Help me celebrate the May 1st holiday, for workers that just past, with a moment of silence for Maria Storescu.
In Romania the middle class is working itself literally to death and parliament is busy impeaching the democratically elected president for charges that no one can figure out. It’s a real Eastern European B movie playing out, but you should be paying attention because it could affect the stability of the European Union and an ally in Iraq.
Take Dracula. Take the Ceasescus getting shot on Christmas day. Take street children, orphanages. The Secret Police, the securitate. This is how you probably know Romania, but take a look at this, here’s your trailer:
Flickering light hangs from the ceiling. Pounding at a door. Her friends are shouting her name. Cell phones are blipping, they’re dialing her number. A phone rings on the inside of the apartment but no one comes to the door. “Maria!” They shout. The last time they had seen her was after taking her to the hospital on Friday. For the past three weeks at Ernst and Young, she’d juggled the clients of colleagues that had quit. It’s now Sunday night; they decide they’re going to have to break down the door. Let’s do it.
Down the street, April had been a busy month for the Romanian Parliament. First, President Traian Basescu’s coalition fell apart. Second, Parliament decided to suspend the President that is widely said to have engineered his country’s EU assent. The charge: criticizing judges. No, he didn’t fire any judges being in the wrong political party. Was that it? No, wait, I’ve got something else here, there’s a loose charge of using the intelligence agency to gather information about political opponents. Nope, no outing of Intelligence Agents. I wish I could say he did something like go to war without just cause but he is a supporter of the war on terror. I also wish I could say the judicial system, having a big axe to grind against the guy–agreed, but they didn’t. Their ruling was that his actions didn’t break any constitutional laws and weren’t enough to suspend him.
Basescu, the former mayor Bucuresti is a straight talking no BS type of guy. He’s the Rudy Guillani. Widely popular in Romania. He doesn’t look polished which is part of his appeal, he doesn’t talk polished either which also, is part of his appeal. He’s supportive the Bush administration and there are over 850 Romanian troops in Iraq right now.
In 2003 I was given the assignment of working for the prime minister, Adrian Nastese who would become his opponent in the election. Basescu hadn’t entered the campaign at that point, but the Social Democratic Party (PSD) was neither Social nor Democratic and every day I read articles about party members and corruption charges. Still, it was a shot at the big time. I sought out a Romanian friend’s advice:
“Should I take the job?” I asked.
“Do they pay a lot?”
“Yeah, like, tons.”
“Take it then, who cares about the election they’re all liars and thieves.”
I turned them down in the end. But, later when Basescu entered the campaign everything changed. People were excited, my in-laws argued for the first time about politics. Basescu is the President that the Romanian country elected, it’s the democratic process the people deserve.
Basescu, New Years 2005, after he won the election in October, he takes a bottle of champagne and chugs in the middle of the capital, the party started. Romanians cheer.
They broke down the door and found her. Her hair, dyed orange was splayed on the floor. She had collapsed at some point over the weekend, Raluca Storescu had died. She had lost more than 15 pounds recently. The coroner said her situation was “very complex” but she weighed less than 88 pounds and had been working non-stop for three weeks. The media in Romania is saying she worked herself to death.
Raluca wrote her friend, Roxana in early April. Her email is peppered with smiley face, IM speak, in place of periodsJ … “I’ve got to be here till 3amJ next week I’ll have to be in more places at the same timeJ… we no longer have managers.” In the end of the email she practically begs her friend to find her something else, “worse off doesn’t exist.” Of course her working descriptions seem more like tales from the gulag, then working for fortune 500, Ernst & Young. But the New York office of Ernst & Young had no idea who she was when I called them days later, “I’ll look into it and call you back.” I never heard from them again. She was one of the young ones who stayed behind in Romania, working for the future of the country. Raluca Storescu, Rest In Peace.