Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for September, 2005

Atlantis

Posted by Andy Hockley on 21 September, 2005

Bucharest is the latest part of Romania to slip underwater, thus more or less completing the full set of regions flooded this year. Luckily this biblical cleansing of the nation has been staggered so that at least people had places to go when their area was up for being washed.

The advantage with the floods being in Bucharest for the TV stations is that their correspondents didn’t actually have to leave the capital, and they could report the floods at length. (TV News in Romania is very much centred on Bucharest at the best of times – the rough equivalence is “man falls down pothole in Bucharest” = “two men savagely murdered in Craiova/Cluj/Iasi/…”. I exaggerate, but not overly) Last night then we got an orgy of stories from the flooded capital, from the leaking senate bulding (pictures of senators in session holding umbrellas) to people complaining loudly about the drainage to peoples’ kitchens with three inches of water on the floor. It went on for about 25 minutes of a 30 minute news broadcast.

I expect this flood to dominate the news for some more days to come. We still have to have the inevitable recriminations about the lack of drainage in the capital (which does, it must be said, seem to be a major problem), plus there’ll be lots of human interest stories about a family in some suburb whose sofa was damaged beyond repair.

[A few minutes later: Just re-read this and realised it comes across as an extended moan about unbalanced TV coverage, which, while true, was not what I set out to write about. Bucharest is flooded, and seriously so, it seems. Apologies if it seems I have been making light of that fact.]

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Posted in news, romania | 1 Comment »

Atlantis

Posted by Andy Hockley on 21 September, 2005

Bucharest is the latest part of Romania to slip underwater, thus more or less completing the full set of regions flooded this year. Luckily this biblical cleansing of the nation has been staggered so that at least people had places to go when their area was up for being washed.

The advantage with the floods being in Bucharest for the TV stations is that their correspondents didn’t actually have to leave the capital, and they could report the floods at length. (TV News in Romania is very much centred on Bucharest at the best of times – the rough equivalence is “man falls down pothole in Bucharest” = “two men savagely murdered in Craiova/Cluj/Iasi/…”. I exaggerate, but not overly) Last night then we got an orgy of stories from the flooded capital, from the leaking senate bulding (pictures of senators in session holding umbrellas) to people complaining loudly about the drainage to peoples’ kitchens with three inches of water on the floor. It went on for about 25 minutes of a 30 minute news broadcast.

I expect this flood to dominate the news for some more days to come. We still have to have the inevitable recriminations about the lack of drainage in the capital (which does, it must be said, seem to be a major problem), plus there’ll be lots of human interest stories about a family in some suburb whose sofa was damaged beyond repair.

[A few minutes later: Just re-read this and realised it comes across as an extended moan about unbalanced TV coverage, which, while true, was not what I set out to write about. Bucharest is flooded, and seriously so, it seems. Apologies if it seems I have been making light of that fact.]

Posted in news, romania | 1 Comment »

Going to the dogs

Posted by Andy Hockley on 20 September, 2005

The counterpoint of the following two sentences from
this article, is fantastic. I’m glad to see Bush is finally getting the press he deserves…

George Bush, Adolf Hitler and Nicolae Ceausescu are being used to persuade people to adopt stray dogs in Romania

“Our idea is to make people sensitive to what an animal can offer in terms of affection by showing them that even the most hated dictators on this planet received love from their dogs.

[Disclaimer added for those on the right who are determined to read everything completely literally: I do not think George Bush is the equivalent of Adolf Hitler. I just thought it amusing that this article appeared to be implying that. Apologies for not treating anyone who reads this as a complete imbecile.]

Posted in links, news | 4 Comments »

Going to the dogs

Posted by Andy Hockley on 20 September, 2005

The counterpoint of the following two sentences from
this article, is fantastic. I’m glad to see Bush is finally getting the press he deserves…

George Bush, Adolf Hitler and Nicolae Ceausescu are being used to persuade people to adopt stray dogs in Romania

“Our idea is to make people sensitive to what an animal can offer in terms of affection by showing them that even the most hated dictators on this planet received love from their dogs.

[Disclaimer added for those on the right who are determined to read everything completely literally: I do not think George Bush is the equivalent of Adolf Hitler. I just thought it amusing that this article appeared to be implying that. Apologies for not treating anyone who reads this as a complete imbecile.]

