouring of concern for the terribly dangerous (and recently fatal) situation of Claudia's 24 cats in Bucharest's sector 6 posted yesterday (see HERE in English and HERE in Romanian), Ilie Eduard, owner of the ONE solitary cat shelter in the whole of Romania Sos Animale Abandonate Resita, though extremely full, has said that they can take fifteen. FIFTEEN!!! Thank God! What a relief for Claudia, and a blessing for those fifteen pussycats who have been at such tremendous risk. Thank you so, so much, Ilie.
The shelter in Resita is totally legit and very professionally run - please see their FB page for photos, posts and news of their furry residents. Board at the shelter costs 50 RON per month (around 12 euros) - and so, everyone who has e-mailed me asking what they can do to help, voilà the answer: How about sponsoring one (or two) of Claudia's 15 cats bound for Resita, until homes can be found for them? There is great urgency to remove them from the perils of the streets, so the sooner sponsors can be found, the sooner they will be safe. Details of payment can be found at the end of this post.
Here are just a few of Claudia's cats, soon to pack their bags for the Banat region of Romania unless someone reading this falls in love with one of them and rushes to sector 6 to adopt him/her. A home. Loving arms. An armchair... They deserve nothing less
This is Rudolf (Rudi) Isn't he handsome? Rudi the Tomcat hasn't been sterilised because he won't let Claudia catch him - YET! But Claudia hasn't given up on that venture. Rudi has an injured leg and runs about on three, so he is not as quick as the other cats - he is therefore at enormous risk from the local dogs. For more photos of Rudi, please see HERE.
And this is Codi. Codi is around two and a half years old and semi-tamed, so could be adopted at any time. She is spayed, fully vaccinated and has a vet-book. She lost her tail in an accident, but makes up for it in being simply adorable (as you can see).
Next is Alex(andra), also about two and a half years old, spayed and vaccinated. She is regularly dewormed and has a vet-book. She is also semi-tamed and so, like Codi, would quickly adapt to family life. For more photos of Alex, please see HERE.
This absolute darling is Hermes. He is in constant danger because he is so tame. Just look at him. How he has survived up until now is nothing short of a miracle. He has been neutered and vaccinated and can use a litter tray. For more photos of Hermes, please see HERE.
Meet Dolo. He is around 3 years old, neutered and vaccinated. He was born on the streets, had 4 brothers but he is the only survivor. His mother was a beautiful black cat who died, too. For more photos of Dolo, please see HERE.
This gorgeous boy is Porto. He is around 2 years old, neutered and vaccinated. He is periodically dewormed and has a vet's book.
Rouge is around two and a half. She is spayed, vaccinated, periodically dewormed and has a vet's book. tame and very friendly, she is at great risk of aggression - both from dogs and people. She, like all of the above, desperately needs (and deserves) a home. For more photos of Rouge, please see HERE.
To define the harrowing existence for cats on the streets of Bucharest is an almost impossible undertaking. The terror, the constant risk of aggressivity from both man and dog, the hunger, the cold. The omni-present dangers. Cats on the streets rarely live longer than two or three years old, weakened by repetitive (and very early) pregnancies, disease, starvation, human cruelty and, of course, the dogs. Claudia's cats are luckier - they are spayed/neutered, vaccinated and many are regularly dewormed. If it weren't for the dogs, perhaps they would have more of a chance.
I would like to add here once again that this is NOT an anti-maidanezi post. Dogs chase cats. It's instinctive. The dogs do not merit the horrors they endure on the streets any more than the cats do - they co-exist in a living hell because corrupt officials are too incompetent, too greedy and too indifferent to do their jobs decently and efficiently.
Tonight, Surya didn't come when Claudia called the cats for their dinner time. She called and called for two hours, but so far, there is no sign of her. Claudia hopes she is hiding somewhere. She has asked me not to include a photo of Surya above until she is found. The recent images of her Cleo mauled to death by dogs plague her... These cats MUST get to Resita or be homed AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. No more victims in sector 6! PLEASE HELP!
If you would like to adopt one of the cats above, please call Claudia on 0748.992.440
If you would like to sponsor a cat once he/she has arrived at Resita for 50 RON (12 euros) per month, please specify which cat you'd like to adopt by distance and see the following details. As soon as there is a solid, watertight agreement between Claudia and Ilie, we can begin sponsorship.
Asociatia pentru protectia animalelor RESITA ,,SOS ANIMALE ABANDONATE''
BANK: BCR, Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta Nr 5, sector 3, Bucuresti, ROMANIA
Registered Charity Number: 24989989
Please, let's not leave Claudia's cats out there any longer than absolutely necessary. There have been too many victims - and there will be more if something isn't done FAST. And let us pray hard tonight that Surya is hiding and Claudia will find her safe and sound in the morning. The other possibility doesn't bear thinking about.
Thank you all in advance for your generosity, empathy - and your love of animals.
(Surya's 'home') Wednesday 21h40: More good news: Surya, Claudia's cat who didn't show up for dinner last night when called, was found safe and sound earlier today - she had been locked in a nearby garage, unable to get out. Claudia sent me some photos of Surya's usual daytime 'home' - a gap between two garages... Each night Claudia takes her into her basement to keep her safe and lets her out every morning, except in winter and during bad weather - then she stays in the basement where it's warm.
And so, meet little Surya, approx. 2 years old, spayed, vaccinated, regularly dewormed and with her own vet's book. When Claudia found her near her block, she was already very tame. She is ready to be adopted at any time - and waiting for you... Everyone is so glad she is safe tonight - but what kind of a life is this for a little soul?
More news as it happens...
(În fotografie: Cleo) S.O.S.!!! URGENT! Tocmai am primit acest mesaj privat disperat, prin intermediul retelei Facebook:
„Există o colonie de pisici (circa 20) în Bucuresti, în sectorul 6, îngrijite de o doamnă care iubeste pisicile. Din păcate, în zonă sunt si trei haite de câini vagabonzi, iar aceste pisici le cad victimă. Cel putin două din ele sunt omorâte brutal în fiecare săptămână, iar doamna care are grijă de ele aproape că a înnebunit, tot încercând să le protejeze. Dânsa a primit si amenintări din partea celor care locuiesc acolo; i s-a spus că dacă sperie si goneste câinii, or să-i fie omorâte toate pisicile.”
As vrea să precizez de la bun început că acesta NU este un articol „anti-maidanezi”. Oricine mă cunoaste stie foarte bine cât de mult iubesc si câinii, si pisicile; stie că am scris articole împotriva eutanasiei (vezi AICI, AICI si AICI, de exemplu) si am difuzat o multime de articole si afise despre atrocitătile comise de diversi monstri umani împotriva câinilor maidanezi din Bucuresti, de-a lungul anilor; deci NU asta este problema în textul de fată.
Problema este următoarea: în Bucuresti NU există nici un adăpost pentru pisici. Poate nu credeti, dar este purul adevăr. Mai mult: există doar UN singur adăpost pentru pisici în TOATĂ România. Se numeste Sos Animale Abandonate Resita si este administrat de un particular; este cât se poate de legal si foarte profesionist condus, dar plin până la refuz.
(În fotografie: Cleo) Ultima pisică ucisă cu doar câteva seri în urmă în sectorul 6 a fost Cleo... Fotografiile pe care le-am văzut, cu rănile ei sunt absolut înfiorătoare. Acest animal trebuie să fi murit într-o agonie îngrozitoare. Noi, ca cetăteni civilizati si responsabili, NU PUTEM să permitem să se mai întâmple asa ceva.
Asadar, ce rămâne de făcut, pe termen scurt: dacă aveti un suflet mare si doriti să adoptati un sufletel care are mare nevoie de un cămin sigur si iubitor, CHIAR ACUM, din sectorul 6, vă rugăm să luati legătura cu Claudia Popa CÂT MAI REPEDE, la numărul de telefon: 0748.992.440. Toate aceste pisici sunt sterilizate si vaccinate.
Pe termen lung: o prietenă de-a mea, Ruxandra caută în momentul de fată solutii pentru înfiintarea unei asociatii care să permită deschiderea unui adăpost felin în Bucuresti, finantat în conditiile legii si cu statut oficial. Dacă reuseste să facă asta, vă întreb, cititorii mei: există printre voi cineva care e gata să ajute din punct de vedere financiar, să facă voluntariat, să doneze mâncare – sau, poate, vreun medic veterinar (sau doi) care să aibă generozitatea să ofere asistentă medicală s.a.m.d.? Ruxandra s-a gândit deja la cineva care să conducă adăpostul, dar, bineînteles, nu e suficient un administrator; e nevoie de mult mai mult ajutor. S-a luat legătura si cu organizatii neguvernamentale, dar fără succes. Sunt implicate în salvarea câinilor, dar nu si a pisicilor.
(În fotografie: Cleo) Imediat ce o să avem ceva concret, Ruxandra va deschide o pagină pe Facebook: „Îngerii lui Cleo” – după numele ultimei pisici care a fost omorâtă... Am să public link-ul aici, pe blogul meu, în momentul în care pagina va fi creată, ca să puteti să aflati mai multe. Si, bineînteles, vor urma si alte articole despre acest subiect.
Avem în fată o situatie teribil de dificilă, atât pentru câini, cât si pentru pisici, dat fiind faptul că primii NU au nevoie de publicitate negativă. E o problemă foarte delicată si nu stiu cum să o abordez fără ca oamenii să nu se pripească si să tragă concluzii gresite. Repet: acest articol NU este îndreptat împotriva câinilor maidanezi din Bucuresti. Departe de mine asa ceva. Atât maidanezii, cât SI pisicile fără stăpân din acest oras trec prin teroare si suferă actele brutale de care stim, din cauza coruptiei, incompetentei si lipsei de responsabilitate a oamenilor. Dacă acest articol este împotriva cuiva, atunci este împotriva autoritătilor, ale căror lăcomie si lipsă de decentă sunt rădăcina tuturor relelor.
Vă rog: haideti să „lucrăm” împreună si să găsim o solutie care să NU conducă la si mai multă ură împotriva câinilor (câinii hăituiesc pisicile – e adevărat!), dar care să SCOATĂ pisicile din acest context foarte periculos.
