The Romanian Revolution and the last days of communism

December 1989. The Romanian Revolution. 1104 dead people and 3352 injured, the Romanian Athenaeum, the Art Museum of Bucharest and the Central University Library burned down, millions of bullets, terrorists shooting from all directions, tanks, tabs, electronic and psychological warfare, children and young people shot on the streets. That was left behind and forever written in the Romanian history pages. Romania was the only country in Eastern Europe that has gone through a violent revolution on the path to democracy. Before the Romanian revolution, all the other Eastern European states had passed in a peaceful way to democracy.

How everything started

The first warning that the Romanians drew was the strike in November 1987 in Brasov of the truck factory workers from The Red Flag. The 4000 protesters were not satisfied with the wages and with the fact that they were not supplied with food, electricity, water or heat inside the factory. The workers refused to work under such conditions.

They left the factory and headed to the centre of the city chanting: “Thieves! We want our money!”; “We want our Sunday back!” Later, protesters were joined by residents of Brasov and economic demands were turned into anticommunism chants “Down with Ceausescu,” “Down with the despot.” Unfortunately protesters were under the surveillance of infiltrated secret agents of the Romanian Security. Consequently, after being suppressed, the strikers were arrested, tortured and even killed. Protesters have been called thugs or enemies of the state.

The fearful State Police, the exaggerated security, Ceausescu’s economic policy, Ceausescu’s megalomaniac constructions and the austerity of the regime are some of the reasons that made the population unhappy with the communist period.

Therefore in 1989 Romania was a powder keg because of the internal situation and the major political changes taking place in Eastern Europe.

Protests, demonstrations and street battles that took place in December 1989 led eventually to the end of the communist regime.

Today in Timisoara, tomorrow throughout the whole country!

The starting point of the Romanian Revolution was the protest of the reformed pastor Laszlo Tokes and his parishioners against the measures the Romanian Government took to reform the Church. Same as the protests in Brasov, parishioners are increasingly joined by many Romanians, who started chanting “Freedom” in front of the parish house of Laszlo Tokes. The protest turned into a riot and from the moment they started marching on the streets of Timisoara on December 16, the Romanian Revolution began.

On December 17 the first violent repression occurred and it ended with human deaths. “Although he was informed on what was happening in Timisoara, Ceausescu decided to go on a visit to Iran, convinced that the incidents were minor and that they could be suppressed as easily as those in Brasov,” says historian Ruxandra Cesereanu .

On December 18 the Army and The Communist Police occupied Timisoara, but the crowd in Timisoara was stubborn to resist against their threats. Elena Ceausescu, left alone at the helm of the country, sends Prime Minister Dascalescu to negotiate with the protesters. Negotiations failed. People gathered in Timisoara’s Opera Square still claim Ceasusescu’s government resignation. In front of the unstoppable mass the army “betrays” the Romanian president and joins the protesters’ cause. On December 20, 1989 Timisoara becomes the first city free of communism in Romania.

“On December 21, Ceausescu, fully unaware of the real situation, organized a big meeting in Bucharest, in order to openly blame the so-called “Hungarian hooligans” from Timisoara. The meeting turned against him and the crowd started chanting anti-Ceausescu slogans <<Down with the dictator>>, <<Down with the killer!>>, <<We are the people, down with the dictator!>>,“ says Ruxandra Cesereanu.

“We all felt a tension, we had a feeling that we should help the Romanians in Timisoara, but there was no cohesion between people, we were not organized. No one dared to become a leader and organize us in order to bust the communists in Timisoara,” says Gabriel Hartopanu, a man who took part in the Revolution in Bucharest.

On the same day, revolutionary movements began in the largest cities of Romania like Cluj, Sibiu, Brasov, Arad and Targu-Mures. Although authorities opened fire against demonstrators, the Romanians could not be defeated or stopped.

Bucharest wants freedom

The day after, on December 22, the population of Bucharest got out on the streets to protest against the communist regime. Army had to withdraw to their barracks.

People began to gather in the big squares of the city. Henchman, with white helmets and shields forming a shield bearer and tanks, surrounded the crowds. “When I arrived there a shiver of fear came down my spine, seeing the hustle and bustle behind the henchmen. We started talking to them, telling them “You also have children, siblings, parents”, trying to draw the henchmen on our side,” recalls Gabriel Hartopanu .

