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Promoting rural culture and tradition - Issue no. 2 - August - September 2009

Still Frames 3 Portraits of Sirnea 4 Malancrav Village 6 Pictorial - Discover Tarnava Mare: Saschiz and Viscri Villages


A Lifetime Preserving Romanian Tradition Interview with anthropologist Rodica Kronberger


August - September 2009 10


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Editorial Still Frames


Romanian Village Portraits of Sirnea: One Village, Two Experiences


Travel Journal Malancrav Village

10 Rural Development Vama Buzaului: Fighting a Young Generation Drought?

12 Interview A LifeTime Preserving Romanian Tradition, an interview with anthropologist Rodica Kronberger

14 Analysis Made in Romania: Communism and Its Impact on Romania’s Rural Life

16 Feature Urban Views of Romania’s Rural Roots The Highest Wooden Building of europe, through History “Saint Archangel Mihail” Monastery, in Sapanta-Peri Cultural Identities: Reflections on Hungarian Identity in Romania’s Multi-Cultural Society

20 Traditional Drinks Cheers! - To One of Romania’s Best Kept Secrets Socata

22 Pictorial Discover Tarnava Mare: Saschiz and Viscri Villages Photos by: Florence Marchand, Alexander Muresanu, Matthew Osborne, Vincent Raoul, Bryony Wilson

Promoting rural culture and tradition Tel.: 0040-729 905.412

Manager: Ana A. Negru

Contributors: Sarah Bottomley (UK), Jialin Guo (Canada), Daniel Kelly (UK), Paula Millar (Canada), Margaux Eleina Novak (USA) Ilaria Parogni (Italia),

Project Coordinator: Alexandra Ichim

DTP & graphic design: Mircea Samoilă

Photos: Ana A. Negru Andreea Drilea Margaux Eleina Novak Andrei Adrian Photo cover: romanian singer Lupu REDNIC with family

Director Projects Abroad: Mircea Samoilă

Still Frames by Margaux Eleina Novak

onfession: I am a cureless people-watcher. Months ago, when I first entered Romania, I was struck by the affection shown between people on the streets, the respect shown one another regardless of age or dress, and the pride that comes with telling foreigners about the specific city or village people are from. In a country fraught with deep history, legends, and natural beauty, it is hard to not be swept up in a culture so saturated with things to learn and discover. The month I arrived in Romania, Ana’s treasured dream of creating a magazine that reflects and celebrates Romania’s longstanding traditions was just coming to fruition. “Satul”/“The Village” accomplishes both of these ambitions. As an aspiring journalist I found encouragement in watching the enthusiasm and meticulous care with which Ana worked on the project—and in the beauty the first issue was crafted in; it has been a delight to participate in contributing to the second. As one travels, one obtains a collection of personal mental images that grab one’s heart and imagination—usually, alas, when a camera is not handy—that stick with one in a perhaps more accessible way than if physical proof of the moment had been possible. One such instance caught my attention at the very beginning of my journey in discovering Romania for myself, in the unlikely place of a busy street corner. Waiting to cross the street—still baffled at the confidant manner in which Romanians charge across the street via crosswalks—I saw two women on the other side from me. One was a young woman perhaps in her late twenties in a stylish business suit, chattering importantly on her cell phone; the other was an elderly woman, slightly bent with age, wearing traditional clothing of a full flowered skirt, blouse, and a head scarf keeping the wisps of silver hair out of her face. I stared. No, I possibly gaped. I had never before been confronted by such an obvious mesh and coexistence of culture. The thriving contrast that was highlighted by their differing dress styles was strangely forgotten in the moment of seeing their shared nationality and the two of them standing side-by-side without the slightest askance glance. The more I learn about Romania, and the more stories am privileged to hear, the more I come back to this photograph in my mind and reevaluate it. I have continuously surprised myself how each time this happens, I see this moment in a new light, and it represents deeper and deeper levels of Romania to me. The mixture and acceptance of a past, present, and future by the people of Romania, I believe, captures many who choose to visit this land. The enchanting landscapes serve as a perfect backdrop that is as respected and valued by this country’s inhabitants as their traditions. The pastures freckled with haystacks mesmerize me every time I pass by. It is not difficult to understand how the natural richness of the country—of which Romanians are deservedly proud—reaches into the souls of her inhabitants and creates lasting love. Even as a non-local, I have hope to be permitted to claim that I also have been impacted by this meshing of worlds and cherishing of lifestyles and landscapes that have survived for centuries. Take time to see Romania with wide and unclouded eyes, on the lookout for your own snapshots and memories. Allow yourself to be caught up in the awe and majesty of the unique dark green beauty of the evergreens shading the mountains and of an enchanting full moon visible amongst a myriad of stars that has shared the eyes of all of Romania—her past, present, and future.


Portraits of Şirnea One village,

two experiences

A Soul You Would Not Expect by Ilaria Parogni irnea reveals a soul you would not expect. This small village, part of the Fundata commune together with Fundata and Fundăţica, does not owe its fame to a museum, a castle or a church. Tourists do not come here to pay a tribute to an old hero or to a historically relevant event. What makes of Sirnea a touristic attraction is its inestimable natural heritage. Walking down the untarmaced streets pine and walnut trees, wild berries, nettles and willows welcome the visitor. At the end of the main road a message for posterity carved on the wall invites not to forget the real spirit of the village: ‘Here the rocks talk and the forest whispers. Here the stones think and the streams sing. The flowers are singers and the words are calling you.’ The riches of Sirnea, however, are not limited to this. And it is not enough to say that this is the starting point for hiking across the beautiful mountains of Transylvania, such as Piatra Craiului and the Bucegi Massifs. The truth is that Sirnea is a unique village mainly because of its people. As the 72 year-old woman who welcomed us with a nostalgic smile told us, ‘Sirnea is a village of old people’. Many young people have left and return only on holiday. In spite of it, they still help their parents and grandparents who remain in the village, as soon as they have the opportunity. The bond with the area is so strong that it cannot be easily forgotten. Sadly there are not many perspectives for young generations to find a job here. The touristic value of the area, discovered first in the 1960s in communist times with the operation ‘Assault to the Carpathians’, has been already greatly exploited by foreigners, who understood that the set up of



