Pride and Concrete

Petrut Calinescu

Romania. Ongoing.

One in six Romanians work abroad. Most come from rural areas and send money back that irreversibly transforms their villages. Unlike in the city, changes here are highly visible, and the main street sets the stage for social competition.

The first to go abroad in search of work after the fall of communism were the inhabitants of the village of Certeze. Seasonal migrants within the country even before ’89, the revolution found these people experienced in the austere life required of migrant workers.

The people of Oas followed those of Certeze. Hunted by police they trekked through frozen forests and hung under train carriages, or stuffed themselves into airless trucks to cross the border into Western Europe.

Once the borders were opened, a huge number of the active population of Țara Oasului left for Western Europe. They slept wherever they could, mostly in the open or in abandoned houses, boiling unsafe water to drink and survived in a country where no-one would give them work or take them in as lodgers.

For the first ten years, while their children were growing up alone, they managed to impose themselves on the French job market. They sent most of their earnings home to build massive houses as a sign of their success abroad.

The older migrants continue to live in their own communes, observe Romanian customs, drink moonshine and dream of returning home. Their children, who are integrated in French society, dream of breaking “the curse of the concrete” which, according to tradition, forces them to invest their hard-earned money in multi-floored houses in their native villages.

These houses prevent both generations from fulfilling their dreams.