Translation English-Romanian: Mihaela Marinoiu
"There is a colony of cats (approx. 20) in sector 6, Bucharest. They're being taken care of by a "cat lady". Unfortunately, in the area, there are also 3 packs of stray dogs and these cats are their victims. At least 2 of them are brutally killed every week and the woman who takes care of them has almost lost her mind trying to keep them safe. She was also threatened by people there that if she scares the dogs away they will kill all her cats."
I would like to make it very clear from the off that this is NOT an anti-maidanezi post. Anyone who knows me will be well aware of my love for both dogs and cats, know I have written anti-euthanasia posts (see HERE, HERE and HERE for example), and shared articles and posters galore against the atrocities committed by monsters against the strays of Bucharest over the years, so that is NOT the issue.
The issue is this: There is NO cat shelter in Bucharest. Believe it or not, it's true. In fact, there's only ONE cat shelter in the WHOLE of Romania. It's called Sos Animale Abandonate Resita, and is privately run, totally legit and very professional but full to bursting point.
(Photo: Cleo) The last cat to be killed just a few nights ago in sector 6 was Cleo... The photos I saw of her injuries were absolutely horrific. She must have died in the most excruciating agony. We, as civilised, responsible and compassionate citizens, CANNOT let it happen again.
So, in the short term, if you have a big heart and you'd like to adopt a little heart in dire need of a safe and loving home RIGHT NOW from sector 6, please contact Claudia Popa ASAP on 0748992440. All the cats have been neutered/spayed and vaccinated.
In the long term, a friend of mine, Ruxandra, is looking into founding an association so that a cat shelter can be set up in Bucharest and funding carried out legally and officially. If she does this, would any of my readers be prepared to help financially, be volunteers, donate food, or maybe there's a kindly vet or two out there who would be prepared to give medical assistance, etc.? Ruxandra already has someone in mind to run the shelter, but, of course, a great deal more help will be needed. ONGs have been contacted, but to no avail. They are involved in saving dogs, but not cats.
(Photo: Cleo) As soon as there is something concrete, Ruxandra will set up a FB page, "Cleo's Angels", as she was the last to lose her life. I will add the link here when it's in place, so you can find out more. And of course, there'll be blogposts to follow.
This is a terrible situation as much for the dogs as for the cats, since the former do NOT need negative publicity. It is a very delicate issue and I am not entirely sure how to address it without people jumping to the wrong conclusion. Again, I repeat, this is NOT a post against the stray dogs of Bucharest. Far from it. Both the maidanezi AND the stray cats of the city live the terrors and brutality they do because of human corruption, human incompetence and human irresponsibility. If this post is anti- anything, then it is anti- the officials whose greed and indecency are at the core of it all.
Please, let us work together to find a solution that does NOT lead to yet more hatred towards the dogs (dogs chase cats - it's a fact) but gets the cats OUT of this very dangerous environment.
(Image source) Alexandre Herlea's letter to UNESCO's CEO dated 14th October concerning Rosia Montana's inclusion on the World Heritage List has been translated into English so that it may be shared yet further still and understood by those who do not speak French. Mr Herlea is President of La Maison Roumaine here in Paris.
LA MAISON ROUMAINE
Alexandre HERLEA, Président
Dear Ms. Bokova,
I address this letter to you concerning Rosia Montana’s inclusion on the World Heritage List – a site in Romania which is today under serious threat from RMGC’s mining project. I write as President of La Maison Roumaine, the Romanian community’s oldest association in Paris and listed in France as a learned society, as well as on behalf of numerous other associations and ONGs both Romanian and otherwise (Alburnus Maior, ARA, ARIN, Fundaţia Culturală Roşia Montană, ICOMOS Roumanie, OAR, OVR International, OVR Solidarités, Pro Do Mo, Pro Patrimonio Foundation, Pro Patrimonio France, RPER France, RPER Roumanie, Salvaţi Bucureştiul), who have voiced their wish to be associated with this appeal to UNESCO.
Romania’s entire civil society demands that its national authorities urge the Commitee of World Heritage to include the whole of Rosia Montana’s mining site on the World Heritage List. In other words, to submit an updated Tentative List to UNESCO with a request for the inclusion on the World Heritage List of this valuable site of cultural patrimony which pre-dates Roman antiquity.
Experts with no financial implication to RMGC’s mining project have unanimously agreed that this heritage has exceptional worth for both Europe and humanity as a whole. Numerous reports and resolutions from prestigious cultural and scientific institutions have highlighted this too, amongst them, that of the Romanian Academy and several other institutions with close links to UNESCO, namely ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), IUHPS (International Union of History and Philosophy of Science) and ICOHTEC (International Committee for the History of Technology), as well as those from IUA (International Union of Architects), CTHS (Committee des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques), ORA (Order of Romanian Architects), etc. The last resolution carried out by ICOMOS concerning Rosia Montana’s mining site is dated 6th October 2013. Furthermore, Europa Nostra, the Voice of Cultural Patrimony in Europe which comprises of more than 400 organisations and associations, added Rosia Montana to its list of 7 most endangered European cultural sites in May of this year.
I address this letter to you as certain highly placed Romanians in powerful positions would like us to believe that it is UNESCO’s procedures which lie at the heart of Rosia Montana’s non-inclusion to the World Heritage List. It would be deeply appreciated if you could remind the Romanian authorities that updating the Tentative List, even if it must be done with the participation of a wide range of partners including site managers, local and regional authorities, local communities, ONGs and other interested parties is the duty of each State, of each government. The Romanian government is the sole body responsible for the submission of Romania’s updated Tentative List to UNESCO. It could be followed by an inscription file which would then be treated (providing it is complete) accordingly.
With great faith in UNESCO, we hope that your help and support will enable us, finally, to save Rosia Montana - a site of exceptional heritage.
Former minister of European Integration for the Romanian government
(Photo source) As I sat waiting for my students to show up this morning, I had a recording of Romica Puceanu and the Gore Brothers playing on my pc.... Simply wonderful. They appeared with their coffee and sat quietly (pretty rare!) to listen, too. The original topic for my lesson sailed promptly out the window and instead, we talked about Romica which lead to a fascinating voyage through music, discussion and debate thanks to the info on the inside of my CD cover noted below, with Romica playing quietly in the background. If you don't like muzica lautareasca, I suggest you stop reading now, as this post ain't gonna be your cup of tea!
Romica Puceanu, the beloved singer of Bucharest's gypsies, died suddenly in a car crash on her way back from a wedding performance in 1996. However greatly admired she was by those who knew her music, she was an unfortunate victim of "a number of circumstances which prevented her from receiving the acclaim she deserved", according to anthropologist Robert Garfias.
(Photo source) In the '60s and '70s, Romica was an unrivaled interpreter of the cintec de mahala in Romania. She had a marvellous voice of great sensitivity, warmth and depth and is often referred to as Romania's own Cesaria Evora. Perhaps if she had been permitted to sing abroad, she would have become just as great. Romanian state policy during most of the years Romica was in her prime made it difficult for most artists, particularly Gypsies, to be heard beyond the country's borders. She was the voice of the poor gypsy suburbs at the same time Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan were singing for black urban neighbourhoods across the pond.
Here is the very informative text from my CD written by Grit Friedrich:
"Following the abolition of slavery in 1864, many homeless Gypsies settled on the outskirts of southern Rumanian towns. These quarters on the border between the town and the country were referred to as "mahalas" and it was here that the "cantece de mahala"* - the songs of the suburbs originated. When people met in the "carciuma" or garden cafés, a group of musicians known as a taraf, comprising a violin, double bass, tambal, cobza, accordion and vocals would entertain them. The repertoire of this Gypsy music known as Lautari comprised pieces from a rustic environment, interpreted with great virtuosity and urbane arrangements for a very mixed audience in the town.
The grande dame of the "cantece de mahala", Romica Puceanu, was born in Bucharest in 1926 and at the tender age of 14 had already begun to sing in local cafés in the Floreasca and Herestrau quarters on the outskirts of Bucharest. "Romica Puceanu had an inexhaustible repertoire of these songs", the accordion player and singer Victor Gore recalls in the summer of 2005. The singer recorded her first album in 1964 with the Taraful Fratii Gore - Aurel and Victor Gore's band in Electrecord's Tomis Studio. And it was the Gore Brothers who discovered the the young lady with the powerful voice in their own family and helped her on. They arranged gigs for their cousin at weddings in the quarter where the Gore and Puceanu families lived. There Romica Puceanu sang melodies with stirring words, in which she described the everyday life, longings and sufferings of the simple folk. Above all however she was a soulful performer of the songs from the poor suburbs, which merged Turkish "cifte-telli" rhythms with Romanian melodies and lyrics. In a short time she had risen to be the most popular and best paid singer and became the incarnation of Romanian Lautari music.
Romica Puceanu's career undoubtedly began with the help of the Gore Brothers - whose name had been legendary in Bucharest since the thirties. At that time Aurel and Victor Gore's father, Gore Ionescu, played his violin in exclusive Bucharest restaurants and his traditional style was so well known, that until his death in the middle of the nineteen-fifties, he was regularly asked to come and make recordings in the Bucharest Folklore Archive. Victor Gore, who was born in 1931, learned to play the accordion, and his brother Aurel, who was three years older, learned to play the violin. When their father died they took his first name as their stage name. Nobody who wanted to celebrate an old-style wedding got past the Gore "Firm" until Aurel Gore's death shortly before the revolution in December 1989. Apart from being a virtuoso accordion player, Victor Gore was also well-known as a singer. "We were born for the music, my father always played real "Lautari music", he was an extraordinary person, who performed with the masters in restaurants such as the 'Pescarus' or in the 'Constantin Tanase' revue theatre", Victor Gore recalls. The Taraful Fratii Gore have sold thousands of records in Romania up to the present day, but the brothers never achieved great wealth. Victor Gore lives today in a small two-room apartment in the Berceni district of Bucharest and relives his memories of the golden years of the old Lautari generation, as the fan letters piled up at Electrecord pleading for the next Gore record. "We played our music throughout the land, we were even invited to play in Sofia. But the best weddings were those of the flower-selling Gypsies in Bucharest.", relates Victor Gore. "We always had a good timbalist with us, usually Marin Marangros, and of course a cobza*, played by Maslina Vetoi, a musician who had also performed with my father. When we played slow, sad songs the gypsies wept, nobody could eat a thing!"