“I remember a woman who came with a bouquet of carnations and gave a flower to each henchman. There were moments when we knelt in front of them in order to convince them that we didn’t want to fight with them,” says Egmont Puscasu who also participated to the demonstrations in the University Square in Bucharest.

Although they did not communicate with each other or make plans, people remained in position waiting for something to happen. “We felt that we were united at last. No one was giving up, nobody was shaking. No one ran away. We were encouraging each other, without speaking, without communicating. Everyone was silent. The tanks could pass over us, we were not afraid. I felt that finally we will gain our freedom back,” says Egmont.

Romanians demanded their right to freedom. “Romanian young people didn’t know what freedom meant. After 45 years of communist oppression, Romania finally was reborn from its ashes,” says historian Ruxandra Cesereanu.

Although the crowd did not act in any way, fire trucks sprayed water on the people gathered in the centre of Bucharest and tanks started to fire tracers, in order to disperse the crowd.

Moreover, on December 22, workers from industrial sites started to get out on the streets. “They were calling people to join them:  <<Come on! The time has come, come with us! >>. They had no placards or weapons. There was only a mass of people protesting against the regime,” remembers Gabriel Hartopanu. “If workers hadn’t gotten out on the streets on December 22, I do not believe that so many people, enough to start a Revolution, would have gathered in central Bucharest,” goes on Gabriel Hartopanu.

The Ceausescus escape

When workers entered the Central Square, Ceausescu’s helicopter took off from the Central Comitee building. Many historians, including Ruxandra Cesereanu, think that it wasn’t just a  coincidence between the moment when the masses of workers enterted the square and Ceausescu’s escape. “I don’t think it was just an accident,” says Cesareanu.

After Ceausescu’s escape, the Army fraternized with the people. There were moments of calm and euphoria between 12 and 6 pm on 22 December. Trucks full with juice, water, bread, salami arrived for the people gathered in the Central Square. From now on a new regime was set up and the National Salvation Front (NSF) was formed, the body that ruled the country until new elections took place in Romania.

At 19 o’clock a rumor started that there are terrorists in the crowd. “The rumor came from the people. It was born the idea that Ceausescu would have created a league made up of orphans trained to protect him if he was in danger, who were now in the square and came to kill us.  So the madness began. There were shots everywhere. Guns were shared to everyone and everybody was shooting everybody,” says Puscasu Egmont.

Unleashed crowds invaded Central Committee and communist official’s offices were vandalized. Car ambulances came from the crowd and raise hundreds of bodies lying on the pavement.

Ceausescu’s Trial

Only on December 24 the National Salvation Front Council, the political party that was in charge after Ceausescu’s escape, ordered the ceasing of the shootings, forcing people to surrender their weapons.

The Ceausescu couple was caught at Targoviste. The day after, inside a military unit, took place Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu’s trial. In the opinion of Romanian political analysts, including Vladimir Tismaneanu, “the trial was a sham, a masquerade and a political assassination.”

The presidential couple is sentenced to death and executed on Christmas Day by shooting. “The trial was deliberately arranged by the new established government so that Ceausescu was found guilty for the disaster in Romania, not the communism,” says Tismaneanu.

Egmont Puşcaşu, one of the men that took part in the Revolution in Bucharest, thought during the revolution that the execution of Ceausescus was necessary. But he does not believe this anymore. “Now I don’t agree with the execution of the Ceausescu couple. At that time I was a child, I was glad because the death of Ceausescu stopped all the crimes. And now, over the years, learning and finding out more things, I disagree with it, because everyone, no matter what, deserves a fair trial,” says Puscasu.

The death angels that invaded Bucharest

When it comes to the rumors about the “terrorists” responsible for the massacre that started in Bucharest, Tismaneanu says that the first person to speak about “terrorist actions” was Nicolae Ceausescu. He was referring to the external plot against Romania staged by USA and the USSR, who wanted to change the regime in Romania but also maintaining Romania under the Russian influence.

Even Ion Iliescu, the interim president after Ceausescu’s death, portrays the so-called terrorists in a BBC interview: “Specially trained terrorists were organized in bands to fight the masses and to defend the dictator. They were fanatical individuals acting with unprecedented cruelty, shooting people and causing military casualties.”

