MINELRES: Romania: Bulletin DIVERS on Ethnic Minorities no. 39 (235) / October 30, 2006

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Divers Bulletin no. 39 (235) / October 30, 2006


SITUATION OF ETHNIC ROMA CHILDREN IS STILL PRECARIOUS 
MODULAR HOUSES FOR ETHNIC ROMA IN TULCEA 
TARICEANU REJECTS AUTONOMY ON POLITICAL GROUNDS 
UDMR ASKS BUDAPEST TO LIBERALIZE THE LABOR MARKET FOR ROMANIANS 
SAXONS FADE AWAY IN TRANSYLVANIA 
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News

SITUATION OF ETHNIC ROMA CHILDREN IS STILL PRECARIOUS 
Ethnic Roma keep living in unsuitable conditions and their children are
compelled to give up school to help their parents. Many children do not
have the necessary clothes or writing materials and are offended by the
children of their age. A research of organization "Save the Children"
shows that nothing changed in the past eight years as regards the ethnic
Roma.

The survey was made in five towns, and aims to acknowledge the eventual
changes in the status of the ethnic Roma children in the past eight
years, since the last research made on this issue. The organization
acknowledged the changes are almost inexistent, the living conditions
are still precarious, and the ethnic Roma families do not have a place
to live or the necessary ownership or identity documents, being liable
to lose their house. Also, children are forced to live with their
parents and they rarely go to school, shows the survey published
Wednesday, October 25 by organization "Save the Children." 
Thus, 72% of the surveyed people claimed the lack of the necessary
conditions to make their homework, as the entire family is compelled to
live in one room, while 32% claimed the lack of writing materials. Only
15 of the 150 under-age respondents confessed they suffer from hunger,
but the experts who made the survey added their food is not diversified,
lacking sweets, fried potatoes or meat. 
The school absenteeism was also caused by lack of clothes, some 20% of
the respondents confirming this fact. 
The research said that 54% of the children face difficulties with the
children of their age, who curse or offend them without acknowledging
they are discriminated. 
Most of ethnic Roma children have poor or average results in school. The
bulk or 18% of the under-age ethnic Roma aim to become policemen.
The cited sources said the only improvement was acknowledged in the
medical field, due to the sanitary mediators who contribute at enabling
the relationships between the ethnic Roma community and the medical
personnel.
Author: DIVERS

MODULAR HOUSES FOR ETHNIC ROMA IN TULCEA 
TULCEA - Employees with Tulcea City Hall (city in Eastern Romania)
started on October 24, the setting up works of the modular houses to
accommodate seven ethnic Roma families during the cold season. According
to mayor Constantin Hogea, Ministry of Administration and of the
Interior, or MAI, approved that some of these modular houses initially
assigned to families in Ostrov village in Tulcea, affected in the spring
floods, are assigned to the seven ethnic Roma families that remained
without a house after having been evicted from a dwelling they were
abusively living in. 
"We will set up the legal framework for the ethnic Roma to use the
modular houses they will be assigned," Hogea said. 
The ethnic Roma are still dissatisfied with this situation, complaining
the local authorities about the fact they are marginalized, as the
modular houses will be located at the outskirts of the city. 
Moreover, the members of an ethnic Roma family, who are already living
in a house nearby the place the modular houses will be located, showed
dissatisfied with they future neighbors, fearing they might steal their
goods. 
Early this month some 17 ethnic Roma families illegally living in a
dwelling near the center of Tulcea city were evicted and assigned new
dwellings. Other seven families who remained without a place to live
were assigned, by Red Cross Organization, a tent, food, beds and
hygiene-sanitary products. 
Author: DIVERS