The Gore Brothers accompanied many different performers over the years with their band, but their favourite singer was Puceanu, because she sang one hundred per cent Lautari music and enjoyed improvising. Puceanu was a lively, funny woman, who never turned up at the studio without her teapot - filled with cognac. When one of the sound engineers noticed during a studio take that she was holding her words the wrong way up and mentioned this to her, Romica replied: "Would I ever have sung with these men (the Gore Brothers) if I could read?". Yet the arrival of modern music in the long isolated Balkan state has seen to it that only a few young Romanians know such Puceanu classics as "Doi tovarasi am la drum" or "Balanus". Romica Puceanu sang both of these songs on her debut record in 1964, using but few of the usual clichés of the ever-revelling Gypsy musician. The recordings with the Gore Brothers still represent the traditional "raw" withdrawn sound of the old taraf. The arrangements are clear and minimalist, creating space befitting Puceanu's sparkling voice. Romica Puceanu meant to many Gypsies as much as the legendary chanson singer Maria Tanase meant to the Romanians. And it wasn't only Bucharest intellectuals who saw in Romica Puceanu the "Billy Holliday of the East".
But the Romanian music scene in the nineties was dominated by Balkan pop and there was hardly any room for the old generation of the Lautari. The Gore Brother's Band disintegrated after the death of Aurel Gore, and the incomparable Romica Puceanu died following a serious car accident in 1996 on her way home from a wedding performance."
THIS site gives a marvellous collection of some of Romica's music. Thank you, Robert Garfias! Here is a taster:
Romica Puceanu accompanied by Orchestra Ion Albesteanu
Electrecord ST-EPE 0297
1. Ursitoare, uristoare (My destiny)
2. Nu ma amagi, Baiete (Don't sweeten me up, boy)
3. Ce Frumoase-s fetele (What pretty girls)
4. Iesi fetito de m-asculta. (Come out and listen to me, girl)
5. Aseara la poarta mea (Last night at my door)
6. Tinerete, tinerete (Youth, youth!)
7. As munci la plug si coasa (I would work with plow and hoe)
8. Plingeam in tacere (I cried in silence)
(Image source) I have just received this letter by e-mail from Alexandre Herlea the President of La Maison Roumaine here in Paris, addressed to UNESCO's CEO Madame Irina Bokova, concerning Rosia Montana's position for World Heritage status.
Personally, I do not have a shred of faith that the Romanian government will do the decent thing - and that makes Mr Herlea's letter of all the greater importance, for it asks UNESCO's help in putting on the pressure. Before saying, "but that won't do any good!", let's wait and see. La Maison Roumaine is not the first respected body here in Paris to have addressed UNESCO whose HQ is right here on our doorsteps. But Mr Herlea does it beautifully - particularly the penultimate paragraph.
Mr Herlea has permitted that I share it here so that you may read it, 'like' it if you have a FB account and, more importantly, share and distribute it to all French-speakers you know across the board.
LA MAISON ROUMAINE
Alexandre HERLEA, Président
Madame Irina Bokova
Directrice générale UNESCO
7, Place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP
Paris, le 14 octobre 2013
Madame la Directrice générale,
Je m’adresse à vous au sujet de l’inscription du site de Roşia Montană (Roumanie), gravement menacé aujourd’hui par le projet d’exploitation minière de RMGC, sur la liste du patrimoine mondial. Je le fais en ma qualité de Président de la plus ancienne association de la communauté roumaine de Paris, La Maison Roumaine, répertoriée en France comme société savante et aussi au nom de plusieurs associations et ONG roumaines et étrangères (Alburnus Maior, ARA, ARIN, Fundaţia Culturală Roşia Montană, ICOMOS Roumanie, OAR, OVR International, OVR Solidarités, Pro Do Mo, Pro Patrimonio Foundation, Pro Patrimonio France, RPER France, RPER Roumanie, Salvaţi Bucureştiul), qui ont souhaité être associées à cette démarche auprès de l’UNESCO.
L’ensemble de la société civile roumaine exige des autorités nationales de Roumanie de saisir le Comité du patrimoine mondial en vue de l’inscription de l’ensemble du site minier de Roşia Montană sur la Liste du patrimoine mondial, c'est-à-dire de soumettre à l’UNESCO une Liste indicative actualisée et une demande d’inscription sur la Liste du patrimoine mondial de cet important patrimoine culturel qui remonte à une époque antérieure à l’antiquité romaine.
De l’avis unanime des spécialistes,institutions culturelles et scientifiques le soulignent. C’est le cas de ceux de l’Académie Roumaine, de plusieurs institutions ayant des relations étroites avec l’UNESCO dont l’ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), l’IUHPS (International Union of History and Philosophy of Science) et l’ICOHTEC (International Committee for the History of Technology) ainsi que de ceux d’autres institutions telles l’UIA (l’Union Internationale des Architectes), le CTHS (le Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques) - France, l’OAR (l’Ordre des Architectes de Roumanie), etc. Ainsi la dernière résolution de l’ICOMOS concernant le site minier de Roşia Montană date du 6 octobre 2013. Par ailleurs, ., ce patrimoine a une valeur exceptionnelle pour l’ensemble de l’Europe et pour l’humanité toute entière. De nombreux rapports et résolutions de prestigieuses
Je m’adresse à vous, Madame la Directrice générale, car certains responsables roumains de haut niveau prétendent que les procédures de l’UNESCO sont la cause de non inscription sur la Liste du patrimoine mondial de l’ensemble du site minier de Roşia Montană. Et je vous saurais gré, de bien vouloir rappeler aux autorités roumaines que l’actualisation de la Liste indicative, même s’il est souhaitable qu’elle se fasse avec la participation d’une large variété de partenaires, y compris gestionnaires de sites, autorités locales et régionales, communautés locales, ONG et autres parties et partenaires intéressés, relève de la compétence de chaque Etat, c'est-à-dire de chaque gouvernement. Le Gouvernement roumain est seul responsable de la Liste indicative actualisée soumise par la Roumanie à l’UNESCO. Celle-ci peut être suivie par un dossier d’inscription qui sera pris en compte, s’il est complet, dès que possible selon le calendrier de traitement de ces demandes.
Fidèle au noble mandat de l’organisation que vous dirigez, j’espère, Madame la Directrice générale, que nous allons bénéficier de votre appui afin de sauver Roşia Montană, ce patrimoine exceptionnel de l’humanité.
Je vous prie d’agréer, Madame la Directrice générale, l’expression de ma haute considération.
Professeur des Universités émérite
Ancien ministre de l’Intégration européenne du Gouvernement roumain
P.J.: Résolutions IUHPS/DHST 02/08/2009 & ICOMOS 06/10/2013
La Maison Roumaine - 99, rue Monge, 75005 Paris
Site : www.lamaisonroumaine.org
Tél. : 06 30 25 74 91 ; email : email@example.com
Please click HERE for the English translation.
It's amazing just how much news there's been in the last few days behind the scenes of the Rosia Montana project. It keeps coming at a rate of knotts. Hoards of it. Revelations, provocations, absurdities... So I'd better get it all down on paper before anything else happens.
(Photo source) First of all, the National Audiovisual Council of Romania (CNA) banned all broadcasting of TV spots in favour of the Rosia Montana Project two days after TV presenter Eugenia Voda's open letter became public, insisting on "immediate and complete termination of related RMGC commercials that have invaded Romanian broadcasting." Good for Doamna Voda! The CNA clearly agreed with her too and added that the spots did not properly inform on cyanide risks involved in the mining operation. RMGC representatives were suitably peeved and demanded a postponement of the decision, arguing that they'd had no time to formulate an opinion and were waiting for a response from the Romanian Advertising Council. Tough toenails, RMGC. Their request was rejected. However, some ads are still squeezing through, albeit illegally. Isn't that the way of Romania, though? A law is created, registered and then one can say it exists. If there's no one to apply it, well that's another story, BUT it exists. Just like the law that forbids the covering of historic monument facades with massive publicity posters, and another that PROTECTS buildings in protected zones from demolition. But I digress
Doamna Voda is one of the best TV presenters Romania has in its collection. Her programme on TVR 'Profesioniştii... cu Eugenia Vodă', launched in 2000 is of excellent quality and amongst my top favourites. Eugenia Voda is a woman of integrity - and there are few enough of those on Romanian TV as it is. Let's hope that her notoriety and the great respect she inspires from so many will keep the wolves off her back.
(Photo source) The next bit of news that came later this week is truly WONDERFUL, and concerned an archaeological report written by three British archeologists (professors Andrew Wilson, David Mattingley and Mike Dawson) in Sept 2010 presenting a detailed and expert listing of all the arguments required for Rosia Montana to be given UNESCO World Heritage status. The association Pro Patrimonio has been trying to get hold of this document for months now, but idiot Minister of Culture Barbu feigned ignorance - he didn't have it, knew nothing about it, bla bla bla. As it turned out, he didn't have the long-awaited report, though he sure knew of its existence. It was in the possession of ex-culture minister Kelemen (ugh! ugh! ugh!) who has been sitting on it since 2010. His opinion (being the specialist he is, note) was that it wasn't for UNESCO in Paris to protect Rosia Montana - it was the local residents' job. And if they couldn't be bothered and if the local mayor didn't support the demand for protection, then he wasn't going to 'make Romania the laughing stock in front of UNESCO'. Yeah, right. Pathetic.
(Photo source) The president of Pro Patrimonio UK, Serban Cantacuzino, sued the Ministry of Culture for with-holding the document - and won. The court ruled that the Ministry must provide the association with the afore-mentioned report. Considering that Pro Patrimonio had partially financed the archaeologists' work anyway, could supply all the right papers pertaining to where, when and who and make the culture ministry look like a bunch of liars, really, there could only have been one outcome.
The report has now been made public and what a gem of professionalism it is, too - something alien to Romanian politicians these days. No copy/paste. No xerox. HERE it is - and it's in English since the experts were professors from the universities of Oxford and Leicester. See extracts HERE in Romanian. The preface makes you feel all warm inside! Here is the first paragraph of the preface:
"The Statement of Significance for Rosia Montana area was written (...) in a short time of only two months between August and September 2010. The authors have placed the evidence at Rosia Montana in its international context. We have also examined the area's potential, noting other World Heritage Sites as they have developed after inscription in the UNESCO list, to show that Rosia Montana has the necessary significance and potential to become a World Heritage Site."