However many historians, including Dennis Deletant, support the theory that “terrorists” were only a psychosis maintained by the newly installed National Salvation Front and that in reality they didn’t exist.

“Amplifying the panic with the “terrorists” rumor, Iliescu’s team was able to take over the Power easier and faster,” said Vladimir Tismaneanu.

The Revolution should not be judged only by the political changes it implied but also by the means that helped Romania escape from the yoke of communism. One must not ignore the fact that behind those chaotic days of December hundreds of lives were sacrificed so that Romania and its people would enjoy freedom in all its forms.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – a book review

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

How a Swedish detective story stucks on readers minds

You probably didn’t know the Swedish author Stieg Larsson before his first book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came out and created such frenzy among readers. You can see this book in everyone’s hands, in the tube, in the bus station or even in a que at the supermarket. Everybody reads the Millennium trilogy.

The story of Stieg Larsson

Before he started writing novels, Larsson was a journalist and expert on right-wing extremists and Nazis. He was a dedicated activist, fighting racism, fascism and domestic violence.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first volume of the Millennium trilogy, named after the magazine where the hero of the books, Mikael Blomkvist, works. The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked Hornets’ Nest are the other two books of the trilogy.

In Sweden, the book was sold in over 2 million copies. Pity Larsson did not live to enjoy his success; he died of a heart attack when he was 50, before the novels were published.

A short summary

The book tells the story of Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist who uncovers abusive and corrupt businessmen. Blomkvist loses a libel case in favor of a very powerful Swedish group, Wennerstrom.  His reputation is damaged after the trial and the future of his magazine Millennium is in jeopardy.

After the trial Blomkvist is called by a famous industrialist, Henrik Vanger. Vanger offers him a job; he wants Blomkvist to find out what happened to his niece Harriet, who disappeared mysteriously 40 years before.

Blomkvist does not accept the job until Vanger assures him that Vanger Industries will support Millennium magazine financially and that Henrik will help Mikael destroy Wennerstrom after the investigation is complete.

In the second half of the novel Blomkvist joins forces with Lisbeth Salander a 24 year-old anorexic hacker who helps him solve the mystery of Harriet’s disappearance.

Why everybody reads it?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the kind of book you can’t let go after you started reading it. Although it starts with a calm and apparently safe scene after the first two chapters you become more and more intrigued.

If you are not a fan of books that reveal everything at the end you will probably categorize The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as “another police novel”. But for most of the readers this writing technique makes them go on and they read as much as they can, in order to solve the mystery of Harriet’s disappearance.

You may find it difficult to understand the plot at first because of all the Swedish names but once you get acquainted with them the story flows swiftly.

Another positive point about the novel is that Larsson does not use a lot of descriptions. He is leaving everything to the reader’s imagination.

Although it resembles a novel by Agatha Christie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo deserves the title of “Best Seller”. It is sad though that Larsson’s strong voice, in problems like female violence or equality between genders, was reduced to silence.

But hopefully through his books his ideas will perpetuate and reach more and more people.

4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days – THE Romanian film

A cluttered table a tiny, ticking clock, an ash-tray with a still-smoking cigarette and a stack of study notes in a students’ hall of residence room. As the camera pulls away from the table, you see a girl with dark hair and a fragile, innocent temper sitting on a bed, smoking a cigarette.  Her name is Gabita (played by Laura Vasiliu) and she is 4 months 3 weeks and 2 days pregnant.  When the camera’s vision widens, you discover that there is another girl in the room, Otilia(Ana Maria Marinca), who is packing. Gradually it becomes clear that the young women aren’t packing for a weekend getaway, but for a clandestine meeting with an abortionist.

This is how the story of Mungiu’s film “4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days” starts. After it was launched the film received an enthusiastic response from critics, earning a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (based on 127 reviews), while also earning a 97% rating on Metacritic (based on 37 reviews). Jay Weissberg from Variety magazine said that the film was “pitch perfect and brilliantly acted; a stunning achievement for the Romanian cinematography”. Critics called it “the Romanian film“.

After winning the Palme d’Or prize at Cannes in 2007, nominations and awards kept coming. Mungiu’s film won Best European Film and Best European Director at the European Film Awards in 2007, Best European Film at the 23rd Edition of the Goya Awards and the Hollywood World Award (Best film) at the Hollywood International Film Festival.