guesthouses in Sirnea could be a successful deal. The indigenous population look at this ‘colonisation’ with melancholy. The new guesthouses, to be true, stimulate rural tourism and help not to forget about the village. The impression is that such a situation might even awake the inhabitants of Sirnea and help them to give way to their managerial ambitions. It is probably not a mere case that 94 villagers have so far joined the group led by the post-office director of Moeciu de Jos for the set up of a NGO dedicated to the creation of two sheepfolds and the promotion of indigenous rural economy of Sirnea. They have even applied to the EU to obtain funding. Sirnea, moreover, mostly thanks to the initiative of the illustrious and industrious citizen Radu Fruntes (founder of the Muzeul Nicolae Fruntes, dedicated to his father), has understood that it has a lot to offer in social terms. This is why cultural and traditional events, the most important form of social communion in a village, play a relevant role in the Sirnean calendar. On the 23rd of June the inhabitants of Sirnea celebrate the Ziua Olimpica (Olympic Games), by means of which the younger generations have the chance of getting in touch with nature through physical activities. At the end of June the Masura Laptelui (milk measuring) takes place. The traditional custom of cheese bargaining between shepherds and owners of the livestock that is entrusted to them in summer time attracts many tourists. The event is accompanied by celebrations, music and dances according to their best traditions. Another very important event is the Focul lui Sumedru (Sumedru’s Fire), which is hosted by the commune of Fundata on the 26th of October to honour the protective virtues of fire against beasts and evil spirits as well as to obtain God’s blessing. A big fire is lit up and young people dance and jump around it as a symbol of purification and rebirth. The ashes from the fire are then used by the villagers to fertilise their gardens and orchards. All these events are today the main vectors of tourism in the area. People come from all over the world to participate. When the people of Sirnea tell us about their village and traditions, and about their international success, they become instantly proud. They love what they do and like showing it to the visitors. The beautiful environment in which activities and celebrations are settled probably is the reason why tourists are attracted to Sirnea, but it is the memory of the village people’s friendly welcome that makes them return.

Photos: Margaux Eleina Novak

Escape to Discover a Secretive Village by Daniel Kelly irnea is a small village of ‘old people’ that embodies a sleepy charm. The appeal of such mystery entices you to discover the many traditions and natural heritage hidden within. The attraction of the commune is the unique people and the freedom which rural life brings, giving tourists the chance to sample a real taste of Romanian way of life. The essence of Sirnea is captured not by the museums or church, which define many tourist places, but by the simplicity of a poem engraved onto a stonewall as you enter the heart of the village. The poem discarded into the background can be easily overlooked by the passer-by, but those with attention to detail will appreciate the significance of this landmark. The poem brings to life the ‘true’ meaning of the village, a serene and remotely blessed natural habitat which in spirit ensures the survival of the villagers. This significant landmark is a humbling experience for the onlooker and creates a feeling of being ‘privileged’ in comparison to the traditional lifestyle of the village people, which is built upon a basic ‘community’ and bare necessities to sustain their daily existence. The harsh reality of rural life is epitomized by a 72 year old woman who embraced us and offered great insight to the lives of many villagers. Her daily routine consists of rearing her cattle in an annual agreement with her keeper, in which she tends to her cow in the winter and measures milk to produce cheese in the spring months, ready for the summer market. She has retained a bond with her children despite them moving into the nearby city in search of jobs, which is becoming a regular transition for a younger generation. This generation gap remains a constant struggle for young people, but they still have a sense of belonging when they become immersed into rural traditions, which is heart-warming especially


THE VILLAGE - issue no. 2, August - September 2009

to reunited parents and grandparents as family bonds inevitably weaken with a need to assimilate into the wider society. Younger people generally manage to find time to return and participate in local specific celebrations, which symbolizes a sense of belonging and ‘true’ identity and the struggle of younger generations to adapt to western culture whilst maintaining their families’ centuries of rich ‘rural’ tradition. This eye-opening experience really touched me, in comprehending the complete difference of worlds in which people still exist despite the far-reaching ‘technological’ revolution of globalization over the last two decades. Moreover traditional food is always important in bringing satisfaction amongst the village people, such as brânză de burduf, a very traditional type of cheese, and caşcaval, a semi-hard cheese made with cow’s milk. These traditions are self-sustaining, but the influence of the EU and foreign investment are important in stimulating and promoting the rural way of life. Certain villagers welcome and approve of purpose built guesthouses for summer tourists. However a balance must be maintained in order to preserve the distinctive authentic Romanian architecture, which many tourists can admire in contrast to the western styled housing in surrounding cities. This eye-opening experience into rural life makes you think about the far-reaching effect of modernization impacting on the most unspoilt villages in Romania. To many villagers the natural heritage also is a core foundation and you cannot help but notice the vitality of the beautiful Carpathian Mountain ranges and Rogoaza River flowing through the dense forests and hillsides. If you want to escape and be captivated in the surroundings of an area of outstanding natural beauty this understated village is the ideal visit. 5

Travel Journal

Mălâncrav Village Photos and text: Margaux Eleina Novak

Driving into the village of Mălâncrav, I wipe the sleep from my eyes and survey the desert-like surroundings. There is what appears to be a river trickling lazily between two hills; the settlement was built around in a long strip. But the village had no beginning, no middle, and as far as I could tell, no definite end. There was no town hall or center, or even a good parking place I observed as we pulled off the worn part of the sandy dirt road. Sitting for a moment in the car—one of the only ones in sight— the five of us visitors discussed our strategy. It was evident we weren’t from around there. Even if the village were large enough for people to not know everyone; we were clearly outsiders. I looked between our Romanian couple who had driven and who were now carefully unloading tripods and camera equipment from the trunk, to my other journalists—one Canadian, one Italian, then glanced down at my conspicuous sandals unlike what real Romanians wore on their own feet. Shading my eyes from the sun that seemed too high in the sky for it to still be considered morning, I wondered what time it actually was. A quick glance at my cell phone confirmed that it was nearly noon—and I noted that there was no service.

ne of the most historical sights in the village of Mălâncrav is a Saxon fortified church about halfway up a hill from the “main street.” As we began to make our pilgrimage back down the road from which we had come and up the many stone steps towards the fortress gate, I noticed that the village was full of children playing. Now, this usually is not a strange observation on a Saturday morning, but it was not so much that there were so many children; it was that there were no adults. Absolutely none in sight. This observation made the trek seem strange, almost like we had stumbled upon a village from a book where there are no adults, no work, and all play—some type of strange ghost town even. I could feel the sun baking my shoulders and solidifying the caked dirt that had accumulated onto my hot feet. But once we stepped onto the first set of steps up the hill a wash of shade covered us, and it was remarkably cooler. Had that breeze been there before? I let myself wander up those old steps that had been used for the purpose of reaching this specific destination for so many centuries before my own young feet, and each time I found a worn groove in the stone I become even more humbled than in the step before. Inside the gate, a woman—one of the first adults we had encountered let us into the church. She adamantly protested against any photography inside, but grudgingly let us be as long as we


wished. Our group silently dispersed to different sections of that old place of worship as if it knew which paintings, woodcarvings, of stained glass pieces would lure and speak to us individually. The ceiling and one wall was filled with colorful depictions of events and scenes documented in the Bible. I was particularly intrigued by the color difference between the main altea paintings and the more muted tones along the wall in the sanctuary. When I asked— via translator—about this difference I learned that years ago the main sanctuary paintings had been covered over with plaster, and they had just recently been able to uncover them again, but that they would never be as brilliant as they were once. Reaching the top of the steps and weaving my way through the tall grasses, I dropped the lens to my camera. As I stooped down to pick it up I caught sight of the landscape below—the unobstructed view of the horizon melting into the clouds, the vineyards tracing their way down the hillside like long fingers pointing towards their village below. I looked to my left and saw acres of hilly pasture and fields speckled with fresh haystacks leaving shadows that cannot be so different from the ones that inspired Monet. Speechless, I disregarded the flying insects, the comatizing heat from the sun, and allowed myself to just look. The pieces of Malancrav I had most criticized to myself; the stillness and self-suffiTHE VILLAGE - issue no. 2, August - September 2009

