Mr. Erwin Albu in Codlea caught my attention last week, after a friend of mine sent me an article about him, after the action with the forests and blocking the trucks in February.
I instantly got impressed by Mr. Erwin Albu’s courage and guts. Mr. Erwin Albu is making a difference in his community in Codlea. He is taking a stand for injustice and wrongs in his town. He fights for the things he believes in. He has “a strong spine” and a will-power out of the ordinary. He can not sit still and watch. Erwin was for a while member of the City Council, with the German group, but decided to resign. He says it was because he couldn’t play the games people were playing at the City Council and decided to become independent in his actions towards a better functioning society.
I asked for an interview with him and this is what I would like to share with you.
Mr. Erwin Albu was born in 1979 and grew up in Codlea in the German community. His mum was a Director for Culture Department in his municipality and his dad was a Business Director. Erwin grew up with two sets of parents, his biological ones and an extra set of German parents. The German parents took care of him while his parents were at work.
He went to school in the German school and this made a difference, he says. The German school was a bit more open than the Romanian schools during Communism. The students were “allowed to think a bit more freely”, he said. After the so called Revolution the German school even open up more. There was a “liberation of the freedom to think”, as Mr. Erwin Albu puts it. Teachers from Germany came and that was like a fresh breeze for him. His favourite teacher was a woman called Heike Lawin, a Maths teacher, who stood up for many things in his school.
He mentions that growing up with two languages, German and Romanian – growing up in two cultures- made a difference to him too. He learned, from an early age to look at things in at least two ways. That was very powerful.
The saying: ” Embrace your destiny” never worked for him. He always went his own fierce way. Bold in his actions. He said, instead he was using his own saying: ” Go and solve the problems “.
His will-power was present from his early childhood. He remembers situations already from his Kindergarten-years. A strong memory from his early years is when he stood up for his “second mother”, or “Hertamama” as he called her, as her real name was Herta. There was a lot of propaganda against the Germans during Communism. Young Erwin heard it, then realized his own “mum” was German, but was not at all bad, as the Communists put it. He took her to friends and said : ” Look , she is German but she is not at all bad !!!! “. He was 7 years old. He stood up for her.
As he grew up he went to a German High School in Brasov. He was the only one from Codlea in his class. In a week’s time he was appointed speaker of the class and later President of the first Student’s Council after the Revolution in that High School. He was involved in school and wanted to make development happen.
He says : ” I say what I have to say. I can’t be quiet. I don’t mind a conflict if I believe in what I do. Some people can’t bare to hear the truth, and I am a truth-teller. I can’t stand the hiding behind curtains”.
One peak moment for Erwin was in 1997/98 when he organized a big strike at school with regards to the final exams. The Chief of the Police came up to Erwin and said : ” If anything happens I will hold you personally responsible” . ” This changed how I looked at life”, Mr. Erwin Albu says.
After Highschool and during college, he went into business. He saw the possibilities and opportunites. He set up a flower import business , importing flowers from Holland. He took a stand in Holland where he clarified, to the Dutch, that they did wrong in their approach to do business with Romania. He said: -There has to be a giving-back part of business too. That’s how he started to send Romanian furniture in the other direction. Doing export from east to west. There were many challenges with regards to the customs, so many it could fill a book, he said. He got many contacts and was doing a lot of things at the same time : a lot of business consulting for foreign companies. Sometimes his German way of being and doing things clashed with the Romanian way.
In 2004 he went into politics. He was the youngest City Councellor ever. Being the leadertype he is, he always wanted to make a difference for his community.
At the same time he had a fiancée, a Bulgarian-English girl named Gillian, who lived in the UK, and was waiting for him. Mr. Erwin Albu said that the lesson learned is that he should have prioritized himself more. The relationship ended. ” She is still the most beautiful girl in the world”, he says.
Through all those challenges Mr. Erwin Albu has developed as a strong, never-giving up attitude. He says many times “ Romania was a jungle at that time”. I am thinking that, that jungle must have been a hard, but a good school, to push himself in all directions. To shape the diamond.
When the financial crisis came he had to re-organize things, which meant closing businesses.
I was asking him about his drive . He said that he needs to do meaningful, he wants to have an impact in the society he lives in and he doesn’t like small things. He hates to see injustice towards people. He says that there are challenges with being like he is. He got enemies and some people just can’t stand to hear the truth.
He mentions a period when he protested against a Parking Company in his town, and how he physically went out in town in protest. See here.
He also mentions the fight for the local hospital. That fight was a national subject for many months in Romania.
Mr. Erwin Albu says he never thought about leaving Romania. ” My place is here”, he says. Even after the Revolution, he just wanted to stay and see if he could develop his country. He saw so much potential.
Now, he is fighting for a better society. He says, what is needed in Romania is to go out and scream. Tell the authorities what is needed.
You have to be serious about things.
Not just accept them as they are.
Do something about them.
Take a stand.
This man impresses me with his “action speaks attitude”. He walks his own way, the way he believes in. He suffer at times, but never gives up in the things he believe in. In Romania it’s not enough just to talk about things. Things can change for the better when people act.
He is a free thinker. Another example of that is when he took up studies in Teology. He says that we all have the freedom to explore and try out things we believe in. It doesn’t matter if other people think we are crazy. We must do what we need to do.
He believes in the idea of preassure from the people, as a tool to make change happen in the society. Create noise.
He says : “When somebody or the system tries to crush me, they don’t realize that it only makes me stronger ! “. He wants to be ” the Chinese waterdrop”, the one that keeps coming back. He smiles.
He says that he hopes Codlea can be a model in Romania on how change can take place with the power and preasure of a community that is united in its actions.
He is now doing something he calls “an experiment about Democracy”. He is running as a candidate for the EU Parliament, as an independent person, without huge fundings and campaigns.
I ask him, what I usually ask everyone I interview :
– What is the the Romania you see outside your window ?
Mr. Erwin Albu pauses.
Then he says : I see something sad.
As this is the Bucharest Lounge, where I look through the lens of beauty and meaning I like to know what he sees as the beauty of Romania.
He says :
“ It’s potential” .