Although the Oscar committee discredited the foreign-film selection process, by eliminating this Romanian entry from the short list for an Academy Award, “4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days” is among the best 100 films of the decade, according to a top published by the British daily newspaper The Times. Ranked 14th, the film directed by Cristian Mungiu is ahead of well known films from the last 10 years like: “Traffic,” “Lord of the Rings” or “Crash”.

Cristian Mungiu’s film is one of the most successful Romanian films, along with “The Death of Mister Lazarescu”, and “California Dreamin’”. “4 3 2” succeeded better than the others because it vibrates different chords in the viewer’s souls and on different planes. “Women will resonate with the story at a personal and national level resulted from the anti-abortion policies in Communist Romania and men will feel helpless all over again in front of that ruthless law that killed so many women,” says Cristian Mungiu.

The context of the movie

In 1966, a law that banned abortion was imposed in Romania. Abortion was considered an illegal act in a nation where women were called upon to breed as their patriotic duty.

The effect was immediate: up to 1970, there were four huge generations of children, a few times more numerous than the generations before 1966. The number of children in a classroom increased from 28 to 36. Even names were not enough for the number of children.

Soon, women started to go for illegal abortions. By the end of communism, according to the 1990 census, more than 500 000 women had died because of that. In that context, abortion lost any moral connotation and was rather perceived as an act of rebellion and resistance against the regime.

“Because of the pressure of the regime, women and families were so concerned about not being caught for making an illegal abortion that they didn’t give one minute of thought about the moral issue,” explains Cristian Mungiu.

The plot

Cristian Mungiu’s film “4 3 2” exposes this issue women had and the decay of human decency under communism. “The idea of the screenplay didn’t start from the idea of making a film about abortion. For me, it’s a film about responsibilities and decision making, and I think these are things which are very universal, and I believe that is why there is this sympathy for the film. Even in places where people don’t know much about what was going on in Romania, people still relate to this,” confesses Mungiu.

The action in “4 3 2” unfolds in the course of a single day and night.

The two main characters, Otilla and Găbiţă share the same room in a student’s halls of residence. They are University colleagues in a small town in Romania, during the last years of communism.

Romania is under the rule of Ceausescu. Găbiţă is pregnant and she wants to make an abortion. Because this was illegal she turns in desperation to her roommate Otilia, who agrees to help her.

After she raises the money for the operation, Otilia meets up with the abortionist, mister Bebe, in order to settle down the details of the meeting.

After the abortion is done, the two women get into trouble because they don’t have enough money to pay mister Bebe. In order to get out of this situation, Otilia has to abandon her dignity. She chooses to sacrifice herself in order to save her friend. She offers herself to mister Bebe in order to pay for the abortion.

What critics say

Besides the shocking story of an artisanal abortion in a hotel room with no medical care, the film approaches two other important issues: how far a friendship between two women can go and what is the purpose of this cruel life experience they lived together.

The film is shot in cold, hard takes to match the cold, hard facts of life revealed on the screen. According to Irina Margareta Nistor, one of the most popular Romanian film critics, “Mungiu paints an extraordinarily detailed, rigorously unsentimental picture of the insignificant indignities and grotesque absurdities of ordinary Romanian life in the 1980s.”

Although the film’s purpose was to draw a realistic picture about the communist period, a lot of critics thought some scenes of the film were shocking and disturbing for the audience. One of these scenes is the emphasized shot of the recently aborted fetus lying in a plastic bag on the floor in the bathroom of the hotel room. This scene has become the most debated scene of the film.

Film critic Tudor Caranfil thinks that “while throughout the film Mungiu has shown an unquestionable intelligence in suggesting rather than showing, for this scene he takes the feelings of the audience hostage while lingering on a corpse. This was very dangerous.”

It was part of the story

Confronted with the critics about the fetus scene, Mungiu defended his production. “When I wrote the scenario, I thought I was going to show it, but later on I doubted myself, so I shot the scene two different ways, just to make sure that I had the option in postproduction. But once we were editing the film, it was obvious to me that it had to be there, because it is part of the story,” said the Romanian director.