Barbu and company must be squirming. No wonder Kelemen hid it. I expect the response will be that the experts are foreigners, idiots, nobodies and the report isn't worth the paper it's written on - the usual arrogant, contemptuous treatment one would typically expect from Ponta & co. when answers are somewhat 'inconvenient'. I would imagine that IF they did try to throw out or discredit the report, there'd be such a howling and gnashing of teeth from the streets they'd live to truly regret it. Big time.
(Photo source) Next up came the news about a list requested by the Rosia Montana Commission containing names of those who financially profited from the the RMGC Project. This is pretty funny. Or would be if it weren't so tragic.
"Sunt intrebari in spatiul public si va rog sa ne trimiteti la Comisie lista cu cetatenii romani, persoane publice, care de-a lungul timpului au facut vizite de lucru in tara si in strainatate pe cheltuiala RMGC", a spus senatorul PSD, Darius Valcov, citat de Mediafax.
The president of the commission Darius Valcov (ex-mayor of Slatina) said yesterday that he couldn't divulge the content of the list without breaking the law (hahahaha!), but what he COULD say was that it was full of names from the mass media who had travelled abroad on the company's dosh and NOT politicians. Oh, I laughed so hard you could probably hear me in Bucharest. Most importantly, he said, he hadn't found a single current parliamentary or government member on the list.
Pants on fire. I expect Valcov is sitting in an ice-bucket cooling off RIGHT now as I type. I'm sure we haven't heard the end of that bit of rather interesting news.
(Photo source) The final snippet concerns Barbu, the minister of no-culture. Showing up for a debate in downtown Bucharest (either brave or stupid) where he refused to answer questions regarding Rosia Montana and particularly anything pertaining to the archaeologists' report mentioned earlier, he was loudly booed and accused of taking bribes to support the gold mine. According to the usual suspects of Romanian media who have obviously been told what to say, Barbu was 'insulted' and 'attacked'. Actually, he wasn't. If you consider that "Rusine!" "Demisia!" and "Trădătorule!" are offensive then a) you shouldn't be a journalist and b) you're way too sensitive. See more HERE at TOTB.
At some point or another, the main-stream media reported that stones were hurled, shattering the back window of Barbu's car. Believe me when I tell you I would simply LOVE to throw a very big rock in the general direction of Barbu's head for it is large enough one couldn't miss and the nice 'clonk' sound would be worth it. But stones were NOT thrown by protesters and as for the car's broken back window, it seems this was rigged before the minister arrived for the debate. It was all pre-meditated. The slightest pressure on the window (from a hand for example) would have caused it to cave in. Another effort to have the anti-RMGC protesters discredited? THIS telling video filmed by Rezistenta Urbana shows that NO stones, rocks or anything else were thrown at the moment the window caved in. Barbu was getting into his car, shut the door and 'crunch'. Yes indeed. Not even the sound of a crash, as you'd expect if it had been smashed by a projectile. Just a rather dull crunch. It is terribly coincidental with the archaeologists' report becoming public knowledge THE SAME DAY, isn't it - HOPE for Rosia Montana, an epiphany for the protesters and a horribly sticky wicket for Barbu. Its revelation has unmasked further lies yapped by the ministry of culture. A diversion was obviously needed to take attention off Barbu, stop the debate (he had no answers anyway) and direct it elsewhere. A total put-up job if ever I saw one. Bravo Rezistenta Urbana for filming the whole thing!
(Photo source) Watch THIS video and you'll hear voices very clearly shouting 'don't touch him! Don't lay a finger on him!' ( "Nu-l agresaţi!", "Nu puneţi mâna pe el!") towards the end. The whole thing is a mis en scene to make it look like the protesters are thugs. Ponta of course had to put his finger in the pie if not his whole fist, vowing to find those responsible. This morning, Hotnews reported that 9 suspects had been identified and must present themselves at Sector 10 copshop today to explain themselves. Since then, I've heard 16 people have been arrested and up to 40 questioned. Absolutely absurd.
WHAT a disgrace. The protests have been totally peaceful up until now. It is one of the principal points that organisers have made clear. For this Iliescu-style amateur dramatics to even be taken seriously by papers such as Gandul shows, really, just how bad things are in terms of subjective reporting. Barbu has not pressed charges so far. "I wasn't attacked, but the car was vandalised", he told Antena3.
(Photo source) Romania Libera reports today that Ponta has given the police a free rein to deal with violent protesters. Hmm. That's exactly what is required, n'est-ce pas. An excuse for skirmishes, once more to discredit and provoke protesters. How dispicable. And those arrogant politicians think we are too stupid to realise it - the deepest offense of all.
That's it for now. More than enough to be going on with, I'm sure you'll agree. More news as it happens...
For additional background and mud-shovelling from behind the scenes of the RM project, read more HERE - an article by Stephen McGrath (in English) due to hit the Huffington Post blog any day now.
(Photo source) UPDATE 19h Thursday evening: News just in: Chevron has announced that activities for shale gas exploration have been suspended in Silistea, Vaslui. The communiqué comes after three days of protests (see below) from local residents who formed a human chain to block Chevron's access to the site, along with a huge solidarity rally in Bucharest last night.
"Chevron can today confirm it has suspended activities in Silistea, Pungesti commune, Vaslui county," the US giant said earlier this afternoon. "Chevron is committed to building constructive and positive relationships with the communities where we operate and we will continue our dialogue with the public, local communities and authorities on our projects."
This is marvellous news. But 'suspended' doesn't mean cancelled entirely or ruled out completely. It simply means put on hold, so I'm not sure whether it is yet safe for the people of Pungesti to breathe. Call me pessimistic but if something seems too good to be true, it very often is.
After Chevron had left the area this morning in the presence of local residents and Vaslui Police Chief Radu Renga, the latter was booed for his handling of yesterday's demonstration which ended in violent confrontation with jandarmi. Renga could only say that no one had died and order had needed to be restored. It's doubtful anyone was convinced by such impressive rhetoric...
The Pungesti county council have decided to hold a referendum on November 24th to decide whether to allow Chevron to explore for shale. The referendum will apparently not be binding, and Chevron says they have all the necessary permits required for the work to be carried out in any case. I don't quite see the point of a referendum, then. But still, that's just me.
Sounds like a pause-café 'til things calm down a bit.
Time will tell. Watch this space...
Wednesday 16th October:
(Photo source) On Monday, hundreds of villagers from Pungesti blocked roads in a human chain to halt vehicles intent on drilling a first exploration well for Chevron. The convoy was forced to turn back as protesters, some in horse-drawn carts, called for the US energy giant to "go home", reported AFP.
Demands for PM Ponta to resign were just as loud. The crowd (and not only here in Pungesti) accuse him of going back on his pledge to block shale gas drilling made before he took power by granting Chevron exploration permits. Romania’s government sold Chevron the rights to frack the shale beneath more than a million acres of land and since July of this year, they have permits to prospect three villages in this part of Eastern Romania - Paltinis (Bacesti), Popeni (Gagesti) and Silistea (Pungesti), as well as for shale gas exploration on the Black Sea coast. See more HERE for a chronology of Vaslui's County Council's approvals, decisions, authorisations, etc. Jeez...
Protesters were also furious at having been subjected to pressure tactics from representatives of Pungesti Townhall - when you read the chronology of events hyperlinked in the previous sentence, you can well imagine the type of pressure these people have had to put up with. One example given is a declaration from the mayor that anyone receiving state benefits would have them taken away if they dared show up at the rally. Isn't that charming - but more on the mayor of Pungesti later.
Protests continued yesterday, but today things turned very nasty indeed in Pungesti.
(Photo source) This afternoon, the police chief of Vaslui authorised the 'removal' of protesters by force if they wouldn't budge of their own accord. The protesters refused to break the chain of grasped hands they had formed on their knees to keep Chevron out. Around 300 mobilised en mass and in the confrontation, Costicã Spiridon aged 81 said to be the heart of anti-Chevron resistance and one of its leaders at Pangesti was punched in the stomach by police.
"They dragged him from a pond and left him for 5 minutes without any medical assistance. I saw how a policeman hit him," his daughter said.
Another protester aged 76 was victim of a heart attack (not fatal as far as I know) following a skirmish with police and at least three others were injured. There is also a report that police bullied a three year old child... The stories coming in of police brutality and maltreatment are truly shocking.
The spokesman for the Vaslui Police, Lucian Modaranu, stated they had intervened on the orders of the region's police chief, Radu Renga. In an interview with Realitatea, Renga said that police had to to re-establish law and order. Irina Drãgan, spokeswoman for the Romanian Police, denied that any such force as mentioned above was used.
Whether or not police 'intervention' was necessary (and physical violence definitely was NOT), the citizens of Pungesti have a perfect right to protest and to defend themselves against any aggression. At present, there are reportedly around 500 people rallying in Pungesti.
(Photo source) Traffic police have blocked all access by road for 2km in an effort to prevent anyone else from joining the demonstration and are checking all vehicles for banners, posters, etc. There is a very real and palpable fear in Pungesti this evening.
Blogs, FB and other social networks are justifiably rife with info, photos, witness statements, overwhelming anger and incredulity.
Meanwhile in Bucharest, a meeting of solidarity was organised for 18h this evening at Piata Universitatii via social networks. The just-dismissed (by fax today - how elegant) Director of the Institute of Geology, Ștefan Marincea, joined the demonstration adding his voice to the crowd of several thousand. He is convinced - and is surely right - that his abrupt dismissal is due to his stance against the Rosia Montana project.
Demands for the Minister of the Interior Radu Stroe's resignation filled the air, followed by "Jos guvernul criminal, jos guvernul tradator!" "Jandarmeria apara hotia!" The demonstrators hit the road, blocking Bds Elisabeta and N. Balcescu. News flooded in during the course of the evening that two men had indeed lost their lives at Pungesti earlier today... Follow this LIVE TEXT from Bucharest for more info on what's happening.
(Photo source) So now back to the mayor of Pungesti. Here is the mug of Mircia C Vlasă, who is said not only to have bullied and pressurised the citizens of his town, but also to have leased land to Chevron without taking the opinions of local residents into account. At this precise moment in time, he is on some mysterious holiday. Needless to say, this is not the first time he has been embroiled in scandal - he has a track record as long as your arm for dodgy dealings. Enfin bref, this mayor who has repeatedly declared that shale gas drilling brings no danger to the area (since when did he become an expert?) is nowhere to be found. I wonder how much swag he has pocketed from the deals with Chevron...