Mălâncrav: isiting the Saxon region of Transylvania, encased by Sighişoara, Braşov and Sibiu, is a surreal experience and a must for everyone who wants to explore the soul of Romania. Traditions and customs from the past have been preserved so faithfully that exploring one of its small villages represents a real time jump in the past. Mălâncrav, perfect representative of those small villages, is probably one of the most known and appreciated by tourists. Thanks to the work and protection of the Mihai Eminescu Trust (MET – organisation devoted to the protection of the cultural patrimony of Transylvania), this small centre, which hosts today the biggest Saxon community of the region, has been able to survive, remaining almost completely extraneous to the interference of modernisation. The Trust has been active since Communist times in its fight against the destruction of rural communities wanted by Ceausescu in favour of industrialisation. Today it has a strategic role in preserving the character and aspect of the village, promoting renovation and rebuilding of its houses and helping its inhabitants to maintain their customs and skills. At the same time, the Trust has given new stimuli to the economic situation of the area, supporting ecological and organic cultivation as well as tourism. The increasing number of people coming from all over the world to visit the small village and to buy products manufactured by locals, indeed, seems to be a very important incentive to the preservation of their heritage of arts and crafts. As the women of Malancrav say, without this new form of tourism and the financial perspectives it introduces, traditional activities, such as weaving carpets and curtains, would probably die out. Mălâncrav is, nevertheless, not only the representation of Romanian traditions of Saxon origin, but also the living documentation of a way of conceiving life which is totally different from the dominant mood of the 21st century. In the village everything has a differ-


ciency, began to represent things I now saw as good and beautiful. When looking above the village and when seeing the whole picture of their world—a world that had remained so unchanged for hundreds of years—I realized the spell such a life was able to cast. My eyes focused on a woman gathering hay in a field, using a pitchfork to create haystacks. Women before her had worn similar dress, and they had done similar jobs. This is when I realized where the adults of the village were—they were all out working in the fields. One day those children playing in the street below would grow up and work there too, if they didn’t decide to move away to work. Inside the mansion that stood farther up the hill from this woman, a nearly hidden library filled a room that was once inhabited by the Prince of Transylvania. Filled with beautiful décor of Victorian sofas with gilded armrests and even a suit of a French military man in a corner the library was nothing like what I had previously seen throughout Malancrav. I was intrigued by the extravagance—even if it had once belonged to a Prince. I asked about the suit of armor and the guide chuckled and shrugged saying a French woman who visited here wanted them to have it; so she shipped it here for them. Boxes of vases lay on the floor covering a gigantic rug of antiqued, dark colors beside mounds of white lilies and daisies. Apparently a wedding was going to take place later that afternoon—which would explain the metal rods, white linens, and chairs strewn across the manicured lawn I could see out the library window. My gaze returned to the multiple shelves stacked high with books. My own thoughts drowning out the voice and information provided by the guide, my legs carried me towards the books— volumes of five different languages, she said—that I heard. I reached out to touch the age-worn leathers and pages of the writings from da Vinci, Plato, and Shakespeare. In no recognizable order these shelves spread out across the sizable room and armchairs were interspersed between them, positioned just right to catch the morning light. When I asked who read the books, the guide replied that while the villagers had full access to them, no one came—not even the schoolteachers. At that moment my eyes rested on an old, red volume of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Poetry—my favorite poetess. With wide eyes I carefully slid the volume from the shelf, feeling as if I should not be allowed to even touch such a precious work. But curiosity demanded I open the cover anyway; just to see. It was a first edition. Such a gem would be prized as rare and costly to me; a gem among many others, buried unknown, unrecognized by the only people who had access to them. These gems are keys to the rest of the world—keys Malancrav has not relied on, needed, or wanted, for centuries. 8

ent timing and a different meaning. Egalitarianism and co-operation are considered to be essential to live in community. Man is not slave of modernity, cars are rare and horse-drawn trucks are still preferred to tractors. Harmony between community and nature seems to dominate the area. The houses are lined up along the borders of the stream, as if to pay a tribute to it, and their bright colours recall the yellows of the crop, the reds and ochres of the earth, the green of the grass. The traditional patterns used by women of the village to decorate their cloths imitate flowers, grapes Nature is looked at as a generous godmother, respected and loved. Everything has a role and men do not even try to subjugate it. It is not surprising, therefore, that the inhabitants of Mトネテ「ncrav look with indifference at the introduction of anything new and alien to that way of life. The personnel at the Apafi House, manor of the noble family that for a long time owned the lands of the area, recently renovated by the MET, points out how, for example, the local population has not proved to be particularly interested in the new library installed in the manor. This is not, however, something the people of Malancrav should be blamed for. The disinterest in any hint of alternative life-styles is, on the contrary, expression of a serene acceptance of their own life and in it, probably, resides the key to the preservation of such a particular system. The spirituality of the village certainly contributes to make of its population a satisfied and quiet people. In a country in which men still cross themselves piously any time they are in front of a church, this is the least we should expect, after all. In Malancrav, however, the sentiment of religiosity has something special. The beautiful fortified evangelical church, real architectonic gem, towering from the top of a hill, becomes the guardian of this sentiment. As much as its frescoes on the walls, the soul of Mトネテ「ncrav is destined to be imprinted in the heart of the visitors. by Ilaria Parogni

Photo: Ana A. Negru

Impressions from the Past

Photo: Adrian Andrei

Vama Buzăului: Fighting

A Young Generation Drought? by Ilaria Parogni Photos: Ana A. Negru


The Commune of Vama Buzăului, located at north of the Ciucaş Massif, is a small collection of villages (Acriş, Buzăiel, Dălghiu, Vama Buzăului) which still preserve their old rural traditions. A place with great tourism potential, mainly because of its natural patrimony and geographical position, Vama Buzăului has, however, been struggling with the shrinking of its population. As the former mayor of the commune Milian Chirilaş told us of The Village, ‘the people from Vama Buzăului are getting older: we have many pensioners here. We also have a great number of children, but we know that, when they grow up, they will leave the village’. He was only 25 years and 6 months old when he started his experience as the mayor of the commune and worked really hard to face its problems, even opposing the communist regime. Walking around the villages of Vama Buzăului, the impression is that the former mayor was right. It is extremely difficult to meet anyone aged between 20 and 40 here. Talking to the older villagers, we find out the reasons behind this apparent ‘young generation drought’. In Vama Buzăului there are not many schools, and the teenagers have to reach Intorsura Buzăului (10 Km away) to attend high school. If they wish to continue with their studies and go to university, they have to go even farther, to Braşov (44 Km away). Once they have completed their education, it is very unlikely for them to return to the commune. Leaving the village, they experience a completely different life. Globalisation, TV and internet have, in this sense, contributed to raise their standards. According to Milian Chirilaş ‘they see life in a different way. Everyone now wants to work abroad, to earn lots of money. You cannot keep them here to work in the fields’. It is not fair, however, to depict the young people of the commune as individuals attached only to materiality. In our search for the youths of Vama Buzăului, indeed, we have finally encountered a few young men and women. And they have all proved great fondness of their village. Many of them live outside the commune only because they cannot find a job here, and come back any time they have the opportunity to help their families and to enjoy rural life. We have even been surprised to hear from their proud voices that the current mayor of the commune is only 32. Tiberiu Chirilaş was elected in 2004 for the first time (he was then re-elected in 2008 with 88% of electoral support). At the time of his election, he was only 27. The young mayor perfectly represents the spirit that the young generation of Vama Buzăului does and should endorse. He was born and raised in the commune, but then had to leave to complete his studies. Afterwards, he started working at the National Bank, but he never forgot Vama Buzăului. He always wanted to return, feeling a moral obligation towards his homeland. About the new generation he says: ‘Young people have the obligation to stop pointing their finger at the problems of the commune without doing anything about it. They should, instead, get more involved. This is the reason why I became mayor.’ The mayor believes that the situation is not as critical as it might seem in terms of job opportunities. ‘Despite of the current market conditions, there will always be solutions for the ones who really want to work’, he states. The people of the villages, on the other hand, complain about the lack of opportunities for those with higher qualifications. For them, the only chances of obtaining a good job are given by the Town Hall and the health centres. It is true, nevertheless, that the work done so far by the new mayor has certainly helped the economy of the area. Among the various initiatives he took during his mandates, he has promoted many ideas which are likely to increase the levels of employment of the village population. He renovated the schools and health centres in the villages, and is particularly active in proposing

