For six years, Răzvan has not been able to speak and barely moved. His mother hopes that with proper care she can offer him a dignified living.

On Ciacova Street in Bucharest’s 1st district, time has grown old and mellow. Houses peek through the network of overhead wires, cars wait quietly on the curb, hesitating between the sidewalk and the road. Gabriela Zăinescu, a 59 year old woman with electric red hair and a bright smile, is on her daily commute to her second home: a senior nursing home where her 37 year old son has been staying since 2012.

She enters the courtyard, gives warm hellos as she leaves behind garden statues, geranium pots, and a sweet smell of freshly cooked food, and rushes to the pavilion where her “baby” is staying. Until recently an economics and philosophy teacher at a high school in Bucharest, Gabriela boasts the kind of energy that could animate even the most inert planet in the universe. Inside the pavilion, a long hallway stretches toward Răzvan’s room, near the end and on the right. As she steps into the room, a warm light floods her face. She walks to him and kisses his forehead. Continue reading “Captive”

Between Two Worlds

Drobeta-Turnu Severin is a harbor city of contrasts. I went there to understand its life in the post-industrial era, and see if it has cast away all its dreamers.

On Google Maps, Drobeta-Turnu Severin seems to be drawn on a math grid, with streets that meet at straight angles, the resulting squares nestling shops, houses, apartment buildings, institutions, and companies. It seems to have been organized by a methodical mind that rigorously mapped out its arteries, waiting for the organism, implanted on the Danube’s bank, to grow and expand. For many of us, this city in western Oltenia is an abandoned territory, somewhere between geography schoolbook clichés and history. Here lie the foot of Apollodor of Damascus’ bridge, the Roman Castrum, and the ambitious hydroelectric power plant built in communist times, The Iron Gates I (Porțile de Fier I). I could see them all before my very eyes like cutouts in a pop-up book, proudly marching like straight A students.

Then there’s the announcement broadcast at least once a day on the Village Voice Radio (Radio Antena Satelor). After a water bubbling jingle, at 12:10PM starts the hydrologic bulletin: Drencova – 800 cm, sinks 2 cm, Orșova – 225 cm, sinks 15 cm, Drobeta-Turnu Severin – 747 cm, rises 10 cm, and so on, down to the Sulina channel. This rigor of informing the public on the Danube’s water levels evokes uncanny, stale times. Continue reading “Between Two Worlds”