Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Alina Serban for The International Herald Tribune

Back in February, I've had the privilege to follow around for a couple of days the young and very talented actress Alina Serban. She had taken a few days off from school (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London) to come to Bucharest to perform her one-woman show, "I, Alina Serban, declare at my own risk", that describes her growing-up as a Roma child.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Roma Dilemma. Baia Mare.

About two weeks ago, I took a trip to Baia Mare, in Northern Romania, with Agence France-Presse reporter Mihaela Rodina, to work on an intriguing story about a Roma community living on the edge of the city.

Following complaints from Romanian neighbours, mayor Catalin Chereches authorized the demolition of most of the ramshackle houses that make up Craica, a shantytown on the outskirts of Baia Mare. Several rights groups accused the local authorities of "violating legislation and trampling the dignity of Roma inhabitants ... by forcibly evicting hundreds of them" and relocating them in buildings belonging to Cuprom, a copper processing plant closed down over pollution concerns.

I found this issue to be really hard to photograph objectively. On the one side, you have the Gypsy community that has been forced to move out of the houses they have built. They were taken to what used to be the offices and labs of a chemical processing plant and offered a three year waver for most of their living costs. On the other, you have the Romanian neighbours and authorities, complaining about the somewhat less than sociable behaviour of the Roma community, whose members have allegedly built their homes illegally on public propriety.

As usual around here, authorities are looking for a quick way out and, if possible, a boost in credit before elections. The mayor was recently re-elected with an overwhelming 85% of the votes. The Roma issue is not something you deal with in a month, or a year, or two. These people have been discriminated for decades in our country and it takes more than bulldozers and a makeshift housing project to fix things. It takes commitment and a long-term plan focused, among other things, on educating the young.

We spent very little time in Baia Mare and only got a glimpse of the larger picture. You can read Mihaela Rodina's story here. For further reference, please make sure to check out this story in Decat O Revista, by Oana Sandu and Mugur Varzariu, who have spent a great deal of time with the Roma community in Baia Mare.