How an old house fades away (or when the city people forget where they were born)

Polished shoes, ironed clothes and a fragrance of expensive perfume. These are just a few characteristics – apparently defining – of the city man, the one who lives in the “urban jungle”, made of glass, concrete and dust. It is easy for many of us to forget, from different reasons, some objective, that the Romanian was born in the countryside, on the clean land that he respected ever since the beginning of times. The long expected holidays spent at our grandparents have been replaced, along with the city man’s wellbeing, by vacations on Greek beaches or by walks on London streets, which excluded the sunny childhood homes from our plans. We forget or we do not notice that time destroys both our lives, taking away from us our elders, and our home, the place where once the entire family gathered around the stove.

Preoccupied by Romania’s countryside, the members of the Association Movement for European Action and Initiative (AMEAI) have launched in 2014 a praiseworthy project, which aims to carry out a site research of the villagers’ settlements. More precisely, their activity has been dedicated to the study of the Mehedinți Plateau Geopark (with an area of 106.000 ha), declared protected area of national interest. In 2016, the attention of the team’s architects was concentrated on Balta commune, where they have inventoried the patrimony monuments of the region.

Aneta Anițescu house, in 2012

Aneta Anițescu house, in 2012 Foto: AMEAI archive

The place is of a ravishing beauty, and for those who have not visit it yet, they should see the photo exhibition of the project, “Past for the future”, recently opened at the Romanian Peasant’s Club. The conclusions the team drew, following the research, the interaction with the locals and the observance of their behaviour, show that the area enjoys a diverse cultural patrimony, very important for our country. But these advantages, if not protected and defended with the necessary stubbornness, they fade before the identified weak points, maybe the most dramatic of them being the accelerated degradation of the country houses.

Aneta Anițescu house, in 2014

Aneta Anițescu house, in 2014

“The settlements of the Mehedinți Plateau Geopark, as most of the country side settlements in Romania, have developed organically. Here, the man succeeded in connection with nature, to find a balance between adapting to the environmental conditions and adapting the environment to his needs. The environment shaped architecture, it shaped the way of life and the internal structure of the villagers, who started to build, think and live in connection with nature. The laic and religious architecture found in this geographical space is the proof of the identity and tenacity of the inhabitants. Forced modernisation of the communist regime definitely transformed the Romanian village and it cracked the connection of man with nature. Despite that, the balance that formed the basis of the countryside world can be seen in the vernacular architecture, in the handicrafts and in the local traditions, in the life rhythm of the few inhabitants left”, explained the project’s coordinator, Bianca-Maria Bălșan.

Besides the fact that it catches, in a few words, the importance of the rural area in the villager’s life, Bianca’s statement also makes us more responsible, because, as she mentioned in the opening of the photo exhibition, many of the buildings inventoried by the team are almost extinct.

The black scenario of an old house

The weak quality of some intervention works performed throughout time, the lack of financial resources, as well as the low or even inexistent interest of the owners to restore and maintain the patrimony buildings are just a few dangers identified by the AMEAI members. The sociological analysis also discloses a phenomenon present in the Romanian villages during the last few decades – their population is old, especially in the context in which the young people are moving to the city or even abroad. That being said, it is not hard to imagine a bleak scenario, which would explain the “disappearance” of the old houses, even if they are declared patrimony immovable: the elders left alone are not, unfortunately, ageless, and after they are gone, the inheritors living in cities do not take care of the parental home.

Aneta Anițescu house, in August 2016

Aneta Anițescu house, in August 2016

The forgotten houses are at the mercy of time and nature, an example being the wooden house “Aneta Anițescu” of the Balta village, in Balta commune. The house built in 1902, according to the information hold by AMEAI, “can be found along the main road that passes through Mehedinți Plateau Geopark, before entering in Balta village (coming from Drobeta-Turnu Severin). The land plot currently comprises two buildings: the lodging and the ruin of the household annex – the summer kitchen. The assembly is currently deserted and in ruin. (…) The importance of the name Anițescu in the area is documented in relation with Tudor Vladimirescu, by punishing the “most notable inhabitant of Balta commune, Anițescu”, because he did not participate to the Sunday mass. Likewise, the existence of a slum named Anițescu certifies the importance of the name in the area”.

Aneta Anițescu house, in October 2016

Aneta Anițescu house, in October 2016

Although the case study of the Association involved the Mehedinți Plateau Geopark, the disappearance of the old houses and of the local churches due to recklessness represents a painful reality and a threat that, slowly-slowly, risks spreading and suffocating the entire rural Romania.

Raluca Băncioiu

Raluca Băncioiu

She's a graduate of the MA program in Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text. She's an optimistic person and a true familist
Raluca Băncioiu

Ultimele postari ale lui Raluca Băncioiu (vezi toate)

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