Romanians Are Coming On Channel4  

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A recent documentary about Romanians and their come on Channel4 was left seemingly ignored on this blog (though announced more than a week ago: 1, 2), so I hereby correct this oversight. The “EAT ME” photo refers to a similar but Canadian story.

eatmeThe main reason I have not written about this documentary is because it has taken me a while to watch all episodes, each having about 47 minutes (trailer, 1, 2, 3). Apparently, there even was a silent protest in UK against the documentary (Observatorul, demotix, echoes). Before watching it, make sure you are familiar with the long history of news about Romanians coming from across the channel:

  1. Some two years ago, the UK government may have started a campaign to get Romanians to stop coming – a Romanian newspaper, Gandul, responded with a campaign of its own (RT1) causing at least some Brits to reverse the trend and come to Romania.
  2. A year ago, restrictions on full-time workers were lifted and all hell broke loose. The tabloid press and UKIP speculated British xenophobia and insular mentality. Nigel Farage, UKIP’s chief propagandist, even defended some of his discriminatory comments. Watch a documentary, a short Russell Brand “Trews” take, Adevarul and even Channel 4 had joined the fray. Channel 4 has also made a documentary on the people living in the Bucharest underground, such as Bruce Lee.
  3. MEP elections halfway 2014 had results largely influenced by xenophobic fearmongering.

I now interrupt this regular programming to tell you the story of the photo. Not long ago, I met a Manitoban girl who told me that her grandmother was Romanian. (I was going to interview her, but we had some poor timing and in the end nothing came out of it.) Apparently, she was part of a wave of Romanians who came to Manitoba as farmers, much like Boian and around the same time. The others left for California but her grandma was the only one who stayed. When she left, there were some tangerines left on the common table.

A few video bits discovered after the above was written:


The documentary is narrated by one Alex Fekete (didn’t quite get his full name right) who also appears in it and identifies himself as a Roma (Gypsy). He’s from Baia Mare’s Pata Rat, formerly integrated but ghettoized by the Mayor. I could be wrong on identities and could be confusing people here, but this is the best I can tell.

In the first episode, we are introduced to a Roma person who leaves the ghetto he’d been forcibly relocated to, with one or two sons, to find work in UK. He doesn’t speak English, he’s in his 50s, sports a pony tale and “long forehead” and, as expected, despite his desire to work, does not get far. The documentary shows him and his family dancing a lot and getting emotional, but doing little else. It seems as if for him, going through the emotion of working is somewhat equivalent to the actual working.

We are also introduced to “white” Alex, who is quite different from the narrator, the “brown” Alex. White Alex tells us he had a job in Canada and his own business, did not pay taxes for a few years, then tried to bribe the taxman (The Wolf of Bay Street? – trailer, best scenes) and had to leave the country. Obviously, his quick story raises more questions than it answers.

A third guy we meet does not speak English either and he also seems to be Roma (Gypsy). Much like the pony-tailed dude, he has missing teeth and many children, including a girl whose leg was broken and never healed properly. There seems to be some proportionality between the number of missing teeth and the number of kids they have. This guy tries to make a living as a cowboy statue, then Charlie Chaplin, uttering only “good day, miss” or something like that. Eventually, he gets benefits, fixes his teeth courtesy of the British taxpayer and even learns enough English to get a low-paying job.

In the second episode we are introduced to Pata Rat and Nigel Farage, both equally dirty pits of their respective society. Farage’s claim of 28000 Romanian arrests is debunked and we learn that of those only 624 were convicted, suggesting that some arrests may have been made out of ethnic discrimination and with no sound basis. We meet the nurse and watch her being a bit disappointed by her circumstances in Britain. We also discover the “capsunari” – those who make a seasonal living out of picking strawberries.

Finally, in the 3rd episode, we go again to Pata Rat and we’re told that Romania is poor because “idiot politicians sold everything to make themselves rich”. We also meet Cosmin in Oravita, who seems middle class or lower middle class, who has a very limited understanding of UK, who wants to go there because all his friends left and he is “bored of this boring boredom”. Once in UK, he misses his mother because he has to do “women’s job”: cooking, cleaning. Alex had lost his job because of drinking but he is hired by Irish Travelers. He tells us “I love my country, but she treats me like sh**” and he seems to have a similar rapport with the Travelers: he has some gratitude for getting a job, a roof over his head and some self-respect but is not happy with what he’s making and he is somewhat fearful of them. We also meet a young Romanian IT grad who makes a living in UK scrapping metal.

Alex the narrator, who speaks pretty good English and is the fatter Gypsy from Pata Rat whose wife is blonde gets a job in UK changing tires. We works with Indians, Latvians and other immigrants. He seems happy and works hard. At one point, another fast talking Romanian comes in and starts dividing the shop into Gypsies and non-Gypsies. His main point is that Romanians are white and Gypsies are brown creatures who never work but only pretend to do so. Alex listens quietly while his Indian workmate, to whom the Romanian points identifying as “Gypsy” is laughing slightly embarrassed. In the end, he returns to Romania, and so does the nurse, whose husband tells us about some discrimination with employment in the medical field. Somebody also makes the point made before on this blog that if you can infer that all Romanians are thieves because some have stolen, then we should also hold that all Brits are pedophiles because of the few who were caught in the act with Romanian children.


In a conversation with a brown haired, pony-tailed Turkish sound engineer traveling to Toronto after having lived for a while in Amsterdam, he talked of encountering significant prejudice when introducing himself with his nationality. He even encountered resistance working. We talked about prejudices and when I told him that I think only positive stereotypes should be aired, he disagreed, stating that all stereotypes are true. I could have asked him what stereotypes are true about Turks, but did not.

I did share with him a story from one of my first European trips. I started by train from Bucharest, and in my compartment there was a Turkish couple, her having a huge bruise over one eye. They were stopped at some border and harassed for half an hour, then eventually detained. While the bruise did not help, at least part of their problems were due to ethnic prejudice.

*(*This article is unfinished – it was scheduled to appear in the hope that it will be finished before, but since this message is here and until it is removed, the article is to be considered work in progress*)*.

Sources / More info: msf-channel, ch4-channel, zamoca-uk, ec-14

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