ZIARE interviewed me. Here is the English version.

Interview in Romanian: http://m.ziare.com/social/o-suedeza-s-a-indragostit-de-romania-si-o-promoveaza-gratuit-daca-vreti-o-schimbare-in-bine-ridicati-va-fundul-de-pe-canapea-si-faceti-ceva-1443767

25 Oct 2016

 – Why Romania? Why this “crush” on Romania?
Romania is my mission in life. It’s my path, it’s a life purpose. I am your life long friend, who stands beside you every day, come rain come shine, who fight with you and celebrate with you. I was close to Romania since I was 13, in 1985, when I visited it for the first time. I grew to have strong feelings for Romania. I love the life I live when I am there and I have a strong urge to contribute to Romania, to build a strong country, unlock potential and model healthy leadership.
 
– How many countries have you visited?
About 25, but only one really stayed with me, Romania.
 
When did you first come to Romania?
 
In 1985, on a charter trip with my parents and grandparents. We stayed in Mamaia and traveled with the travel agency Royal Tours. We were at the Dacia Hotel back then. Last year, on the 30th years anniversary, since first time, I spent a week at that hotel with my own kids, telling them of the times in the 1980’s.
Scandinavians traveled quite a lot to the Black Sea in the 1980’s. Romania is forgotten now, when other countries are upcoming about bringing tourists back.
 
What were your first impressions, do you remember?
 
My impressions are the impressions of a teenager. I remember the long beach, schnitzel every day in the restaurant, a pop group playing the song ’Se m’innamoro’ – original song of Ricchie e Poveri, every night at the restaurant . The smell of the cigarettes people were smoking, stuck to me. The shop where only tourist could buy things – and how unfair I thought that it was. Young people who wanted to talk to me but were very shy. I remember how cars where only allowed to drive on certain days depending on even or uneven numbers on the registration plates, and how electricity was shut down on the roads at certain times.
 
– When you came back, after years, how did you find the country? What was the biggest change?
 
That was in 2011. 26 years later. The country was of course much more modern and a lot of western influence had been implemented. For good and bad. I was in amazement, fascination and – in despair. I saw a country with so many natural resources , so much beauty, a hospitable people who struggles every day against corruption and the realisation that western press is bullying Romania with a narrow-minded discourse about Romania.
It is so little that we see and hear about Romania in Sweden, for example. What struck me then, was also that Romania could have a flourishing tourism sector that could be booming ! Romania is such a rich country in many ways, but the Romanian people are deceived by the politicians and this is sad to witness. I am an optimist and I do believe the time is now for Romania to rise, to stand tall and move strongly forward.
 
– How would you describe our country? How would you describe the people here?
 
Romania is green, lush and natural, like the water that spring out of the mountains. It is clarity and freshness as the Dobrogean blue. It is red as the love and warmth of its’ people. It’s yellow and bright like the sunflowers standing tall and soaking the sun in summer.  
It is cheeky, humoristic and relaxed as in summer, reflective and spiritual as autumn, sometimes crying deeply as winter, and then again full of new hope as spring !
 
Romania’s history tells the history of humanity, a place between east and west. A place that was challenged so many times. It’s a story of endurance.
The Romanians are kind, helpful, generous and loving. They melt me in winter when I am cold, they allow me to express all the spectre of my feelings fully alive, they taught me that I can’t plan for everything but to leave space for magic. They told me to cherish everything – to be mindful about resources. The Romanians’ never ending wit made me less serious and more easy going. The Romanians showed me what real friendship is and what it means to stand close no matter what.
 
– Is there something that you don’t understand in Romania?
 
I don’t understand why people choose again and again same old corrupt persons for public service, which drag the country down. I don’t get it why the young generation don’t go out to vote!  

 

The 2 most heard “explanations” that “1. We don’t have with who to vote, all are the same”, and “2. We are disgusted”, I refuse to accept.

If you want a change in good, you have to get your butt off the sofa and do something about it ! No battle was won without a fight.

 
– You launched a Facebook page about Romania in 2011. I don’t know too many people to do so for a country that it isn’t theirs. Again, why?
 