Asked about the impact of the fetus scene, Ana Maria Marinca (who plays Otilia in the film) shares the director’s opinion. “For me, it’s the right thing at the right time. It’s about an author’s vision, and you don’t question that. That’s how we chose to show it to you. Those are the facts. This is what a fetus looks like. It’s not saying it’s wrong to have an abortion or it’s right. To me, it has something to do with the past and the future and how we understand them,” thinks Marinca.

The audience has the last word

Although, at some point critics were tough in commenting upon “4 3 2 Days,” people from all over the world gave positive feedbacks to the film.

“It is true, it is not a film for everyone.  It can be very strong for a sensible person, but it is a challenging and fascinating film. It made me feel like I was living during the Golden Age,”said Maria Muresan, 20 years old, when asked about Mungiu’s film.

“I must admit that the realistic view of the movie makes it disturbing and very difficult to go through, but once you get to understand the whole purpose of the film, you become more and more intrigued by its plot,” said one of Mungiu’s fans from America, Dean Mencher.

The purpose

Abortion is more than a metaphor in “4 3 2.” “This film is the most persuasive anti-abortion argument in any form I’ve ever seen, heard, or read,” said Tudor Caranfil when asked about the purpose of this kind of movie.

There are no fancy shots, no special effects, no quick cuts. Mungiu sticks to a rule of one shot per scene, throughout the film. Visuals are everything in this film; there is no music, only words and moments of silence.

“The purpose of the film was to expose the overwhelming number of compromises that have destroyed the souls of the Romanian people during Ceausescu’s age. It is a story about decisions, responsibilities and choices in life, about solidarity and friendship in the context of those times,” says Cristian Mungiu, talking about his film.

It’s not a film about women, nor about men, it doesn’t concern only women, or only men, it’s about struggle and sacrifice, without being pathetic or exaggerated. You or the one next to you could face the same problems and we each deal with them in our own way. The winning point of the film is that it’s not judgemental about these choices, but only alarming, or purely descriptive.

“We’ll never speak of this again,” promise the two main characters at the end of Cristian Mungiu’s film. And although they are talking about an illegal abortion, the director tried to point out that their amnesia is in fact a collective amnesia of those who lived during the communist period and are now eager to move on quickly, without looking back.

A Romanian 1st of December at the University of Westminster

On the National day of their country, Romanian students from the University of Westminster in London organized a special program during their classes.  They wanted to show their classmates how Romanian people celebrate the 1st of December.

Three Romanian students from the School of Media Arts and Design with the help of the Romanian Embassy in the UK spoke in front of their schoolmates about the significance of the 1st of December and taught them some Romanian words.

Alina and Diana, two students from the University of Westminster dressed up in Romanian traditional costumes and with the help of their colleague, Ovidiu, handed out photo albums and brochures about Romania.

“We wanted to show to our English classmates what home means to us. The UK is famous for its multicultural population and for the freedom each individual enjoys here”, Diana said. “That is why we wanted to show to our classmates what Romania really means, beyond all the scandals and speculations about our country”.

Teachers were impressed

“We knew some history about Romania but now we know that Romanian wine is very good”, said Craig one of girls’ classmate.

The event impressed the teachers too. Trish Evans, the PR module leader, liked the way Alina and Diana dressed. “I want them to come dressed like this during our classes together too”, said Trish Evans.

Patrick Stoddart, the girls’ Journalism teacher said: “They look great. The Romanian traditional costumes are very beautiful”.

This event took place mostly because a lot of Romanian students decide to come and study in the UK. This year more than 600 Romanian students applied for a place at the University of Westminster.

The most popular Schools are Media Arts and Design, Foreign Languages and Social Science.

The German Christmas Market opened in London

The third edition of the Traditional German Christmas Market is taking place this year between the Southbank Centre and London Eye along the River Thames. The market will be open till the 3rd of January for Londoners to enjoy authentic German atmosphere.

If you are searching for an original Christmas present such as amber jewellery, hand crafted toys, glass ornaments for your Christmas tree, hand tatted laces, tin toys, candles in all shapes or hand-made ceramics, you will find it at the German Christmas Market.

“The German Market is a great alternative to the typical high street fare”, says Hanz Zunder one of the organizers. “More and more Londoners choose to buy their Christmas presents from a market like this one than from a fancy shop. They like the atmosphere and the original yet not very expensive presents. ”

“I come to this market every year. It remembers me of home and how me and my family used to spend Christmas back in Germany”, says 24 year old Jonathan from Berlin.