The people of Pungesti have been protesting against shale gas drilling in their region since at least early spring. Once again, the jandarmi showed up to intimidate them back then too, refusing access to anyone who wasn't from the town.
This article says that Chevron was there in September handing out t-shirts, caps, kites and beer at the fair held weekly in Silistea, the village where the first drilling equipment is set to be placed. Moreover, one of the local counselors served sarmale to the locals in order to appease them. Les douceurs...
This site reports the following: 'Several European countries have already embraced a precautionary approach [to fracking]. France was the first European country to ban fracking in 2011. Most recently, France’s Constitutional Court upheld a ban on fracking, while the country reaffirmed its intention to focus on developing renewable energy instead. In 2012, Bulgaria adopted a moratorium on fracking and immediately revoked an exploration permit previously granted to Chevron, invoking insufficient proof of the environmental safety of the practice.'
The exploration for shale gas in a community clearly rejecting the opinions of its residents goes against Chevron’s officially stated commitment to protect the people and the environment and to consult communities regarding local needs. Chevron faces not just the Pungesti’s opposition, but a very clear NU from the majority of the Romanian population.
(Photo source) Romania is a democratic country and part of the EU. We are in 2013. HOW can people be ridden over rough shod at such a level? And HOW can violent police intervention causing injuries serious enough to require hospitalisation have been authorised against peaceful protesters? It is an outrage. Corruption and greed are quite simply 'punished' with rewards.
It is repugnant. What is happening in Romania today from Rosia Montana to the demolitions in Bucharest at the hands of the megalomanic mayor oprescu to Chevron, seems as though the country of my heart is having her very soul ripped out - her mountains, her land, her history, her beauty and her patrimony all worthless next to grubby little hands intent on money and gold.
See also via live streaming TV Pungesti for news as it happens...
The news today that yet ANOTHER demolition in Bucharest approved by Bucharest mayor and demolition fiend oprescu (who says it's all peeeerfectly above board despite the fact that this particularly beautiful house on str. Cristian Tell is both a historic monument aaaand in a protected zone) is imminent and will probably be carried out over the weekend unless someone does something to stop it depressed me so much I needed to write something to cheer myself up (and you too, perhaps) - insensitive though that may seem.
I realised earlier on this afternoon that tho' I've written lots of funny posts since this blog began in 2007 (I have! Honest!), I've never written about Romanian Humour as a subject in itself. As it is so utterly suuuuuperb, here we go - oh, and since it's such a huge topic, this'll be done in two parts. Welcome to Part I!
No matter what history has dosed out, no matter how much hellish destruction (physical, mental or social) has been endured, no matter how much terror, cold, hunger has been suffered and no matter how much hope has been lost, one thing has always survived in Romania - and that's the humour. The Romanian joke is testimony to her political journey and the survival of her people.
(Image source) The earliest Romanian character found in anecdotes is Păcală. His name is derived from a (se) păcăli ('to fool oneself/somebody') and, since this word cannot be found in any other related language, we can safely assume that he's part of the pure Romanian humour. Păcală is known for his cleverness hidden under the mask of plain simplemindedness, and treats the authorities in his village (the priest, the nobleman, the policeman, the tax collector, the judge...) boldly, with deliciously sarcastic irony. He had a friend too, Tandală, who was the idiot of the pair.
- One night thieves broke into Păcală's house.
His wife, hearing the noise, woke him up.
"Păcală!!! There are thieves in our house."
"Shut up," yawned Păcală. "I'm so ashamed there's nothing to steal, and you.... Keep yelling!"
For The Story of Păcală, please click HERE. It's actually far sadder than it is funny. But on a lighter note, Păcală the film (watch it HERE) came out in 1974, directed by Geo Saizescu and was shot in the most stunning of landscapes - apparently, it was a huge hit and today remains a much loved piece of Romanian cinema. A follow-up Păcală's Return (or Păcală 2) hit the screens in 2006 also directed by Saizescu, but was harshly criticised.
Păcală has his place firmly cemented in Romanian folklore, with his many ingenious pranks penned for posterity by literary spinners of yarns Petre Dulfu ('The Adventures of Păcală'), Ioan Slavici ('Păcală's village') and dear Ion Creangă ('Păcală').
Păcală even has his own day - Ziua pacalelilor - April Fool's Day.
(Image source) The next character of Romanian humour came from the Ottoman influence which brought Anton Pann's Nastratin Hogea, a classic example of an urban tradesman.The real Nasreddin was a satirical Sufi believed to have lived and died during the 13th century in Akşehir, near Konya, a capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in today's Turkey. Since there are thousands of different Nasreddin stories, one can be found to fit almost any occasion. Strangely (or not) enough, 1996–1997 was declared International Nasreddin Year by UNESCO...
Nasreddin stories have a joke, followed by a moral with a nice scooping of wisdom to them. They can be taken on many levels -
- 'Some children saw Nasreddin coming from the vineyard with two basketfuls of grapes loaded on his donkey. They gathered around him and asked him to give them a taste.
- Nasreddin picked up a bunch of grapes and gave one to each child.
- "You have so much, but you gave us so little," the children whined.
- "There is no difference whether you have a basketful or a small piece. They all taste the same," Nasreddin answered, and continued on his way.' (Wikipedia)
- 'Once Nasreddin was invited to deliver a sermon. When he got on the pulpit, he asked, Do you know what I am going to say? The audience replied "no", so he announced, I have no desire to speak to people who don't even know what I will be talking about! and left.
- The people felt embarrassed and called him back again the next day. This time, when he asked the same question, the people replied yes. So Nasreddin said, Well, since you already know what I am going to say, I won't waste any more of your time! and left.
- Now the people were really perplexed. They decided to try one more time and once again invited the Mulla to speak the following week. Once again he asked the same question – Do you know what I am going to say? Now the people were prepared and so half of them answered "yes" while the other half replied "no". So Nasreddin said Let the half who know what I am going to say, tell it to the half who don't, and left.' (Wikipedia)
- Here is Florin Pittis reciting the poetry of Pann's 'Nastratin Hogea' and HERE is another wonderful youtube link with Ion Lucian, Tamara Buciuceanu Botez, Grigore Vasiliu Birlic, Nineta Gusti, George Trestian, Nae Roman and many more...
As Jewish settlers arrived in many regions across the country, two other characters joined Romanian humour: Iţic and Ştrul, a pair of cunning Jews, mainly seen as ingenious, but avaricious shopkeepers. Personally, I don't think anyone can tell Jewish jokes better than Jews themselves, so imagine Woody Allen telling these:
- Iţic and Ştrul were the best of friends. But... one day, Ştrul dies. Iţic goes to the local newspaper to place an obituary. Thinking about it carefully, he decided to keep it simple: "Ştrul died" he wrote, thinking that two words really wouldn't cost much. "We charge for a minimum of 5 words!" said the clerk. Iţic thought again and then added "Car for sale!"
- Iţic şi Ştrul se prezintă în faţa rabinului. Iţic îi spune:
- Rabbi, am o dispută cu Ştrul. Lămureşte-ne. Spune-mi, negru e culoare?
Se uită rabinul în Talmud şi îi spune:
- E culoare. În Talmud scrie că trebuie să te îmbraci în negru cînd moare cineva.
- Dar albul e culoare?
- Da, în Talmud zice că mireasa se îmbracă în alb.
Iţic, adresîndu-se lui Ştrul:
- Ai văzut că televizorul pe care ţi l-am vîndut era color?
- Într-o seară, Iţic îl invită pe Ştrul la el acasă să vizioneze împreună un meci de fotbal şi să bea o bere. După ce se termină meciul, Ştrul dă să plece acasă, însă afara începuse să plouă torenţial, aşa că Iţic îl opreşte:
- Poţi să ramâi aici peste noapte dacă vrei, zise Iţic. Uite, mă duc să-ţi pregătesc patul dincolo.
Când se întoarse Iţic, îl găsi pe Ştrul ud până la piele:
- Ce naiba ţi s-a întâmplat, Ştrul?! întrebă el.
- Am fost până acasă, să-mi aduc pijamalele – răspunse Strul.
(Photo source) We cannot possibly leave out the infamously daft anecdotes of Hungarian Graf Bobby (Count Bobby in English) and his best friend Baron Rudi, immensely popular in Bucharest during WW2 and the early 1950's. Here are a few fabulously idiotic side-splitters soooo remeniscent of our Paddy cracks :
A Night At The Opera
Count Bobby and Baron Rudi have gone to the opera to see the ballet. They are both very fond of ballerinas. During intermission, Bobby looks around with his opera glasses and then tells Rudi "You know who is here? Thesi Esterhazy is in the second box over there." Rudi says "Impossible! Thesi Esterhazy died last year." Bobby looks again and says "Oh really? Well, I would have sworn I saw her move just now..."
When Bobby was still better off financially, he had a manservant. One day he sent his manservant down to the Drogerie to get some insect repellant powder to fight the bedbugs. As his man is about to leave on the errand, Bobby calls him back and says "No, wait a minute, Johann. You can't just get bedbug powder. They know us at the Drogerie and they'll think we have bedbugs. We have to do this in a different way. You know what? Ask them to gift wrap it."
The Weight Of Time
Count Bobby is walking past the Imperial Hotel on the Ringstrasse when he sees Rudi struggling to carry a large pendulum wall clock. Feeling helpful, Bobby taps Rudi on the shoulder, points to his own wristwatch and says "Rudi, why didn't you buy one of these? Much more sensible."
With modernisation, urbanisation and especially under the Communist regime, Romanians needed a new character, different from the traditional Păcală, and he was found in Bulă, the tragicomic absolute idiot. In 2006, Bulă was voted the 59th greatest Romanian, so close is he to Romanian hearts.
The name, among other meanings, is a one-letter deformation of the Romanian slang for... er... well, go on, guess.
Silvian Cenţiu, commenting on his show, A Transylvanian in Silicon Valley, wrote: "When in San Francisco and New York I mentioned Bula, the omnipresent character in Romanian jokes, I was delighted to hear audience members laugh before I'd even finished – I knew they were Romanians." Romanians or not, Bulă is one of my personal favourites.
