Elena Calistru and Funky Citizens are training a new generation in active citizenship.
By Adrian Lungu
Photos by Ioana Moldovan
Translated by Andrew K. Davidson
Originally published in March 2017 in issue #27 of DoR, a journal of Romanian nonfiction.
In the tall room with a masonry heater covered in green terracotta tiles which are said to have been brought from Venice, next to a large window in the shape of a birdcage, there is a poster with a graphic representing the city of Bucharest’s nine-year budget, which has seen the declining revenue of the crisis period between 2009 and 2014. There, under the poster, with her back to the window as the evening comes, sitting at a black desk and looking into a silver laptop screen, is Elena Calistru, the president of Funky Citizens — one of the most pertinent NGOs at a moment when the society is becoming much more aware of the importance of monitoring power, evaluating public administrations, and training of citizens for civic intervention.
With brown hair, petite, she is almost hidden behind the screen showing her Facebook and e-mail, and you can hear Digi24 TV channel from the speakers. From other computers in the surrounding rooms of the Birdcage — the organization’s main office — you hear the same station doing a recap on the Government’s issuance of an emergency ordinance the previous night which, among other things, would decriminalize abuses of office for damages less than 200,000 RON [approx. 43,930 EUR]. The news came as a shock to many, but to Elena and her colleagues — who have been outspoken advocates for transparent governance and public discussion on legislative initiatives for years — it was more than that. This was a call to arms. They took to the streets and directly to the Government building, outraged, “because you don’t change anticorruption law in the dead of night, without it being on the government agenda, by way of emergency ordinance, unless something/someone is forcing your hand,” Elena wrote on Facebook. “Because, yes, now it’s a matter of us and them.”
Because of the cold, they went to get a tea at McDonald’s and there was a long line. Elena was listening in on different conversations and stopped herself at one about the hypothetical situation of California separating from the US, and what an extremely high impact it would have because, as the person was saying, “California’s GDP is as big as France’s.” “I was tearing up at that moment…”, Elena said, excited to meet protesters who, taking a break from chanting, were discussing her greatest passions: budgets, public policy and their impact.
In Victory Square, she saw that people were still coming, group after group, even after midnight, and she was fascinated with the feeling of community. 10,000 people gathered in the square that night. The second day, they did what they do best, what people expect them to do — and especially their project, Factual.ro: they verified information. They came to the conclusion that the cause for emergency the Government invoked to put Ordinance 13 in place was false. Romania would have had until April 2018 to adopt legislation regarding its exact definition of abuse of office.
The same day, there was another important event for Funky Citizens: they received their largest individual donation to date. Ciprian Morar, an IT entrepreneur whose company operates in the US and Romania, donated 5,000 EUR and promised to double it if they got other 100 private donations. And over the next few days, it happened, much to the amazement and joy of everyone in the Birdcage. [Ciprian Morar also supports DoR projects.]
The journalist-activist Ovidiu Vanghele, the newest in the Funky family — on the Factual.ro project, was on the phone all day trying to reach as many artists as possible, asking them to urge people out into the streets. Now towards evening, his efforts would be noticed. At 5:00pm, Smiley had posted his song, Acasă (At Home), with the message: “We cry here, laugh and dream, here we need to believe that we can be better and that there’s no place for abuse or disregard of the law.” Elena enthusiastically squeals to the colleagues in the other room that she loves Smiley. And someone announces that INNA also had a post: “I’d like to live in a civilized country where we can feel safe, where the laws are respected, and for the people to want to stay in Romania.” Elena searches for it, reads, sighs, and shares the post, shouting and writing at the same time: “This is the way we get out of our buuubbbllle!”.
Then they prepare to go to the protest at Victory Square. They’ve done many protests in the past few years, they’re prepared. Elena is wearing tall boots, a long, thick dress, a dark shirt buttoned to the neck and a grey cardigan. There are about 10 people Elena has kept at her side in these past years with her contagious enthusiasm, people who check the claims of politicians daily, participate in debates, draw attention to abuses, propose public policies, analyze and suggest overhauls on local and national budgets and, in general, keep an eye on the authorities and the law. Furthermore — this is what makes them relevant in the digital age — , they communicate all their activity eloquently and clearly.
Later, after some hours in the cold, Elena will be live on Digi24, where she’s often invited and where she goes because she considers them “respectable” even though she’s not “totally pleased” with them. Make-up is going to argue with her because she still isn’t sleeping enough, and, after midnight, she’ll go live, sharp and saying: “Myself and others in my generation don’t want to go back to where we were a few years ago, trailing behind Europe. We have the right to foreseeable justice.”