TARICEANU REJECTS AUTONOMY ON POLITICAL GROUNDS 
BUCHAREST - Premier Calin Popescu-Tariceanu said Monday, October 23, he
supports the local autonomy and the decentralization, which should not
be considered ethnically speaking. "In 2006ís Europe and out of Romanian
accession to the European Union in 2007, these nationalist-like measures
are useless. Romania and entire Europe have another vision. This narrow
vision based on ethnic criteria is outdated," Tariceanu said. 
The Premier said that UDMR "has an identity problem" caused by the
"competition" from the Ethnic Hungarian Civic Union. 
Author: DIVERS

UDMR ASKS BUDAPEST TO LIBERALIZE THE LABOR MARKET FOR ROMANIANS 
BUCHAREST - UDMR will ask the Hungarian Government for the
liberalization of the labor market, so that Romanian citizens go working
to Hungary without restrictions as of January 1, UDMR executive
vice-president Laszlo Borbely said Tuesday, October 24.
UDMR representatives already said the Hungarian counterpart "the people
coming from Romania will not invade the Hungary's labor market."
UDMR's executive vice-president said the Hungarian Government would
analyze this problem, which will make a decision by December 1. Laszlo
Borbely talked about these issues during a press conference, after
presenting the daily agenda of the joint session of the Government of
Hungary and of Romania due on November 16, in Budapest. 
Borbely said this session should approach the cross-border cooperation
issue, the territorial development, highways and "they way they connect
to Hungary," the joint custom checkpoints, the support of rebuilding
cult dwellings and the opening in November, in Sfintu Gheorghe, of a
Cultural Center. The Government of Hungary and of Romania held another
session in 2005. 
Author: DIVERS

SAXONS FADE AWAY IN TRANSYLVANIA 
Old community dies on its feet - just as its heritage comes back into
vogue. An article by Marcus Tanner in Sibiu written for Balkan
Investigative Reporting Network.