tives to stimulate agro and eco-tourism in the commune. Various guesthouses have been built to welcome visitors from all over the country as well as from abroad. A few are run by old villagers, but the most successful are those who have been created by proactive young entrepreneurs, such as Pensiunea Alina, set up by Alina, 35, and her husband. It is clear that those are the minds Vama Buzăului needs to make its economy work, and the mayor seems to have understood it. As he told us, the new generation should take an active role in their villages and seek to be useful to the society. This is why he always encourages the young people of the commune to choose careers that one day will permit them to serve the community as lawyers, architects, blacksmiths, doctors and other socially devoted professions. ‘I work very closely with the youths and we organise public meetings in the villages from our commune . Then I have the occasion to ask them for opinions, suggestions and solutions. It’s very important to have good channels of communication with them’, he says. The crowning glory of the mayor’s projects is the creation of a bison reserve in Acriş. The project, in partnership with the Agency for Continue Development of Brasov and the Town Hall of Prejmer, has just started, but already attracts tourists from the whole country. At the moment the reserve includes a deer and 6 bison, one of which was just born in Vama Buzăului. The others have been imported from Austria, Italy and Switzerland. The Commune of Vama Buzăului has contributed with 12 hectares of land, where the bison are kept, while the Town Hall of Prejmer has given 82 hectares of land, on the other side of the river, to extend the reserve. The Agency for Continuous Development has taken care of all the infrastructures for the reserve and brought in the bison. As for the future of the ‘Valea Zimbrilor natural reserve’, they have THE VILLAGE - issue no. 2, August - September 2009

envisioned the building of a Guest Centre, where everyone will be able to buy souvenirs, artisans’ crafts and ecological products, a meeting area, a museum and a dendrological park with an exhibition of trees. Even in this case, EU funding would be extremely helpful in supporting the project, and this is what the Agency for Continuous Development is putting most of its energies into. The Agency is playing a particularly relevant role in obtaining funds also in other areas. Among the mayor’s proposals which will benefit from it there is the intention to asphalt the road to Buzoiel and to build a kindergarten. This would all create great job opportunities, providing at the same time interesting economic perspectives for the future, by making communication easier and life simpler for young families. The Commune of Vama Buzăului has, in other words, the aptitude to become a revived centre with a flourishing economy. This is what Tiberius Chirilas hopes for. And so do many other young people from the area. After all, the commune is endowed with incredible resources. In the words of his mayor, ‘this natural attraction was given to us by God. Our job is now to promote it. We have mountains, fresh and unpolluted air, wild nature, welcoming people and, even more, a peaceful and serene atmosphere.’ The local youths know about this treasure, because they have always been in touch with it, since they were born. By looking at the children playing in the fields with animals, resting under a tree or eating fresh raspberries, we can understand why they will grow up to be responsible and responsive adults, willing to work hard to make their village a better place. Certainly there is still a lot to do. The centralisation of the sewage and water supplying systems are some of the priorities that cannot be left aside. However, the young generation of Vama Buzăului does not want to give up, and is already on its way to obtain its goals. 11

A Lifetime Preserving Romanian Tradition Interview with anthropologist Rodica Kronberger: by Margaux Eleina Novak

Rodica Kronberger has been an anthropologist of forty years. She has a degree in Philosophy from the University of Bucharest. She spent time working in the Village Museum in Bucharest as well as traveling to collect data from villages. She is now the host of a television program produced by Nova TV and the Deputy Director for the School of Arts and Crafts in Brasov, Romania. How did you become passionate about the idea of preserving Romanian traditions?

passion and capabilities in the anthropological field and decided to make it my lifelong career.

I grew up in a rural area of Romania, where my family partook in traditional festivities and sang together traditional songs that have been passed down—generation to generation—over many centuries.

And what did that career look like fresh out of University?

As a child, were there any traditions you especially loved? I have always specifically been interested in the Easter tradition of egg painting, in the old songs sung by shepherds, “Doine,” and in the painted icons on glass. (It was obvious in her answer that she had very fond childhood memories—in following conversation she alluded to how strongly her childhood had impacted the course of the rest of her life; her goals, dreams, and achievements - a.n.)

After graduating from the University of Bucharest, I began working full-time at The Village Museum and realized there was much unfinished research that needed to be completed in order to preserve and discover the traditions from villages far away from the cities. I spent months traveling on foot to these obscure villages, meeting it’s inhabitants, forming relationships, gathering data— then walking kilometers and kilometers to the next village—to begin again. While walking from village to village, I kept thinking about the work I was doing and was proud that I could visit these places, meet the people who lived there and talk to them about their lives and philosophies. This painstaking work confirmed to me that the path of learning I chose is more than worthwhile, and that it was there for me to pursue.

How did this impact your choice in what you eventually studied on a University level, and even what you became involved with later?

What is one of the most difficult frustrations you experience regularly in your field of expertise?

I took these passions and cherished memories I developed as a child with me when I went to study at the University of Bucharest. Here, I studied philosophy; a degree concentrating on the preservation and studying of cultures both forgotten and currently practiced. It was required, at that time, for students to intern at the local Ethnography Museum in Bucharest called “The Museum of the Village.” This particular museum is famous for an actual representation of how traditional Romanian villages looked and functioned in the rural areas. It was during this internship that I fully realized my

One of the problems I repeatedly combat—even now—is the practice of false traditions, or altered ones, called “kitsch.” The beginnings of “kitsch” came from the melting pot in the cities where people from all different areas and provinces of România met, and would then adapt some of their practices from home with those of friends they met in the city. An example f this can be seen in the progressive of clothes’ embroidery. If someone from one province who usually decorates their clothes with only small black lines, sees someone else in the city who embroiders flowers on theirs, the


first person may begin to add flowers to their clothes. When they return to their home, they will bring back this idea that was originally only practiced in another province, therefore spreading a tradition to a new place where it did not originate from. Only someone who has studied precisely the patterns (in textiles, pottery, music, ect.) can tell what practice is kitsch, and what originated from which area. Tourists are a large incentive for people to practice their traditional arts due to the influx of money tourism brings. But tourists also cannot tell the difference between a kitsch item and a traditional one, so many resort to making cheaper and faster kitsch crafts. Can you tell me, if you have found one repeating theme that has reappeared throughout various courses of your research? If you had to choose one—what would it be?

