A Romanian Man’s House Was Stolen and Replaced with a Corn Field
In May, Andy Pascali, a Romanian from Bucharest, drove to his summer house in the county of Brăila. When he arrived, the house wasn’t there. Apparently, in the few months Andy had been away, someone disassembled the property piece by piece, leaving room for his neighbor to plant a cornfield in its place.
Last week, Andy decided to rant about his misfortune on Facebook:
Translated, his status reads: ”If you happen to have a summer house in the mountains, you should go check that it’s still there. I drove to my house in the countryside and all I found in its place was a cornfield. I don’t mean that the corn was covering the house from my line of sight—I mean that it was literally covering the place where my house used to be.”
I called Andy to ask why it took him two months to do anything about his missing house.
VICE: It’s been a while since your house disappeared. Are you still angry?
Andy Pascali: I’m not upset—I haven’t even tried to find out who did it until now. I’m lucky, because I live in Bucharest and have two houses—I have all I need. What I don’t like is this random disrespect. Why would you do that to a house that doesn’t belong to you?
How did you find out your house was missing?
I’ve built this house for my dad, and I usually drive him there. So last time I drove him there, at the beginning of May, I found a pile of gravel and a few stones instead of my house. But I couldn’t find the time to make a formal complaint with the police until now. If nobody reports this kind of crime, the thieves will just keep doing it. I hope the police catch them.
This Romanian Priest Blesses Stuff with His Long, Extendable Rod
Romania loves its religion. In fact, over 80 percent of Romanians follow the Orthodox Christian church, meaning its priests have a lot of blessing to do. A few times a year, they’ll go door to door in every village, town, and city, walk through every room and throw holy water at whatever needs blessing with a basil branch—always for a price, of course.
However, sometimes the basil branch just won’t do. The guy poking the TV screens with a paint-roller in the photo above is the resourceful leader of the Romanian church, Patriarch Daniel, who’s become an internet superstar after developing a new blessing technique that involves dipping a paint roller in holy water and using it to bless hard-to-reach surfaces.
Many Romanians were quick to judge, so back in January the church issued a statement defending their “extendable blesser,” instructing journalists to “read more on holy matters before misinforming the public.”
You can do that if you like, or you can scroll through all these photos of Patriarch Daniel using his blessing rod instead.
June 30, 2010
Here’s Patriarch Daniel using the blessing rod to get some holy oil under the roof of the Bârsana Monastery in Romania’s Maramureș region.
July 11, 2010
His Holiness blessing a church in the city of Brașov. In this one, another priest is holding something that looks like a pine cone covered in M&M’s. This is presumably helpful in some way.
September 6, 2010
The Patriarch rolling another level of benediction onto a freshly painted cathedral in Alba county.
September 18, 2011
At this blessing in Turda, Patriarch Daniel gives a blow-by-blow commentary of what it takes to sanctify a wall with his rod.
June 1, 2012
On International Children’s Day, Daniel carefully blessed the prayer corner of a kindergarten.
I Spent a Month Living in a Romanian Sexcam Studio
Until July I shared an apartment in England with two cousins, Lorenz and Alessandro. When I moved out at short notice, I was worried that I’d left the pair in the lurch, but as it turned out my timing couldn’t have been better. “We’re moving to Romania to open a catering business,” they told me. That plan seemed a little unusual, not to mention completely economically unviable, but they assured me that they had it all worked out. They knew a guy who was already running a similar operation in Bucharest, they said.
Come September, I got a message from the cousins asking if I could help out writing up some sales copy for their business. “Sure, tell me more about it,” I wrote. “Well, it’s a secret,” replied Alessandro. It’s tricky to write about secrets, I told him, and after some coaxing he revealed, unsurprisingly, that it wasn’t really a catering business they had opened at all, but a studio full of stripping, pouting, masturbating camgirls and camboys. I told the pair that I didn’t feel comfortable writing sales copy for that kind of thing. Not to worry, they said, before inviting me out to stay with them. Which is exactly what I did at the beginning of last month.
Photos of Romanian Miners Beating Up Their Fellow Citizens
A little over 20 years ago, the people of Romania rose up against their government. Only, their uprising was a little stranger than what’s been happening in Turkey, Egypt, Brazil and southern Europe recently.
After members of the liberal opposition organized protests against the recently elected National Salvation Front—who were the first party to come to power after the revolution of 1989—the socialist government called on miners and other workers throughout Romania to quell the demonstrations because the police had failed to disperse the rioting crowds.
On June 14, 1990, around 10,000 miners armed with wooden staves and iron bars were brought into Bucharest on special trains. Once they arrived, they quickly got to beating up and eventually killing or severely wounding many of the gathered liberals, royalists, and students who had dared to speak out against their government, angry at the fact that many FSN leaders, including President Ion Iliescu, were former members of the recently ousted Romanian Communist Party.
Andrei Iliescu is a photographer who was working for Agence France-Press (AFP) during the riots that took place between June 13 and 15, 1990. This is his account of what would come to be known as the June 1990 Mineriad.
When I look at recent photographs from Tahrir Square, I can’t help but think of what happened in June 1990, in Bucharest’s University Square. I’d basically moved into the InterContinental hotel in the square so that I could be as close as possible to the protests, which began on April 22 and ended on June 15. The interest surrounding Romania during that time was huge; we were shooting pictures by the truckload and I don’t remember a day where I didn’t send at least one photo off to some newspaper around the world.
