Lauren Hermele - Born in '89

Lauren Hermele – Born in ’89 and her Fulbright Year in Romania

Born in 89 – A Few Reflections from a Generation

Project Description: In an attempt to better understand Romania 20 years after the fall of communism, I’ve been working on a photo project focused on Romanian youth who were born during the symbolic year of the Revolution. I asked them many questions that touched upon Romanian identity, family, lingering effects of communism on their lives, their sense of community, the future and civil society in Romania.
Although I feel like I was only able to capture a small piece of a portrait of a generation during this project, it was an eye-opening experience for me to talk to these twenty year olds. I learned a lot. After many hours of interviews and spending time with the 20 year olds, certain things became clearer and others more confused regarding the direction in which young people see Romania heading. I was constantly impressed by some of their wisdom as well as their level of maturity and insight. Many of them highlighted the challenges that they and their colleagues face in Romania right now, but, somehow, being in their presence made me grow more confident about the direction that Romania will head in the coming years. It won’t be easy, but I do think that further progress is on the horizon.

Background info: All but one of the interviews were conducted in English. Though their English far exceeded my Romanian, the interviews printed here have been adapted from the original audio in order to be better understood by readers. For this project, I focused on twenty year olds living in Cluj who were mainly university students of Romanian descent; though one was one Moldovan descent and two from Hungarian backgrounds. I met my subjects by talking to a few university classes at the beginning of the school year about this project, through friends, and by starting conversations in the street and in parks. I recorded video and audio during these meetings and I’m still working on the editing the material into a multimedia piece.”

Elena : “To me, being born in ’89 means being born in a period of things falling apart, of the crash of communism and all socialist things; it was the time when a new mentality appeared in Eastern Europe. I think we should be proud to be born in ’89 because my generation means change, and change is an essential element of progress. I think my generation represents progress— we are the future.”

Ovidiu: “Romania is still like a wounded dog after communism. We still have to adjust, or evolve. And if all the young people leave, who will be here to take care of the country, who will come? To evolve, we have to know where we’ve been and where we need to go; if we ignore the past we might repeat it.”

Monica: “We need to have an opinion, and we don’t have one. Maybe this is because during communism when people had an opinion they were killed in terrible ways. So, people have become scared of voicing their opinions. I think that this continues to happen today and people don’t speak out. Most teenagers were taught by their parents not to have an opinion.”

Andrei: “I definitely want to leave Romania for a while, probably one or two years, but I want to come back afterwards. There are a lot of opportunities here if you know how to search for them. Despite things moving very slowly, there are a lot of good things here, and we have to work towards making something of our own, not just copying the West.”

Iris: “I don’t think things are getting worse here, but they could definitely be better. I see people trying to make things better, but the problem is that a lot of times they are only doing this for their own personal well being, not that of society’s. I don’t see a lot of people doing things for others. I hope that when I finish university, I can go to New Zealand for a masters and maybe work for some time over there and make some money. Then, I hope to come back to Romania and open a business.”

Chris: “We live in a corrupt democracy here; well I guess you can call it a democracy. But it’s still not a democracy in respect to the fact that if you are smart, that alone does not help you move forward… you still have to scratch someone’s back to get somewhere. Everyone is looking out for himself or herself. Nobody’s using his or her freedom productively in this country, not even the government. The route to change will take about five years optimistically, ten years realistically.”

You can see the project that is still a work in progress on the artist’s website and an interview in Romanian with Lauren on