At the market you can drink a glass of Gluhwein (German Mulled Wine) or enjoy a chilled Bavarian beer while listening to traditional Christmas music.

In the centre of the market there is a wooden chalet where you can find German culinary specialties including Bratwurst and a German hog roast stall, gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds and Belgian chocolate.

The traditional German Christmas market is open seven days a week from 10 am till 10 pm, so you can enjoy shopping, eating and drinking in Central London. Entry to the market is free.

The new face of fleshmongers

How everything starts…

“I am a young woman age 20, studying Telecommunications at the University of Bucharest. I’m very interested in your job offer and I would like to know what I have to do in order to become a member of your team. I’m sending you attached my CV and some photos of me. Looking forward to hear from you. ”

This is a girl’s email reply for what she thinks is a job offer as a promoter in Spain. In fact she will become a victim of the human traffic phenomenon and will be exported like any other merchandise. She will probably be sexual exploited or in the best case scenario she will become a day labourer in Spain or Italy.

Human traffic in numbers

After posting fake job offers on job finder sites like www.bestjobs.ro, www.ejobs.ro, www.BizooJobs.ro, I received more than 150 applications with CVs and photos. Most of the applicants are between 18 and 20 years old and live in big cities in Romania like Bucharest, Brasov or Cluj. An unexpected thing was that, although I stated in the job offer that I was looking only for women, approximately 30 men ages 19-25, applied for the job. But the most worrying thing is that even girls under 18 applied for the job. One of my job offers had over 450 hits. Only one of the recruitment sites suspended my job offer due to incomplete or false information that I provided. But on the other ones the job offer is still on and I still receive applications from women.

According to Europol reports, Romania is number one among European countries when it comes to human traffic. What are the reasons for which we fail to stop this phenomenon?

Neagu Vlad, Head of the PR Department for the National Agency Against Human Traffic (NAAHF) doesn’t agree with these reports. “In 2010, unlike 2009 and 2008, the human traffic phenomenon is in decline. Last year 1211 victims were reported compared to 1726 in 2008”, he said. “What is encouraging is that victims of sexual exploitation are considerably fewer compared to previous years, but unfortunately the number of men sold for forced labor increased, especially in the Czech Republic.”, he continued.

At least in terms of its activity NAAHF, Vlad Neagu claimed that most of their campaigns have been successful and that they led to a decrease in the number of trafficking cases abroad.

In the 2010 report provided by NAAHF, 51% of victims, meaning 616, were men, compared to 2009 when only 25 % of the victims reported were men.  85% of these victims are adults and 179 minors, aged between 14 and 17 years. Most victims have low levels of education. Approximately 60% have eight grades. Traffickers have now turned their attention towards people who live in villages. In 2010 more than half of the number of victims came from rural areas. Counties from which most of the victims were recruited were Teleorman with 97 people and Iasi with 76.

Although according to the 2010 NAAHF report there were 399 Info line calls to green number – 0800 800 678, Vlad Neagu said  “Info line had the desired effect, and recorded hundreds of calls per day. ” Starting with 2012 people will be able to access the Agency‘s Info line from a mobile phone. When asked about the Agency’s budget received from the Government Mr. Vlad Neagu avoid to declare an exact amount. Instead he preferred to say that “money is enough for a proper running of the Agency”.

Unfortunately people from ADPARE, an NGO that deals with the reintegration and protection of human traffic victims, complained about the lack of funds from the Government.

In the short interview with Mr. Vlad Neagu I asked him to make a portrait of the victim, trafficker and to describe the stages of trafficking. “In general, the trafficker is a well prepared person, is part of a well organized structure, is very persuasive. It can be both man and woman. Women gain easier the confidence and interest of the victims. “They are usually young people, aged between 20 and 45. They make a good impression at first sight, well dressed; they look neat with a medium level of education at least, they easily use manipulation techniques and they seem successful businessmen. Victims are gullible people with below average economic status, uninformed, with a low educational level, physically labile, eager for big gains in a short period of time and with minimal effort.

