Why did we decide to move to Romania?
There are various reasons, but one underlying motivation was the simple fact that at that time (1998) we had an opportunity to better ourselves. We were able to find work in Romania at a level we would probably have had to wait years to reach had we stayed in the UK. Many other British immigrants to Romania at that time had similar stories: even though the money was not always better as what was on offer at home (or, in our case, even as good) the chance to get on in whatever your field was – publishing, law, advertising – was too good for many to miss. We left home for Romania because it offered us a chance to better ourselves faster than if we had stayed at home.
While it’s not perhaps the classic immigrant story (we were not exactly fleeing war or poverty, although given that the faux-left wing Labour government of Tony Blair had just been elected prime minister there was a certain amount of fear that purges against the working class were imminent) we have nevertheless always empathised with the plight of immigrants everywhere, never forgetting for one moment that we too are immigrants: strangers pursuing fresh opportunities in a strange land.
As such, we are more than happy to identify ourselves with the dynamic, hard-working and highly entrepreneurial Romanian immigrants to the UK currently featuring in the Channel 4 documentary series The Romanians are Coming. You can watch the first episode here (the second episode is broadcast next Tuesday, with the third and final episode screening on March 3rd).
The reaction to the first episode of the series in certain circles in Romania however has been as predictably hysterical as you would imagine. Leading the charge of the professional offendotrons has been the increasingly ridiculous Lucian Mandruta, a former newsreader who – amongst other daft ideas – supports the reintroduction of compulsory military service. He suggested on his Facebook page that few Romanians would have the ‘stomach’ to watch the whole programme (leave alone episodes two and three). It is also worth noting that Mandruta apparently commented on the programme before it had actually even been broadcast.
Mandruta has been egging on Romanians in the UK to take a stance against Channel 4, which a handful did earlier today by holding a ‘silent protest’ outside Channel 4’s offices. That only a very few people turned up, however, speaks volumes: most immigrants – including myself – found little to be offended about. (By the way, we love how one of the protesters is holding an ‘Equal Rights’ banner. Given how the primary objection to the documentary appears to be that it featured – Heavens forbid! – a Romanian Gypsy, that’s ironic).
Our less than learned opinion about the first episode of The Romanians Are Coming is that is was very well made, investigating as it did not just the lives of the hard-working Romanians who have chosen to try and better themselves in the UK, but also taking an in-depth look at their back-stories, and the reasons they chose to leave Romania in the first place. It was objective yet broadly sympathetic to its subject matter, even getting the nihil obstat from that bastion of political correctness, the Guardian.
The antidote to Mandruta is Vlad Petreanu. His post on the subject (in Romanian) is well worth reading if you can, as is this piece in Adevarul, posted by Liviu Iolu on Sunday afternoon.
Finally, we couldn’t help but laugh when we saw Romania’s dear leader Victor Ponta tweet this on Sunday:
Even funnier is Teodor Tita’s ‘explanation’ of the tweet, here.
We look forward to episode two of The Romanians Are Coming on Tuesday, which apparently features more hard-working Romanians, including a nurse: perhaps one of the amazing Romanian nurses who took such great care of our mum when she was in St. George’s hospital last week.
Immigrants of the world unite!