In a world where many are talking about the growing distance between truth and the manipulative information used by politicians, where there are so many sources of information that it’s easy to consider rumors as news, in a democracy without tradition, with few checks and balances, where politicians face enormous temptations, where the citizen is not the true center of public policy and is not consulted when laws are made, in which the citizen isn’t educated on how to participate in the democratic process, there is a real need for a powerful civil society. That is what Elena and her colleagues at Funky Citizens are building. After five years, rising along with waves of outrage and protests, they’ve become relevant, even important — enough so that they’ve been called by the President for consultation, that government institutions fear them, and that the former Prime Minister, Dacian Cioloș, shares their posts (leading to a crash of their server). What does this say about their relationship — and ours, implicitly, as citizens — to power and how to anticipate the future of Romania’s civic re-invigoration?
On February 9th, one day before turning 31 years old, Elena Calistru is in the tall room, her office of the last three years. Two tables have appeared in the last two days, and there’s a desktop monitor on the one nearest the masonry heater. Everything at Funky Citizens changes according to the projects they’re working on. On Digi24, they’re talking about the Constitutional Court, the next body to weigh in on Ordinance 13. In the middle of her work, Elena comments, “how long are they going to take, these CCR [Constitutional Court of Romania] people?”
Before starting Funky, Elena worked for the anti-corruption organization Transparency International where she learned “enough for three masters.” She was the only one in the team who hadn’t started a family — she worked there from 22 to 25 years old — so she went to the several international courses and conferences her colleagues were avoiding. She learned from international research projects, learned about advocacy and met a lot of people. But this ended one day in 2011. The Corruption Perception Index that the group was gathering for Romania started showing setbacks, and it all seemed useless. She went on sabbatical for some months, watched movies, slept and read. She thought about looking for work in the private sector.
Then came the events that brought her to where she is today; happenstance related to red shoes. It’s a story-turned-legend, one she’s told frequently — jokingly and seriously — in public talks about her organization. This is the story: in her “sabbatical” period, Elena got a letter from the National Agency of Fiscal Administration (ANAF) informing her that she had a debt of approximately 500 lei. Before she could confirm what was happening and pay, another letter came with a calculation of the late fees. She went to pay the money she owed, without really understanding where the supposed amount came from, and she had to pass on a pair of red shoes she’d had her eye on. The story goes that this is where Elena’s need to understand how public institutions are spending citizens’ money comes from. (In 2016, when she spoke at TEDx Eroilor from Cluj about this, in a black dress and, as always, high heels, Elena explained that her friends and colleagues don’t ever want to hear the shoes story again, and they even tease her for it, calling her the “anticorruption chick.”)
But her passion for budgets and tables goes even further back, she gets it from her math classes at Focșani Unirea High Shool. She thrived in history and Romanian, and qualified for the academic Olympics at a national level multiple times. The fact that she was going to academic Olympics for history has a direct connection to the teacher who most inspired her, Carmen Atarcicov. “We’d discuss political ideology and evolution at her house, reading 22 the magazine,” Elena remembers. “She was something between a teacher and a conversation partner. She was extremely passionate.”
Participants at school Olympics were allowed to miss school for a preparatory period, and Elena took this opportunity to read. Vlad Stoicescu, who was one year ahead of her at the same high school in Focșani, now a journalist at the independent publication dela0.ro, remembers Elena as a voracious reader, experimenting with the schedule Mircea Eliade describes in Romanul adolescentului miop (Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent): gradual reduction of sleeping hours for more reading hours. She was “the kind of teenager who kept saying, ‘I want to change the world.’”
She was doing India studies (following Eliade’s example) and became a vegetarian (her preference for vegetarianism was strengthened in the meantime, since reading Peter Singer and learning how to cook). In the same period, she began suffering from insomnia and says, even today, she still gets it one night every week or two. It was also during this period that she discovered the magazine Dilema Veche. Her mother, a physician, would drive specifically to buy the magazine every week at the single kiosk in the city that had it — along with Revista 22 and Academia Cațavencu.
From her high school passion for history and its more concrete, applicable partner, politics, she knew that this is what she would study. She might have gone to the US — some universities had accepted her after a series of exams, and she was written about in the local paper — but the professors of Political Science at the University of Bucharest also made her an attractive offer.
