Category Archives: Rroma

A Day In The Life of Alina Serban

photo by Vadim Ghirda

photo by Vadim Ghirda

You may be wondering why I’m writing so much about Alina Serban? Am I being paid by Hollywood (or Media Pro)? Am I in love? Have I got nothing better to do?  The explanation is simple: when I went to speak with the magazine Decit o Revista they asked me what I was working on and I said “Alina Serban”, and they said “Can you do one for us too?”. So I did and here it is.  Meanwhile, as an update to the article, my spies tell me that Alina is now in London attending an audition at RADA, the top British acting school.

It’s eight fifteen in the morning and I am hurrying towards the underground station at Piata Romana with Alina Serban, the dynamic young Roma actress. Alina has a puppet show at nine o’ clock at a kindergarten in the Militar area and we’re running late. We squeeze into the commuter crowd, change at Piata Victoriei and get another train to Crangasi. She calls her colleague Elena Rotaru, Continue reading

An Actress to Watch Out For

credit-unatcroThis article was also published in Romanian on Hotnews.

Whenever a great Romanian actor dies someone tells me that this is the latest chapter in the decline of Romanian drama.  Romanians can be very negative about their future and this negativity is projected onto the arts where they tend to see a glorious past and a miserable future.  But I am not Romanian and I don’t share these views.

I am from Edinburgh, a city which hosts the world’s biggest theatre festival but is actually a deeply un-cultural place where alcohol and football are far more important than arts.  (If you want to understand Scotland, read Irvine Welsh.)   Like most of my compatriots I know little about acting and have no comment about the ancient Romanian actors whom people here hold so dearly.  But whenever I go to a Romanian play or film, which is rarely as I am unable to resist the escapist attractions of Hollywood, I see great young actors. I recently saw Periphery and was mesmerized by the charisma of Ana Ularu. Continue reading

My view of the Rroma

img_6910This article was first published in Romanian, on

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last 20 years in Romania it is to not generalise.  Although generalising is fun and it seems to make sense of the world, it results in a narrowness and rigidity of thought that can turn into prejudice. And prejudice can have all sorts of negative consequences.  If you generalise about a population it is a statistical certainty that there is a large number of that population behaving differently to how you have described.  For many years I heard Romanian people telling me that the Rroma people don’t know how to work the land and don’t like to go to school so we made a documentary film called The Land is Waiting which portrays a family of 10 Rroma kids, all of whom work the land and study hard for school and university. Continue reading

An update about the France-Roma-Romania argument

Nicolae Gheorghe

Nicolae Gheorghe

This article was first published on the Economist’s website Eastern Approaches. It is worth looking at the Economist’s version of the article as it has been quite well edited, tightened up and de-personalised and made suitable for the Economist’s more anonymous style.  I intend to print out both versions and compare them as this will enable me to better understand the kind of article the Economist required (this was how I learned journalism 20 years ago: I would analyse articles I really admired and try and work out the style of the publication I was targeting. Easy.  Many years passed before I found out that you could actually study journalism. Back then I don’t think I ever met anyone who had. Continue reading

Romania risks HIV epidemic

hivRomania’s Ministry of Health stands accused of abandoning those who are suffering from the HIV virus as the “anti-retroviral” medical supplies that have been keeping them alive for many years are about to run out. In addition, the needle exchange programme that has been supplying thousands of injecting drug users in Bucharest is about to end.

“We are extremely alarmed by information from Romania” writes the EU HIV/AIDS Civil Society Forum (an advisory body set up by the European Commission), “the supply of antiretroviral treatment for People Living with HIV is not assured – with some patients having treatment interruption of over a month now, and patients living in rural areas travelling to the capital to queue up in front of the main hospital to obtain treatment”. Continue reading

How to get a grant

roma_comunity_montenegroWhen I was in Montenegro recently I checked into a small guest house and asked if they had internet. “Of course we do” boomed the big cheery lady who runs the place, but when I tried to get online it didn’t work. I asked for help and she went to fetch the Siberian who was living with his wife on the floor below. “He knows English” she cried as she hurried down the frozen stone steps.

A small, alert and friendly young man came in and tried to help me connect. But it still didn’t work, and we ended up on the outside terrace which was the only place (apart from his room) where the wireless signal actually did work. We sat there for hours, despite the rain and cold, and I learned about Siberia.  Continue reading

Invest in education for Roma minority

A massive investment in education is the only way that the huge Roma minority in Romania can emerge from grinding poverty and marginalisation. If better educated, the Roma people could fill the gap created by the country’s falling population and provide future generations of entrepreneurs, scientists and skilled workers. Continue reading