Thursday, November 30, 2006

HVG: Scandals at the Hungarian universities

Discrimination in Cluj and Bratislava
Scandals at the Hungarian universities
2006. november 30. 11:20

Scandals surrounding the University of Cluj in Transylvania and the Slovakian government's decision to award development grants in a way that discriminates against Hungarians underpin our concern that the situation of Hungarians beyond the border is getting worse. Even though there are levers we can pull in Brussels and Strasbourg to defend the interests of the Hungarians of Slovakia and Romania, we have achieved little.

There were several occasions during the 20th century when the nationalisms of the peoples of the Carpathian basin fed off each other. While the historical Greater Hungary still stood, politicians representing the minority Slovak, Romanian and Serb peoples complained before the audience of global public opinion about aggressive Hungarianising tendencies, and with good reason. Once they had gained their own states after World War I, they swore to safeguard all the rights of their minority peoples.
Despite this, it emerged at the end of World War II that Benes had devised secret plans to drive out the Hungarians, "a guilty nation", by means of a population exchange, which was successfully carried out.

Romanian nationalists were only prevented from carrying out similar plans by the Soviet Union, which mounted a military invasion of Northern Transylvania that lasted a year and a half. Later, the Soviet Union exerted strong pressure on both Czechoslovakia and Romania to tone down their anti-Hungarian nationalism.
Given this, it is hardly surprising that nationalism continues to be a source of conflict between Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. Romanians and Slovaks continue to present themselves as victims, as they did 100 years ago, blaming the "separatists tendencies" of a minority directed against a peaceful majority.

But our conservative opposition blames the governing Socialist-Liberal coalition for allowing events to get as far as they have, spurring on the nationalists of the neighbouring countries by campaigning against a referendum proposal in December that would have given dual nationality to ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries. Since then, Fidesz claims, the Socialists have been weak and useless in bilateral negotiations. They say Romanian and Slovak politicians have washed the floor with our prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany.
The most recent events have shown that the situation of the Hungarian minorities is getting worse. In theory, Hungary can turn to Brussels and Strasbourg to protect the interests of the Hungarians of Romania and Slovakia, but they have achieved little. Given what has happened, it comes as little surprise that Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj suspended two of its lecturers on 27 November. They accused Peter Hantz and Kovacs Lehel of distributing flyers and "constantly spreading lies about the institution and the country."

It is strange that the Hungarian government has nothing to say about this affair. Ferenc Gyurcsany's government held a joint cabinet session with the Romanian prime minister 10 days ago in Budapest. At this meeting, agreements were made about major infrastructural plans, and it was also agreed that the restoration of the statue of King Matyas in Cluj would be jointly paid for by the two countries.
But it would seem that even these joint efforts were not enough to convince the Babes-Bolyai University to put up a few Hungarian-language signs alongside the Romanian ones. Catedra de literatura maghiara: it sounds nice enough, and it's certainly multicultural. But if you then put up another sign below it that says "Magyar irodalomtudomanyi tanszek" or Department of Hungarian Literature, then that's separatism, and the university will sack you.
How is that our diplomats are unable to persuade the world that this is an outrage? They should appeal to global public opinion, forcing the Romanian government to put a stop to this discrimination and force the university to reinstate the dismissed lecturers.

The Slovakian government has done something similarly outrageous. They have given more generous state subsidies to towns that are more than 277m above sea level, arguing that the cost of heating and repairing roads is greater in these areas. Other areas receive proportionately less. But what really happened is that they established that these were the areas where there were barely any Hungarians. The government in Bratislava has cut off some 1600 Hungarian towns and villages from receiving almost HUF500bn in development support.

Could there be a more transparent and absurd argument? Yet Hungarians in the governing coalition are unwilling to raise the matter. The leadership of the Hungarian Coalition Party in Slovakia pointed out this disgraceful anomaly, but nothing has changed. This despite the fact that Robert Fico, the Slovak prime minister, recently behaved very dismissively towards Ferenc Gyurcsany, who might therefore be expected to respond more decisively.

There's no question that things are not going too well for Hungarians beyond the border. Maybe the left-liberal coalition believes publicising this abroad would just be pouring oil on the fire without yielding any benefits at home. Yet sweeping things under the carpet is the same as letting the situation deteriorate further.
János Pelle

Nine O'Clock: Magyar organisations want ‘unitary national state’ notion eliminated from Constitution

Magyar organisations want ‘unitary national state’ notion eliminated from Constitution

The organisations also want autonomy for the Magyars from Transylvania, and request the Romanian authorities to not prevent the organisation of the referendum.
published in issue 3821 page 5 at 2006-11-30

Sfantu Gheorghe - The Magyar Civic Union (UCM), the National Szeklers’ Council (CNS) and the Association of the Magyar Youth from Transylvania (ATMT) adopted jointly a memorandum which requests among others to eliminate the definition of unitary national state on the occasion of the modification of the Constitution of Romania.

According to Mediafax, the leaders of the three Magyar organisations enumerate in the memorandum the requests in eight points, on behalf of the Magyar community. One of these requests is the elimination of the definition of national unitary state on the occasion of the modification of the Constitution of Romania, and to introduce instead the idea that Romania is a multinational state. It is also requested to include in the Constitution the territorial-administrative reorganisation of the country, in order to replace the present counties by larger administrative units, with more extended attributions, which will also play the role of the development regions. “Their borders will be established subject to local referendums,” reads the document.

It is also requested to modify the law of the political parties, in order to avoid limiting their right to association and to assure the registration of the regional parties that represent smaller territories. The signatory Magyar organisations want also the modification of the electoral law, in order to eliminate the “discriminatory provisions,” first of all those which “make impossible the presence of the national minorities’ organisations in the local and national political life.”

The three Magyar organisations request the Government to begin immediately the negotiations with CNS, and the organisations from the Szeklers’ County of UDMR and UCM with a view to assuring the appropriate legal framework for the settlement of the Szeklers’ County as autonomous region, taking as a base the draft of the law regarding the status of the autonomy of the Szeklers’ County drafted and submitted to Parliament by CNS.

“The Romanian authorities should not prevent the organisation of the referendum initiated by CNS, while EP should assure through its observers its organisation according to regulations,” also reads the document. The Government is also requested to begin the negotiations with the National Council of the Magyars from Transylvania, namely UDMR, for the elaboration of a draft of a law that would assure the personal autonomy of the Magyars from Transylvania. “Until these claims are settled, the members of the Magyar community from Romania feel like second hand citizens on the earth of their forefathers,” also reads the memorandum.

Minorities’ status, once again postponed due to lack of quorum
Juridical, education and human rights commission within the Chamber of Deputies yesterday failed to debate the draft law regarding the national minorities’ status, because of Deputies’ absence. The President of the Commission for education, Lia Olguta Vasilescu noticed the lack of quorum as only four Deputies from the Commission for human rights were present. The three Commissions have postponed several times the debates on the national minorities’ status, claiming there were not enough Deputies for the meting. PSD representatives announced, few months ago, that they would no longer attend the works as UDMR does not mention its stand towards the statements made by Vice-Premier Marko Bela concerning territorial autonomy.
by Simona Popescu

Jurnalul National: Event: Official Launch of Sibiu at UNESCO

Event: Official Launch of Sibiu at UNESCO
29 Noiebrie 2006 de Sebastian S. Eduard

Correspondence from Paris
Yesterday, the UNESCO Maison hosted the event for the presentation of the “Sibiu – the European Cultural Capital in 2007” project, organized by the Ministry of Culture and Cults in collaboration with the Romanian Permanent Delegation at UNESCO.

More than 250 members of the permanent delegations at UNESCO together with media representatives from Romania and France have been invited to this event. The Romanian delegation is led by the Minister of Culture, Adrian Iorgulescu, and by the governmental commissary of this project – Sergiu Nistor. This way, Sibiu, one of the greatest medieval architectural sites in Europe, submits its candidacy for a place on the list of the monuments in the UNESCO patrimony. The visual communication for Sibiu will be ensured by the varnishing of the exhibition called “Sibiu: Young Since 1191”, an exhibition that meets the international environment for the fourth time, after Strasbourg, Patras and Berlin.

The event for the promotion of the program will also benefit from a favorable Romanian context caused by the reception for the presentation of Academician Professor Dr. Nicolae Manolescu, the new Romanian ambassador at UNESCO, of the permanent delegations and by the celebration of Romania’s national day at UNESCO.
Translated by SORIN BALAN

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dzeno Association: Training on interethnic communication

Training on interethnic communication
27. 11. 2006

Ludus - Over 75 ethnic Roma, Hungarian and Romanian citizens took part on November 18th, Ludus, Mures county, in the training sessions organized by Foundation Freedom House Romania and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, on the issue of inter-ethnic communication.

The courses targeted the medics and teachers, the servants and the staff with the Police and Gendarmerie in Mures county, assigned to Ludus area and Hadareni community, where a large number of Roma people are living.
The training was attended by 32 persons, employees with Mures Gendarmerie and Ludus Police.

The chief commissary Silviu Erusencu, with the National Agency to fight Human Trafficking within the Defense Ministry, held the course. This course focused on information to fight and manage conflict situations. In order to increase the efficiency of the course, the training was attended by people actually working in field positions as well as decision-making persons. Silviu Erusencu believes this is the solution to preventing decision-making deadlocks.

Mariana Buceau held the course for medical staff, which gathered 10 family medics in Ludus area, who registered on their lists a large number of ethnic patients, and five medical nurses and sanitary mediators. It included information about inter-ethnic communication and modalities for an efficient relationship between the medical and ethnic Roma patients.

