Caught in between the development of new economic centers and the shutting down of gigantic communist era factories, small towns in Romania struggle to find new life. Făgăraș, a once commercial and political center of the Feudalist Europe is a clear example of this phenomenon. Făgăraș was once the home of Doamna Stanca, wife of Mihai Viteazul, the man responsible for the first unification of the three Romanian Principates into roughly what is now Romania and part of the Republic of Moldova. The ‘cetate’ (fortress) in its center was modified from a previous military base to house the noble family. It later went through a series of modifications, and enlargements (w) to house other prominent families, or serve different purposes. Today the ‘castel’ is turned into a museum that presents the history of the location and a few pieces of important artists of the area.
The Făgăraș cetate stands, protected by a moat, in the center of town. It is a reminder of the town’s important past.
Outside the ‘castel’ though is a different story. Făgăraș faces the closure of the majority of the operations of a Chemical products manufacturer that directly or indirectly employed the majority of the people in the surrounding areas. The chemical industry, as many others in Romania, was part of the centralized plan of the Ceausescu’s communist regime. And as many others, after the so called revolution, it was shut down. The sudden change of regime, and complete lack of planning and leadership, left these functioning industrial monsters paralized.
With no work, the făgărașeni left, looking for a better future. Many left early on to bigger cities close by, Sibiu and Brasov. In recent years, however, the young and hungry for new opportunities, have left to western Europe, mainly Italy and Spain. In a sunny day in August, the streets are flooded with brand new Peugeot, Alfa Romeo, Volkswagen, and a black Mercedes Benz or Audi here and there. Strange in a street where only the ubiquitous Dacia, the local automaker, and a donkey pulling a cart would be seen in the streets. A surprisingly big minority though, has left for America. It seems like a ‘glitch’ on the visa lottery has favored hundreds of făgărașeni.
Although there are some that see these returns as the migrants coming back to show off, the underlying factor is that these people have left to work, and they have been successful. Recently, there has been a strong criticism from the UK and other European Union member states to Romanians tendency to flee their own country. They fear that the Romanians coming to their countries are going to create problems with their own people by taking their jobs and occupying their living spaces. These states, however, neglect the fact that these people are hungry for work, and are not leaving their country willingly. They are forced out due to lack of opportunities. The majority of these people are not going into the UK to joyfully work in the fields, factories, or as janitors and servers. These people are well educated and would gladly stay in their own country if they could make a good living as engineers, lawyers, or managers. Furthermore, when these people get to establish themselves in Italy, Spain, England and even the US, they constantly bring back success stories. They are looking for a better future, and if they cannot find it, they will make one for themselves. It is unacceptable that the large European economies blame these hardworking individuals for their own social problems.
Yet, the fancy cars disappear by the beginning of September, and only the Dacias remain. With an aging population, and an ever-shrinking economy, this once symbol of the Romanian unity, might soon be forgotten.