She came to the university in Bucharest in 2004, but retains — even cultivates, she says — a vague Moldavian accent. She enjoys when she can sneak the word “acilișa” ( / here) in conversation and her favorite exclamation is “ce mama boalii!” ( / the mother of all disease). Her third year was spent at the Sapienza University of Rome, and at the end of her bachelor’s degree she might have gone for a masters , having already been accepted, but she decided to stay and work. That’s how she ended up at Transparency, where she set a personal record for working without interruption: 38 hours.
There’s an illustration printed on canvas leaning on the windowsill in the tall room, a portrait of Elena with the text, “What if we went and did…”. The illustrator, Ramon Sadîc, who’d given it to her as a gift for her 30th birthday, knows her well and he knows it’s her thrust that pushes the whole organization forward. Elena says herself that if there is one thing she knows she can definitely bring both to her organization and to society, it’s her enthusiasm. On the other hand, she says she’s been too busy lately to spend time with budgets, which are so dear to her.
Also on February 9th, after the president of the Constitutional Court had gone live on Digi24 announcing that the judges of the Court would not be analyzing the merits of Ordinance 13 as it had already been repealed, the Minister of Justice, Florin Iordache, appeared for a statement. His resignation had been expected since morning, as the Prime Minister had vaguely suggested the previous day. Elena turned up the volume on her laptop. Iordache read the statement of resignation he’d prepared and walked out of the shot. She clapped her hands once, sighed and went back to work without looking away from the computer. She said later, “Now let’s find out who the new Minister of Justice will be and get some work done in this country!”
Society gained a lot after the protests, Elena says, “they surprised even us.” She notes how, with every protest — Roșia Montana, Colectiv, Ordinance 13 — , the number of interested people grows and “the call to act remains.” But she thinks some “enthusiasm management” is needed. After the high point of the protests, the evening when everyone turned on their cell phone flashlights, she tried to get away from the idea of immediate reactions and to move towards “plotting against the flipchart,” to potentially providing “structure and processes” for those who look to Funky Citizens for such things. The concrete reaction, which they conceived as a response to the crisis of faith brought on by the government’s activities throughout the year, was a system through which to permanently position people in Parliament to monitor legislative activity and to sound the alarm. (At the end of February, she spoke with Oana Mondoc from the environmental NGO WWF, and they wanted to gather more organizations around this initiative.)
In November 2015, Elena was given the opportunity to see government activity first hand. Violeta Alexandru, the ministry delegate for public consultation and social dialogue in the Cioloș government, asked her to become state secretary. Alexandru knew her because she herself had been the director of an NGO in the same area of expertise, the Institute for Public Policy. Elena hesitated and asked on Facebook what she should do. Although she had made the “consultation” public, the decision not to follow many of her friends from civil society to government seemed a foregone conclusion: “I still believe it’s important, at this time especially, that we build a strong, smart, civil society,” she wrote then.
She also shared a photo of a “pros and cons” list. Among the “cons,” there were things like “I have a year in government, in which I can work no miracles,” as well as, “I turn my life upside down, as well as those of my colleagues, my friends, and House.” (House Constantin Calistru is her 9-year-old dog. He has a Facebook profile and is the mascot for the Birdcage gang.) Among the “pro” arguments were “I can lay a solid foundation for public consultation,” and “so what if I wear high heels?!”.
Among the comments, the majority were “Go for it!” or “Take it!”. Elena says one of the most influential feedbacks came from somebody who showed up at the first checkathon (marathon for verifying information) at Factual.ro who had written that she cannot walk out on the people she started with: “I think it’s important that you build what you started, rather than starting to build several things without ever finishing anything.”
She understood then that she built Funky Citizens from the position of “mother hen.” For them, she’s “Mița.” For her, they’re “the kids.” Without her, her colleagues were not able to manage and this needed to change. “I was doing the finances, writing the projects, I knew the forms, the reports, how to talk to the press. I felt locked in the birdcage. If I wanted to lie around at home for a week, I didn’t have that freedom.” Meanwhile, Alina, “Mișu,” the organization’s legal counsel and Elena’s younger sister, has taken on some of the project’s management, and Radu Andrei Szucs, “Dudu”, is gradually more involved in the administrative area. She hopes Funky will be less dependent on her over the next six months to a year. “For the sake of the organization and my freedom.”
