The Romanian village of Crit, located in central Transylvania, has a population of approximately 900 people. Living in Crit is a tightrope walk between extreme beauty and what the locals refer to as miseria. Miseria is something that they experience, but it doesn’t define them as a people. The people I came into contact with were kind, warm, and hospitable. Part of life there is a fairy tale- children grow up in the majestically green fields and ride horse-drawn carriages. Living closely with nature and animals gives the villagers strong spirits that seem to keep them going during the all too frequent times of adversity. I was touched deeply by how the locals’ interior landscapes blend with their exterior one of extreme beauty and a patient slowness. There is much to learn from this way of life. However, are they prisoners of paradise like one of my colleagues suggested? I’m not sure, but that poignant statement has echoed in my mind louder than I care to admit.
Crit is a land of contrasts: it is just as stunning as it is bleak and people are as resilient as they are downtrodden. Villagers are mainly subsistence farmers with the exception of those who work at the two dairy farms. The population here was originally of Saxon (ethnic German) decent up until the revolution in 1989 when almost all of them left the country. Now the village is mainly comprised officially of a 10% Roma (gypsy) population that, unofficially, is 80% Roma. Even though Romania joined the European Union in 2007 after being marginalized from Western Europe for so long, little progress has been made. The local schools are terrible, alcoholism is prevalent, children start working in the fields and take on adult responsibilities early on. Malnutrition and illiteracy also weave their way in and out of certain households: it’s a hard life. While there has been some superficial intervention of restoring facades in the village, it’s heart wrenching to see people living without certain basic amenities such as sanitation and clean water.
Within the lyrical chaos and beauty in Crit, there is a structure that is inherently falling apart. My hope is that these photographs succeed in creating as many questions for viewers as they have for me.