The third course targeted teachers working with ethnic Roma pupils, namely teachers with the General School in Hadareni as well as with schools and high schools in Ludus. Servants with the Ludus public administration also took part in the course. Two trainers, namely Maria Korek, program director with the regional branch of the NGO, Project on Ethnic Relations, and Elisabeta Danciu, an ethnic Roma teacher in Caransebes, held an interactive meeting. The meeting explained the ethnic Roma specific, traditions, social behavior, and values, as well as about efficient means to reach out to ethnic Roma pupils.

The training session organized by the foundation, Freedom House Romania, and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network is part of the Program for communitarian development in Hadareni, managed by the Government of Romania through the National Agency for Ethnic Roma.(Divers)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

BBJ: Hungarian cultural institute opens in Transylvania

Hungarian cultural institute opens in Transylvania
28 Nov 2006

A new Hungarian cultural institute will be opened by the undersecretary of the Ministry of Education and Culture in Sfantu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy), the director of the institution said on Tuesday.
Katalin Bogyai will open the Cultural Co-ordination Centre on Wednesday, two years after the institute was completed, said Miklós Hadnagy. The center’s operation was delayed due to the ratification of a necessary bilateral agreement by Romanian parliament, which happened in May this year.

The cultural centre in Sfantu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) will be a branch of a similar organisation in Bucharest, but its activities will differ considerably, due to the fact that the majority of Sfantu Gheorghe residents are ethnic Hungarians, Hadnagy said. The center’s main task will be cultural co-ordination between the Hungarians living in the Carpathian basin, he added. (

Nine O'Clock: Defence Minister inspects military units in Har-Cov and Mures counties

Defence Minister inspects military units in Har-Cov and Mures counties
The visit might be connected to the referendum for autonomy ethnic Hungarian communities in the area are planning to hold, as a central newspaper suggests.
published in issue 3818 page 3 at 2006-11-27

Defence Minister Sorin Frunzaverde and Army Chief of Staff Gheorghe Marin began an official two-day visit to military units in Transylvania, in the counties of Covasna, Harghita and Mures, according to a report in central daily “Gandul” on Saturday.The minister’s visit comes about one month ahead of an autonomy referendum that will be held in the three counties, largely inhabited by ethnic Hungarians, the newspaper said, suggesting that Frunzaverde was checking military units in the area to see if they are ready to intervene in case of an inter-ethnical conflict.

The initiative to obtain territorial and administrative autonomy for ethnic Hungarians living in the three counties, also known as Szekler County, was announced recently by the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), a party in the ruling coalition. The initiative was widely criticized by the Romanian community and civil society in the area and by several politicians in both the coalition and the opposition.Since the announcement, several local councils in Szekler County decided to hold referendums on the autonomy issue.

Moreover, another party in the ruling coalition, the Conservative Party, recently asked the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) to explain what measures they take to prevent inter-ethnical conflicts in areas with a high risk of producing such disagreements, namely in Covasna, Harghita and Mures. A local official from Covasna rejected the call, saying that these three counties presented no higher risk of ethnic conflicts than other regions.

Frunzaverde rejected any connection between his visit to the area and the planned referendums, the newspaper said. The last visit of a defence minister to the area was done six years ago, still by Frunzaverde, who briefly held the post between March and December 2000.

First, the minister visited Sfantu Gheorghe and Miercurea Ciuc mountain ranger units, which are very important because they will “offer generating-regenerating forces” to the Brasov Mountain Ranger Brigade, one of the units Romania will make available for NATO and the EU after the country’s European integration, the newspaper said.During his visit, the minister admitted that military units in Covasna and Harghita have logistic, infrastructure and equipment issues.

While in Harghita, the minister commented on the MiG 21 plane crash last week, underlining that it would be wrong to suggest that pilots are using obsolete flight techniques, Mediafax news agency reported. An MiG 21 Lancer crashed in Beliu, Arad County, on Wednesday last week. The only person on board, the pilot, lost his life in the accident.Referring to the accident, Frunzaverde said that nobody wants innocent people to die, especially on MiGs and added tat the Army has plans to buy multi-role aircrafts.

The minister also asked that no speculations are made on the causes of the crash, saying the Defence Ministry will issue a statement about the causes of the crash.As for the acquisition of equipment for the Army, the minister explained that his institution will resort to foreign loans and is currently trying to find financial resources for six programmes to purchase equipment with the help of the Finance Ministry.

In Sfantu Gheorghe, Frunzaverde said that the Army needs at least 10,000 lodgings for soldiers in all military units around the country. The possibility of building such lodgings in Covasna, on the plots of land the Army owns in the area, was discussed by the minister with Covasna Prefect Gyorgy Ervin and Sfantu Georghe Mayor Albert Almos.
by Dana Florin

Monday, November 27, 2006

Yahoo! News: Gypsies Vow To Impale Borat Star

Gypsies Vow To Impale Borat Star
Monday November 27, 09:24 AM

Furious gypsy villagers have vowed to impale the star of hit film Borat for poking fun at them. They want revenge on creator Sacha Baron Cohen for portraying them as rapists and prostitutes. In the film, scenes said to depict Borat's Kazakhstan home were filmed in the Romanian community of Glod.

Gheorgie Pascu - who sold Baron Cohen a cow used in the film - told The Sun: "Borat made us look like savages.
"This is Transylvania, home of Dracula. If he ever returns we will stick a stake in his backside and impale him."
Luca Tugaciu added: "Borat came here with police to guard him during filming.
"If he ever returned, it would be the end for him."

Villagers claim they were underpaid and were not informed that the film was a comedy.
Two have filed a £15m lawsuit, saying they were told the film was about poverty.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Redmond Developer: Romanian Holiday

Romanian Holiday
Neverfail Group's offshore adventure
by Jason Turcotte
November 2006

More than Eastern European charm drew executives from a small disaster recovery start-up to the narrow streets of Cluj, Romania, in their search for a new locale for their development team. The city's vigorous energy and ready supply of technical talent helped pique the interest of key executives at Neverfail Group Ltd. It didn't take long for the company to gain the attention of numerous, curious developers in the historical European town.
"We were the first company to ever take out a full page ad in this newspaper," says Ken Anton, Neverfail's support manager. "It raised a lot of eyebrows. And people said, 'who is this company?'"

After rigorous recruitment and a five-month training period, eight Romanians packed a compact, rented office room in Cluj, founding the new support office for the Texas-based company. It wasn't the likeliest of development scenarios; the city was by no means a Redmond or a San Francisco. But two years later the inaugural dev team had flourished, along with the company. The city is now home to Neverfail's largest office, and both parties have found the offshore move a mutually beneficial endeavor.
"There's an opportunity there for people to better themselves that wasn't there 10 years ago," says Neil Robertson, CEO of Neverfail. With developers in Stirling, Scotland, some in England, some working independently and some working from home, Robertson began envisioning a central support office that would foster technical debate, discussion and true team synergy. He also knew this "one center of excellence" would be best served offshore; he just didn't know where.
And within the historic, Transylvanian college town known for its breweries and financial sector lay an opportunity for a fledgling company to fully compete in a market chock full of giant challengers.

Small Fish, Big Pond
Robertson, who describes the company as "a mature start-up," is proud of Neverfail's humble beginnings but also recognized the need to market through a global reseller model. Neverfail launched four years ago as a legacy disaster recovery consultancy, working closely with IBM Corp. on the delivery process for backing up systems. Since its inception, and the arrival of Robertson, it was clear the company needed to shift gears to keep pace with competing disaster recovery products from CA and Double-Take Software Inc.
"In order to deliver that seamless experience it had to be platform-specific. So, we made a conscious decision at that moment that Linux would not be our focus," Robertson says.
In 2002 Neverfail concentrated on the Microsoft market, a vision management found appealing for its diverse partner community. With the new focus emerged Heartbeat, the company's flagship product.

"Our colleagues in Cluj have contributed quite a lot about the understanding of the different cultures and marketplaces we sell."
Ken Anton, Support Manager,Neverfail Group Ltd.The software replicates data from an active server to a passive one, providing out-of-the-box protection and securely backing up information.
The product covers the entire application environment without requiring the re-start of apps.
With Heartbeat came a series of application modules for Microsoft-based platforms. The group now offers modules for Exchange, SharePoint, IIS, File Server and SQL Server. Soon thereafter, Neverfail management entertained the notion of pooling its development resources to create a facility that made sense both logistically and financially.
That eight-person team burgeoned to 40 developers. Today the group performs a wide range of tasks including Web management, app development, quality assurance, testing and tech support. Neverfail, which has 10 more hires on the horizon for its Cluj office, says the offshore move has helped them swim with the sharks in the competitive Microsoft market.
After scouting sessions in Cluj, the group flew the first wave of hopefuls to their Stirling, Scotland, office for five months of testing and training. There they handpicked a core group whose skills would complement one another and could thrive in a team-driven environment. On that trip was developer Radu Miclaus.
Miclaus heard of the opportunity through a friend. With such a small developer community, tight-knit hardly describes the group vying for employment at Neverfail. The open exchange of ideas encouraged by management was enticing enough to coax him from a job at a Romanian outsourcing company, which fielded contracts from the United States and other parts of Europe.
"The IT market in Cluj isn't very big," says Miclaus. "Even though we have many colleges and universities, it's still young."
While the dev environment became more culturally aware and cost-effective for Neverfail, it also had its perks for talent like Miclaus. In Romania, he says, businesses are run rather dogmatically, with little project input from the rank and file. But Miclaus-recently promoted to support team leader-thrived in the new, collaborative arena, which included daily conference calls with the Stirling team and informal roundtable discussions.
Their mantra was and remains simple: leverage talent, don't micromanage it.
While the group performs a myriad of dev tasks, one example of an undertaking was the company's SCOPE product, or Server Check Optimization Performance Evaluation. This application-built in Cluj-examines the reliability of Windows 2000/2003 servers, existing as an automated data analysis solution that collects information on key app components to gauge the health of the server, its workload and bandwidth.
But, as is always the case in the competitive IT industry, Neverfail wasn't the only vendor luring and recruiting offshore development talent.
"One of our key eight was headhunted by Microsoft and flown to Redmond. We knew we weren't going to win that one," Robertson says. "He was a bright kid."
Geography LessonBefore committing to Cluj, Robertson and his colleagues weighed two other emerging IT hotbeds: India and Vietnam. Robertson had generated a lengthy wish list of locations for Neverfail's offshore development team, based on exhaustive discussions with colleagues, consultants, lawyers and clients. Three stood out-India, Vietnam and Romania-with Vietnam earning an early nod as the most appealing site.

