Rena Effendi’s early work focused on oil industry’s effects on people’s lives. As a result, she followed a 1,700 km oil pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, collecting stories along the way. This work was published in 2009...
Corn is shelled, then fed to the cattle. Ion Petric and his wife, Maria Vraja, who live in Breb, help out their neighbors’ daughter, seven-year-old Adriana Țânțaş. Transylvanian family life and village life remain intimately bound up with the needs and services of farm animals. Maramures, Romania.
Andrei Rus, 12, relaxes in his father’s palinca still in Strâmtura. Palinca—the name for all kinds of fruit brandy—can be as much as 58 proof here. The stills require copious amounts of cooling water and are nearly always on the banks of streams—as are fulling machines, which use water-driven hammers to thicken up the fibers of woolen cloth. Maramures, Romania.
Anuța Vişovan, 70, tends the fire at a still owned by her neighbor, in Breb, for making palinca, the plum, apple, or pear brandy whose name means simply “distilled spirit.” A fiercely delicious dram of it is given to every visitor. “When the first thing you do is have some palinca,” Lorinț Opriş, mill owner at Sârbi, says, “you know it’s going to be a good day.” Maramures, Romania.
Cooking up plum jam in the autumn is usually a manâs job. It takes eight to ten hours of uninterrupted stirring to make sure the jam on the bottom of the pot doesn’t burn. This grandfather from Sârbi wears the traditional small Maramureş hat. Anyone who sports one of these little hats in Bucharest will likely be laughed at. Maramures, Romania.
Vasile Cehi, nine, rests while the men of his family load hay onto a horse cart. Each cow requires about three full carts of hay for winter food. The red bow on his whip is a lucky charm for the horses. Red—found on bridles, harnesses, even a puppy’s collar—is thought to keep away evil spirits. Maramures, Romania.
Maria Covaci kneels at her husband’s coffin in the courtyard of their house in Strâmtura. No funeral in Transylvania is complete without a warning from the priest of the dire fate that awaits those who have not led a good life. Maramures, Romania.
For about three dollars, you can rent time at this privately owned wooden washing machine in Sârbi, Maramureş, never more popular than when cleaning household rugs the traditional way—with surging river water—for Christmas or Easter. Maramures, Romania.
Wearing a heavy linen shirt and woolen waistcoat, Vasile Burnar attends Sunday Mass inside the ancient wooden church of Sts. Mihail and Gavril, built in the village of Mănăstirea Maramureș, in 1640. A current of deep attachment to tradition runs seamlessly from hay meadow to church pew. Maramures, Romania.
Maria Cupcea, 30 (at left), stands in the hallway of the old house in Breb where her mother, Ileana Paul, 64, still lives. “I hope my children won’t continue to live in this village,” Cupcea says. “Life is too hard here.” Maramures, Romania.
The Borca family relaxes after a working day that started early. Gheorghe (white shirt) and Anuța Borca (also in white) were married in July 1995, bang in the middle of the grass-cutting season. The honeymoon had to be shortened. “We started making hay again one week after the wedding,” Anuța says ruefully. This photograph was made in Maramureș, the Romanian-speaking part of northern Transylvania. Romania.
In her parents’ house in Budești, Ileana Borodi, 24, minds her baby son, Ioan, nine months, while her daughter, Mărioara, three, occupies herself. Elderly family members often stay in older wooden houses, where walls are hand-painted with flowery designs. Younger people usually live nearby in modern homes built of brick and concrete, easier to heat and keep clean. Maramures, Romania.
Nastafa and Vasile Nemes have been married for over 50 years. When a boy likes a girl, he first declares his feelings to her parents. In turn, the parents inform their daughter and if she likes him she would go out and stand on the front porch. At this point, he has about 2 minutes to run up to her and confess about his feelings. Maramures, Romania.
Village musician and drum maker Stefan Kovaci 71 y.o. with his granddaughter Silvia Godgea 7 y.o in Slatioara village. All his sons are working abroad in Italy and Spain and they sent the granddaughter to visit for the summer. Maramures, Romania.
Day of the dead celebration in Budesti village. Bread and wine is brought to the priest from each family and a piece of paper with names of the deceased family members is attached to the candle. The priest then collects the paper and sings their names in a prayer commemorating them. The bread is later collected and is distributed among the village poor. Maramures, Romania.
Elderly woman in Breb is making a stew from beetroots and beetroot leaves for her pigs. The pigs are fed a lot more in the fall as the villagers are making them fat for Christmas, when pigs are slaughtered for traditional holiday feasts. Maramures, Romania.
Dunca Vasile 53 y.o. from Sarbi village, has been a shepherd since the age of 9. His only regret in life is that the women kept leaving him because he was never around. Without the support of a family he could not have his own flock. “But if today they will ask me to choose between women and sheep, I would still choose sheep!” - he says. Maramures, Romania.
Most elderly women in Maramures are engaged in weaving and making their own clothes. But this tradition is dying out amongst the youth as cheap Chinese and Turkish clothes inundate the local markets. Maramures, Romania.
On the evening hillside outside Breb, alfalfa stacks stand sentinel. The roots of Transylvania go back at least a thousand years. The farming way of life will continue only if it is treasured and nurtured by the villagers and seen by Romania and the European Union as worth sustaining. Maramures, Romania.
For centuries, the small villages in Transylvania have preserved their hay meadows, raised cattle and operated self-sustainable farms. The agrarian fairytale that is extinct in Western Europe still exists here in bucolic scenes, where young boys learn to cut and rake hay by hand, where all village women are proficient in weaving, and all men can build a house from scratch - with thousands of hard-split wooden shingles on the rooftop. In this old world, defined by traditional belief systems and respect for the environment, one does not trample a meadow of high grass before mowing it, the cows and horses find their way home along the muddy village tracks and the rivers’ water is busy with the milling, washing and alcohol making.