I know you are also invested in preserving traditional Românian music. How does the “simple philosophy of life” affect this genre of Românian art? On my television show I focus on folklore that highlights the good sense of people, nature, and the purity and importance of retaining traditional events that reflect on the old philosophy and mentality developed by the villagers of Transylvania. As I have always been especially interested in music, many of my guests are musicians who perform live on various styles of Romanian music. One type of music that is undeniably Romanian is “Doine.” This genre encompasses all the songs created and sung by the shepherds who would be away from home six months out of every year tending their flocks. Doine songs are usually accompanied by a single instrument that is similar to the flute. This handmade instrument complements the often-doleful feeling meant to describe the breaking of the shepherd’s heart as he describes his loneliness. Over the course of a year, shepherds must take their flocks from the mountains as winter draws close and lead them down to the valleys. They are songs of love for their family, about missing home and the loved ones they left there, and ones detailing the beauty and mystery of nature that houses and surrounds them. These songs cannot be accurately translated into any other language—which makes it all the more precious to those who can understand them.

Photo: Ana A. Negru

Over these past 40 years that I have been practicing anthropology, I spent a large amount of time analyzing the mentality of the people of România. I concentrated on studying the thought processes in people from the cities, from the villages, and how the traditional mentalities in these areas have evolved over time. Long ago, rural villagers most respected people with a “good sense,” or strong common sense. I recall interviewing a man who in response to my questions replied, “I am a peasant, and am very proud of it.I love traditions, family, and my land.” This pronouncement from him was the first of many similar answers I received. All villages in older times, untouched by life in the cities, shared this simple yet beautiful list of values. The villagers are proud of their very simple, healthy way of living. Preserving traditions in the villages was very important and each craft was passed down from father to son, mother to daughter for hundreds of years. They were not afraid of death. In fact, when they were still quite young they would design and sew their own burial clothes, and keep them all their lives until the time came for them to be needed. There are three events in a Ro-

manian villager’s life that are most important and most celebrated—these are the baptism, the wedding, and the funeral. Each of these three parts of life has a traditional service or celebration surrounding it. For example, in the villages, weddings are viewed as affairs in which everyone participates. The celebration lasts an entire day, and involves the couple traveling to all parts of the village to visit different houses. For funerals, the villagers gather to sing “the song of the dead,” a specific song celebrating life, death, and the certainty of both.

THE VILLAGE - issue no. 2, August - September 2009


Made in Romania Communism and its Impact Rural Life by Paula Millar

or centuries Romania was home to a collection of self-sufficient and successful rural communities. The country was a picturesque homestead akin to the likes of any agricultural powerhouse: adorned with rolling hills and great plains, home to vast tracks of fertile countryside, and traversed by plentiful waterways. At one time Romania was recognized as the breadbasket of Europe. The once agriculturally-rich country gained this status between World Wars while providing essential wheat, corn, and meats to the whole of the European continent. Today, however, visions of these glory days subsist only in distant memory. Surely nostalgia has the tendency to rosily tint the past, regardless, the downward spiral of late has been in stark contrast to, and far more destructive than, any scenario ever in the forecast. Today the reality is grim. Peasants, unable to afford modern machinery, work the fields by hand. Former communist cooperative lands, now overrun with weeds, sit idle. Irrigation systems rest damaged and unusable. However, by far the most telling statistic is that today “only 12 percent of [Romania’s] gross domestic product (GDP) comes from agriculture.” As a result, Romania finds itself on the losing side of an unequal playing field. Today the country struggles to stay afloat, rendered unable to compete in the newly globalized and highly efficient markets of the European Union (EU). The former European breadbasket's dependency on imported agricultural goods is unimaginable yet, easily explainable. Such drastic change in the livelihood and self-sufficiency of the country's agriculture industry is entirely attributed to decades of oppressive Communist rule.


Spiraling Downward The Communist experiment was an abysmal failure. The system's unforgiving grip on any country's institutional makeup is near impossible to reverse without wiping out the entire existing infrastructure and rebuilding it from square one. This is due to the 14

Photo: Andreea Drilea

on Romania’s

massive and largely ineffective bureaucracy which, despite the best intentions, will continue to survive unless entirely disposed of. The Communist formula went as follows: religion was outlawed, corporations became nationalized, and agriculture was collectivized. Collectivization meant the government took over ownership of all lands and animals and in turn formulated a series of community collectives. Villagers continued to work their lands and in return the state paid them a portion of their earnings. Communist policies promoted the collective and not the individual. As a result, wealthy Romanian farmers became the target of government propaganda and mistreatment. In Soviet Russia the situation was worse. There the wealthiest class of peasant farmers became resentfully known as “kulaks.” Quickly the group became labeled as the enemy of the Soviet people and in turn were persecuted and purged. While the late 1980s and early 1990s brought regime change to some of the world’s most suppressed, the damage had been done. The basic fundamentals of Communism do not support nor promote an agricultural and rural based community. Therefore, under Communism the focus turned toward industrialization. In the 1950s, Romanian leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej officially spearheaded the movement away from agriculture and toward mass industry. While others petitioned for a return to Romania's agricultural heyday, Gheorghiu-Dej opposed this outright. Instead, he favored a push toward the Communist ideal of mass industrialization. While the government did not forcibly remove Romanian peasants from the countryside, laws were imposed which made earning a decent living and mere survival in the country's villages nearly impossible. In the end, farmers were forced from rural villages and into urban areas simply due to their own economic necessity. No longer able to sustain their way of life under this new system of collectivization, many peasants relocated to city life. Here they took up residence in government provided blocs and secured jobs

Meanwhile in Transylvania, agricultural communities of Romania’s mountainous regions were met with a much different fate. Farms in the Carpathian Mountains are home to animals instead of vast tracks of land. For some, the hillside became a safe haven where dissenters could seek refuge with their animals amongst the dense forests and rough terrain. Post-Communist rule was not much better. While transition periods for any country are typically problem ridden, the predicament in Eastern Europe was particularly disheartening. Many peasants were promised that their Pre-Communist properties would be returned to them, but for most, this never materialized. Post-Communism laws governing Pre-Communist land claims, property rights and agricultural practices were lax. As a result, some of the best agricultural properties have been squandered and stolen and vast tracks of land and animals never returned to their rightful owners. To date, the Romanian government has yet to effectively promote the country's agriculture and those involved in the industry. Minimal governmental funding only contributes to the problems of a deficiency of appropriate machines and utilities which would aid a functioning agricultural industry. As a result, the work of rebuilding this industry has fallen upon the shoulders of a handful of International Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO).