Asked why she wants a job in Western Europe, Ludmila, a 21 year old student from Moldova promptly answer: “Because life is hard here and Moldova can’t give me what I want. I see on television how the people are dressed outside my country; they can do whatever they want because they afford all that luxury. I can’t afford anything. I wish to become like that someday. In 6 or 7 years from now I see myself somewhere in Europe, a successful hairstylist, with a influential husband. I want to be wealthy like the West Europeans.”

According to a National Agency of Statistics survey 9 out of 10 girls do not think they could not fall into the trap of human traffickers. Unfortunately, girls like Ludmila would easily fall into the trap. Anna, one of the victims rescued from the pimp snare, thought the same thing. She wanted to go to Greece, where one of her friends promised a job. “He told me that I have to go with him to pick up my papers. I left daughter with my sister and I went with him. I told her that I’ll be back in a couple of hours. He drove me to an abandoned house. When I got in there were some girls sleeping on the floor. They looked frightened. “Ana did not arrive to Greece. She was forced to become prostitute in Serbia and Macedonia at the age of 20. But Anna was a happy ending case. She escaped with the help of a client.

Tatiana, another victim, was sold by her pimp boyfriend in Amsterdam. “You don’t feel like a person anymore. I felt like a piece of meat. It’s horrible. (…)I used to tell my customers what I’ve been through and all they could tell me was <<I’m sorry. It is unfair what happened to you>>.” confessed Tatiana crying.

Stages of a cruel phenomenon

The decision to leave, with the false hope that overseas professional and personal achievements are easier and faster to get, is the main factor that generates the phenomenon of trafficking.

The first stage is the recruitment stage. Victims are studied, selected and put under surveillance. Recruitment methods are different. The victims are usual chosen inside discos, clubs or bars. In most of the cases the trafficker promises to the chosen people jobs abroad, incentive salaries in hotels or restaurants.

The second stage is the shipping. This stage is organized by the recruiter, and takes place on well known and established in advance routes. This stage involves setting the accommodation and reception of victims. This stage happens happen shortly after recruitment, so that the victims won’t have time to change their minds. Traffickers can pass the border with the victims legally or illegally. After Romania became EU member, leaving the country is much easier. Unfortunately this opportunity encouraged even more the bands of traffickers.

Next stage is the sale and exploitation of victims. At this stage the victims are abused, threatened and isolated. In order to have control over the victim, “the head” of the business uses various methods: violence, seizure of the victim’s documents, threatens against the victim’s family or debt constraint. “They told me that we must work harder because I have debts to pay to them. They were telling me: <<You have to pay for your transportation. You must pay for your food.>>”, Anna explains, “These were false debts because no matter how hard you try you can never pay them.” she goes on.

The end?

Human trafficking is so common now that it’s the third most profitable criminal activity in the world after illegal drugs and arms trafficking. It is happening now and it is happening here or wherever you are.

It could happen to you, or someone you know. Anyone who is thinking of travelling, working or studying or abroad could be vulnerable. You – or people you know – may be paying for sex; if so, that money may be used by criminals to traffic and abuse women.

This is happening everywhere in Europe, whether you live in the UK, Italy, Poland, or Romania. And it’s affecting people just like you. Although we want this to be just a story like any other, where everything ends well, unfortunately the phenomenon of human trafficking doesn’t have a happy ending.

 

Robbie Wiliams is craving for attention

What happens when you planned a comeback but it didn’t have the effect that you wanted? You start doing silly things hoping that your fans will react and will worship you like they used to when you were popular.

Robbie Williams knows best though. He rejoined Take That but I still see him as the pariah of the group, the one that decided to go solo although the band was successful too.

What’s the story?

Two members of Take That were invited to a Denmark TV show yesterday. During the show Robbie Williams felt like showing his bottom to the audience and to the hosts.

Robbie confessed that he just won a 20 pounds bet with the Danish TV host by doing that. At least he had a “good” reason for doing that.

Look at the host’s face. Could she be more embarrassed? A bet is a bet. She gave Robbie the money.

In my opinion Williams keeps trying to be in the limelight more than his fellows band members and he tends to be hilarious and embarrassing.

But that’s Robbie and this is why girls like him. I wonder how many fans would he still have if he wasn’t that outgoing and ready to accept any challenge.

Anyways Take That are making their way through Europe this week to promote their new album Progress and the European Tour for next year. You can fallow everything on Twitter and Facebook.

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