Since I started to come here again, in 2011, I identify myself as belonging in Romania.
I want to change the image about Romania abroad. I offer a wider perspective of Romania and make people become curious about Romania and wanting to travel there. You see, I do believe traveling makes the world a better place. With the personal meetings , sharing a meal together, exploring things , being in nature together, we get closer to each other and can create authentic relationships with each other.  
I hope that my contribution will be one that leave footprints of a more healthy, friendly Europe, beyond politics, with the people creating sustainable communities of different kinds : where innovation grows, where young leaders work openly together for the benefits of this earth we live in, using the internet in order to reach closer to the idea of what is democracy .  
 
I m wondering when block politics will come to an end and when politicians will work for the better of earth ? I am a teacher and I hope I will inspire to the future of education in Romania, where each child is seen and able to unlock the potential of his or her talents and where teachers are paid a good salary for the job they do.
 
I am a leadership trainer and speaker and I hope that my ways of doing things can inspire people in Romania to collaborate with each other , to trust , to share successful stories, to innovate, to work where the ceiling is high and there is space to try out things without being judged or blamed.
 
 
​-​Have you been paid for promoting our country?

No. I have never been paid for doing this and I will never accept such thing ! All I do is because I believe in this country which I consider mine too.

 

– They say a lot of untrue things about Romania. What is not true?
 
First : who are THEY and what are you talking about SPECIFICALLY when you say ‘untrue things’ ?
In my view the coverage in traditional media is just the coverage of a limitation of just a few stories. But you know, the media is made by drama, of the good and the bad, contrasts, to stir up conflicts. I am following a few traditional media , but when I read, I read with the perspective to believe half of what I read.
We must become more critical to sources now with an open net, we need to question things more. Dig deeper and not believe all that meets the eye. Be curious and ask questions. Everything is not as it seems.  
 
– Have you learnt the language?
I can have a basic conversation depending on the subject spoken and I understand most of what it is said to me. I am studying it daily and next summer I am sure that I can give you an interview in Romanian.

 
– What do you do for a living in Sweden?

 
I work as a language teacher and it is a profession with a meaning. The school that I am working at now had the mission from the municipality to be different than all the others , when it was established 3 years ago. It is . Both the interior design of the school ,the type of fantastic , open , encouraging leadership of our principal and the flat organisation demanding self leadership from all staff.
 
 
 
Have you ever thought about moving here?
Yes, I am trying everyday to make this happen. So far I didn’t succeeded in getting a job even if I was promised one a few times. But I continue looking and sending CV’s to companies in Romania. I hope soon I will find something.

 
 
– Why do you think that Romania is regarded as Europe’s Cinderella?
Romania is in no way Europe’s Cinderella ! This is so wrong and saying such a thing has to stop ! Romania is a beautiful country, maybe too beautiful for some and that’s why some people are trying to portray it in a bad light. Romania still has all it needs to sustain itself and even more. Unfortunately it doesn’t have pragmatics, “see our interest first” and it doesn’t have responsible leaders.

 
– What’s your favourite place in Romania?

I love Moldova for the rich food and wonderful traditional clothes. I love Bucovina for the monasteries. Transylvania for the mountains, and the cities with beautiful architecture. I love Dobrogea for the Delta and the sea. I love Maramures for the wooden handicraft and the unique way of living. Muntenia for the nature and authentic village life. Oltenia for Michael the Brave and the Olt river. Banat for the richness of the soil and the stories told by the elders. Crisana for the Apuseni mountains.
So my favourite place in Romania is…Romania.
 
 
– I saw on The Bucharest Lounge that you even cook Romanian food. What’s your impression about our food? Do you have a favourite?
 
I am completely passionate about food. There are so many stories around food and I love to gather around a meal with friends and family. I am very happy when I can sit under the grapevine at my friends’ place and share a meal with them. We laugh, we joke and just having a good time together ! I have so many food stories from Romania and I thought I should share them, so I just started a new food concept called Food and Stories from Romania. It is my friend and I who started it just recently. It is like another invitation for people to discover Romania. Food connects people and Romanian food makes us happy !
 
I love it when I am in Romania and learning to cook a new dish. The favourites that I learned to cook and which I am cooking often are: sarmale , salata de vinete and salata de boeuf.
 
I also love to cook with Romanian friends in Scandinavia. I must admit that I am always nervous to cook for a Romanian as you are usually very good at cooking and make delicious meals.
 
The Romanian food is varied, rich, tasty and I love to follow the rhythm of the year and eat the food that is in season. I am traveling to Romania in November for the Women Entrepreneur event and I am already thinking of the ‘Ciorba de pui’ I am going to have at my friend’s restaurant Sole D’Italia, when I arrive.
 