The Turnaround

working in factories. After centuries of existence, an entire authentic way of life was wiped out by a mere change in governmental ideology. As a result, farmers and peasants suffered immensely. The type of suffering that a mere two decades cannot repair. Gheorghiu-Dej and later Ceausescu were not the only leaders to be blinded by the intoxicating visions of mass industrialization. Other communist and socialist leaders throughout Eastern Europe and Russia were wooed by the riches and power mass industry and manufacturing promised them, yet none foresaw the most obvious. Very few pondered the repercussions and aftershocks that could result from the collapse of an economy based on gross misrepresentation of economic figures and false successful completions of Moscow-mandated “Five Year Plans”. Moreover, by systematically driving Romanians from their peasant lifestyle, Communist ideology and Ceausescu's rule uprooted the country's very livelihood. The necessary exodus to urban areas left many of the country's villages sparsely populated or completely deserted. In some extreme cases, entire communities were literally demolished. Collectivization dismantled families, villages, and authentic ways of life while the collapse of the agriculture industry led to a painful economic fallout, poverty and hunger. Not surprisingly, social and economic recovery is still underway. Suffering was country-wide, though not bared equally. It has been said that under Communist rule, everyone was equal, yet some more equal than others. In Romania’s agricultural communities, a very different series of events played out from region to region.

A Mere Matter of Geography The farming communities of southern Romania rest upon the richest agricultural plains in the country. Today it is questionable whether this great agricultural endowment was really a blessing at all. In the early Communist years the area suffered the brunt of collectivization’s unforgiving punch. THE VILLAGE - issue no. 2, August - September 2009

The current goal remains to make Romanian farms more productive and competitive. However, this is far easier said than done. For the country to reemerge as a European breadbasket the solution must be multifaceted in nature. Political, economic, and social forces must be utilized in order to make success an attainable goal. On one hand, Romania's entrance into the EU means access to desperately needed EU funding packages. On the other, however, it also spells out increased competition from the greater European markets. Regardless, Romania's agricultural potential is entirely underutilized. This untapped asset must be properly harnessed and in good hands for it be put to profitable use. Again, for this to be possible the agricultural sector must be sheltered from gross manipulation and the ever-present tangle of corruption. The turning point for a successful Romanian agricultural industry will be the establishment of a sustainable development strategy for the country's rural communities. Currently, foreign investment's helping hand appears to be Romania's real chance for any turnaround. Foreign investors have the ability to increase Romanian agriculture's competitiveness on the EU market and help the country live up to its known potential.

The World Over Today in South America the scene is eerily similar to that of Eastern Europe. As socialist dictators begin to reign in their country’s wealthy farmers and collectively reorganize prime agricultural land an ominous chord has been struck. Collectivization is a single step, nonetheless, it was a major leap along the pathway to economic failure and collapse in the experimental Communist and Socialist societies of Eastern Europe and Russia. Modern society is convinced that history repeats itself. As a result, to ignore such an obvious déjà vu is criminal. Responsible global citizens and world leaders must learn from past experimentation and glaring failures rather than continue the testing of questionable practices and the use of a broken and failed system. 15

Urban Views of Romania’s Rural Roots he bustle and movement of excited crowds, night lights, fashion and architecture; for many tourists and much of Romania’s younger generation, both adventure and modernity is to be found in the city. Yet for all their opera houses and museums, the cities alone cannot tell the whole story of a nation’s cultural heritage. It can be easy to forget when embraced by the cosmopolitan activity of the country’s urban centres that their traditions have strong roots in the countryside. It is in the country where the beginnings of a people’s identity are forged, in a quieter fashion perhaps, but no less important to Romanian society. I decided to ask a few people who lived in Romania their thoughts on the relationship between urban Romania with its money and modernity and the rural regions with its tradition and history.


Like many things in Romania, the present relationship between the countryside and the city must be fully understood through its proper historical context. I asked Razvan, a 43 year old man, what he thought about this relationship. He stressed to me that in order to fully understand the reason why there is a divide between the rural and urban centres of Romania, you have to start at the era of Communist rule in the country. “The Communist party discouraged the practice of Romanian traditions in an effort to rebuild the image of the new Romanian. Public gatherings of more than 4 or 5 persons were prohibited,” he said. “Before the Communist government took power, many people in the cities owned land in the countryside as well. There was a connection between the cities and the villages and city dwellers understood the importance of the countryside to their way of life. Under Communism, the country and the cities were separated. Many young people from the countryside were relocated to the 16

cities to work in the factories. The people who were left in the villages were all old. It is now up to the older generation to teach the young ones the traditions and history that make them Romanian.” Nevertheless, Razvan is optimistic about the preservation of old practices and beliefs. He believes that now, with the Communist influence gone, Romanians both young and old are free to explore their cultural heritage.

This divide between city and village is not one that is unique to Romania by any means. It can be found all around the world, and nearly everyone has a personal story to tell. For Razvan, much of the separation between Romanians and their traditional culture could be pinned to the influence of Communism. I felt I could relate to his story as the influence of Communism in Romania is not a unique one. China, the country where I was born, has witnessed massive changes in the past few decades. Like Romania in the past, China’s Communist government attempted to shape the society of its people. Ironically, in the beginning, the Communist party’s roots were from the villages in the countryside. Peasants were given a privileged status as the industrious bedrock of the society. Fast-forward to the present however and the reality is much different. With economic development, great income disparities in China now exist, with the cities becoming much richer than the countryside. Vast numbers of migrant workers move from the countryside to the cities every year, where they face low wage employment and discrimination by urban residents. People from the country are looked down upon and are called “wai di ren”, which means outsider. Many rural traditions in China are now seen as backwards. Having visited Shanghai in the past, I was struck at

how negative attitudes towards the country folk had become. If you were found to be dressed unfashionably, it would not be surprising to be told that you were dressed like a peasant.

I next interviewed Mircea, who at 30, was able to give me another perspective on how younger, urban Romanians feel about rural culture. “Age has a lot to do with it,” he said. “When I was little, my grandfather would play traditional music and I hated it. At the time, I was much more interested in listening to rap and hip-hop.” However, all that changed when Mircea went abroad and found himself in an unfamiliar environment and discovered that the city life was not enough. “Suddenly, the traditional music that I disliked when I was younger was something that gave me a sense of identity, it was something that was familiar to me while I was in a foreign country.” Not only age but the stress of city life too has played a role in many a Romanian’s search for their cultural heritage. “Because people are fed up with the cities, they turn back to the rural areas. Now there is greater interest in rediscovering the countryside.” Mircea observed that there are still places that try to preserve the local history. Villages like Saschiz in Mures County are part of a growing agrotourism industry that seeks to preserve as much as possible authentic rural lifestyles, while at the same time allowing people from outside these villages to come learn and experience authentic traditions. While Mircea understood the importance of preserving his Romanian heritage, he also felt that the declining interest of any cultural heritage was inevitable. He told me that “it seems natural that rural culture ends up like museum pieces eventually; I do not know how it could be any other way.” Perhaps most importantly, he acknowledged that while he felt rural Romanian traditions were an integral part of his identity, he did not feel the desire to actively live the traditional rural life. “We will identify with it but we still would prefer not to live in it. We are willing to accept Romanian rural life as part of our identity, but would we live this life? I do not believe so.” THE VILLAGE - issue no. 2, August - September 2009