Distance, time zones and travel costs played big roles during the decision-making process two years ago. Vietnam was dropped from consideration due to its remoteness and the "embryonic" nature of the Vietnamese economy. India's wealth of IT talent was no surprise to Robertson, but the country's red tape was. Legal parameters kept Neverfail from investing there.
"If you go to India, you can't set up your own company [according to law]. You need to have a jointly owned company," Robertson says. "There are enough horror stories out there of companies who set up with a partner and, suddenly, the money isn't there-nor is the partner."
Cluj, Romania, didn't have the name recognition of competing IT destinations, but within the walls of this city of 340,000 people Robertson spotted an intriguing mix of talented developers, a unique culture and an opportunity to play a remarkable role in the rebuilding nation. Robertson cited recruitment opportunities with 50,000 students citywide, including 12,000 enrolled at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca.
Since schools began placing a stronger emphasis on English, the IT industry has taken notice. The city now plays host to more than 100 software companies. Robertson also found that the cost of office space in Cluj was an attractive bargain at 960 Euros, or roughly $1,200 U.S. It didn't take long for the move to pay dividends for Neverfail.

Expectations Assessed; Challenges LingerRobertson can't cite dollar figures but he estimates the Cluj transition has yielded a significant reduction in development costs, and the perks go well beyond the numbers on a spreadsheet. He credits low turnover and fervid attitudes for the bottom-line boost, which has enabled the company to focus on product marketing and U.S. expansion strategies. He says without the migration to Cluj, the business would be a year or two behind in growth-at least. And management also sees the move as a means of harnessing a global perspective on the industry.

"Our colleagues in Cluj have contributed quite a lot about the understanding of the different cultures and marketplaces we sell," says Anton. "It's helped us be more aware of our customers who are not English speakers."
But that doesn't mean the transition went without a hitch or two.
The frequency of power outages in Romania was unlike anything the company had experienced at the Austin-based headquarters or in Scotland. The occasional loss of bandwidth was another nuisance more commonplace than in the United States. And another example off an offbeat adjustment was tracking their trash. Romanian law requires that businesses officially stamp the paperwork of the privatized companies responsible for hauling commercial garbage.
Less quirky obstacles often resulted from labor laws, which were more "regimented" than Robertson expected. And should Romania join the European Union in 2007 (an issue he keeps a watchful eye on), new challenges would be inevitable.

While admittance into the European Union eases mobility and puts laws on par with those at Neverfail's Stirling office, it will impact Romania's currency, economy, labor laws and health care system-all elements likely to yield both positive and negative changes to the company's Cluj operations. But Robertson remains optimistic, and he attributes the success in Cluj to a few factors.
Management retention, he says, was paramount to the company, along with creating a work culture in which developers thrive. Their mantra was and remains simple: leverage talent, don't micromanage it. With the Cluj office now open for two years, Robertson believes that Neverfail made the right choice when it decided to open its own offshore office, rather than outsource the operation to a third company. Relinquishing autonomy, he says, is simply not the best alternative.
"I think when people purely outsource there are so many examples of where that didn't work," Robertson says. "Writing the check doesn't get the job done."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Guardian Unlimited: Acceding expectations

Acceding expectations

On January 1, Romania will join the European Union. Matthew Tempest went to Sibiu in the Carpathian mountains to see if the former communist state is ready to join Brussels - and whether the EU is ready for Romania.
Listen to Matthew Tempest's podcast from Romania here (8 mins, 44s)
Tuesday November 21, 2006Guardian Unlimited

There is a joke Romanians tell about themselves: "What is small, dark, and knocking at the door?"
Answer: "...The future!"

It reflects their fatalistic but ebullient national psyche. Come new year's day 2007, less than six weeks away, that future consists of the joining the European Union. Along with its Black Sea neighbour, Bulgaria, they become the 26th and 27th members of the EU, completing the old "Warsaw pact" expansion of 2004.
Romania, in particular, will be hard to ignore. It becomes the 8th largest EU member but also (according to most economists) the poorest. National salaries are just 16% of the EU average, while GDP - although growing dramatically - is still only 32% of that in the existing 25 members.
The Romanians also have some negative stereotypes to overcome. Although not thought to be as corrupt as neighbouring Bulgaria, the EU has placed a series of safety clauses into both their accession treaties.
Last month the first choice candidate to become the country's EU commissioner, Varujan Vosganian, had to stand down, seen as too close to both the secret police of the Ceaucescu regime and the big businessmen close to government in the 1990s.
Britain has unilaterally and belatedly imposed sweeping restrictions on the free movement of labour from Romania, reacting to fears that the impoverished Romanians will undercut even the current crop of immigrant workers from Poland and the other accession countries. Not to mention tabloid fears of a "Gyspy crimewave".
On top of that, this country of 22 million people recently suffered the indignity of appearing in the film "Borat", standing in for the supposedly racist, sexist, anti-semitic, feudal peasant society of Kazakhstan.

Mihai Neamtu, the chancellor of Sibiu university, takes issue with foreign perceptions of Romania. Referring to the recent decision by John Reid to bar most unskilled workers from his country, Mr Neamtu said: "The images created by the Sun were very apocalyptic. They are meant to frighten everyone. Anyone can see for themselves that Romania is not this way - we are as European as you are, and have been for 2,000 years."
"We have a criminal justice system that punishes people. And I don't believe either will be an exodus from Romania [next year] because there will be more opportunities and job prospects here."

Indeed, Romania's economy, from a low starting point, is already booming, notching annual growth of around 6%. A flat tax of 16%, combined with cut-price labour, is luring in foreign companies.
Outside the tiny one-room building that is Sibiu airport, in the centre of the country, stand gleaming new factories for Siemens and Peugeot. This is the "western zone", so designated for light industry by the city authorities.
Even the airport itself - which has direct flights only to Munich and Vienna, plus the capital Bucharest - is being razed. Construction workers are busy on a new airport complex, better suited to the needs of hoped-for tourists and businessmen.

The Austrian boss of Siemens, Norbert Bakic, has a Romanian workforce of 255, up from 170 just two years ago. However, he admits some problems in recruitment. Only one in five applicants pass all the medical and educational tests.
Poor eyesight - necessary for the intricate work on semiconducters - caused by vitamin deficiencies in the Romanian diet is one factor, he reveals. Fruit was a rarity under the communist regime, and seems little more prevalent now.
To the first-time visitor to Romania, eating at all seems to be a distraction from the national addiction to cigarettes. Posters for tobacco dominate the streetscape and no-smoking areas of restaurants are unheard-of. Male life expectancy is just 68.
Perhaps just as significantly, workers at the plant are prevented from forming trade unions. Instead, the management appoints representatives to voice the concerns of workers.

Professor Eugen von Iterbeek, a literature lecturer at Sibiu University, sees dangers in this form of rampant economic growth. "There is a danger that this foreign investment will become a new form of colonialism.
"The Balkans and our country will become a new Latin America, a Mexico, a zone of cheap labour. Twenty kilometres outside Sibiu there is real, terrible poverty."
"We need the EU to be more than just an economic union, but need to see more and more cultural and social integration to tackle the real poverty here."
The professor would like to see the 12 accession countries - Romania and Bulgaria plus the 10 that entered in 2004 - hold their own regional meetings within the EU to address their particular problems.
And he warns: "Half a century of communism you cannot eliminate in 15 years. You need three generations - at least."

One of the groups with perhaps the most to gain from the EU's insistence on human rights and protection for minorities is Romania's Gypsy population, the Roma.
Persecuted or simply facing prejudice for centuries, the estimated number of Roma in the country varies from 530,000 - the government's official tally - to the 3 million claimed by the self-styled "King of the Roma", Florin Cioaba.
The real figure probably lies somewhere between those extremes, but with few within the highly self-contained Roma community possessing birth certificates or ID cards, a true number is probably unknowable.

According to Mr Cioaba, "When Romania joins the EU, both Romania and the Roma will have a better life.
"The EU and the World Bank will help with funds for jobs, housing and qualifications," he says, optimistically.
"Under [EU Commission president José Manuel] Barosso, all minorities are guaranteed equality under the European Union.
"Before 1990 under communism we were not allowed to organise, or to have newspapers. Now we have our own TV show, and a small Roma parliament - this was supported by the Finnish EU presidency, under Mr Barosso."
But although many of the Roma now settle in small geographical areas, they bring with them other social problems for which the EU is also expected to deal with.

The "Gypsy Mothers Unit" at Sibiu county hospital, has received 18,500 euros from Brussels. It helps 500-600 Roma girls a year, either with advice and supplies on contraception and family planning, neo-natal support and post-natal care.
They claim a success rate of 45% in getting the Roma girls, frequently aged just 12-14 years old, to take contraception. With a significant problem of incest within the Roma community - which is deeply patriarchal - they also attempt to deal with the problem of the girls abandoning babies born out of father/daughter relationships.

