Petru? Calinescu – Pride and Concrete
“Approximately a quarter of Romania’s population, especially inhabitants from the rural areas, are estimated to have left to work abroad. Transylvania was one of the most isolated and traditionalist corners of Europe. Practicing subsistence agriculture and using archaic methods, the villagers have proudly succeeded in preserving their traditions until now, when the young inhabitants of the villages want to go abroad to earn more money. The only ones left home are the old people who continue to do what they have done an entire lifetime: living off the land.”
An old man is watching a wedding procession on the streets, Caianu Mare
Women working the fields are having a break for a meal, Poienile Izei
Ten Years After
More than a quarter of Romania’s population lives and works abroad. The first group to leave was the inhabitants of Certeze, a village in Northern Transylvania (Tara Oasului). Migratory workers within the country during the Communist regime, these villagers were ready to explore new territories once the borders were opened.Since 1992, they have used guides to illegally get into Western Europe, determined by one goal: to come back home with money.Being a highly traditional
community whose main engine is acquiring social prestige, they build huge houses in their native villages to show their successful lives abroad. This model of success is perceived as a thriving one and the surrounding villages have started to copy it. Peasants are abandoning their work in the fields, are selling their animals, leaving their children back home with the grandparents and going abroad, wishing to prove they also can succeed abroad and build a bigger house than that of their neighbor.
Gheorghe and Maria Balta from Certeze, Romania, are posing sitting on a sofa in the new house built by one of their sons who left to work in Paris.
Two women chatting in front of a house built by a young couple who left to work in Italy. Botiza, Maramures, Romania.
The people of Tara Oasului (Northern Transylvania) were the first to leave abroad, a fact that translates into the subsequent development of their native villages. Their beginnings in France (mostly all the people from Tara Oasului and Maramures are settled now in Paris) are rather dubious. Having at the beginning, work restrictions, in the ’90s, they were eager to earn money with any means. They turned false beggary into an amazingly prosperous business, monopolizing the distribution of the poor man newspaper (a social project in France which basically consists of drawing people away from beggary by giving them newspapers to sell) and, at the beginning of 2000, speculating on French laws which were very protective
of minors, they brought their children over to France and sent them to break park meters – an undertaking of wide scope which resulted in the change of all park meters in Paris. Today, as being citizens of an EU country, having abroad the family reunited, with legal forms for labor and residence, they have become a serious force on the work market. Men work in constructions, while women do housekeeping. . Although the salaries are pretty good, they continue to live crammed together in modest conditions, in order to save as much money is possible, dreaming to come back to Romania and start a business in their native villages.
Petre (left) from Certeze, Romania, is supervising his brother and another villager while they are refurbishing a luxury apartment in Paris.
Pop Gheorghe from Tarsolt, Romania in his hut, outskirts Paris, in Montmagny forest, where other people from Oas region are living in makeshift houses. Resigned, Pop realized that he failed to succeed in Paris and he is planning to return back home.
Few of those who left to work in Paris wish to stay there forever. They all ream to return home, but for the moment that’s possible only for holidays. They are dreaming of returning to Romania and opening a local business in their home village, but on the other hand they are not ready yet to leave a steady income in Paris, where they are working in households or the constructions industry. It might be quite difficult to start a business in a village which is almost empty for 11 months a year, as everybody is only returningfor the holidays in August. That’s when cars with foreign plates are clogging up the streets of the revived villages. It’s weddings’ season,
because people here only marry someone from the same village and in order to accommodate that many weddings in a few weeks in August, weddings are held every day. The most expensive traditional musicians are called in and the weddings last a few days Slowly, as the summer draws to an end, everything becomes quiet again, people are going back to work abroad. The sounds of the parties are replaced by the sounds of a chainsaw or a cement mixer, overseen by the old ones left behind, who have been retrained from farmers to construction site supervisors.
Brides in a sports car, shortly after the church service. The weddings here are held daily in late August, when everybody is coming home from abroad. One day in 2011 there’ve been 15 weddings on the same day, in a village of less than 2000 people.
Ionut and Mia’s wedding in Certeze, Satu Mare, Romania. Ionut and Mia, like their family and like almost everyone in the village, are working in France.
More interesting images from the Pride and Concrete project and other stories on Petru? Calinescu’s website.
Petru? is based in Bucharest, Romania and he worked as a photojournalist since he began to study at the Superior School of Journalism (SSJ) in Bucharest. After graduation he worked for six years as a photojournalist for the main Romanian newspapers and magazines. In 2006, constricted by the Romanian media possibilities and willing to do more on his own, he started freelancing as a stringer for international wire agencies such as Reuters, AP, AFP, EPA.