Posted in links, news | 4 Comments »

The weekend in brief and fractured form

Posted by Andy Hockley on 19 September, 2005

This weekend (or this week actually) was (is) European Mobility Week, which is all about being mobile without using your car. So we chose not to go anywhere outside the city so as not to break the rules.

Actually there is a local NGO (The Partnership Foundation) who are dead good and they put on various events around town to celebrate. There was an NGO fair in the middle of town on Petofi Street* at which Erika’s school had a stall, so we spent some time there, there was a bike race, there was an eco-vehicle challenge, and there was a draw-an-ecological-vehicle-on-the-road-with-chalk competition for kids. So we had a good time just walking round the town participating in an eco-festival right on our own doorsteps.

[*a word on street names – any street that is not named after a person has to be signed in both local languages. Thus we live on Fratiei/Testveriseg (brotherhood) street. For mailing purposes the Romanian name is used. The one exception to this is when the street is named after a person in which case it can’t be translated. Thus the main street in town is called Petofi Street after Sandor Petofi, a famous Hungarian poet and revolutionary who died somewhere near here. The street where Erika works was called, when I moved here, Strada Florilor / Virag Utca (flower street), but has recently had its name changed to Kossuth Lajos Utca (after another famous Hungarian revolutionary). It’s a game the local government play with the national one. Still, if it keeps everybody happy, and not at each other’s throats, then I’m all for it. I think we’re about the only town in Romania that doesn’t have any street or square named after Stefan Cel Mare (Stefan the Great) either, since he is not such a great hero to the Hungarian community as he is to the Romanian, having beaten King Matthius at the battle of Baia.]

Autumn started yesterday, at about 4pm. After we had returned from the eco-events, the skies darkened and the temperature began to drop. In the early evening, Erika and I went to the cinema, and it was getting decidedly chilly. By the time we came out it was dead cold and pissing down with rain to boot. Today looks and feels like autumn. Bit of a shame, but I suppose this great September we’d been having was too good to last.

We had gone to see Mar Adentro, winner of last year’s best foreign language film at the Oscars. This will give you a sense of how long films take to arrive in Csikszereda. It was something of a language challenge for me (being in Spanish with Romanian subtitles), but I was pleased at how much I understood. It was an amazing film and one I can’t possibly recommend too highly. It’ll be too late for anyone outside of the remotest parts of Papua New Guinea to catch it at the cinema, but go ahead and watch the DVD or download the DVIX file or whatever you modern types do these days. The acting is amazing, and the characters so well drawn. It’s about euthanasia but doesn’t try to make any political points, just tells a heart wrenching and moving story of people dealing with tragedy. And despite being about someone wanting to die, it’s one of the most life-affirming films I’ve seen. Really.

The other day, Bogi suddenly had a nasty thought, and turned to Erika in a semi-panicked state: “What if the baby only speaks English?”

And finally, from the BBC, man in nylon suit starts fire. I love that story.

Posted in csikszereda, intercultural communication, language | 1 Comment »

The weekend in brief and fractured form

Posted by Andy Hockley on 19 September, 2005

This weekend (or this week actually) was (is) European Mobility Week, which is all about being mobile without using your car. So we chose not to go anywhere outside the city so as not to break the rules.

Actually there is a local NGO (The Partnership Foundation) who are dead good and they put on various events around town to celebrate. There was an NGO fair in the middle of town on Petofi Street* at which Erika’s school had a stall, so we spent some time there, there was a bike race, there was an eco-vehicle challenge, and there was a draw-an-ecological-vehicle-on-the-road-with-chalk competition for kids. So we had a good time just walking round the town participating in an eco-festival right on our own doorsteps.