Mirala Olteanua, a 32-year-old lawyer who gave up her more lucrative legal career to be the unit's director, admits that for the first three weeks after the centre opened, not one Roma mother would attend - such was the distrust of formal institutions. "Don't tell them bullshit, don't change their minds," she was told by the Roma men.
"Now this year for the first time since we were founded in 2001 we have had zero abandonment of babies. Most of the babies that do get abandoned end up in orphanages, where they are later diagnosed with disabilities or other medical problems."

Ms Olteanua is also hoping for more EU funds to continue her unit's work after accession next year.
Romania also seeks to stand on its own feet in other ways. Tourism is the principal means by which the country hopes to lure in affluent westerners. At present the Carpathian mountains are one of the most unspoilt hiking and skiing parts of Europe. Increased ease of access, and joining the single currency (expected sometime around 2013) should boost that.
But even there, in remote villages where the principle mode of transport is still the horse and cart, and roadside stalls sell potatoes and milk, the Romanians have a long way to go in adapting. Rubbish and plastic waste is casually dumped in picturesque streams and valleys - something which Brussels will surely frown on.

But tourism, alongside cheap labour for foreign-owned electronics, automotive and garment industries, appears to be Romania's best gamble.
Sibiu itself will celebrate the EU accession by being named European City of Culture 2007- in recognition of its historic medieval town centre, now being restored by a German-led team of architects.

In a symbolic tableaux, across the town square in Sibiu from the concrete, communist-era, "Continental" hotel, a 20-storey glass and steel "Ramada Inn" is rapidly rising.
Both hotels will look over the scene of fireworks and partying on new year's eve. But with Brussels fretting over future candidate countries, from Turkey to Croatia to the western Balkans, the sound of celebrations in Romania could also be the sound of the door shutting on future EU expansion.,,1952841,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Southeast European Time: A new era for Romania's Roma

A new era for Romania's Roma

According to official estimates, Roma account for some 2.5% of the country's population, and the actual number could be much higher. They also are one of the most disadvantaged groups in Romania, with 74% in poverty. As the country prepares to join the EU, efforts are under way to better the quality of their lives.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest – 20/11/06

Europe is home to at least eight million Roma, of whom six million live in Central and Eastern Europe. The last census, in 2002, revealed that Romania had a stable Roma population of 535,140 -- amounting to 2.5% of the country's population -- but unofficial estimates run as high as 2.5 million.
Experts in Roma history agree that the population hails from India and probably left there no later than the 10th century. However, it remains very difficult to establish precisely when they settled down on Romanian territory. The first documented evidence of Roma in Romania dates back to 1374, when Dan the 1st offered the Vodita monastery 40 Roma as slaves. That was a status they had for centuries. In 1424, Transylvania's Roma were led by a voivode (ruler) as the Constitution stipulated, but that provision was scrapped in 1588 by the provincial assembly.
In 1785, Austrian Emperor Joseph II abolished slavery in Transylvania. Four years later, the first Roma were accepted in the province's schools and churches. Things were different in the other two Romanian provinces, Moldova and Walachia, which were still under Ottoman sovereignty and opposed to the modern ideas of the West. It was only in 1855 and 1856, respectively, that the two abolished slavery entirely, under pressure from writers and intellectuals.

Centuries of slavery were followed by persecutions and deportations during the pro-Nazi regime of Ion Antonescu in the Second World War. Nearly 38,000 Romanian Roma died in the Holocaust, according to figures advanced by the Romanian War Crimes Committee. The subsequent communist dictatorship then forcibly displaced whole Roma communities and confiscated their assets in pursuing its objective of creating a homogenous Romanian society.
For half a century, communism had tried to conceal these problems while fostering the illusion of utopia. With the fall of communism and the beginning of the transition period, however, social tensions erupted, and the fires were fanned by the burgeoning Romanian media. In 1991, a Roma villager in Bolintin Deal, a settlement near Bucharest, killed a Romanian. The murder aroused the Romanian community in the village, who responded by setting fire to Roma houses. Two years later, on September 23rd 1993, three Roma people were killed in Hadareni, Mures County, by angry villagers. One of the persons killed had earlier stabbed a Romanian. His crime brought a collective punishment -- 14 houses of the Roma community were burned down and 175 Roma that had lived in Hadareni for nearly 70 years were ousted from the village.

Between 1990 and 1993, at least eight Roma were killed and many others seriously wounded during outburst of collective violence, according to a report released by the European Center for Roma Rights. There have also been frequent instances of abuse of Roma at the hands of police. As with crimes of private violence, such occurrences frequently go unpunished and sometimes are not even properly investigated.

Racist statements have been made by the leader of an extremist opposition party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor. According to an OSCE report, he reportedly announced in August 1998 a ten-point programme which included "isolating the Roma criminals in special colonies" in order to "stop the transformation of Romania into a Gypsy camp".

The government, meanwhile, has become increasingly aware of the need to promote and apply a strategy for the Roma minority. In February 1997, the government founded the National Roma Office as part of the National Minorities Department. In October 2004, the office was transformed into the National Roma Agency, led by a president with the rank of state secretary.
In 2001, the government adopted a national strategy for bettering the quality of life for the Roma. It defines priorities across ten major fields of activity, including social security, health, justice, education, communication and civic involvement. A 7.6m-euro PHARE project meant to support this strategy was finalised in April 2006. Meanwhile, the Romanian General Inspectorate of Police has launched a programme aimed at improving relations between the police and the Roma community, and to enhance the police's capacity to respond effectively in situations of tension between Roma and non-Roma communities. The programme was developed with the help of the Project on Ethnic Relations and the Department of Justice Administration at the University of Louisville.

In July 2003, in Budapest, the leaders of eight Central and Eastern European states agreed to launch the "Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015", a project initiated by the World Bank and the Open Society Institute. Its primary objectives are the elimination of discrimination and poverty among this community. Romania held the presidency of the programme for a year, between July 2005 and July 2006.

In July 2006, the World Bank agreed to loan Romania 58.5m for a social inclusion project. Its beneficiaries include some of the most disadvantaged groups in the country -- the Roma minority, children at high risk and/or coming out of child care institutions, persons with disabilities, and victims of domestic violence. The project was developed under the new Country Partnership Strategy principles, intended to help Romania meet its commitments in the Joint Inclusion Memorandum signed with the European Commission.

In less than three months, Romania will join the EU. The time is ripe for addressing social sector issues, in order that the benefits of reform and EU accession can be brought to society's most vulnerable segments. With 74% living in poverty, an infant mortality rate four times higher than the country's average and a formal employment rate of 13%, the Roma are particularly at risk. The last census, conducted in 2002, revealed that a quarter of Roma are illiterate. Unwilling to renounce their traditions they've observed for hundreds years, including the custom of marrying children at an early age, the Roma are often at odds with the authorities and the law.
Minority Watch, based in London, suggests Romania and Bulgaria should use part of their regional development funds to improve life for the Roma. Unless a sustained effort is made, improvements will only be short-term. And that is something neither country can afford.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Globe and Mail: Fighting fire with fire in Romania

Fighting fire with fire in Romania

When Gabriel Resources CEO Alan Hill found his company's $638-million (U.S.) Romanian mining project under siege by an aggressive environmental group, he launched an attack of his own, with a $1-million trilogy of TV commercials and a Michael Moore-style documentary touting the benefits of the development
From Monday's Globe and Mail

A fury over a proposed Canadian gold mine has raged in Romania's government chambers and in those of neighbouring Hungary. It has played out on television commercials, in movie theatres, on the Internet and in advertising in British newspapers. It has even reached the office of Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay.

Fuelled by an irreverent documentary, entitled Mine Your Own Business, the controversy bears all the hallmarks of an assault on the big, bad mining industry by huggable non-governmental organizations. In this case, however, the clever, well-funded media campaign is an assault on NGOs by a small Canadian miner, Gabriel Resources Inc. of Toronto.
"You've got to fight fire with fire," Gabriel CEO Alan Hill says of the campaign. "Nobody has ever pushed back on the NGOs like this."

The Michael Moore-style, pro-mining development documentary is part of an expensive and unorthodox series of public relations moves mounted by Gabriel to dispute negative claims about its plans to dig for gold in Transylvania. The company has launched broadsides against celebrated environmentalists, such as Vanessa Redgrave, carried out a very public character attack on one of its main opponents in Europe and flooded Romanian TV with video clips about how much good the project will bring.

For almost a decade, Gabriel has tried to get the necessary permits and government clearance to build its Rosia Montana project in the Apuseni Mountains of west-central Romania. Those efforts have been stymied by the work of NGOs and anti-mining protesters to successfully rally opposition to the proposed $638-million (U.S.) mine.
When a fresh management team took over Gabriel 18 months ago, it knew it had to fight back to save the Rosia Montana project. But Mr. Hill -- a long-time executive at Barrick Gold and other mining firms -- opted to take the fight back to the environmentalists.

On his hit list was one NGO in particular. Alburnus Maior has been Gabriel's sharpest critic, going so far as to tell Romanians the company's founder was once convicted of heroin possession. More importantly, it has raised alarm bells about possible environmental damage caused by the mine to the Transylvanian community. And it recruited Ms. Redgrave, a film star and political activist in Britain, to its campaign, convincing her to buy a piece of land in the village where Gabriel will have to relocate residents if its mine goes ahead.
Fighting back, Gabriel hired an advertising firm to make television commercials, which have run on Romanian national television during the evening news and episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
The mining firm also retained communications specialists, including a former White House staffer under George Bush Sr., and took out full-page ads in a British newspaper to discredit Ms. Redgrave. Finally, Gabriel hired a pair of freelance journalists and put up 80 per cent of the €240,000 ($353,000) budget to make Mine Your Own Business -- even agreeing to cede creative control, at the filmmakers' request.

