Would you watch a video about somebody’s home/homeland?
Would somebody you did not know, from a country you do not know a lot about, have any chance to gain your attention?
How much would you want to learn about somebody from Eastern Europe?
The first complex video I ever made, with a very basic tool (Windows Movie Maker), March 2016,
was about the region I grew up in. My video making skills have advanced now,
for a better view of Unknown History.
Unknown History: how we tell the stories of life
Less than a year ago, I published this movie on Facebook. My dad retired, after having served for nearly 37 years as a priest in the village where I grew up. It was the perfect occasion for me to start my Unknown History online.
I was born as a priest’s daughter, in a family with three generations of servants of God in the Romanian Orthodox Church. When my father graduated University and was consecrated as a priest, he was lucky enough to serve the parish in the village he grew up in, as well as his mother. This village is located in Banat region, of Western Romania, awash with all the major accomplishments and terrors of the last two centuries.
My mother’s family was half local to Banat (grandmother), half from the Romanian capital (grandfather). Grandmother came from a big, but financially deprived family. Grandad was born in Bucharest to a rich family, his father a businessman who owned big workshops producing wrought iron fences, gates, balconies and so on. The post-war situation brought the two of them together, from such different backgrounds.
All the sides of our family have been hit, one way or another, by XX century history. They all managed not only to survive, but to remain grounded and make a living in Banat. I am the only one who said I’d never leave my home country, and the only one now living abroad.
From a Romanian to a Briton, and the other way around
Certainly, I am not the only Romanian with a story worth sharing. And certainly, I am not the only European with a family background which shows what history really means to us, to all of us.
Certainly, in my 6 years in the UK, I have met so many Britons with fascinating stories and personalities, which I want to tell others about.
How can we better understand each other but by learning about what life has been for each of us?
How can we better value each other as holders of a treasure of life experience?
How can we build solidarity in the absence of a fairer, live history that we all share and see from close by?
Unknown History, the alternative to us and them
Unknown History sets off to test how much we really want to know about each other. In a world once again divided by confusion and fear, austerity and greed, we commend seeking humanity into living history.
We all have our personal histories, inherited or lived, seen or witnessed, heard or learnt about from others. Sharing such histories, with a willingness to see them for what they are, mere life in motion, might make it easier to look into each other’s eyes.
The real crisis today, again, seems to be rather political than economical. Looking around at what is happening all over the world, I personally see lack of leadership, conjured with loss of humanity values. The story of us and them gets repeated over and over again, and lessons of recent XX century history seem to have left no real understanding in society of how atrocities such as the holocaust can happen all over again.
The research behind the human interest spotlight
Getting back to why I want to do this, let us scroll together through a small list:
- Gonzo journalism – what can be more fascinating than you, as a journalist, being able to talk about a story as you live it?
And no, it does not override the principle of impartiality. It just takes journalism into the land of fresh, first hand lived experience.
- The Annales School – the French historians who changed the way we look at and understand history.
No, history is not a string of dates of events, as many of us have possibly been taught in school. Besides this being an utterly boring, rubbish way to study it, it kills the soul of historic reality. Events have no meaning outside the spirit of the epoch they happened in.
- Central Europe – after WWII, the middle of the continent, a geo-cultural space in its own right, was killed, buried and forgotten.
We can compare this with allowing for your grandparents and parents to be murdered and thrown away in some pits you don’t even know the location of. Then also we would agree to never speak about them ever again.
- The Third Europe – during my student years in my home city of Timisoara, I participated in cultural studies conducted by this foundation.
Led by my professors whom I most admired, The Third Europe won grants to research and publish on the lost history of Central Europe and our Banat region. Research was conducted in two main ways: using the Annales School methods, and by compared cultural and literary studies.
View on the bridge over Bega river, behind the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral
in my homecity of Timisoara (2012 visit)
- Romanians in the UK media – according to data, Romanians have mostly been portrayed as criminals or people with anti-social behaviour. I can confirm this as a former avid reader of such reports.
About the time I made the above video, I stopped searching for media pieces on Romanians. It had become an obsession and it did not help at all. Then the idea of doing some different, meaningful, and true came to life: tell the story of Romanian and UK life through my eyes, experience and knowledge.
The series will continue soon with living history from Romania, recent years and these days.