'It depends if they want to keep the village or not'

Interview with Mihail Tinca, a Village Mayor

September 03, 2015  |  By Alva Brenner, Sweden

'It depends if they want to keep the village or not'

Photo : Maelle Thome

As globalisation and modernisation increases all over the world, the villages in Romania are also affected. In the small village of Voslobeni, with a population of 2000 people, the mayor Mihail Tinca must take action to prevent the village from ending up empty as many other all over the country but there’s not so much a single man with a title can do. 

The village of Voslobeni – Harghita County - is one of the more well-known villages in Romania as it’s surrounded by Hungarians and it’s also the coldest place in Romania. On the steps of the town hall we meet Tinca Mihail, also known as Mr. Mayor. After shaking hands with him and his staff we sit down at a round table and we’re offered some drinks to cool us down after being exposed to the heat outside.

The mayor begins to tell us about his childhood. His parents were farmers and he used to help them on the farm. After finishing school in the village he went to a city called Baia Mare to further his education, becoming an engineer. After that, he worked in mining, one of the important businesses for the economy in Voslobeni Village, along with logging and agriculture.

He tells us that becoming a mayor was never something he planned, but as the community discovered his organizing skills, they convinced him that it would be a good idea.

“I value kindness, modesty and honesty and I enjoy solving problems”, he says, explaining what he thinks made people think he suited with the role as the mayor.

There are some difficulties, though, for example not to let your mood influence the decisions you make and the way you meet people during the personal agenda, which is something that occurs daily, after the morning meeting with the town hold. People get to come meet the mayor and talk about their ideas, questions and such regarding issues such as agriculture, investments and education.

Something the mayor also struggles with is the fact that the youth of the villages of Voslobeni and Izvoru Muresului tend to leave and soon there won’t be another generation to take over and the village will end up empty. The fact that the younger generation leaves also causes families to break apart, which is a big problem as I’ve noticed that family is something Romanians highly value. The mayor explains that they desperately need to create job opportunities. An idea to do that is to make small businesses, but since the people don’t have enough money to start them up, they need to be financed by the local authorities. The problem with those businesses would be the market. The locals would much rather buy the cheaper, imported products than anything made from local businesses. That’s what they need tourists for. To attract tourists they need to modernise the city, something that sadly would have an impact on the culture and traditions, but still is necessary. To modernise the village they need to expose it to attract investors.

“It all comes down to Romania and the rest of Europe, if they want to keep the villages or not. If they want to, they have to give more money. It’s all in their hands.”

The mayor also criticises the government and politicians.

“In politics corruption is everywhere and a lot of money ends up in all the wrong places”, he says and wishes that the state would protect small businesses more.

The impression I getfrom the mayor is that he is an easy-going man from the way he often cracks a few jokes here and there. He seems to have the ability to see situations more lightly, although still taking them seriously. When asked about his plans for the future, the father of two tells us that he wants to be a grandpa. Regarding the community, though, he’d like to keep the community safe and keep trying his best to make sure the younger generation stays and keeps the village populated.

A lot of villages all around the world are standing empty and the mayor talks about how the communism that occurred from 1947 to 1989 has affected them.

“Without the communism we would’ve been like Austria by now”, he states.

He explains that before the communism, about 75% of the population in Romania lived in villages scattered around the country, but as the communists wanted everyone to be equal, they offered work in factories in the bigger cities which lead to a huge urbanisation. After that there were equal parts of villagers and city dwellers.

As mentioned earlier, the urbanisation is still ongoing, though, but hopefully someone will see the potential the village actually has and save it because it would be such a shame if a place with such beauty was to be left empty.

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