[*a word on street names – any street that is not named after a person has to be signed in both local languages. Thus we live on Fratiei/Testveriseg (brotherhood) street. For mailing purposes the Romanian name is used. The one exception to this is when the street is named after a person in which case it can’t be translated. Thus the main street in town is called Petofi Street after Sandor Petofi, a famous Hungarian poet and revolutionary who died somewhere near here. The street where Erika works was called, when I moved here, Strada Florilor / Virag Utca (flower street), but has recently had its name changed to Kossuth Lajos Utca (after another famous Hungarian revolutionary). It’s a game the local government play with the national one. Still, if it keeps everybody happy, and not at each other’s throats, then I’m all for it. I think we’re about the only town in Romania that doesn’t have any street or square named after Stefan Cel Mare (Stefan the Great) either, since he is not such a great hero to the Hungarian community as he is to the Romanian, having beaten King Matthius at the battle of Baia.]

Autumn started yesterday, at about 4pm. After we had returned from the eco-events, the skies darkened and the temperature began to drop. In the early evening, Erika and I went to the cinema, and it was getting decidedly chilly. By the time we came out it was dead cold and pissing down with rain to boot. Today looks and feels like autumn. Bit of a shame, but I suppose this great September we’d been having was too good to last.

We had gone to see Mar Adentro, winner of last year’s best foreign language film at the Oscars. This will give you a sense of how long films take to arrive in Csikszereda. It was something of a language challenge for me (being in Spanish with Romanian subtitles), but I was pleased at how much I understood. It was an amazing film and one I can’t possibly recommend too highly. It’ll be too late for anyone outside of the remotest parts of Papua New Guinea to catch it at the cinema, but go ahead and watch the DVD or download the DVIX file or whatever you modern types do these days. The acting is amazing, and the characters so well drawn. It’s about euthanasia but doesn’t try to make any political points, just tells a heart wrenching and moving story of people dealing with tragedy. And despite being about someone wanting to die, it’s one of the most life-affirming films I’ve seen. Really.

The other day, Bogi suddenly had a nasty thought, and turned to Erika in a semi-panicked state: “What if the baby only speaks English?”

And finally, from the BBC, man in nylon suit starts fire. I love that story.

Posted in csikszereda, intercultural communication, language | 1 Comment »

Remembering Virgil Sahleanu

Posted by Andy Hockley on 16 September, 2005

This month marks 5 years since the assassination of Trade Union leader Virgil Sahleanu in Iasi under the apparent orders of the former manager of his employer TEPRO. It’s a sad, but powerful story that probably never made it outside Romania and the Czech Republic (the company that owned TEPRO were Czech).

In 1998, TEPRO, a Romanian producer of steel tubes and pipes, was privatised and bought by a Czech company, Zelezarny Veseli, who were one of TEPRO’s competitors prior to the buyout. The parent company then allegedly started out on a program of asset stripping TEPRO, running down the factory and preparing to shut it down. Ioan Hariton, the secretary of the union which now bears Sahleanu’s name said “The Czechs took our products and stuck the Zelezarny label on them selling them as if they had produced them. Moreover, they refused orders for certain products, recommending that potential partners sign contracts with Zelezarny Vesely. They actually wanted to occupy the international markets where TEPRO was selling its products and lead our factory into bankruptcy.”

The trade union, now headed by Sahleanu, started fighting in the courts (on the basis that Zelezarny weren’t abiding by the agreements they signed in buying up TEPRO) and demanding the reinstatement of 1200 sacked workers. For his trouble Sahleanu himself was fired and had to continue fighting from outside the company. But fight he did, and successfully, winning the reinstatement of the workers, and eventually an agreement to reverse the privatisation. The company sued him and on his way to court one day he was attacked by two men and stabbed three times.

Charged and convicted with involvement in the murder were (as well as the two assailants themselves) the former manager of TEPRO, and the manager and employees of a private security firm. In addition, Frantisek Príplata, a Czech investor/businessman who was acting as adviser to the new management of TEPRO, was convicted by a Romanian court of “inciting murder”. Even after his appeal was turned down, he remained out of jail on the grounds of ill-health, during which time he fled across the border to Hungary on foot, and thence home to the Czech Republic. The government in Prague won’t extradite him, saying “Czech law forbids Czech citizens from being extradited. The only exceptions are EU countries, and Romania is not in the EU.” I’m not sure what that means come Romania’s accession, but I imagine Mr Priplata is a tad concerned.

Links to the latest versions of the story (and frankly from where I culled more or less all of the above information) can be found here, from Romanian Indymedia, and here, from the Prague Post.