One day before the beginning of the school year, the form teacher and some pupils were working hard to clean and arrange their classroom for the first school day. The teacher instructed Bula (our national ‘hero’) where to hang Ceausescu’s portrait. Picture, hammer and some nails in hand, Bula climbed a chair and attempted to nail the portrait up but he couldn’t. One by one the nails bent. Very upset with not accomplishing the task, Bula went back to his form teacher and said: “I’m sorry, teacher, but this one can’t be hung, he’s got to be shot!”
[Just a detail: in Romanian, there is no it pronoun to distinguish between human or object in the third person singular, which explains the necessity for the he in “he’s got to be shot”.]
- "What do your parents do?" asked the teacher
"My father's an engineer," said Gheorghe
"Mine's a mechanic," said Ionel
"Mine's a boss," said Bula
"What do you mean, Bula?" asked the teacher surprised
"He has 500 people under him," replied Bula
"What's his job?" asked the teacher
"He cuts the grass at the cemetery," answered Bula (thank you to Nicole for this one)
(Image source) Communism perhaps gave rise to some of the most brilliant (and courageous) jokes I have ever heard - normal, considering their unconscious purpose was to exorcise the brutality and madness of such a cruel dictatorship. In particular, they mocked the Conducator or the "Genius of the Carpathians", the Communist Party, the shortages that had a vice grip on life, and the excesses of a regime that cut the country off from the world and reality. In a repressive political system every joke is a "tiny revolution" wrote George Orwell in his novel '1984'. They were a means of criticising and outmanoeuvring the system, but they were also something else: they were a secret language of resistence between citizens despite the absence of free speech, against the atrocities under which they were forced to live:
- Ceausescu’s helicopter touches down in Maramures. He meets the village elders and talks to them about the latest directives designed to reverse the declining birthrate. He tells them: 'Elena, the mother of all Romanians, wants your children to be her children. She wants to build the nation with you.' The villagers listen, and when Ceausescu has finished he asks if there are any questions. An old man pipes up: 'We understand you perfectly and we are ready to serve our country, but I have one question: do we go down to Bucharest or will she come up here?’
-Ceausescu and his wife are in a helicopter:
Elena: Those are the rivers…
Ceausescu: No, those are the roads!
The pilot: No, those are the queues!…
- One day, Ceausescu went to the USA to tell the American Government that he had succeeded in sending a spaceship to the sun and landing it, too. After laughing good-naturedly, they asked him: "But how did you manage to land the spaceship? It is thousands of degrees celsius on the Sun’s surface." Ceausescu nodded and replied knowledgeably: "I sent it at night."
- Ceausescu came home to Scornicesti, to his parents, and while there, he found the TV broken. He asked his father: "Why is the television broken? Why didn’t you call someone to repair it?" "I call all the time, but it keeps conking out”. Ceausescu asked surprised: "How come?" And his father calmly replied: “When you were a child and you said something stupid, I used to punch you. Now it's a habit."
- Discussion between two neighbours:
“How come you're in prison?”
“I dared look at Nicolae Ceausescu.”
“But we all look at Nicolae Ceausescu.”
“Yeah, but I looked at him through a sniper rifle.”
- Rumour has it that when God created the world, he emptied his bag of wonders on an area now called Romania. Amazed and stunned by his master's excessive kindness towards it, an angel asked him: "What are you doing, Mighty Creator? You're giving them far too much beauty!"
God replied: "Just wait till you see the leaders I'm gonna give them!" (Thank you to Cata Ivancov!)
- In a bar, two men were talking:
“What do you think about Ceausescu?”
“I can’t tell you here, there are too many people. Let’s go outside.”
They went outside.
“Well…now nobody can hear us, so I can tell you: I really like the guy.”
- What is colder in a Romanian winter than cold water? Hot water.
The communist joke in Romania is a fabulous legacy of the political experimentation in Russia and Eastern Europe which stretched over 80 years. Any act of non-conformity, down to a simple turn of phrase, could have been seen and twisted into a form of criticism with catastrophic consequences for the utterer under the powerful and socially restrictive regime. Humour from these times is a glimpse through a keyhole into what it was like to live in such a society, and it's also proof that spirit cannot be broken - those terrible times turned joke-telling into an art form.
There was once a clerk from the Bucharest transport system, Calin Bogdan Stefanescu, who spent the last ten years of Ceausescu’s regime collecting political jokes and analysing over 900 of them statistically - where he had heard them, who had said them, what the political situation was at the time... The story of Stefanescu, the statistician of jokes, was ironically funnier than the jokes themselves for it captured the stark reality of a little man struggling against the communist universe.
For more on communist humour, please see THIS excellent article by Ben Lewis along with his book and also, download Hammer and Tickle (2006), a marvellous and deeply insightful documentary on how jokes became the real battleground between state and people under communism.
(Image source) With the fall of communism in 1989 and now facing capitalism, a new kind of joke became popular: that of Alinuţa, a sadistic and stupid 10-year old girl.
- Alinuţa: "Mama, I don't like grandma." Mama: "Shut up, we eat what we have!"
- Alinuța ajunge veselă acasă.
- Ei, cum a fost la gradiniță? întreabă maică-sa.
- Foarte bine! M-am jucat cu colegul de bancă de-a ginecologul și pacienta...
- Aoleu!!! zice mama Alinuței, albă la față... Ce ți-a făcut???
- M-a pus să aștept 30 de minute la ușă, până s-a terminat programul. După aia, a telefonat la Casa de Asigurări, ca să le ceară decontul pentru consultație...
- Astazi am murit de rusine la scoala, mama - se plange Alinuța.
- De ce, draga mea?
- Pai, s-a vorbit despre bebelusi...
- Nu e nimic rusinos in asta!
- Pai, sa vezi, unii colegi au zis ca bebelusii se aduc de la spital, altii, ca se cumpara din strainatate, altii, ca de la orfelinat... Numai noi suntem asa de saraci ca trebuie sa ii faca mama cu tata!
Little by little, Romanians began to rediscover prosperity in a country where economic growth levelled off at around 7% per year. With the arrival of a new culture of consumerism, the jokes were somewhat forgotten. It was time to buy the latest car and drive home from the supermarket (speeding, of course) with a boot-load of shopping...
And then - the financial crisis hit. Austerity measures and the tightening of belts gave way to another new wave of jokes (hurrah!), this time targetting runaway capitalism:
- An American passes by a Romanian who is sitting by a lake taking in the view. “What are you doing?” asks the American. “Nothing, just looking at the lake,” comes the reply. “Well you could at least get yourself a rod and do some fishing,” says the American. “Why would I do that?" asks the Romanian. "You could eat some of the fish and sell the rest. You’d make a bit of cash.” “But why would I do that?" insists the Romanian. "With the money, you could buy a boat and catch even more fish.” “Yes, but why would I do that?” “You’re too much.” The American is exasperated. ”With the money you could buy a boat, and then you could employ people to catch fish. You wouldn’t have to do anything. You could just sit there watching the lake.” “But that is exactly what I’m doing."
- Why will Romanians survive the end of the world? Because it's 50 years behind everyone else.
Part II coming soon...
After having read THIS article yesterday in Business Magazin.ro, my curiosity was piqued. I had to go and see the apparently dull-as-dishwater Romanian stand here in Paris at the IFTM, for I simply could NOT believe a country in need of tourism (read also understanding) would make so little effort at this important international venue running until 27th September at Porte de Versailles.
I was drawn in to a stand for 'Incredible India' first. Books, music, ladies in sarees. Full of vibrance and colour, I was somewhat transported and sat for a while watching a video. Although India has never been on my list of destinations, I felt myself hypnotised by it all the same. Perhaps one day, I thought, as I wandered off in search of Romania.
Past the area allocated to Thailand. There was quite a crowd since free massage was on the agenda. Great idea even if those undergoing the experience looked rather pained!! Mauritius had a cosy café filled with typical examples of regional gastronomy. Malaysia toohad tables set out with all kinds of goodies to reel people in. Intricate traditional costumes were on sale should one be tempted. Excellent marketing. The Hungarian stand was quite frankly superb, complete with a video that was jaw-droppingly stunning, places to sit and read the brochures and books available or simply to take the weight off tired feet allowing you to gaze a while at the bright posters adorning the area. Well done, Hungarian Tourist Office in Paris! Very efficient, since it was packed to the gills.
The French travel guide Petit Futé had a great stand too, where a charming man managed to sell me two books (Germany and New York) without much effort whatsoever.
And then, finally, up ahead, there was Udrea's famous green and leafy logo (nicked) for Romania. Oh good, I thought. Maybe they'll have some music, a video (an episode from Wild Carpathians?) of those mountains I miss so much, national costumes, a tray of goodies and some tuica. As I approached though, my hopes kind of crashed pretty much comparable to a needle being ripped off a vinyl record. If the Romanian Tourist Office in Paris cares so little about selling its own country at a time where Romania is seriously misunderstood and needs all the good publicity it can get, then it's a tragedy.
Bleak, shabby and depressing just about summed it up. The article from Business Magazin was absolutely right. A couple of posters on the walls. But no screen with deserving images of a marvellous country steeped in gorgeousness dying to be discovered and loved. No national costumes. No music. No trays of nibbles. And definitely no tuica. Not even a water dispenser. No books. No CDs or DVDs. Nothing in fact to draw attention or open up a world of beauty to the unsuspecting Parisian. Perhaps Romania's Ministry of Tourism simply does not want foreign companies to sell their country as a destination?
As I took photos, I checked out who was there. Two passers-by had stopped look at brochures. One man selling cruises sat there looking rather like a news-reader and had all the charisma of a dead pike.
One lady stopped me as I walked by. She told me about the company she worked for (assuming that I too worked for a tourist company, which I don't), Bonjour Roumanie, and offered me a brochure. Having obviously heard my accent, she asked if we could speak French. "Or English. Or Romanian," I replied, hoping to bathe a little in the language I love so much. But she preferred to practise her French. Poor thing. I gave her such a hard time. Jos palaria to her, for she kept smiling throughout.
As I flicked through the bumpf, I fell upon "Randonée: Les plus hauts cols de Roumanie" - 8 jours / 7 nuits." For the sum of 745 euros - combieeeeen?!?!!