June 11, 1990 was when it began to get rowdy, but the tension didn’t reach its boiling point until a couple of days later. Until then, the police would show up in waves and the government gave the protesters an ultimatum to disperse, but it wasn’t the first one by any means, so they chose to ignore it.
Romania’s Fish Aren’t Being Asphyxiated (Just Poisoned)
Remember that time thousands of dead birds fell out of the sky above Arkansas? Well, nature is back on the warparth. In May, reports emerged of thousands of dead fish floating along the Arieş River in Romania. The explanation the local administration came up with was that the fish had died from asphyxiation, caused by the mud brought in by heavy rains in the area. However, local NGOs have good reason to suspect that it was humans who caused the calamity, not a bit of rain churning up mud at the bottom of the river.
This isn’t the first time the Arieş has suffered. There is an artificial lake in the nearby town of Valea Șesii, and many say that it is often to blame for the Arieş’s problems. Or rather, the Cuprumin Company, owner of the nearby Roşia Poieni copper mine, is to blame, as it seems to be dumping all of its waste into said lake.
In 1999, several thousand cubic meters of water and sludge containing cyanide and heavy metals were released from the Baia de Aries gold mine into the Arieș River. All the fish died and the drinking-water supply for the nearby city of Turda was disrupted. In 2004, all plant and animal life in the Arieş River mystically perished.
In 2008, millions of dead fish floated along the river for three days because Cuprumin had forgotten to charge the electric pumps that protected the area from biohazards. In 2011, a pipe broke and 100 tons of waste poured into the Curmătura River before making its way into the Arieș River. Finally, last year a few mineshafts were flooded, which caused the red water to spill into the Arieș. However, no dead fish were reported. Every year, Cuprumin receives fines from the local authorities, yet these are obviously minor compared to the damage and don’t seem to be having much, if any, effect whatsoever.
Romanian Immigrants and Their Magnificent Mansions
Hey, British xenophobes: Ever wonder where all those Romanian immigrants who’ve been stealing your jobs have been spending your money? On the building of strange, gigantic mansions that no one lives in, and the planning of extravagant funerals back in their hometowns, apparently. Romanian photographer Petrut Calinescu hung out in the northern part of Romania for a while looking at how the culture of emigration has changed the landscape of traditional Romanian villages.
I called him up to talk about his project, Pride and Concrete.
Being Old in Romania Can Be a Lot of Fun
My friend was harping on at me the other day about how much it’s going to suck when we reach old age. “Can you imagine having to set aside 15 minutes every time you want to cross the road, or constantly have to deal with shitting yourself in public?” she asked.
I got what she meant, kind of, but she’s clearly been watching too many movies about old people that rely exclusively on tired cliches and stereotypical situations that don’t have any base in fact. My grandparents, their friends, and my great-aunts and uncles don’t tick any of those boxes, but are all perfectly capable of joking, at their own expense, about the topic of growing old.
I decided to take a series of photos to demonstrate that age really isn’t an issue, and that you can happily ride a pink bicycle in your pants or make inappropriate hand gestures, all the way into your retirement.
Partying with the Secret Police in Communist Romania
Illustration by Michael Shaeffer
Vacation options in communist Romania were pretty limited. When Labor Day, the big party holiday of the year, rolled around on May 1, many Romanians traveled to Costinesti, the only seaside resort for young people in the country. To reach it, they had to take the train to the last stop and walk another two miles, or hitch a ride on a farmer’s cart. Most of the country was poor at the time, so many travelers slept on the roofs of rented huts; the only sources of heat were campfires people made on the beach.
There were just two discos in Costinesti, and for some archaic reason, dancing was only allowed in them from 1 to 3 PM and 6 to 10 PM. Romanian beer was sold exclusively; other kinds of booze were only available at a store that catered to foreigners. And, of course, everyone was being watched all the time by government minders.
Sorin Lupascu, who DJed in Costines‚ti at the time, recalls, “You could drink until you fell on your face. The regime never messed with the parties, but the resort was filled with secret police who were scouting for new employees.” Government restrictions caused other problems too, according to Natalia, a math teacher who took teens on field trips to the beach: “The whole class could end up pregnant because condoms were illegal. At night I had to poke through bushes with a broom to stop them from having sex.”
After the fall of the Iron Curtain and ensuing revolution in 1989, young people had more options for partying. Many of them started going to Neptun, a resort town about 50 miles down the coast. Mariana, a hotel receptionist there between 1987 and 1996, described the change: “After the Revolution, people saw the first of May as a day when you could do whatever you wanted. Also, booze was on the market.” Things started to get wild: One year, Neptun’s Hotel Romanta was gutted by a massive fight among a group of friends who had rented nearly 70 percent of the rooms. Teo, a gynecologist who saw that brawl, told me, “The cops didn’t have the guts to break them up. They watched while beds, closets, and tables flew out of the windows.” The next year a confrontation between the customers of two pubs across the road from each other resulted in a brutal fight in the middle of the street that ended only when ambulances arrived.
Other destinations have also become popular in recent years, like the village of Vama Veche— where hippies laze about, ransack tents, fuck on the beach, and hit one another in the face—and Mamaia, where club kids celebrate their holiday freedom by robbing people and committing random acts of vandalism. And while these might not sound like the greatest of times, at least the secret police are nowhere to be found.
Need more partying?
For the last few years, prisoners in Romania have been able to dress however they want as long as they maintain minimum standards of decency. This got our Romanian counterparts wondering: What do chicks wear when they’re surrounded by the awfulness and heartbreak of prison life? VICE Romania decided to pay a visit to the country’s only women’s prison, Târgșor, to check out the fashions behind bars.