The first Funky Citizens project, even before being established legally, was “Lost Money?” (and later called “Public Money”), which was monitoring the budgets of several cities. The project was chosen by popular vote, then developed and financed in a competition for ideas in the digital area that could improve public life, Restart Romania, of the Techsoup Romania organization. Chris Worman, the founder of Techsoup România, now director at Techsoup Global (whose purpose is connecting the civil society to technology), says that he was impressed with Elena because she could make public finances interesting. “It takes a special kind of skill to take a boring subject that we should be thinking about, and transform it into something we actually do care about.” One of the people who’d offered to develop the Restart project was Cosmin Pojoranu, “Pojo,” then a copywriter at the advertising agency, Headvertising.
When he met Elena, Cosmin said: “Wow, the two of us can really do things together because we have a shared vision, and we’re both at that age when we can talk (…) about systems, about how they function, about money, about taxes.” He decided to join and, since then, has become a core member of the organization. Just shy of 32 years old, always smiling, with blue eyes and hair resting over his forehead and ears, he modestly says that he handles communication, but, in fact, he’s responsible for many of the ideas. He’s one of the strategists and, even if he’s not listed as a Funky founder, he’s on the board of directors. He’s the one who came with ideas like the memory game, and its collector’s cards of the most corrupt, he makes the infographics on civic education for the project, translates public laws, budgets and oversight, because he has “a very strong sense of the moment and the public,” Elena says. “Whoever doesn’t have a Pojo should buy one.”
He also did a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a master’s degree in Barcelona, and when he came back, he began working in advertising, often times on projects for NGOs. He says that he and Elena are “perfectionists and stubborn” and they have also butted heads over the years, but he likes that they are inclined to debate and can work towards dialogue. In addition, he feels comfortable supporting a leader that can be the face of the organization, while also sitting at the laptop and getting work done. Cosmin believes that Funky and the Birdcage also play the role of civic hub — whoever has an idea for citizens’ involvement can come and work with them to develop it. “In time, I hope to make Funky synonymous with involvement.”
In some ways, this is how the central project of the Factual.ro organization developed. Founded in 2012 as an idea from a discussion group, with a name that came from Tudor Benga (today an USR member of parliament), the site for verifying politicians’ statements reached a relative stasis. Only when it was officially taken in by Funky and used for live verification during the electoral campaign in November 2014 did it became successful.
Their “verification” works like this: the team monitors the statements, chooses one or several, debates their relevance, then bounces it between editors and experts (which collaborate with Factual pro-bono), then the conclusion is “translated” into a language more accessible to the public, and finally published. From a site started with a budget of 3,000 EUR at the time of the launch, Factual.ro has become synonymous with its mother-organization, and even has more followers on Facebook than Funky Citizens.
One recent example of a verified statement was Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu’s: “The 22 billion RON [approx. 483 million EUR] we predicted in this year’s annual budget to be drawn from European funds is ambitious when compared with zero from last year.” Factual.ro checked the statement and came to the conclusion that the amount of European funds that Romania received last year was about 7 billion EUR. Dacian Cioloș shared their post, and the Factual.ro server crashed.
Morar, the entrepreneur who donated 10,000 EUR, publicly announced what he’d done and encouraged others to follow his example, as he saw the project has an apolitical attitude — checking politicians irrespective of the party — in search of the truth. “People need to know the truth and then make a decision,” says Morar. In addition, as an entrepreneur and investor, he is motivated by pragmatism: “I like to have a safe environment that I can rely on, so that I can invest.”
Factual.ro is not the organization’s only project. “Nu vă supărați” (Excuse Me) is a web portal developed together with other organizations which facilitates requests for access to information of public interest, and “Piața de șpaga” (The Bribery Market) monitors how much “to give” in public Romanian institutions.
The first moments they felt truly relevant at Funky Citizens were the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. On the night of the first round of the most recent presidential election, they were out protesting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the way polling stations were organized abroad and the fact “struck” them that the authorities had not only been negligent, but also had broken the law, as people were unable to exercise their right to vote. They published a criminal complaint form online which was accessed 12–15,000 times in 12 hours. “That was the first time I saw a Google Doc freeze,” Elena says. A criminal investigation was launched from those complaints, and is ongoing today. Then, at the start of 2015 they were part of a coalition of NGOs which worked on the project of changing the laws for political parties, such that they wouldn’t need 25,000 people to start a party, but only three.