Same trip: Jour 5: Brasov, Bran, Peles, Brasov. Very nice, I thought. And then I started to inwardly growl when I got to a sentence that waved red rag to bull: 'L'après-midi vous découvrirez le village de Bran et viserez la résidence légendaire du Comte Dracula.' Grrrrrrrrrrr.... grrrrrrrrrrr.
"It's such a shame," I told her, "that this brochure misleads the public. This is misinformation. Bran Castle,as you know, has nothing whatsoever to do with Vlad Tepes (how about using that name instead of Count Dracula? At least put it in brackets somewhere.). Why don't you add a trip to Poenari just down the road so people really DO get to a castle linked with him that is historically true?" For the price they're paying, you'd think they'd deserve a bit of historic honesty after all, wouldn't you? 745 euros indeed.
To her credit, Ruxandra (as she was called) kept her cool with this thoroughly irritating member of the public she had ended up with and explained how legends sell and how good it is for tourism. "I'm not disputing that," grumbled yours truly. "What I hate is using Bran Castle under false pretenses! Have you seen what has become of that lovely little village?" She shook her head. "It is kitsch de chez kitsch. Awful. Infested with masks and mugs of Dracula, false fangs, you name it, they sell it. It's foul!" She didn't seem to have a problem with that, really. And why should she. Why should I. Why even should you. But I do.
Her boss came over and joined the discussion. I asked her who had been responsible for such a sad and uncharismatic stand. The Romanian Tourist Board in Paris. "What a shame," I said, "when you could have had screens up full of stunning images of sublime and peaceful monasteries, the drop-dead marvellous views, a little bit of history, books...." Boss (a very nice lady) couldn't say anything of course, but her face said it all. Clearly she agreed and wasn't any happier about it than I was.
Despite the consciously misleading info in the brochure, I have to give Bonjour Roumanie credit. The boss explained how they also do trips for school children and have a lot of contact with orphanages, too. What a shame that isn't mentioned in their literature (as far as I can see), for that is something worth talking about.
I didn't talk to anyone else at the stand and no one tried to talk to me either. Perhaps they'd heard me moaning about Bran or the stand's representation of Romania and decided to give me a wide berth! I don't blame them.
But, how sad. The stand for Uzbekhistan was far more inviting.
While the rest of Pavilion 7 was crammed to the eye-teeth with a myriad of wonderful sights and sounds conquering senses and pressing all the right buttons to sell their little bit of exotic 'elsewhere', Romania stood there rather 'greyly', no effort made at all. It was as if it were yelling, "we are a poor country and this is as good as it gets. See, we can't even afford a couple of screens, a pile of books and a few litres of tuica. Don't come here! Go elsewhere!" Merge si asa...
And yet of all the countries I have ever been to in my entire existence, never have I known anywhere with more beauty than Romania, for it is such a quiet beauty - almost understated. Romania's beauty is shy, perhaps embarrassed by her own loveliness. She has a charm that brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes when it catches me unawares. History, views, architecture, its people, music, the superb sense of humour, gastronomy, literature. There is so much THERE - so much to embrace. And there is so much HEART. But the Romanian Tourist Office in Paris (not to mention the fools at the Ministry of Tourism in Bucharest) have NO idea how to optimise any of that and seem to care even less. Incompetence, ignorance or arrogance? I can't decide which.
A sad international fair for Romania here in Paris. Sad for those trying to do their job there at the stand. Sad for Romania's image. Sad for those who love it and suffer terribly for the slap-dash manner in which it is treated. Sad from start to finish...
(Photo source: Daniel Vrăbioiu) It is truly wonderful to see!!! TRULY!! Tonight, the 15th consecutive day of protests in Bucharest against the gold-mining project aimed for Rosia Montana, tens of thousands of people have hit the streets protesting in the capital alone. The Romanian press report 8-15,000 but those out there say there must be around 25,000.
Protests are also taking place right now in other major cities across the country (Alba-Iulia, Cluj, Iasi, Craiova, Suceava, Buzau, Constanta, Timisoara, Sibiu, Targu Mures and Brasov), and the smaller towns haven't been sitting on their laurels, either. Oh, how good it is to see that at last, the Romanian people are up on their feet crying a unified and glorious NU!!! And every night, it has been peaceful, good humoured, elegant.
Romania is not alone in its fight against its own government and the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation. Across the world from London to New York, Vienna to Montreal, Madrid to Chicago, protesters have been out there at some point today showing their solidarity, side by side despite the miles that separate them, with those back home.
(Photo source: Sarah In Romania) Here in Paris, several hundred protesters waved banners, chanting "Unis, sauvons Rosia Montana!" "Oui à la nature, non au cyanure!" with SAVE ROSIA MONTANA t'shirts and the Romanian tri-colore flag giving a splash of colour and vibe to an otherwise grey and overcast day at the Esplanade du Trocadéro. Flyers were handed to interested Parisians and tourists and there was even some creative animation organised by Andrea M and friends - a huge bird (a phoenix perhaps?) in the Rosia Montana colours which swooped and soared across the marble slabs of the esplanade, drawing in yet more passers-by keen to speculate its symbolism.
The Paris protesters were supported by several associations widely known for defending patrimony (Pro Patrimonio France, OVR, RPER...), the Europe Ecology Green Party, La Maison Roumaine and specialised press for environmental issues. Two weeks ago, the protesters took root in front of the Paris UNESCO headquarters, av de Segur, demanding that Rosia Montana be added to their world heritage list. Last May, the region was added to Nostra Europa's list of seven sites at high-level danger in Europe, urging the Romanian government to 'ensure the highest level of protection of the unique cultural and natural heritage ofthe Rosia Montana area.' Whether that makes a jot of difference to the government or the Gold Corporation, one can only hazard a guess.
(Photo source: Sarah In Romania) It has been a tumultuous week, what with Gabriel Resources' shares plummeting, the declaration from Monica Macovei that the licence has perhaps expired in any case and then Gabriel threatening to slap Romania with a billion dollar lawsuit if the project doesn't get approval. One thing is for sure, however. No matter what games PM Ponta and the rest of the political class think they can play (I'm not even going to detail them - they aren't worth my time nor yours) and no matter how powerful RMGC think they are, the protesters are NOT going home. They will NOT give up their fight until the demands of the Alburnus Maior Association are met:
- the Parliament’s Chambers – the Senate and the Deputy Chamber – will reject through vote the law proposal;
- the Government will imediately reject through governmental decision the environmental permit for the Rosia Montana gold mine;
- Rosia Montana will be included on Romania’s Tentative List for UNESCO;
- Cyanide use in mining will be strictly forbidden;
Romania: The World's First Dystopia by Rupert Wolfe-Murray for Huffington Post (in English)
De ce merită salvat patrimoniul cultural de la Roşia Montană by Matei Dobrovie for Epoch Times (in Romanian)
Who is Roşia Montană? - or the Dawn of A New Generation by Oana Romocea for Huffington Post (in English)
#Roşia Montană. CE FACEM MAI DEPARTE by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi for Romania Libera (in Romanian)
Seriozitate de prim-ministru, cancerul și cheltuieli pentru sănătatea țării by Silvia Colfescu on her blog Istorioare Bucurestene (in Romanian)
Hipsterul dracului loveste din nou by Ruxandra Corduneanu on her blog 28B (in Romanian)
The Complete and True Story of Rosia Montana by Sam cel Roman on his blog An Eye On Romania (in English)
More news as it comes... this ain't over by a long chalk.
(Image left: Uniti Salvam)
(Photo: Sarah In Romania) Protests have erupted throughout Romania and across Europe with people flooding the streets in their THOUSANDS, triggered by the Romanian government's approval of a draft 'law' granting national interest status to the Canadian gold mine project aimed for Roşia Montană last Tuesday.
Roşia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC), controlled by Canadian firm Gabriel Resources, plans an open-cast gold mine in the heart of Transylvania - a region praised by Prince Charles for its natural beauty and exceptional wildlife. The project’s opponents criticise the use of cyanide - 12,000 tons of it to be precise - that's 12 times higher than anything ever seen in European goldmining, which would have a devastating and irreversible impact on the region’s biodiversity. Four mountains surrounding the village would be destroyed in the process and Roman mining galleries unique in Europe would be damaged, archeologists and historians have warned on countless occasions. Alas, the Romanian government supports it, singing loudly of its economic value, and ironically, the ecological and cultural benefits for the region.
(Photo source) The new 'law' breaks legal and constitutional provisions for the protection of private property, cultural heritage protection, environmental protection, watersheds, forests, grasslands, public property, access to justice for citizens, free competition - enfin, bref, it is especially designed for a foreign private company - Gabriel Resources. Therefore, the government's proposed referendum is nothing more than a travesty. You cannot have a referendum on a law that is illegal. Not even in Romania.
This so-called 'law', writes Claudia Ciobanu for the Guardian, "would give Gabriel Resources extraordinary powers, including the right to conduct expropriations in Rosia Montana. The text mandates authorities to give the company all necessary permits for construction and exploration by set terms (15 days, 30 days, 60 days, etc) regardless of national legislation, court rulings or public participation requirements. If the parliament approves this law (a vote could take place as early as this month), Romanian citizens will no longer have a say over Rosia Montana. Outrage was compounded by the fact that, while in opposition, Ponta's Social Democrats had declared themselves against the project. This turnabout reinforced the perception that the political class is corrupted and unworthy of trust."
(Photo source) Contrary to the Romanian government’s continual lament of poverty at Roşia Montană, the region is NOT drowning in inescapable misery. It is in fact systematically impoverished by government industrial policy which declared the region a mono-industrial mining area. A state-owned mine existed in the same location which closed in 2006 before Romania’s accession to the EU. This tunnel-visioned economic view prevents alternative types of development. Instead of a mine, Roşia Montană could very easily be a superb site for eco-tourism, a culture centre, small businesses, agriculture....
THIS site reports: "Re-opening the mine will do little for Romania’s long term economic development. As is the case with many foreign-owned resource extraction projects, Gabriel Resources owns 80% of the project, leaving the Romanian government with only 20%. After extracting 800-4,000 tons of gold, over 2,300 tons of silver, over 300 tons of uranium and numerous rare minerals, the Romanian state will obtain almost nothing – apart from a lengthy cleanup."