Finally, I met a young man by the name of Robert working in Fashion Street, a clothing store on Brasov’s famous Republicii Street. Like many of the youngest generation of Romanians from the city, Robert was dressed in the latest urban fashions and consciously aware of his city identity. At the same time, he believed that “Romanian people are very much about rural tradition, and this is something we want to celebrate.” He acknowledged that “working day by day, we forget about the rural traditions.” To Robert however, this was not a sign that young Romanians did not care about their roots. “During festivals, is a time when we are very open about our traditions and we wish to share our heritage with the tourists who come to visit.” Echoing Razvan’s optimism about Romania’s cultural preservation, Robert spoke passionately about his belief that “it is our responsibility to keep our traditions alive, as it is a part of our heritage that we are given. We do not want to lose this.” Robert and many young Romanians like him illustrate how the younger generation are still keenly aware of the important role that their heritage plays in their lives.

Romanians clearly recognize their rural heritage as something to be treasured and preserved. From those whom I have spoken with, I have gotten the sense that the people of this country recognize that regardless of where they live, the traditions of the countryside are a valuable part of their identity. For all of its excitement and splendour, I have a feeling that Romanians are keenly aware of the problems that modern urban life brings. What I have learned from speaking with the local people here is that so long as the older generations have a desire to teach, and the younger generations have a desire to learn, rural Romanian traditions will still have a place in the country’s future. by Jialin Guo photos: Mircea Samoilă and Ana A. Negru 17

The Highest Wooden Building of Europe, through History “Saint Archangel Mihail”Monastery, in Săpânţa-Peri Located on the left side of Tisa River and dominated by the Carpathians Mountains, Sapanta is a commune in the north of Romania, with a population of about 5,000 people, firstly documentarily attested on the 30th of October 1373 (Zapancha). Here, peasants speak warmly and respectfully about the places where they grew up, about local customs and traditions, woodcraft and sewing art, passed on from one generation to the other. Also, the locals from Sapanta pay a high respect to the Orthodox religion, its rituals and traditions. It’s a great honour for them to take part, for example, in the Parochial Council. On Sundays, at the religious service, the locals wear their traditional costumes and forget for a while about their troubles. Few places in Romania encounter such a global fame as Sapanta. This place represents the quintessence of our Old Maramures. It is a reference to the most precious things that we have: our culture and traditions. Besides that, few places in Romania can pride themselves on having a museum in plain air like the well-known “Merry Cemetery” from Sapanta, created by Stan Ioan Patras. The Founders of the “Saint Archangel Mihail” Monastery in Sapanta – Peri Besides the famous “Merry Cemetery”, Sapanta has seen the rebirth of the Monastery previously located in Peri (today part of Ukraine). At a small distance from Sapanta an old monastery ex-

isted, built by the dynasty of the local lords members of the Dragosesti Family. Before the Local Lord Sas and his sons, Balc and Drag, built the first Monastery in Maramures in 1389, at Peri, in these places, the hesychast communities were settled since the old times, more exactly since the end of the XIII century. There was a small hermitage here, named “Saint Mihail from Peri”, administered by the local lord Dragos. The local lords Balc and Drag, Dragos’ nephews, gifted the monastery with a great number of goods, land and also built a church in stone. Since 13th of August 1391, at their request, by an edict of the patriarch of Constantinople Antonie the IV, the Monastery has had full power of decision for all the churches in Maramures and other 7 regions. 312 years after, with small interruptions, the headquarters of the Orthodox Romanian Bishopric from the old Maramures was re-settled to the Monastery in Peri. Attached to the monastery, there was also a school of calligraphy, a theological school and an important printing machine. Also dozens of orthodox bishops from the old Maramures region were lodged here. Destroyed and Rebuilt Peri Monastery was destroyed in 1703, during the anti-hapsburgic uprising, led by Francisc Rakoczi the II. Because of hostilities, the Monastery couldn’t be rebuilt from what has today become part of Ukraine, and was, therefore, refounded in Sapanta, by the parochial priest of the commune of Sapanta Grigore Lutai, with the blessing of the priest Iustinian Chira – Bishop of Maramures and Satmar. The place chosen for its location was the Dendrological Park „Livada” ( The Orchard ), more than 22 hectares of land, which has been called since the old times ”The Orchard of the Parochial Church” of Sapanta. The Highest Building of Oak Wood in Europe The Church of the Monastery is 75 m tall. The cross alone is 7 m tall, and was created by Calin Daianu from Cluj Napoca and designed after the plans of architect Dorel Cordos, in partnership with a group of specialists in this field. The building is a creation of maestro Ioan Stiopei, called Buga in Barsana. On the 10th of september 2003, the priest Grigore Lutai received


the Parochial Cross. Between 2003 and 2004, the parochial priest Grigore Lutai succeeded in introducing electrical power and phone connection in the Monastery. Between 2003 and 2004 the road which leads to the Monastery was asphalted, drinking water was brought in, the gate at the main entrance was built, a beautiful alley which goes through the forest – 280 m – was created, a bell was added and much more. In spring 2005, the building of small rooms for the nuns was started. In September 2005, the priest Iustin Sigheteanul, together with the parochial priest Grigore Lutai and more than other 50 priests, monks and nuns, in front of a few thousands of people, officiated the religious service at the summer altar of the Monastery. Nuns - The Effective Monastery’s Destination In summer 1997, the Priest Iustin Sigheteanul – Vicar Bishop of Maramures and Satmar, surrounded by a gathering of priests, set the miliar stone of the future Church named „Saint Archangel Mihail” Monastery, in Sapanta – Peri, effectively a nunnery. Nowadays, when you visit the Monastery you can see nuns doing their specific rituals, like ringing the Monastery bell and beating rhythmically a piece of wood with two little beetles to announce the beginning of a religious service or some essential moments of it. This ritual is done in the morning, before the sunrise and before the sunset, when the religious service is officiated. The Monastery today The Monastery is visited by thousands of people every year, Romanians and foreigners. The interior has simple decorations, few religious paintings on the walls and you can also see some traditional patterns from Maramures, for example on the traditional blankets and pillows which cover the benches. The nuns are shy and don’t like being photographed. The entire place has a particular atmosphere. When you go upstairs, you can almost hear the forest next to you whispering the story of the Monastery, through the crosses sculpted in massif wood. It gives you peace and you feel gratitude for not having lost such an important part of our history. “We thank the Good God because He chose us and blessed us with the task of re-establishing the historical course of “The Saint Archangel Mihail” Monastery, from Sapanta – Peri – foundation of Dragosesti family” –the priest Iustin Leon Lutai said.