– You even wear Romanian traditional blouse, ia, even though few Romanians do. Why?
 
First of all, I want to say that quite a lot of Romanians started to wear IA and traditional clothes lately, which I find is a very good thing! I can even see a difference only since five years ago and now. It’s something positive !

 

I wear the blouse because I love it !
Why ?
It is beautiful and carry the love of the Romanian women who made them.
I am personally fascinated by the signs and patterns. They speak to us from an ancient past, a past that whisper to us about humanity – what it means to be a human being, about birth, marriage, seasons, challenge, celebration and more.  
I came to love it already in 2011 when I came back to Romania. Now I wear the IA often both in my everyday life and for more formal settings. At work people notice the blouses and they start to ask questions about Romania. It makes me very happy !
 
– When thinking about Romania, what comes to your mind?
 
Beauty , humanity and love.
Struggle, endurance and resilience.
 
 
– Is there something that you don’t like here?
The corruption and how it has an impact on every day life and stops development.
It disturbs me a lot that the forests are absolutely vandalized by the so called “investors”, that the politicians are giving away for nothing, almost, the natural resources the country has instead of them being exploited by Romanians and for Romanians and that people don’t take a stand about all this !

 

I remember I was in Romania when there were the protests for Rosia Montana, I participated at them and I felt so proud then, for the unity of the people. And good things happened about it !

 

Also, the promoting of tourism is almost inexistent and thats what I fight for. Romania is a unique country and it needs to make itself heard as a “must see” destination.

 

I am working with country rebranding about Romania and branding of Bucharest. I do this since 5 years back now.

 
– Do you have a message for Romanian people?
To be proud of their beautiful country and hospitable people.
To fight for their rights, take a stand for a better life, don’t give up and good things will happen.
 

 
YVETTE LARSSON​​

4 thoughts on “ZIARE interviewed me. Here is the English version.

  1. Yvette, most of your story is known to me. However, your details and descriptions, not always obvious, add magic it.
    I am sure you know that we both have similar and strong feelings for Romania. We also share the wish to live in the most beautiful country, full of such lovely, friendly and helpful people.
    Unfortunately, as you so astutely say, there is much wrong with the politics and government. As an EU member, they are being assisted to become a successful nation. But, there are still many politicians who are fighting the change. The reason being that they will have to work and not get everything for nothing! Mr Ponta has been proven as a scoundrel, but Laura Codruta Kovesi and her anti-corruption force are regularly uncovering new evil men.
    The people can complain. They made such a huge demonstration about Rosia Montana. They should do more, similarly, about the politicians.
    I am attempting to learn limba Romana. I am sure you understand it is hard work! I failed with Latin at my school. Little interest in a dead language. However, over the last 40 years I have learnt many of the Latin words that are commonly used in English. There is hope…!
    Romanian food. One of the things most prominent in my mind is that whenever I visit, I can almost hear my digestive system saying “Thank you!” or perhaps in this case, “Mulţumesc!” The supermarket food I eat at home is hardly the healthiest food to eat. It contains far too many additives and preservatives, unlike the fresh, untainted food found in Romania.
    Your work for Romania is a joy to see.
    I hope one day we may meet in Bucharest.
    Peter Fay

  2. I’ve read your article on ziare.com, and got interested to take a look on more of your previous posts.

    Your enthusiastic love for Romania is so flattering for the country. And your initiative is impressive.

    But .. to some misconceptions …

    Avg salary in Romania is not 200-300 euro, avg is more than 400 euro now (official country avg incl. rural Romania). In main cities avg salary is much higher. In Bucharest avg will reach 1000 soon (not speaking about top quartile’s avg – inequality is normal, no communism anymore). I think in few more years Romania will do better than Greece and Portugal. Comparison with Spain and Italy will come in few more decades.

    Corruption is a struggle, that’s true. And it is very visible and overly advertised. But I personally think corruption is just a secondary effect, it’s not a key factor in the overall trend of country’s development. And it is addressed problem. Economic development is just a natural unfold after externally imposed communism we were forced to live.

    The critical challenge on the way of economic development is to not kill rural Romania, so well preserved, still – it’s rare in Europe.

    That’s why what you focus on is relevant for this country.

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