Welcome to Romania
The year was 1989.
For people across Eastern Europe, this year played host to peaceful revolutions and the fall of Communist regimes. From Poland and Hungary to East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, the scene was all very similar.
While tyrant after tyrant recognized that the end was near and resigned without a fight, there was one exception. One dictator dared to crush his people’s uprising – a seemingly illogical attempt to avoid the inevitable.
In the end, this country’s people prevailed, but Romania’s lapel suffered a permanent stain.
Nicolae Ceaucescu, Romania’s notoriously brutal ruler, was put to death immediately following the bloody revolutions of 1989. However, Ceaucescu’s Christmas Day execution has not turned out to be the gift it was supposed to be.
Today, some Romanians swear the country is cursed because of it. At times, it is not hard to see why.
As a magazine intern based out of Brasov, Romania, I have wholeheartedly immersed myself in this country.
If a journalism internship in Eastern Europe may sound a little out of the ordinary, I can tell you that the experience has been exactly that.
Freedom of the press is a new reality here.
During Ceausescu’s rule, Romanians were not permitted to possess typewriters without formal registration with the police. Furthermore, paper supplies and photocopying activities were strictly monitored.
The notion of a free press in Romania was publicly outlawed by government officials. It was simple: propaganda ruled. This left real news journalism a non-existent commodity.
But rather than serve as a deterrent, this history only fuelled my curiosity.
Along with my passion for Eastern European and Russian politics and issues, the opportunity to spend my summer working in some capacity of print journalism in Romania became an offer impossible to turn down.
One month and a half into my internship, I have not been disappointed. I write for a magazine called Satul which, in English, translates to “The Village”. Currently, I am serving as the editor of the magazine’s English section.
The vision behind this magazine is one which explores Romanian villages, traditions, customs and rural life. This is because, contemporarily, many of these traditions are overlooked by younger generations.
In addition to my work as a magazine intern, I have also had the unique opportunity of giving back to this community through journalism. In Brasov, Romania, I have helped to launch a series of “Journalism Clubs”, a brand new initiative in Romanian schools and orphanages.
In these clubs, I supervise a group of students and teach them how to make a school newspaper.
Such an experience allows Romanian students the opportunity to develop their English skills and learn about true journalistic ideals. This volunteer work has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had thus far in Romania.
The greatest explanation for my desire for a deeper understanding of Romania is the opportunities and experiences first-hand journalism has afforded me. I have interviewed a mayor, peasants, villagers, you name it.
I have traveled by train, bus and car to wherever I think a good story may be. I am encouraged to travel and interview whomever I deem necessary to answer every question I have. All the while, my translator is never too far away.
I have learned much more than I could ever divulge in a series of articles. While I came for the journalism experience, it is questionable whether that is the area where I have learned the most. Nevertheless, with one month and a half to go, I can rest assured that this country holds much more to be discovered.