When the Presidential Administration invited several civic organizations for consultation after the resignation of Victor Ponta’s government following the post-Colectiv protests, Elena was there and learned that many people had written to Cotroceni [the official residence of the President of Romania] requesting that their organization be present. This, paired with the fact that they received several reproachful messages for having gone to the consultations, came as a double vindication: “We’ve grown so much that it’s impossible to still be liked by everyone.”
Funky Citizens and CeRe (Centrul de Resurse pentru participare publică / The Resource Center for Public Participation), which promotes public participation, are completely different organizations compared to the first generation of NGOs for oversight, especially the ones active during the first 20 years after the Revolution which, Elena believes, were trying to implement best practices imported from other democracies. She says NGOs become relevant for two reasons: either from the expertise of people working inside them (she gives the example of APADOR-CH which has undeniable expertise on the subject of prisons), or from the people they represent. If the “old” NGOs relied on their expertise and their products (reports, research, monitoring aimed at donors or experts in the European Commission), then in the case of Funky, it relies on the people it represents, comprised of young professionals, “the hipsters of civic activity,” as she calls them.
The new, active citizens are the Funky audience. They’re always watching the budgets of large cities and the country, and encouraging citizens to propose amendments to them. (They managed to centralize all county budgets for the years 2007–2015.) The result was them being taken seriously by the authorities. “A kind of #vavedem [/ we can see you],” Cosmin says. “We see you quite clearly.” They are a resource for anyone who wants to understand how public money is being spent in Romania, and Cosmin believes the expertise of their organization is apparent: “when you say Funky, it means budgets and local public funds.” Septimius Pârvu of the organization Expert Forum and a Funky collaborator says that they managed to make data accessible and to generate pressure for transparency, especially with the Ministry of Finance where “the stakes are high.”
The organization has been growing the last five years, and Elena — who reads economics books like Funky Business, the inspiration for the organization’s name — says she was very concerned about growing too fast and sudden. She saw other NGOs negatively affected by winning calls for EU-funded projects, stifled by bureaucracy or crippled by hopelessly waiting to be reimbursed for a large sum spent ages ago.
Elena sometimes listens to a Harvard Business Review podcast about methods and organizational reactions for agile management, which is what they try to be. She says that for a period of time they were working like a startup — they took risks, made efforts, tried new things and then abandoned them. Today, Funky Citizens has 10 employees and is financed through research and training, sponsor donations and grants. They recently won an ING Bank grant to provide courses on public budgets for citizens.
“We made our 2014–2020 strategy,” Elena says. “It was a serious exercise and I was amazed we observed it.” Cosmin, on the other hand, says that many of the projects they do are not part of any strategy, but are done based on need and opportunity. He says the organization’s agility is a good thing, but “it also kills us.”
The project Elena speaks most fondly of is the civic education camp they organized in the summer of 2016, for kids in the 7th and 8th grades in a program hosted by the US Embassy in Bucharest. Between meetings with investigative journalists, trips to the Government, the Presidency and the Anticorruption National Directorate (where they met with Laura Codruța Kovesi), the kids were doing rounds of simulated elections with political parties, journalists, debates and political programs.
One of the kids’ “parties” proposed that all parents who can afford to pay a fee for their children’s education should pay it. When a “citizen” challenged the tax’s legitimacy, arguing that education is free according to the Constitution, the writers of the tax responded that parents contribute to the class funds and other expenditures anyways and why wouldn’t that be “transparent” and “foreseeable?” Elena, who uses these two words like guiding lights, said that she burst into tears. Then she realized that her work could impact children’s educations and, inherently, the adults of the future, and she feeds off of this. (Now, Funky is preparing a civic education kit using infographics and explanations created by Cosmin, as well as quizzes, debates and movies, and it begins testing in schools this spring.)
The Constitution is a “tiny obsession” for Elena. She considers it a powerful tool that, with technology and the right laws, can redress the balance of power between citizens and the political class. In 2016, Funky Citizens printed their version of the Constitution, a little book, slightly less “ugly” than the version that Traian Băsescu said he always had in his pocket. Elena sometimes has two copies in her bag, always ready to give one as a gift. (Soon, they will also work on a children’s version.) After the Constitution, there are her favorite laws, a “holy trinity”: 544/2001 on free access to public information, 273/2006 establishing citizens’ rights to be informed about local public finances and to submit proposals for improvements, and 52/2003 for decision-making transparency.
