I remember after the fall of communism in 1989 one of our famous political analysts said that our Romania will need at least 20 years to recover after communism and we were all laughing. And here we are, exactly after 20 years, seeing that he was perfectly right. And probably from somewhere up there he is smiling to see that he was more than right. Change is very slow.

I was in Braşov this past week to visit Hospice Casa Sperantei, a Rising Voices grantee, and give a short workshop to its staff in order to collectively think of ways in which new media can be used to 1.) spread more awareness about the daily realities of palliative care and 2.) tell the stories of patients to enable them to leave behind a legacy of their lives.

Last month Juhie featured excerpts of some of the testimonials from patients at the hospice. As you can see, most of the testimonials focused on the diseases which afflict the hospice residents. In the workshop I wanted to emphasize that the testimonies and stories recounted on the project blog could be both fun and informative at the same time. Laughter erupts even in the darkest moments. And so I quickly put together the above video (made with my mobile phone; hence the poor audio) with Casa Sperantei Executive Director Malina Dumitrescu.


Ion Ţiriac in 1982, two years before he became the manager of Boris Becker.

In the video Malina mentions Romanian tennis star Ion Ţiriac, a Braşov native. It could be argued that Ţiriac – and his patent handlebar mustache – benefited more than any other Romanian from the fall of communism here in 1989. Immediately following the overthrow (and televised execution) of Nicolae Ceauşescu, he founded Banca Ţiriac, the first private bank in post-Communist Romania. In 2007 Ţiriac became the first Romanian to make Forbes’ List of billionaires, placing number 840 in the world. (Last year he slipped to number 962.)

However, Tiriac’s success also exemplifies the way in which post-communist Romania has developed over the past 20 years. The opportunities of the free market have only been enjoyed by a select minority, those who were most connected during the transition from state-owned land and industry to privatized corporations. Many older Romanians are nostalgic for the communist era when jobs and stability could both be counted on. For the entrepreneurial and the connected like Ion Ţiriac, capitalism has been an undebatable blessing. You see their kind all over – brand new Audis, BMW’s, and Hummers parked outside of gated luxury restaurants. (In fact, to the eternal frustration of middle-class Romanians, the rich and connected park their cars wherever they want without concern for the parking laws applicable to everyone else.) But for the vast majority of Romanians the fruits of the free market have yet to be picked.

If you’re interested in learning more about Romania, my favorite European citizen media site Cafe Babel has excellent coverage in English.