(In addition to the documentary, Gabriel is now producing another mining film starring Romanian television personality Don Chisu.) The public relations campaign will consume about 12 per cent of Gabriel's $30-million capital expenditure budget this year -- a reasonable price tag, Mr. Hill contends, to counter the "exaggerations, extrapolations and flat-out lies" spread by Alburnus Maior.
"It's a lot of shareholder money," he concedes. "But it's got to do a job."
The company approached the husband-and-wife team of Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, a pair of Irish freelance journalists living in Eastern Europe. Mr. McAleer had covered the Rosia Montana controversy for the Financial Times, while Ms. McElhinney had produced several documentaries including Return to Sender, a film about corrupt foreign adoption services that ran on the CBC.

At the film's centre is Rosia Montana resident George Lucian, a young man who wants Gabriel's mine developed so he can get a job. Mr. Lucian travels with the filmmakers to other mining communities, including Madagascar, to expose what the film calls "the dark side of the environmental movement."
The movie is packed with clips of residents saying they want Gabriel's mine to be built and improve the community's fortunes.

In contrast, Alburnus Maior's extensive website presents a slew of allegations against the Rosia Montana development. Its cause has been widely covered by the local press. A few years ago, a Hungarian filmmaker made a documentary called The New Eldorado, which raised disturbing allegations about the project.

Now, Gabriel is using the same mediums to present a different message.
The company recently mailed copies of Mine Your Own Business to other mining executives, industry analysts and its largest shareholders. Gabriel hopes to win support for its cause from colleagues sympathetic to its struggles.
"There must be a lot of people in similar boats," Mr. Hill says, adding "we'd like to see it as a centrepiece for viewing NGOs."

Quarterbacking Gabriel's communications strategy is consultant Dan McGroarty, a former deputy director of White House speech writing and special assistant to President George Bush Sr. Based in Washington, D.C., Mr. McGroarty says he hopes to counter what he calls "a mountain of misinformation" spread about Rosia Montana amid frequent upheaval at Gabriel's head office in Toronto.
"They've been fed so many falsehoods over time. The management of Gabriel came and went and the story line was largely shaped by the opposition groups to the mining project and we needed to change that in a way that touched mass perception," he says.
One of his first moves was to engage a local communications company to produce a trilogy of television commercials for Gabriel -- at a cost of more than $1-million -- aimed at winning over the citizens of Romania.

"[The politicians] need cover," explains Gabriel's chief financial officer Richard Young. "That's why you need this broad-based communications program, so when they approve this project the people on average will say, 'That's OK,' and not want to run them out of town."
The first spot, turned the words of Alburnus Maior's Stephanie Roth, a former journalist turned activist, against her. Ms. Roth's descriptions of a tranquil and sylvan agricultural community in Rosia Montana were juxtaposed with stark images of impoverished conditions and environmental damage caused by the state-run mine that Gabriel says it wants to transform into a modern facility with vastly improved standards.

For her part, the Swiss-born Ms. Roth thinks the commercials, along with the rest of the communications efforts by Gabriel, have backfired. "It works in our interest. It has had the opposite effect of what they are trying to achieve," she says in an interview.
The commercials have fallen on deaf ears, she adds, and are being interpreted by the citizens of Romania as propaganda, a tactic they are all too familiar with, having lived under the regime of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

"You would think these commercials are for a child-friendly shampoo," she says. "They don't know jack-shit. . . . I'm glad they are investing all that money."
Gabriel's campaign has also stirred debate outside Romania. Recently, the company sent a copy of the documentary to Don Ferris, the CEO of Calgary's Mawer Investment Management Ltd. Gabriel says Mawer was on a list of Gabriel's 40 largest shareholders updated in August. Mr. Ferris says his investment firm doesn't hold any Gabriel shares, and if it ever did it would have been indirectly through institutional clients. Mr. Ferris took the DVD home and gave it to his wife, Jeanne Keith-Ferris, an active charity volunteer and environmentalist who watched the movie.
"It made me so mad," Ms. Keith-Ferris says in an interview. "It's a classic case of a business attacking groups that oppose them. Their philosophy is to muscle people out of the way."
Last week, she wrote a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay asking that Canada "put in place strict rules to insure that companies like Gabriel Resources and others, do not conduct irresponsible mining practices in impoverished countries."

Gabriel is no closer to getting the permits needed to begin building the mine. The company had expected to win a crucial permit by the end of the year, but is now targeting early 2007. It still hopes to initiate construction in the spring of next year and begin mining gold two years later.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Yahoo! News: Saad El-Din Ibrahim to Receive 2006 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award

Saad El-Din Ibrahim to Receive 2006 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award
Wed Nov 15, 10:51 AM ET
Contact: Sharon McCarter of the Woodrow Wilson Center, 202-691-4016, or

Saad El-Din Ibrahim, professor of Political Sociology and chairman of the board, Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies of the American University in Cairo, will be presented with the 2006 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award at the Woodrow Wilson Center on Nov. 30 and will speak on lessons from the democratic transitions in Europe for democracy activists in the Middle East. Ambassador Joseph B. Gildenhorn, chairman of the Wilson Center's Board of Trustees, will provide opening remarks to be followed by a introduction given by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed of American University.

The purpose of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture is to bring visibility and international recognition to the ideas and accomplishments of individuals around the world who are working on behalf of democracy. The lecture strives to enrich the intellectual environment in which ideas about democracy and democratic change circulate, both within and beyond Washington. Sponsored by the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation (based in London and Turda, Transylvania), the event expresses the deep commitment to democracy of the late Ion Ratiu through his contributions as a Romanian politician and intellectual as well as his interest in democratic change worldwide.

Webcast LIVE at
What: 2006 Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture
Who: Saad El-Din Ibrahim
When: Thursday, Nov. 30, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Where: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 6th Floor Flom Auditorium. The Woodrow Wilson Center is located in the
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I. H. Tribune: Hungary says it's "full of concerns" about gold mine project in Romania

Hungary says it's "full of concerns" about gold mine project in Romania
The Associated Press
Published: November 16, 2006

BUDAPEST, Hungary: Hungary is still worried that a planned gold mine in neighboring Romania could lead to the repeat of an environmental disaster caused by a cyanide leak at a similar mine in 2000, the Hungarian prime minister said Thursday.

The proposed mine at Rosia Montana, 190 kilometers (120 miles) east of the border with Hungary, would use cyanide to extract gold from ore, and Hungary fears another leak such as the one in 2000 that killed much of the aquatic life in the Tisza River, which also runs through Hungary and is a tributary of the Danube River.
"We are full of concerns because we have questions about a series of issues," Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said after a joint Cabinet meeting between the Hungarian and Romanian governments.
"Are we adequately and reassuringly informed about every important circumstance needed for (the mine's) permit? Hungary's answer is no, not yet."

Gyurcsany, however, added that Romania's "readiness to cooperate" was cause for "measured optimism" about being able to find a solution.
Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu said the project would only be realized if "all international and European norms about environmental protection are respected."
Tariceanu said several impact studies were yet to be completed, so it was too early to take a position on the mine — but that his government was working "with total transparency" on allaying fears about the gold mine.

The two Cabinets also discussed the issue of autonomy for Szeklers, one of the main groups among the 1.4 million ethnic Hungarians in Romania. Much of western Romania, including the region of Transylvania, was part of Hungary until 1920.
While both prime ministers stressed the importance of overcoming the historical disputes between the two countries — especially now that Romania will also become a member of the European Union in January — there were some differences in their views on autonomy.
Tariceanu said his government supported the concept of autonomy, but within the frame of decentralizing the government's decision-making process.
"We are not planning to introduce local autonomy based on ethnicity in any region of the country," Tariceanu said, adding that the Hungarian minority had special legal status in Romania, including autonomy in cultural and educational issues.
He also said that a referendum in Romania about autonomy for ethnic Hungarians would be anti-constitutional.

Ministers of the two governments signed a series of agreements at the end of the Cabinet meeting, including the coordination of economic development plans — particularly in regions near their common border — plans to increase rail and road links and the construction of a natural gas pipeline between the Hungarian city of Szeged and Arad in Romania.
The two Cabinets held their first joint session in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, in October 2005.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

MTI: MPs discuss preparations for Hungarian-Romanian gov't session

MPs discuss preparations for Hungarian-Romanian gov't session (adds details)
Budapest, November 14 (MTI)

- The governments of Hungary and Romania will focus on coordinating economic development plans -- particularly in regions near their common border -- at their upcoming joint session. The two countries could earmark 733 million euros for the purpose, a gov't official told Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

The two governments are scheduled to hold their second session of its kind in Budapest on November 16-17. "The Hungarian government strives for Romania's ethnic Hungarian minority to become a winner of EU entry early next year," State Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office Ferenc Gemesi said.

The issues of autonomy and returning property to churches will also be raised, but it should also be kept in view to what extent they serve the interests of the Hungarian minority at the given moment, he said.

The two governments will discuss cross-border regional development, agricultural cooperation, reconstruction of border-crossing points, joint road construction projects, cooperation in stockpiling crude oil, the controversial gold mine project at Rosia Montana, use of EU funds for environmental purposes in the Tisza and Danube valleys, and restoration of monuments, including the Cluj statue of King Matthias (r. 1458-1490).

Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Zsolt Nemeth (opposition Fidesz) said there was little sense in holding such meetings when Romania reneges on its deals with Hungary.

Nemeth added that the Hungarian government should raise the issue of territorial autonomy for Szekler Land (central Romania), the approval of Romania's minorities law, the return of property and payment of compensation to churches, the autonomous Hungarian university of Transylvania and the flow of manpower. Gemesi said the government would decide by mid-December if it will open Hungary's labour market for Romanian and Bulgarian workers.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Chicago Business Online: From Brasov with Bwahahahaha!!!!

From Brasov with Bwahahahaha!!!!
A Personal Random Walk to Transylvania
Krisztina Kohlhaas, '08
Issue date: 11/9/06

Did you notice there were practically no 3rd round admits on the Random Walks? That's because we slackers got shut out. We are the waitlistees and procrastinators, the people to watch out for as you form your study groups. Usually we are pretty good bs'ers, too, as this tactic has often bailed us out of last-minute situations in the past. But in the case of Random Walks, no schmoozing, groveling, or bribing was going to buy us a spot to any of the coveted destinations our more prudent colleagues would be visiting. So, this summer, while half my GSB classmates were serving as defenders against crime worldwide, I decided to take a Random Walk of my own to Transylvania.

Vampire jokes aside, Transylvania is a part of Romania that I had wanted to visit for decades. As a Hungarian-American, I have long been fascinated with this region that for over 1,000 years belonged to my native country but after World War I became part of Romania. My grandfather's heritage stems from Transylvania, as does that of many Hungarians. In fact, there are still over 2 million ethnic Hungarians living in Transylvania today. Needless to say, this dynamic makes for strong tensions between Hungary and Romania. Stereotypes abound and many Hungarians believe that visiting Romania is a recipe for disaster. That is exactly why I wanted to go.

After a brief blip through Budapest (say that three times fast!), I caught the train to Timisoara to begin my Romanian adventure. My hotel, the Cina Banatul, was a monstrous communist relic, one of its three stars having been crossed out with permanent marker either because of a crumbling interior (likely) or elevated standards (less likely). Timisoara was a rough landing. I struggled to find people who spoke - or admitted they spoke - any language other than Romanian. There was a hard line approach to pretty much everything. Service most definitely did not come with a smile and a few hours after crossing the border, I suddenly felt very alone. With ten days ahead of me, I found myself questioning whether I had made the right decision to come to Romania. I knew that Budapest was only a 6-hour train ride away, should I have second thoughts. But then all those nay-sayers and skeptics would be right! I ordered myself to pull it together. "You have traveled to 30 countries and speak 4 languages," my fight ordered my flight. "GET A GRIP!"

The truth was that despite my extensive traveling, this was the first time I had backpacked to a completely unknown land entirely on my own. I was intimidated and overwhelmed, but knew that I was not going to impart customer service lessons to some 22 million Romanians in ten days. I quickly realized that if I were going to enjoy this trip, the attitude that needed adjustment was mine.

Once I opened myself up to Timisoara, the city revealed its beauty to me. A unique blend of Hungarian, Romanian, and Serb influences, Timisoara was evidently at one time a great city. It was a tranquil summer evening, which I spent wandering around Timisoara's handsome squares, taking in its baroque and neoclassical architecture clearly worn by less peaceful times. Under Timisoara's fa硤e lay a dramatic history of war and revolution; it was there that Lászl󠔶k鳬 then pastor in the Hungarian Reformed Church, spoke out against the Ceaucescu regime and ignited the 1989 Revolution that overthrew the dictator. I stopped for a beer in one of Timisoara's pleasant outdoor bier gardens, watched locals stroll by hand-in-hand, and let the city's serenity and pride convince me that it was right to come to Romania.


I pulled into Sibiu the next day at the stroke of midnight ready to ward off vampires. I was deeper into Dracula country, the rain was pouring, and I was homeless. My third-round-admit slacker ass had once again failed me by not reserving in advance and all hostels were full. As a knee-jerk reaction, I decided to splurge on the best hotel in town. Still inexpensive by Western standards, the Hotel έpⲡtul Romanilor was a tribute to yore in its gold leaf kitsch and overly exaggerated rococo interior. After a soaking hunt for cheap accommodations, I gave up, crawled under my red velvet blanket, dimmed my crystal chandelier, and passed out.Saxon-founded Sibiu is a charming town of cobblestone streets, great squares, moving churches, and perfectly intact city walls dating from the 16th century. Its 1906 Orthodox cathedral is a replica of the Aya Sofia in Istanbul, homage to one of the world's great cities despite leftover resentment of Ottoman occupation. Sibiu is undergoing a complete facelift, as it has been chosen to be European Capital of Culture in 2007. I highly recommend a visit next year to see this flower in full bloom. Thanks to my breakfast companions, I got the tip that there would be a New Orleans Jazz concert that night in Sibiu. Bingo! It was Friday night and, after a few days on my own, I was ready to hit the town. Dolled up Euro (trash)-style, I got started at The Classic Bar, an old-fashioned piano bar where a blob of a man reminiscent of Jabba the Hut sat oozing off a piano bench, music shooting out of his fingers like lightning bolts. Simply looking at this ginormous man, you never would have guessed his ability to light up a room with such dulcet energy. I almost did not want to tear myself away from his unique medleys and expert improvisation, but I had a date with the Big Easy. And Jabba's persistent gaze was beginning to creep me out. I paid my bill just as he finished his set and started to blob towards me, the only single woman in the room, visions of the gold bikini in his mind. Yikes! I made it out just in time!The jazz club was packed when I got there. I took the only available seat next to two German guys, Martin and Eberhard, who were on a 3-week motorcycling trip through Romania, I soon learned. They had such fabulous yarns to spin that at first the music took side stage to their adventure. It was only after we chatted for an hour that Martin pointed out to me that the bandleader was blind.Holy cow! This band was friggin' phenomenal! They played everything from experimental jazz to Stevie Wonder to Romanian folk songs to a Hendrix medley, with down and dirty N'awlins sprinkled throughout. The bandleader, probably in his 60's, sported a sequined American flag visor and a miniature red trumpet dangling from his neck. It was not until further scrutiny that I realized that his left hand was completely deformed, a far too common story of Eastern Europe's toxic past. And yet here he was, this Blind Boy from Romania, leading a 5-person band, having the time of his life.My new German friends took off but I was nowhere ready to go, the band was just too fun! I soon started chatting with my next companions for the evening, Andreea and Marina from Bucharest. They were young Romanian ladies who had just finished high school and were on their big graduation trip around the country. Like me, they were crazy over live music and we became instant friends. Marina talked with the band members during their set breaks and informed us that the old man spends about 6 months out of the year in New Orleans studying the music and picking up the vibe. It reminded me of the German movie, "Schultz Gets the Blues", about an accordion player from Bavaria who goes to Louisiana and finds his calling in Zydeco. Andreea, Marina, and I talked and danced and sang and clapped as one beer turned into two then into many until we shut down the bar. Wild-eyed and bushy tailed, I bid my Romanian friends adieu and stumbled down Sibiu's cobblestone path back to my hotel. It was almost 4:00 AM and I needed to be up soon to catch my train to Brasov at 9:00.

My eyes popped open at 8:40 AM. SH*T!!! What happened to my alarm?! SH*T!!! Set for PM?! SH*T!!! SH*T SH*T!!! I flew out of bed, threw on the first thing I found, shoved my explosion of clothes into my pack, and ran out the door. I did not pass go, did not collect $200, did not shower, and did not brush my teeth. I sprinted a kilometer to the train station, 40 pounds on my back, and jumped through the train doors just as they were slamming shut. Whew! I barely made it. At least I didn't have to worry about having to ward off vampires. I smelled GREAT.


Having learned my lesson in Sibiu, I pre-booked my accommodations in Brasov. My email confirmation from the Kismet Dao Hostel advised me to look for "Dave from California" when I arrived at the train station. A Bay Area native, I assumed finding my own kind in the middle of Romania should be easy enough, right? Well, aside from the fact that he was cooped up in a very unobvious booth wedged underneath a staircase, Dave was impossible to miss. Turns out, Dave from California was more specifically from Hayward, and he screamed it. Literally. He was sporting a custom-made shirt with "Hayward" emblazoned on the front, a gold ring on each finger, and a beard in the style of Vlad Tepes (Dracula's inspiration) as a tribute to his Romanian heritage. While we obviously came from other sides of the Tunnel, I knew when I saw the Raiders cap that we were going to get along just fine. After all, I went to high school in Oakland. Within minutes of dropping my pack at the hostel and showering off my Sibiu revelry, Dave, some fellow hostelers, and I were on our way to lunch. The next thing I knew, we were doing tequila shots over ice cream and then it was on to beer. The hair of the dog was threatening to grow wild.

It was sometime during this afternoon respite that Dave and I discovered many commonalities, including a strong first-generation identity and a mutual love of dominoes. So, after wrapping up our siesta, we went on a mission to find some bones. Third time's a charm, they say, and after trying two stores with no luck, we struck gold in the third. Dominoes in hand, we headed back to the hostel. Since I had to be up early the next day, however, we opted to postpone our domino showdown until the following evening. The next morning I awoke early for a tour of Peles Castle, Bran Castle, and the Rasnov fortress. Despite our maniacal driver on the verge of spontaneous combustion, the tour was amazing. I have visited my fair share of castles and I can easily say that Peles was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. As the Lonely Planet puts it, "Most visitors are led through here with their jaws scraping the floor in amazement… the effect of wandering through the stunning halls and rooms listening to the guide rattling off an endless list of exotic materials used to furnish them (alabaster, gilded linden wood, mother of pearl, Turkish silk etc) is dizzying." All rooms are furnished in a style of a different country and in the entryway alone there are 49 different types of wood. King Carol I built Peles in predominantly German-Renaissance style between 1875 and 1914 and it was the first castle in Europe to have central heating and electricity. In later days, Ceausescu used the castle to entertain leading communists and foreign statesmen, including Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Moamar Gaddafi, and Yasser Arafat. At least he had some sense not to barrel it over like he did many other architectural gems of Romania.

