Here is my first article in Republica.ro : http://republica.ro/zromania-ar-lua-punctaj-maxim-in-topul-tarilor-prost-intelese-cum-m-am-indragostit-de-aceasta-tara
Here is the English version: Imagine growing up 100 kilometres above the Arctic Circle, where it is pitch dark in December and where the sun never sets in July. The weather is quite extreme there , with -30 degrees in the winter and quite pleasant in the summer. Nature is omnipresent, with the Laponia World heritage natural surroundings, that feels and looks endless. As a child and teenager I was skiing in the weekends and when I was standing on the top of the mountain of my native town, Gällivare, I could see all but lakes and forests as far as my sight allowed me to. I grew up in a place which gave me infinite freedom. It shaped me with regards to the way I think, analyse things and how I act in the world today.
In 1985 my family and I went to Mamaia, Romania, as tourists. Scandinavians traveled by charter to the Black Sea coast – both to Romania and Bulgaria – and we were quite many. We flew from Stockholm to Constanta. I was 13 back then. A teenager, with big, round, goofy glasses, permed hair and interested in music, running and meeting young people. It was indeed an adventure to go visiting Romania. It was an adventure that would come to have an unimaginable life of itself, one that I was not at all prepared for. It was magic happening. Magic do happen when we are open for it.
In Mamaia it was my parents, my paternal grandparents and I , and we stayed at the Dacia hotel. Was it a coincidence that the hotel had that name ? My grandmother was an explorer. She was the kind of person who gave me warm hugs, made waffles and I felt safe with her. She was also modern and curious about life and the world. I will never forget when she brought back home a bag full of sea shells from Spain, when I was about 8 years old. She told me about warm places and palm trees and my lust for exploring the world was awoken.
During my 2 weeks’ stay in Romania I got to know a few young people and there was one boy that I met, Mihai, whom I started to write to. He was 14 and I was 13. The relationship that we developed is now very special and dear to me. We wrote real letters to each other for 18 years and when Internet arrived our correspondence continued on the net.
First we wrote about things that matters to teenagers, such as music, sports and girl/boyfriends. Later on in life, as we grew up, I tried to communicate with him about freedom of speech and democracy, but it wasn’t possible to talk about such things until after 1989. He kept telling me not to write about political things. It was hard for me not to, as I am a fighter , doer and solution-finder. I saw his struggles throughout his whole life, and how he kept picking himself up, with his humour, often salted with sarcasm, in a world that was not very friendly to him.
When Romania opened its’ border I could also follow the struggles of the Romanian people, rushing out, with huge hopes, being met with suspiciousness and more challenges. I suffered with the Romanians and my heart cried silently every time I heard about one of Mihai’s attempt to live in freedom and being able to express himself, but without success.
I never came back to Romania until 2011. I studied at the University ( Languages, Media, Communication and Journalism) and later on I went abroad and stayed abroad for 13 years, learned languages and got the experience of being an expat. Being a Swede abroad is easy. Nobody asks me any degrading questions due to the fact of my origin. Quite the opposite for many of my Romanian friends all over the world. As a Swede abroad all is good, all is positive. My Romanian friends are more often met with negativity, and in the field of employment, many eastern Europeans abroad are still not paid equal salaries as western Europeans. This is not right.
When I came back to Romania there was something that struck me : the discrepancy of how Romania is narrowly depicted in foreign massmedia, and what Romania really is. I got upset. I saw so much potential in Romania, in the field of tourism. I traveled a bit and I was so surprised that up until now, there has not been any successful, national campaign to tell the world what Romania really is about. Moreover, is it so that The Romanian National Tourism Office is situated in the USA and not in Romania ? I can’t understand this. I think Romania would highly need a 360 degrees full-on European campaign, that shares more perspectives about Romania and the beautiful and meaningful parts of the country. I think Romania would score high if there was a list of misunderstood countries in Europe.
When I came back to Sweden in 2011, after being on my second visit to Romania, people here didn’t really believe me, when I started to tell them about the beauty of Romania and the kindness I met. I think Romania is rich in human capital and that human capital consists of : kindness, hospitality, generosity, spirituality, crafts, authenticity and natural ways of being and acting.
When I realized that people in Sweden couldn’t , wouldn’t, didn’t want to believe me I felt an urge to do something . I started an initiative, The Bucharest Lounge, where I rebrand Romania abroad. I started to share , daily, inspirational stories from Romania on Social Media and I have been doing so for nearly five years now, hoping that I will be able to do it full-time.
I wish to contribute in widening the horizon and knowledge about Romania as a country and Romanians as a people, in order to combat the prejudice that is towards Romania. The Romanians have suffered enough by being often betrayed by their politicians.
Social media has the power to connect us, make it easier for us to collaborate and together work for a better place, a better world. Envy, jealousy and mistrust do not have a place in that context and discourse. We are in the embryo stages of a sharing economy too, and keeping to yourself with resources is outdated. The future is for those who are ready to collaborate with others.
Traditional massmedia needs to change, in order for people to have faith and trust in them. We are lucky now, that we can all be a media channel. All of us , who has an internet connection and a devise to write on, can share ideas, connect and work for a better tomorrow. I believe that in a near future , the generation x and y, will all have elaborated media channels and will be pro’s in copy- content writing , branding and making films. Only this year could we see the enormous development of YouTubers and how small, short films were taking their places in social media too.
I believe in the grassroots movements in Romania, I believe in the generations to come. I do so, because I am in contact with many and I see them thrive. There are many good people with constructive ideas, who takes leadership and who work for the future of tomorrow in Romania, and now we have the possibility to connect easily. We need to support each other more and be stronger together. Democracy, is not given. It’s taken by the people.
So, why Romania ?
My 31 years long history with Romania has created a strong urge to contribute in Romania, within my filed of leadership, to make it better, to make it stronger and to develop. I hope that my actions will also lead to healthy relationships between eastern and western Europe. That’s why Romania.
Helsingborg, April 3, 2016