In June 2011, for the first time since the revolution and before, I went back to Roumania, a beautiful, underestimated, yet poor country that, according to many today, made nothing out of its revolution – Romanians prefer to speak about “the events of december (1989)” – and in fact, would need another one to get life really going. I heard people complain that, under Ceauscescu, at least every citizen had a job. During my travels, I noticed a widespread criticism on the allegedly corrupt present strong man, former army officer Traian Băsescu.
Roumania, although part of the European Union, hardly ever hits the world news. It is a forgotten country. In Belgium the word ‘Roumanian’ is associated with ‘criminality’, due to Roumanians, among many other nationalities, involved in thefts and robberies, particularly in Brussels. Yet, I have always known the Roumanians as a very hospitable, warm, and open-minded people with a rich identity. So, I went back to Bucharest, to Buzău, Sibiu, Moreni, Râmnicu Sărat, Trgovište, as a photographer, without any hope of finding anyone who would ever publish my photos.
As I was then working for the Flemish Ministry for Public Health, and got to know a lot about that subject, my focus was on health care: in general and psychiatric hospitals, at people’s home places, in institutions for the mentally handicapped, in old people’s homes, … Progress has been made in Roumania, for sure. It struck me, however, how the Roumanian Yellow Cross, organizing home care even at remote locations on the countryside, has to fight to survive. I once asked the nurse I joined on her trip to patients living isolated on the countryside, what these people’s fate would be without her and other Yellow Cross nurses. She answered: “Adieu”, and with a slow move of her hand made it exactly clear what she meant. For the efforts of the Roumanian Yellow Cross see Crucea Alb Galbena.
The demographic evolution is not any different in Roumania than it is in any Western-European country. Its population ages quickly. The elderly are many. Everywhere in Europe, governments realize that residential care cannot be the solution to this demographic evolution, and that a transfer to well-organized home care will be the only way to sustain a human society. Roumania unfortunately, is missing this boat.