After Peles Castle, Bran Castle was totally anticlimactic. Tourist mecca of Romania, it is fallaciously associated with Vlad Tepes and therefore bears the misnomer "Dracula's Castle". The castle was actually built by the Saxons in 1382, and the closest it may have ever come to Dracula is that Tepes might have sought refuge there for a couple nights to escape the Turks. Maybe. Bran castle was a good pit stop to pick up a Dracula magnet and get some lunch. That's about it.Our final stop was the 13th century Rasnov fortress. The fortress is very much still intact and has a 146 meters deep well - the deepest in Romania - that took two prisoners 17 years to dig! The summit of the fortress offers a spectacular 360-degree panorama of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It was a wonderfully bright and sunny day and the view from Rasnov was the perfect finale.

Back at the Moontower, Dave and the troops were rallying for the domino match-up. We wasted no time getting started and many of the hostellers joined us for a few friendly games. As one person after the other dropped out, Dave and I were left head to head. Tossing back a couple tequila shots, we decided to make it interesting. We each threw 10 lei (about $3.50) on the table and took off. "Domino, Mo Fo!" I belted out within minutes, slapping my last bone on the table. Another shot of tequila, double or nothing, I offered. Dave accepted the challenge. BAM! I had him again. The night flew by and before we knew it, the sun was coming up, and I had swept him for all he had. That included winning back the freebie I had given him with my own made up game of "What Time is It?", which involved guessing the time without looking at the clock and closest one wins, Price-is-Right rules. By dawn Dave was playing me on credit and we decided to call it a night; we were in vampire country and sunrise signaled the time for bed. I scraped myself up the stairs, many lei richer, basking in the glory of my undefeated streak.
The following day, originally intended for sightseeing in Brasov, was a complete wash. It was afternoon by the time I made it out of the hostel. I tried to go up the cable car to the top of Mount Tampa (whose hillside sign proudly declares "Brasov" in an obvious nod to Hollywood) but missed the last ride by a hair. I then tried to go into the "Black Church", but missed the final entry by 15 minutes. While I had most definitely been on top of my game the night before, I was certainly not on it that day. I resigned myself to a peaceful night in Brasov, already sentimental about saying goodbye to another new friend.

I realized in Brasov that my decision to come to Transylvania was as much a search for my own Hungarian roots as it was a quest to breakdown lifelong stereotypes. Dave and I whiled away hours discussing our identities as a Romanian, a Hungarian… both European, both American, yet fully neither. And it occurred to me that if I had been in California, I probably could never have even given Dave the time of day - at least not without betting first - mainly because while our East Bay towns are only a few miles apart, our worlds span light years. Yet across the globe in the heart of Transylvania, we became the best of friends. In the quest to break down my stereotypes of Romania, the ones I helped defeat were those of my own American backyard. And together Dave and I learned that a Romanian and a Hungarian can be friends; the Caldecott Tunnel is not the infinite divide; and you can never beat a GSB'er at a game involving math!


My Transylvania Random Walk led me out of Brasov and another step closer to my roots. Next stop: Sz髥ly country, primary home of Romania's Hungarian minority, the reason I had decided to come to Transylvania.

I made a short stop in amazing Sighisoara, the quintessential Transylvanian town. Replete with a clock tower, citadel, and castles, Sighisoara was perhaps my favorite city in Romania. Unfortunately, I was sick there thanks to the vampire lifestyle I had adopted in Brasov. There was a strong Hungarian presence in Sighisoara; I heard lots of spoken Hungarian and felt like I was getting closer to what I was looking for.

Knowing that my destination for the next couple days was off the beaten track, I rented a car in Sighisoara. Now, this was no easy task. It wasn't like you just walked into your local Avis or Hertz office, slapped down your credit card, and 'poof!' you had a car. OH NO! When I inquired about it in my hotel, the concierge made a phone call. Within moments a lovely young woman appeared carrying a brochure with pictures of four cars on it. She said she had one car available and that I could have it if I wanted. Success! We agreed on a time to meet and sign the paperwork. Our meeting took place at a cafe in Sighisoara's main square. As it turned out, the so-called "rental agency" was really her boyfriend, who had over time acquired a fleet of low riders of various sizes. Hidden behind his aviator sunglasses, the guy spoke no English and did not exactly present an aura of reliability; his 5 o'clock shadow seemed to be going on its second day and his left hand was completely bandaged up, probably from whacking the last guy who brought his car back late. The girlfriend attempted to translate in broken English, but by then I had gotten comfortable with Romanian, managing to pick my way through it with Spanish, Italian, and hyper-gesticulation. We signed the contract, which was entirely in Romanian. I crossed my fingers that I had accurately determined its credibility, but of course, who really knew? I had to pay for the car up front in cash, including a 300 euro deposit, which I would supposedly get back. Since I am American (at least for right now) and always carry around 300 euros cash (NOT), we negotiated a lengthy transaction of dollars, euros, and lei, I signed my life over to the Romanian mob, and I was on my way. I hopped in the low-rider and took off, reggaeton pumping, two rosaries and a tannenbaum air freshener dangling from my rear-view mirror. Rock on.

I had made arrangements to stay with a family in a town called B?? just outside of Sz髥ly Udvarhely (Odorhieu Secuiesc in Romanian). The drive there took only about an hour from Sighisoara, and I arrived just in time for lunch. The family was absolutely lovely! A retired lady, her two daughters, and adorable grandson ran the pension out of their home, and for two wonderful days I enjoyed authentic Hungarian meals of stuffed peppers, cabbage, the works, along with the unparalleled hospitality of the Ilyes family.Unlike Romania's traditional backpacker route, which attracts mainly westerners, I would say roughly 90% of the tourists to Sz髥ly Country are from Hungary. The night I arrived, there was a group of about eight other guests from Budapest at the Ilyes house. It was their last night there after a week in Romania and they decided to celebrate with a cook-out. I joined them and we had a great time grilling miccs, a local sausage specialty, drinking Romanian wine, and having the inevitable discussion of the decades-long thorn in the collective Magyar side: the lost Hungarian minority in Romania.You see, for over 1,000 years, Transylvania was associated with Hungary. It was only after WW1 that the Treaty of Trianon carved Hungary into 29% of its former size, handing Transylvania and over 2 million ethnic Hungarians to Romania, along with many bits and pieces of land, culture, language, and soul to Hungary's other neighbors. Even though almost a century has since passed, Hungarians on both sides of the border have never gotten over this. Many have argued for the re-annexation of Transylvania. In 2004, however, Hungary turned down a referendum to grant dual-citizenship to all persons of Hungarian decent, thwarted mainly by twisted campaigning, threats from Bucharest, and a desire to comply with EU regulations that prohibit the favoritism of any ethnic group or minority. This referendum is still a matter of huge debate, as many Hungarians feel that it would have allowed them to achieve in practice what they have demanded for almost a century. While the rest of Romania largely ignores them, these issues are very much alive and kicking in Sz髥ly country. They are evident in everything, from conversations with locals to the numerous roadside stands selling maps of former Hungary and other anti-Trianon propaganda. Despite Ceausescu's attempts to eliminate Hungarian identity in Romania, Sz髥ly territory has remained steadfast. The entire region functions fully in Hungarian, with Hungarian schools, Hungarian newspapers, even its own Sz髥ly national anthem. And the most amazing part about it is that this area is over 500 km from Hungary! It's not like the Sz髥lys are lined up on the Hungarian border waiting to be let in (like Canadians). They are hundreds of miles away, living in the most well-maintained, clean, and orderly cities in Romania - as described by Lonely Planet.After a wonderful evening with the Hungarians and the Ilyeses, I took off early the next morning for my drive through Sz髥ly country. I first stopped in Korond, renowned for its green, blue, and brown pottery. I spent hours wandering through the shops examining the beautiful ceramics, embroidery, and wares. By the time I finished up it was time for lunch. How could I resist the alluring smells emanating from the lángos trailer?Lángos is the equivalent of a coronary on a plate. It is a large donut of fried bread about a foot in diameter that usually comes covered in cheese or sour cream and in most cases both. There is an art to cooking lángos, just a minute too long and it's no good. This trailer lángos was bordering on well-done. I ate it anyway.Then I was off on my road trip through Sz髥ly country. I drove through beautiful mountains and valleys, passing gypsy camps along the way, until I hit my end destination, the Red Lake. This lake bears a much more ominous name in Hungarian: Gy?ost󬠯r the Killer Lake, named for the various legends surrounding its formation. Gy?ost󠨡d the rugged evergreen feel of Yosemite, with people rowing on the lake, picnicking along its banks, and enjoying fresh-grilled miccs. I stayed for a while and took in the scenery, then made the enjoyable trek back to B??.I called it an early night, the lángos, miccs, and other very notably unhealthful cuisine taking a toll, and I still was not fully recovered from my Sighisoara cold. The Hungarian group had already left, so I chatted briefly with the Ilyes ladies and hit the hay. I had to be up early to meet the car rental mafia at the train station, fingers crossed.