Yes, a lengthy cleanup plus the toxic poisoning, cancers, leukaemias, birth defects, destroyed ecological balance and loss of one of the most beautiful regions in the country. Fantastic.
(Photo source) As for the $4 billion the Romanian state is supposed to make in royalties from the mine, Luke Dale-Harris writing for The Spiegel has this to say: "At the end of 2011, the original contract signed between the government and Gabriel resources, until then a state secret, was leaked online. It showed that the state would get just 2.2% of the royalties from the mine. According to calculations done by the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, after the environmental cleanup costs and the repayment of loans taken out by Minivest from Gabriel Resources' purse, the project would generate nowhere near the $4 billion claimed by RMGC, but instead bring "nothing to the region but a long term sentence to poverty." So much for that. Utter, wide-spread destruction, and for what?
For those of you thinking that recent advances in gold extraction techniques have made progress, Luke Dale-Harris writes: "Though the use of cyanide in gold extraction has been around for well over a hundred years and has always been controversial, recent advances in the technique are widely believed to have made it safe - both to the mine operators and the surrounding environment. The methods to be used at Rosia Montana, however, hark back to techniques widely discarded today. According to Victor Bostinaru, a member of the European Parliament and a central figure in the opposition to the mine, "Rosia Montana poses a very alarming risk for contamination. Compared to the modern gold mines of Scandinavia, this seems like a 19th century colonial operation. There is no guarantee that it will not cause severe damage."
(Photo source) So, to recap in case it's all a bit of a fog: What are the Romanian people getting from this abominabe project? a) Jobs? Very few and not for long; b) Economic benefits? Negative; c) Cultural benefits, then? Nope. But d) they WILL get the afore-mentioned toxic poisoning, cancers, leukaemias, birth defects, destroyed ecological balance and the loss of one of the most beautiful regions in the country.
For more details on RMGC, please see THIS link.
(Photo source) It is common knowledge that RMGC has one of the dirtiest PR campaigns in Europe for media manipulation and let's not forget something we have known for a long time: the press is bought/paid in US$ by RMGC. The horrifying thing is the alarming number of gullible people who actually believe the rubbish both said and printed. As for the piffle about the project creating jobs, "the jobs created are around 300 for about 15 years," DG Reggio (EU) dixit. So what is Romania getting apart from a lot of cyanide? The investors will re-patriate all the profit and the refining will take place in countries with a cheaper labour force, such as the Ukraine.... So, in short, I repeat, Romania will get nothing.
NOTHING - in terms of profit and gain, that is.
Please reread THIS post and follow the links should you have any questions about the effects of cyanide and mercury used in gold extraction - oh, and watch the video of the poisonous extraction in Peru, too, carried out by Newmont Mining who controls Gabriel Resources...
Have people really forgotten the terrible accident in Baia Mare in 2000 so quickly? Cyanide was spilled into the Somes River near Baia Mare by the gold-mining company Aurul, a joint-venture of the Australian company Esmeralda Exploration and the Romanian government. The polluted waters eventually reached the Tisza and then the Danube, killing large numbers of fish in both Hungary and Yugoslavia. The spill has been called the worst environmental disaster in Europe since Tchernobyl. Didn't that bring home the dangers of the cyanide leaching of gold?
(Photo source) Everybody knows - politicians, investors, scientists, physicians - the dangers of cyanide and mercury. There is little point even discussing it for it is a fact, a proven fact, repeated again and again by experts - one with more impressive credentials than the last. What we should be discussing is how it ever came to pass that money meant more than lives, than culture, than civilisation. We should be discussing how the Romanian government could ever sell the health and future of its people down the river for personal gain. We should be discussing how it ever came to this in an EU country (soit-disant) in 2013.
There is NO question of the fatalities and suffering this project will bring to ecology not to mention on a human scale.
(Photo source) There has been no shortage of scandals of course, as you can well imagine. Luke Dale-Harris writes:
"The scandals started to come thick and fast. [In 2011] The contract giving RMGC ownership of mining rights had vanished off the face of the earth, throwing into question the legality of all the company's activities until now. President Traian Basescu was filmed in Rosia Montana calling Eugen David and other opponents to the mine "Bolsheviks" and advising them to sell their homes and leave town. But the media remained largely silent, with all but two Romanian newspapers continuing to plug the official line that the mine will bring nothing but good to the country."
"Democracy and human rights are not respected in Romania but we will fight", Eugen David, the president of Alburnus Maior, told AFP.
The mine is yet "another symbol of Romania selling out its economic interests for individual gain," Bostinaru told The Spiegel. "We need sustainable development to rebuild Romania's economy and, as it stands, Rosia Montana in no way offers that solution."
(Photo: Sarah In Romania) It must be stopped. This must end NOW. Not only for Roşia Montană but for Europe as a whole too, for the implications whether this goes ahead or not will claw its way far beyond Romania's borders. The Romans, the Austro-Hungarians and then the communists all plundered / profited from Romania's gold in one way or another. Now, it's RMGC. Once upon a time, these gold-hunters were called 'invaders'. Now they are termed 'investors'. Is this evolution? No. This time, it's pure and unadulterated corruption.
One good thing has come from this, however. Never before in post-communist Romania have people been so UNITED, so DETERMINED and so very, very INDIGNANT. They are saying NO to RMGC and the Romanian state, and they are not mincing their words.
The campaigners of Save Rosia Montana UK had this very poignant message in their superb letter addressed to Jonathon Henry, the president and CEO of RM Gold Services, delivered today :
"A man is worth more than gold. So is a country! We will not stop until your company ends its involvement with mining in Romania."
At approximately 30km from the city of Buzau, sculptures cut in stone from the limestone quarries of Naeni and Ciuta adorn scattered clearings in the hills of Magura. They are a tribute to local ancient stonecutting traditions and were created for the largest exhibition of its kind in the country and one of the biggest in the world.
The Sculpture Camp, held between 1970 and 1985, was initiated by sculptor Gheorghe Coman and supported by the Union of Romanian Artists to mark 16 centuries since the first documentation of Buzau. The idea was that over a symbolic 16 years, 16 sculptors per year would spend two months (August and September) creating a work from a block of stone obtained by the drawing of lots. Nothing was imposed in terms of theme/topic, giving the artists page blanche to simply go with the flow.
Over those 16 years, 163 sculptors chiselled and conceived 256 stoneworks some considered masterpieces by art critics, all of which were donated to the county at an official ceremony.
The sculptures are unmarked regarding their stonesmith and title, but they ARE numbered. A word of advice: Photograph the numbered lists given at the beginning of each clearing showing who sculpted what, so you can compare the number on the sculpture to the works listed, (almost) in order of their positioning.
The 21 hectares used for this fabulous outdoor museum that exudes folk art is owned by Ciolanu Monastery and rented by the cultural authorities (Buzau County Museum of History) who manage it - an arrangement that seems to work well.
For a comprehensive list of sculptures and works at Magura, see HERE. Amongst the big names in Romanian art found here are Horia Flamandu, Radu Aftenie, Grigore Bradea, Florin Codre (now more famous for his King Carol I at Pta Revolutiei and the scandal it wrought with the Mestrovic family) and Ioan Bolborea (known for his bronze Caruta cu paiate in front of the National Theatre).
I have read here and there that the site suffered from neglect and decay at some point (perhaps before the authorities took it over?), attacked by vandals and nesimtiti. I saw no evidence of that whatsoever. No rubbish, no graffiti, no damaged works. The camp did in fact undergo restoration back in July 2007.
There is something deeply inspiring, almost spiritual, about the Sculpture Camp at Magura. When I first saw it, I took it for a cemetery. There are tales of paranormal activity where gravity went berserk which really doesn't surprise me much at all. One example given is a car left at the bottom of the nearby hill with handbrake on and engine off later found much further UP the hill, defying all laws of physics.
Peaceful, tranquil and yet emotional, the Sculpture Camp is charged with a particular energy that I cannot put into words. Each sculpted stone has its own message, its own history leading to another world entirely. And I loved it.
(Photos by Sarah In Romania - please ask before borrowing)
In Odobesti, jud. Vrancea, southern Moldova stands a church. Or the remains of a church. More the shell of a church. If there is anything left to see of it at all, it is no thanks to contemporary efforts made, but to a spankingly solid structure built to last two and a half centuries ago. It is a masterpiece in architecture boasting impressive quality material and majestral ornamentation. But one can see very little of that today.
Found on str. Cazaclii in the Satul Nou neighbourhood, the history of the church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul built in 1777 by the cazaci (cossack) wine merchants from the Caspian Sea who traded between Romania, Ukraine and Russia (cazaci from the Turkish Kazaclii meaning 'adventurer' or 'free man') is linked to the very heart and soul of Odobesti - wine. It was probably an important point on the wine trail and a direct consequence of the wealth the grape brought to the rich Odobestians of the time.
The church of Sfinţii Apostoli Petru si Pavel was damaged by several serious earthquakes in the first half of the XIXc, devastated by German troops in WWI and then finally abandoned in 1940. Unfortunately and despite much goagaling, I cannot find any photos online of how it once looked in its glory days before the decline from 1859 onwards.
In 2009, it was approved for the list of historic monuments, classified Group A ref. VN-II-m-A-20956 and published in Monitorul Oficial 560 on 12th August of the same year. And yet nothing so far has been done to protect any further deterioration. Nothing has been added by way of a make-shift roof for example; no fence has been placed to surround it, and as far as I could see, there is nothing to even point out that it is a historic monument. Somebody did tell me that things were in the pipeline to save it, but it's taking a very long time. A bid was made by the townhall to various companies for the renovation, but the one that was actually charged with the contract didn't agree with the townhall (or vice versa) on several levels, if I understood correctly. Result: Nimic. So much for Historic Monument status...
However, I was assured that Odobesti isn't Bucharest, that things DO get done and that care and respect ARE given to historic monuments. There is a great deal of work going on by way of projects, both with the help of the EU and independently, to bring Odobesti back to the beautiful town it once was before communism - see THIS excellent article from RL on what communism did to Odobesti and the surrounding wine region - and signs of that ARE evident. For this church though, I am crossing fingers hard. It is a beauty, both structurally and historically. To lose it would be a tragedy.
Photos: Sarah in Romania (please ask before nicking)