Ten years ago, Elena got a tattoo, “Who is John Galt?”, in a “hidden” spot. The line is from Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, a Russian-American author she admires. (“She’s also an Aquarius.”) In the book, the author describes her philosophical and political vision for a society where state intervention should be at a minimum, individuals should be atheist and egotistical, albeit ethical egoism. Though she says parts of her life can be in total discord with Rand’s philosophy, Elena still admires the things she’d imagined and written down.
Back then, when she got the tattoo — and this hasn’t changed — Elena was living in a country that traditionally believed the heavy hand of the state must “give” to its citizens, where the vast majority of people say they are Orthodox and social solidarity is mistaken for delusional altruism. If Elena dreams of changing the world and of seeing elements of Rand’s dystopia in Romania, she’s had, and still has, a lot to do.
Politics, even understood in the pragmatic sense, is how Elena proposes to arouse debates about the future. During one of the reflective moments at the beginning of February, she wrote a text related to the solutions everyone seems to look for. Among others, she wrote about Romania’s need to have more politics, in the true sense of the word:
“We would disagree in many areas. And that’s a good thing. Because what this country lacks is more politicization. Real politicization. Politicization in the sense that you know in how you want to go from point A (the way Romania looks right now) to point B (the way Romania can look), and we have several paths — more solidarity, more libertarianism, more in the middle, more economic strength, more Christian values, or more ecological values. And it doesn’t matter, but we need for more citizens in this country to answer the question, “How do I want Romania to look and how do I believe we can get there?”.
What she believes united the people outside protesting was a kind of feeling that “no matter what we believe, this is a red line.” On the other hand, she doesn’t believe “the story of, oh, let’s unite the people in the square and do something with them,” since the people in the square are all so different.
Within the organization, a long time ago, they debated ideological choices of their members. Although there are differences and “everyone is free to believe what they want,” as Cosmin says, there are also common interests: economic liberalism (“we are not OK with leaving the state to control such large resources,” Elena says) paired with social justice.
Elena’s political philosophy is not separated from her philosophy about life and work. She has concerns and doubts about the volatile international context (“I’m terrified of where mama boalii this world is headed, because Romania isn’t all by herself.”), doubts about her own role (“I’m very scared of failing for being spread too thin. When you feed off enthusiasm or the need to be useful in what’s happening today, there’s a chance you accomplish nothing at all.”), and doubts about the future of the organization (“There’s far too few of us and I’m worried about some people burning out”).
Five years ago, Funky Citizens was “conspiring” in “bodegas” and Elena’s studio apartment. Meanwhile, things have changed drastically. They have the Birdcage, they imposed expertise on themselves, and they’ve gained visibility which became recognition, but this package has come with pressure and criticism. They have many good friends, but they also have friends who went “to the other side,” in government or in politics.
Elena can get worn down, but then recharges with Italian pop music or with the idealized political world of The West Wing. But she’s built a universe where she can work with friends and do what she loves. Her sister, Alina, is her best friend. Radu Burnete, who she’s been with since 2013, is a regular at the Birdcage and is a part of the gang, celebrating birthdays and the New Year there. And work isn’t work for her. “My work is my hobby. It’s my passion.”
On February 21st, 2017, the Romanian Parliament debated Ordinance 13 and voted against it. Suffering from a cold that had kept her at home the day before, Elena went into the studios at Radio France International (RFI) and spoke about Factual.ro, about what Funky is doing and about what remains after three weeks of confrontation between the Government and the new Romanian civil society.
In a white blouse, fumbling with her telephone and the Constitution she’d placed on the table next to the microphone, she said that repeal of Ordinance 13 is, first, a victory for everyone who was out in the street, but she doesn’t know if it’s a final victory: “These weeks I’ve learned how the paths of laws can wind in Romania,” she said smiling. “It’s a victory for people who wanted to see a reaction to their requests on the part of politicians.”
She was also in the Square, also sang the anthem, also jumped and flashed her telephone light on the night when the highest number of people gathered and when all international media were showing photographs of the square flooded in white lights. But, after three weeks of confrontation, at the radio, as the president of an organization that wants to educate as many active citizens as possible, her conclusion was: “It marks an important moment in the maturity of protest, to come to a more permanent place, if I can use this expression, in the way of finding more avenues for civic involvement, not protesting alone, and keeping an active eye on our politicians and our lawmakers, in general.”
Originally published in March 2017 in issue #27 of DoR, a journal of Romanian nonfiction. DoR is based mainly on our loyal readers and subscribers, whom we like to call our superheroes. If you wish to support us in making this kind of features, you can purchase this issue here or you can subscribe here.