Source: The Ortodox Romanian Parochie - Săpânţa Photos: Ana A. Negru


Cultural Identities: Reflections on Hungarian Identity in Romania’s Multi-Cultural Society by Daniel Kelly

his first article in the series will be focusing on Hungarian ethnicity. Insight from Jozsef, a Romanian Hungarian, and from experiencing Hungarian culture firsthand has helped formed my view on the intercultural relationship. The historical context between Hungary and Romania helps in understanding the issue of ‘identity’, as does the politics of communism which underpinned the two nations over decades, affecting change in the two groups’ identities, from oppression to liberation. Joszef highlights the negative effect of living under communism: “we had more restrictions”, furthermore “with democracy came freedom, but it had the drawback that the new generation lost respect for the elders and the rural traditions”. This highlights the sociological differences between generations, in that younger people no longer appreciate the hardships of their parents in gaining their freedom and sustaining their traditions

Palinka is a Hungarian spirit that has become culturally inseparable from Romania



In a series of articles, ‘The Village’ will be investigating the cultures of the different ethnic groups living in Romania and how the rise of Western influence impacts with varying effect in relation to each minority within society. We will explore the differences and similarities within Romanian Hungarian, German and Rroma groups and the political and historical context in shaping these peoples’ identity. As I myself - because of my English, Irish and Australian roots -, have experienced personal changes in identity which have sometimes caused conflict and confusion, I would like to explore how these ethnic groups interact and whether there is a conflict over the issue of ‘identity’ within Romanian society. in society. I would find it hard to agree that a ‘cultural division’ exists amongst these two groups; more so in Romania because of the variation and tolerance of languages spoken, “At home I speak Hungarian with my parents, mostly my friends are Hungarians, but I have many Romanian friends and speak mostly Romanian at work”. Therefore a historical misconception of underlying tension between the two cultures has caused negative stereotypes to exist. This is reiterated by Jozsef’s comment, “what bothers me is when people try to manipulate history and to alter the past”. The rise of globalization and cross-border movement has improved quality of life and relations, however small Hungarian minorities harvest resentment to Romanians over territorial losses since 1918 and the debate over the origins of the Csangos community. Modern transformation of the Hungarian Romanian culture assimilating into the wider society is evident. Moreover rural traditions are still maintained and need to be promoted to create greater harmony between intercultural relations. This is underlined by Jozsef’s comments, “Here in Transylvania many customs are similar, since the long living together of different cultures”, which is emphasized by Easter and Christmas celebrations whereby both cultures read poems, sing carols and participate in the Grape Harvesting Festival. These fundamental traditions are paramount to the people of the villages such as Fundata and Sirnea. However globalization has stimulated economic growth, but consequently deterred younger generation’s appreciation of these diverse traditions within the local cultures, which could eventually be broken. In my experience, ‘identity’ is a multilayered concept, which categorizes people collectively, whereas ‘individuality’ can help in solving the struggle expressed in aspects of ‘identity’, which is common amongst ethnic minorities. As Jozsef explains, “my identity can be expressed in several layers, ethnically, religiously and professionally”. The prospects for a diverse ethnic mixture of cultures can be achieved with greater understanding of each other’s experiences and a disregard of historical misconceptions. Fundamentally we must be accepting and tolerant of every culture and tradition in such a globalised world… I will explore this question further in the next issue of ‘The Village’, by ascertaining the perceptions of Rroma culture in Romania and whether its traditions can be sustained in such a multicultural society.

Socată (Elderflower Juice) You will need: o o o o o

A big pitcher (8-10 litres) Water 2 kg of sugar 1 Lemon 8 big Soc flowers

Directions: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

Cheers! - To One of Romania’s Best Kept Secrets n most cases Romania would not be the first country that pops in to mind when discussing great wines. However if you take a closer look you would realise that this quiet, modest country has a lot more to offer than Draculas castle. Tiberius Gangos, a young man of 25, became interested in the history and production of wines in his home country through working with them. “I started out as a waiter and now am lucky enough to be sent on courses through work to learn more about wines, as well as having personal contacts that are able to teach me more”. Tiberius explains that many people in Romania still make their own wine and, although it is originally a countryside tradition, it has now spread to cities too. “Traditionally villagers would pick grapes carefully so as not to damage them and place them in wooden baskets. Once taken home they would use a special machine to smash the grapes, removing all the juice from them. The juice would then be put in to barrels and left for a couple of months to ferment in to wine. The wine would then be poured in to bottles and buried in the yard and left for several years. This would eventually become a very high standard of wine known as ‘dirt wine’.” Tiberius explains that if you are invited in to some bodies home and this wine is dug up it is clear you are a very special guest indeed. Unfortunately this wine is somewhat unappreciated and overlooked due to such competition as Italy, France, South America and Australia who all produce well know and internationally sold wines. As this market is so expensive and fierce it is not feasible for Romania to deport its wines internationally like many other countries do. Many winemakers use local produce that will only be found in Romania, providing customers with something authentic and organic; a taste that will be held in the memory long after the last drop has passed their lips. Having tasted what Romania has to offer, all, of course, in the name of research, I can honestly say that I have been converted to its perfect tasting red wines. Full bodied, flavoursome, and a brilliant accompaniment to any occasion; be it a night out with friends or a night at home with a good book.


Add Soc flowers to pitcher Pour water over until the pitcher is full Stir in the sugar Add the sliced lemon Allow to sit in sunlight for a week or two; stir once a day

This method will allow the chai to soak up all the flavours, while steeping in the sun adds carbonation to the juice. The end result is a juice with a summery-fresh flavour complete with a subtle sweetness. The juice is considered to even have therapeutical properties. Thus, it can be helpful in treating constipation, burns, pulmonary infections, flu, measles, urinary and kidney infection. In winter time, the flowers can be used for infusions, with the same beneficial effects. (collected by Margaux Eleina Novak)

by Sarah Bottomley THE VILLAGE - issue no. 2, August - September 2009


photo: Matthew Osborne

e photo: Vincent Raoul

photo: Matthew Osborne

photo: Florence Marchand

photo: Bryony Wilson

Discover Tarnava Mare - - is a sustainable tourism development project initiated by Fundatia Adept - - an NGO and charity whose objectives are the protection of biodiversity and landscape, linked to

photo: Alexander Muresanu

photo: Vincent Raoul

THE VILLAGE - issue no. 1, june economic regeneration of the area,2009 such that each supports the other. A trip to the region will enchant the visitor with world heritage fortified

churches, traditional villages where time seems to stand still, extensive deciduous woodlands and flower rich meadows. The few small

photo: Bryony Wilson

photo: Bryony Wilson


photo: Matthew Osborne

photo: Florence Marchand


un-made roads and persistence of traditional and non intensive agriculture have helped preserve a landscape of astonishing natural and cultural richness. Visitors can experience activities that have continued unchanged for centuries, from riding in horse-drawn carts to helping milk the sheep,

photo: Vincent Raoul

photo: Alexander Muresanu

photo: Florence Marchand

photo: Alexander Muresanu

observing the processes of cheese or bread making to meeting the bees and tasting the delicious honey or admiring the work of talented traditional weavers. Experiencing these activities will contribute towards preservation of the unspoilt lifestyle and traditions of the area.

The_Village 2  

village's magazine

The_Village 2  

village's magazine