The Children of Romania's Communist Estates

Photographing what happens when your government forgets about entire neighbourhoods.

During the communist period, housing estates were built all over Romania in an attempt to provide homes for mining, industrial and agricultural workers. However, once the revolution came and capitalism swept in with its promises of a better world, the buildings were forgotten about and fell into disrepair. Though no one was taking care of the buildings any more, a large amount of the people either convinced or forced to work in the area had no other choice but to stay put, despite the harsh conditions.    

It was when I visited the Mija neighbourhood near the city of Ploiești that I had the idea for this series of photographs, so I did some research and found out that places like this still exist across the country. I haven’t been able to cover them all, but the ones I did manage to get to include those in Aninoasa (two blocks called "The Barracks" and "Cardboard City"), Lonea, Petrila, Găești, Anina (the block is called "New City"), Horea in the Baia Mare county and Altân Tepe.

I ended up focusing my attention on the children who lived in these blocks. I was so impressed by the spirit, generosity and closeness all the kids that I found living in the buildings. Let's face it, there are probably few less depressing places to live than on a crumbling, Soviet-era Romanian council block,  but they offered me what little candy they had, we hugged, held hands and picked field flowers together. They were cheerful despite the difficulties they have to go through every day: the lack of drinking water, heating and the fact that they have to walk great distances to be able to attend school.

Most of the adults in the estates are unemployed, since the jobs they moved there for no longer exist, new ones were never created and learning a new trade isn't the easiest thing to do when you've devoted your entire professional career to one thing. Saying goodbye was pretty hard, so I figure the least I can do is show the reality of their everyday lives.

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