Amazingly, Mr. Low Rider was there. Early even. He handed me my deposit back, every single dollar, euro, and lei of it, and helped me load my bags on the train. With that, I said goodbye to Transylvania, its wonderful people, scenery, and memories, and boarded the train back to Budapest. My Transylvania Random Walk was over, but its enrichment of my life and identity had just begun. Romanians Bar Entry of Traitorous Hungarian Book

Romanians Bar Entry of Traitorous Hungarian Book (Until 2007)

As super Hungarian Pákó Fekete knows only too well, the magyarok in Erdély (Transylvania) are far more Hungarian than most of us actually living within the borders of "little" Hungary. Unfortunately for them, the Romanians don't see it that way and like to show everyone who's boss from time to time. According to the Erdélyi Kronika, a Hungarian-language newspaper published in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca if you must), they have now taken to censoring books coming across the border - or maybe not, depending on who you want to believe.

The "Szép Erdélyünk" (Our Beautiful Erdély) series of books published by Sopron-based Edutech have apparently been refused entry into Romania by customs officials for being "traitorous and unpatriotic" (or whatever the Commie-era Newspeak words "ország- és nemzetellenes" mean) - at least that's the publisher's version. For their part, the Romanian customs officials have hit back, claiming the request for authorization was cancelled by the publisher, probably because the they could not afford to pay duty on the shipment. Thankfully, according to, it won't matter who is lying and who is telling the truth once the Romanians sneak into the EU in January 2007 - there will be no restrictions on the distribution of books, treacherous or otherwise.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Guardian Unlimited: Homage to Transylvania

Homage to Transylvania

Alfred Hickling, Elena Seymenliyska and Laura Wilson on Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories Incidences Midnight Cactus Big Breasts and Wide Hips Gagged & Bound Saturday November 11, 2006The Guardian

Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories by Bram Stoker (Penguin, £8.99)

Bram Stoker did not just write Dracula: there were also 13 other novels, a couple of biographies, two plays, a civil service manual and this volume of posthumously published stories; though you'd have to be a pretty dedicated fan of the undead to want to read them. There have been no end of spin-offs from Stoker's creation: Son of Dracula and Bride of Dracula were particularly dreadful, and here we find Draft of Dracula - a cancelled episode which may have been the novel's original opening chapter, in which a lone traveller has a narrow escape with a hell-hound on a mountain passage shrouded in "misty vagueness". The rest of the collection suggests that misty vagueness was what Stoker did best, though he could be quite exquisitely inept: "'I mean this,' said the doctor, 'that possibly - nay probably - we shall hear the great alarm bell sound tonight!' and he made about as effective an exit as could be thought of." Best of all is a chambermaid in a haunted bedroom who "flees incontinently". Connoisseurs of bad gothic fiction may find themselves damp with mirth. Alfred Hickling,,1944638,00.html

Wanted in Rome: Baroque ensemble “Transylvania”

Baroque ensemble “Transylvania”
in Rome, from 26/11/2006

The Romanian Cultural Institute will host a concert by the baroque ensemble “Transylvania” on Sun 26 Nov at 20.45 at the Basilica Parrocchiale S. Marco Evangelista al Campidoglio. Istvan Nagy (flute), Zoltan Majo (flute), Ciprian Campean (cello) and Wilhelm (harpsichord), with special guest soprano Mihaela Maxim, will perform Bach, Boismortier, Telemann, Vivaldi, Toduta and Pop among others. Entrance is free.
Basilica Parrocchiale S. Marco Evangelista al Campidoglio, Piazza S. Marco 48 (Piazza Venezia)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Budapest Sun: Hungary’s celluloid heroes return from exile

Hungary’s celluloid heroes return from exile
By Andreea Anca

Andreea Anca looks at an exhibition celebrating five of the world’s finest photographers, all of the same Magyar generation, and all of whom found fame overseas.

Budapest is about to celebrate five of the world’s greatest modern photographers, who fled the turmoil of post-World War I Hungary and found an outlet for their creativity and ambition in the west.

Pictures by Brassad, Robert Capa, André Kertész, Lászlo Moholy-Nagy and Martin Munkácsi will be exhibited together for the first time in Hungary at the Ernst Museum in a show entitled World Famous Hungarian Photography.

While their emigration was undoubtedly a loss for Hungary, it also helped forge the country’s worldwide reputation as a fertile breeding ground for fine photographers.

This event will be a unique opportunity to view these outstanding artists’ work, to wonder at the great talent that Hungary produced in one generation, and to reflect upon why they are claimed by countries such as France, Germany and the United States.

André Kertész (1894-1985) had a great influence on French photography, during and after a long life full of twists and turns.
Kertesz left Budapest for Paris in 1925, bored with a job at Budapest’s stock exchange and eager to pursue his interest in photography, which had started when he was 18 and continued during time as a soldier in World War I, when he captured not only the heroics and carnage of the battlefield, but his comrades during respite, behind the lines, waiting, making music, taking leave, halting on the march. In Paris, he continued taking seemingly simple, compelling photographs of intimate, casual, commonplace moments of modern life, either walking the streets or visiting bistros, nightclubs and dance halls.
After being widely praised in Paris for the “personal” nature of his work, this sophisticated photographer received a chilly reception in New York (where he lived from 1936-1985), and Life magazine criticized his pictures for “talking too much.” Recognition did eventually find him in the US, and in 1965 he was made a honorary member of the American Society for Magazine Photographers. By the time of his death, he had published 27 books.


Kertész and Brassad (1899-1984) met in Paris, and the latter took up photography in 1929, inspired by wanderings around the city with his new friend and his camera. Expanding the themes of his master, Brassad also recorded candid but non-intrusive images of life around him, pictures which have been praised for peering into the simplest yet deepest truths about people. His pictures of Paris by night shed light on a world of cafés, bistros and brothels where a hint of debauchery lurks behind a mask of manners, decorum and ritual.

Brassad – born Gyula Halász – came from Brasso in Transylvania, then part of Hungary, and attended school and the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest before moving to Berlin in 1921.
Three years later, he left for Paris, where he became a prolific artist, known not only for his photographs, but for his drawings, sculptures, engravings and tapestries. Brassad met most of Paris’s artistic and intellectual elite, and befriended Picasso, who asked him to photograph a group of sculptures he had not yet shown. Later, Brassad went on to photograph artists at work from all over the world for Harper’s Bazaar, images that form an invaluable document of the art world of the period.

Robert Capa (1913-1954), born in Budapest as Andre Friedmann, became one of the most famous of all war photographers, for his close-up images of the dead and the grieving and the hell of the battlefield, many captured at point-blank range. His pictures of soldiers fighting or civilians in refugee camps and ruined cities were illuminated by a conviction that people could retain their humanity in even the most horrific situations. Probably his best-known work – certainly his most controversial, as some have doubted its authenticity – is of a fighter in the Spanish Civil War being felled by a bullet. The four rolls of film shot on Omaha Beach during the 1944 D-Day landings, while under heavy fire, have become known as among the most famous photos in history.

Capa left Hungary in 1931 and moved to Berlin, where he took exclusive pictures of the Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky, before moving to Paris two years later when Hitler came to power. He was at home in all the major cities in the world, dressed well, ate well, and was known for generosity and charm that made him popular among women, including the actress Ingrid Bergman, with whom he had a brief affair. When he first got to Paris, he ingeniously but fraudulently established a photographic agency under the supposed ownership of a rich American photographer named Robert Capa – a character he invented and a name he adopted after his secret was revealed.

Between the wars, he had time to photograph some of his friends in London, including John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, and he went on to establish Magnum, one of the world’s leading photographic agencies, which is credited with raising photojournalism towards the status of an art form. Capa met a premature death on the battlefield in Southeast Asia when, on assignment for Life magazine in May 1954, he stepped on a landmine.

Martin Munkácsi (1898-1963) was born in the Transylvanian town of Kolozsvár (now Cluj-Napoca in Romanian), but his career took him to Budapest, Berlin and New York. He was the best-paid photographer of his time, making $100,000in 1940 from news and fashion photography.


Despite his success, very few of his photographs are well known, and American museums even refused to accept Munkacsi’s archive after his death in 1966; only now is he being recognized as a major artist who greatly influenced photojournalism and freed fashion photography from the confines of the studio.
But Henry Cartier-Bresson spotted the spontaneity of his images and acute understanding of style, form and framing. Cartier-Bresson was inspired by the joy and movement in Munkácsi’s photographs of African boys running into a lake in Liberia.

Munkácsi revolutionized fashion photography in both Germany and the US, particularly his images of the ‘new woman’ – a successful, independent, dynamic urban dweller.

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) was a leading creative spirit of the Bauhaus movement. Born in southeast Hungary, he first engaged with Bauhaus in Germany, but fled the Nazi regime to help establish the new design school in Chicago. Proclaiming design as a challenge to American consumerism, Moholy-Nagy saw the camera as the ideal medium for articulating a new vision of life, which would use modern technology to help create a society in which artists and engineers would play a leading role.
His words – “The illiterates of the future will be the people who know nothing of photography, rather than those who are ignorant of the art of writing” - became a motto for the New Photography movement.

The exhibition at the Ernst Museum is an invitation not only to enjoy these beautiful pictures, some of them less well known, but to consider themes including success, failure, emigration, and what an artist gains and loses by living a life in exile. At a time when young Hungarian artists still look abroad for recognition, the focus on these renowned cultural ambassadors should not only inspire pride but sharpen debate about whether Hungary is doing enough to help its native talent flourish.

World Famous Hungarian Photography
Ernst Museum
Nagymezô utca 8.
Tel: 341-4355
November 15 – January 17
Open daily from 11am-7pm
Closed on Mondays