The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence
Ian Tilling

Now, that?s another statistic. That is a human life story and unfortunately we tend to be stuck with statistics and however the Romanians going towards..., but every single statistic is a life story. And they mean so much for those who were involved. And it is just totally ignored. I think what?s happened here is that people are so preoccupied with trying to keep their own lives together, keep the resources together, just to get on through this week, next week and till the next paycheck. But the bigger picture is totally lost and I don?t know whether that?s denial, I don?t know whether the Romanian people are saying ?it never existed?. If you read through the eighties there?s a lot of that ? ?it never existed?. Lots of things that say, ?no, never existed?; under Ceauşescu it was a wonderful time. And there is that balance too. So it?s got to be balanced so I can understand older person who says to me ?it was better under Ceauşescu?, because for that particular person, yes, it was. Because you?re talking a person who was pensioner, who wasn?t an activist; and the Ceauşescu just go on and they did what they were told and they?ve gone through the system forty years plus and they?ve just done what they were told and whatever; and ok, they don?t necessary agree with the party line but they?ve gone to work when they got their money; they pretended to work, they pretend to be paid, whatever, whatever, whatever, and then the end of it: what they?ve got ? They?ve been abandoned by everybody, by the state, by the community, by anybody they know. They?re just so deeply abandoned. That?s not reflected in the politics of the country. Maybe now it might start being, after the last election whether they carry thorough the general elections and ? don?t quote me on this ? I don?t know. Who to vote? Well, I know lots of people who didn?t.

I drove from England to Bucureşti with a van.

Initially when we arrived we didn?t know where we were going or where we were gonna stay and we drove over in a van for medical aid so we found our way into Bucureşti and ended up miraculously outside the Intercontinental. So we booked in ? that?s another story.

There were lots of other things like cheating; so I was a foreigner, particularly in the first year or two, I can remember arriving at the border and changing 500 pounds into lei. So I had 3-4 ?pungas?, pungi de 2 lei, because the highest denomination bank note was 100 lei and it was tatty, it was awful, it was old and it was smelly. The currency smelled it was awful. The smell was awful. And I drive into Romania and we stopped at the petrol station and said: ?We want petrol?. ?No, no, no you got have a voucher?. ?We have a punga with lots of lei here?. ?No, no you have to have a voucher. Do you have a voucher??

And we very quickly learned you can only spend foreign currency, we could not spend lei. And yet they don?t tell you that at the border, of course. So we had 500 pounds in lei which couldn?t spend. I mean it was just impossible to spend.

That was quite interesting because they were visitors to this country, foreign visitors, particularly British, American, Irish who were looking for babies to adopt and there were us who tried desperately to look after the babies that we had. So, whenever we were in each others? company we were pretending to be Romanians and to speak Romanian so if any foreigner came up we just say, ?hi, my name is whatever? and we go CE ?  ?Nu ştiu.? And we just pretend to be Romanian.

In April ?91 I came back with 100 Lorries and 300 people and a quarter of million pounds. Went back to the Romanian orphans with the needed trip and that entire raise? April 91. In 1992 I came here to live ? for two years. After two years my project collapsed, I was left with nothing except I was living in very large three class 84 rooms department in the middle of the ghetto, surrounded by Rroma. Gypsies.

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