When the sun sets on the village of Grossau - or Cristian, in Romanian -
the Carpathians to the south look smoky blue in the haze. The pitched
red roofs of the village houses turn flame red, while storks nesting on
telegraph poles stand silhouetted against the evening sky. 
In the neighbouring Romanian village of Ortan, sunset brings women in
old-fashioned dress out onto the benches in front of their cottages to
gossip, observe and catch the departing rays.
Who could dream of abandoning such idyllic-looking scenes? The answer is
- almost everyone. Grossau may look like an illustration from a Grimms
fairy tale but abundant natural beauty has not been enough to tempt the
local Germans, or Saxons, as they are called, into staying. 
Since the 1980s, a community that has lived in south-east Transylvania
since the 12th century has streamed out, leaving none but the elderly
and the intermarried behind. 
"Twenty years ago there were 3,000 Saxons in this village," said Sam
Hutter, a 60-year-old bell-ringer in Grossau, one of the last of the
tribe. "Now there are 40." 
Survivors of the exodus include his brother and sister but the sister
does not live nearby and the brother is old and sick. "I've only one
friend left in the village with whom I can talk German," added Hutter.
The Hutters have lived in Grossau, just west of Sibiu, for centuries,
says Sam, though whether they came with the first wave of German
settlers in the 12th century, or in the subsequent wave in the 18th
century, under Maria Theresa, he cannot tell. 
But the Hutters clearly flourished in Grossau before the mass migration
started to Germany, for a monument to the last century's war dead shows
a long list.
Life was insecure for Transylvanian Saxons. For centuries, the danger of
attacks from the Ottoman Empire forced local people to encase their
churches in high protective walls, which survive to this day.
Inside these fortresses, Saxons built towers and cellars to store hams
for sieges. Grossau's cellar is still there, though when Hutter heaves
open the heavy wooden door, it leads only to a cavernous cellar that has
long lain empty. 
Hutter rings the bells to a church that is more or less empty, too.
"Sometimes there are no more than 15," he said. "In the winter, it can
be even less." There is no one to help him keep the old clock in the
tower in order; it takes all his ingenuity to keep it running.
At least the church survives, its services performed by visiting
Lutheran clergy from Sibiu, which Saxons know as Hermannstadt. The
parsonage has been sold. 
The rest of the Saxon infrastructure in the village is gone, including
shops and inns where, so Hutter recalls, Saxons sat on one side and
Romanians the other.
These days the prevailing influence in the village is not Saxon or
Romanian. It is Roma. 
When the Saxons left Transylvania in the 1980s and 1990s, lured by
German laws offering instant citizenship to people of ethnic German
descent, Roma moved into the empty homes. 
Hutter remembers the hullabaloo this caused, when older villagers in
Grossau accused the incomers of stealing tools, doors and even whole
roofs. Now it has quietened down. 
"They don't bother me," said Hutter, flapping a hand in the direction of
a nearby bar frequented by a young Roma crowd.
A walk through the village reveals the extent of its ethnic
transformation - a process replicated throughout this part of
Transylvania. Grossau may look like a slice of old Germany, with quaint
old German sayings inscribed in Gothic letters on the fronts of several
houses, but most people seen on the streets are Roma.
Not everyone feels grief-stricken about the death of the Saxon world in
Transylvania. At Michelsberg, or Cisnadioara, south of Sibiu, the church
looks even more idyllic than its counterpart in Grossau. 
Dating from the 12th century, it must have been built shortly after
Saxons first came to Transylvania, at the invitation of the kings of
Hungary who then ruled the province.
But a mass of war memorials sited in the church serve as a reminder that
Saxon history has another side to it. 
Not all are as sad as the decomposing wooden cross erected to a
17-year-old boy, a member of the royal Bavarian cavalry who died in the
First World War.
Many are memorials to men who died in the Second - as fighters for
Nazism, in other words.
The fact is that Hitler found many fervent recruits in these dreamy
villages, so far from the "Heimat". 
"This is just the kind of thing I don't care for," one German-born
resident of Transylvania said, staring quizzically at the biggest of the
war memorials in Michelsberg church. "These people are too conservative.
They are too nationalistic for me." 
Her reaction was probably typical of many modern, left-of-centre Germans
who find Transylvanian Saxon culture - so quaint and folkloric to
outsiders - uncomfortable and evocative of a Germany they would prefer
to forget.
Romanians are less troubled by memories of the dark side of Saxon
history. At a garage in Sibiu, mechanics recalled departed Saxon
workmates only with pride and regret. 
They were great guys - hard workers - the Romanians said. They "could do
anything". They kept in touch with some, years after they had left for
Germany.
And for Sibiu's go-ahead town council, led by a popular Saxon mayor,
Klaus Johannis, the Saxon connection is simply a boon. 
The town looks like a construction site, as workmen rush to sandblast
old buildings, repave streets and repair the town walls ahead of a
January deadline, when Sibiu takes up its role as European capital of
culture for 2007. 
As part of the restoration, signs reading "Hermannstadt" have been put
back on main roads leading into town. The tourist office overflows with
nostalgic accounts of life in the Saxon heyday and maps of Saxon
villages. 
Saxon heritage has never been more in vogue - certainly not since the
1940s, when the communists began their half-century of rule in Romania.
But no amount of official promotion can halt the slow decay of a
community that has no heirs, and of the 60,000 remaining German-speakers
in 2002 - down from 800,000 a century ago - precious few are children.
Most are like Sam Hutter, getting on a bit, and married to Romanians. 
He has no ambition to migrate to Germany, a country he has never even
visited. While he is in good heart, Grossau's church, memorial, ham
tower, clocks and bells will all have their protector and historian. But
after he goes, who can tell? 
Author: DIVERS

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DIVERS - News bulletin about ethnic minorities living in Romania is
edited every week by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, with the
financial support of King Baudouin Foundation, Belgium and Ethnocultural
Diversity Resource Center. Partial or full reproduction of the
information contained in DIVERS is allowed only if the source is
mentioned. You can send messages and suggestions regarding the content
of DIVERS bulletin at Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, at the
e-mail address:
marian@birn.eu.com

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