Posted in history, links, romania | Leave a Comment »

Remembering Virgil Sahleanu

Posted by Andy Hockley on 16 September, 2005

This month marks 5 years since the assassination of Trade Union leader Virgil Sahleanu in Iasi under the apparent orders of the former manager of his employer TEPRO. It’s a sad, but powerful story that probably never made it outside Romania and the Czech Republic (the company that owned TEPRO were Czech).

In 1998, TEPRO, a Romanian producer of steel tubes and pipes, was privatised and bought by a Czech company, Zelezarny Veseli, who were one of TEPRO’s competitors prior to the buyout. The parent company then allegedly started out on a program of asset stripping TEPRO, running down the factory and preparing to shut it down. Ioan Hariton, the secretary of the union which now bears Sahleanu’s name said “The Czechs took our products and stuck the Zelezarny label on them selling them as if they had produced them. Moreover, they refused orders for certain products, recommending that potential partners sign contracts with Zelezarny Vesely. They actually wanted to occupy the international markets where TEPRO was selling its products and lead our factory into bankruptcy.”

The trade union, now headed by Sahleanu, started fighting in the courts (on the basis that Zelezarny weren’t abiding by the agreements they signed in buying up TEPRO) and demanding the reinstatement of 1200 sacked workers. For his trouble Sahleanu himself was fired and had to continue fighting from outside the company. But fight he did, and successfully, winning the reinstatement of the workers, and eventually an agreement to reverse the privatisation. The company sued him and on his way to court one day he was attacked by two men and stabbed three times.

Charged and convicted with involvement in the murder were (as well as the two assailants themselves) the former manager of TEPRO, and the manager and employees of a private security firm. In addition, Frantisek Príplata, a Czech investor/businessman who was acting as adviser to the new management of TEPRO, was convicted by a Romanian court of “inciting murder”. Even after his appeal was turned down, he remained out of jail on the grounds of ill-health, during which time he fled across the border to Hungary on foot, and thence home to the Czech Republic. The government in Prague won’t extradite him, saying “Czech law forbids Czech citizens from being extradited. The only exceptions are EU countries, and Romania is not in the EU.” I’m not sure what that means come Romania’s accession, but I imagine Mr Priplata is a tad concerned.

Links to the latest versions of the story (and frankly from where I culled more or less all of the above information) can be found here, from Romanian Indymedia, and here, from the Prague Post.

Posted in history, links, romania | Leave a Comment »

Low Cost Romania (brief reprise)

Posted by Andy Hockley on 16 September, 2005

I have just discovered that Sky Europe have won permission to fly to Bucharest and will be doing so from early December. They’re only flying to Bratislava initially, but given that Bratislava is within spitting distance of Vienna it is defintely a step in the right direction, and they also fly on from Bratislava to useful places (for yours truly) like London Stansted.

This will be the first true low cost airline (to my knowledge) in Bucharest. There is something called Air Blue or Blue Air or something, but having checked out their prices, “low cost” seems to mean “not well known” in this case. There’s also something called CarpatAir which flies to Italy and Germany from small airports in Romania via Timisoara, but they’re not terribly cheap either.

It’s good news, even though it still involves a 3¾ hour drive from here to Otopeni or Baneasa airports in Bucharest.

This isn’t a very interesting post is it?

Posted in EU, romania | 2 Comments »

Low Cost Romania (brief reprise)

Posted by Andy Hockley on 16 September, 2005

I have just discovered that Sky Europe have won permission to fly to Bucharest and will be doing so from early December. They’re only flying to Bratislava initially, but given that Bratislava is within spitting distance of Vienna it is defintely a step in the right direction, and they also fly on from Bratislava to useful places (for yours truly) like London Stansted.

This will be the first true low cost airline (to my knowledge) in Bucharest. There is something called Air Blue or Blue Air or something, but having checked out their prices, “low cost” seems to mean “not well known” in this case. There’s also something called CarpatAir which flies to Italy and Germany from small airports in Romania via Timisoara, but they’re not terribly cheap either.

It’s good news, even though it still involves a 3¾ hour drive from here to Otopeni or Baneasa airports in Bucharest.

This isn’t a very interesting post is it?

Posted in EU, romania | 3 Comments »