The play “We were not born in the right place” twists together the life stories of five people who lived the experience of the refuge, with excerpts of The Guide of Obtaining the Romanian Citizenship for Foreign Citizens. The theatre play intends to discuss in public aspects of fundamental importance in the contemporary global context, such as the fight against migration, in parallel with the need for migrants to develop the capitalist economy, the need for refuge, the right to travel as a fundamental right of all individuals, blaming the “foreigner” for the social and economic issues. The play is written and directed by Monica Marinescu and David Schwartz and it is included in the Platform of Political Theatre.

Short interview with David Schwartz

When did the theatre play premiered, where did you perform?

The show premiered in October 2013, within the Season of Political Theatre. We played it on tour in Șomcuta Mare and in Timișoara, cities in which there are accommodation centres and procedures for asylum seekers – in both cities the people from the centre were present and afterwards we had debates together with the asylum seekers involved. We also played it at theatre festivals – in Cluj, Galați, Timișoara. In Bucharest we organized as well special representations in which participated asylum seekers from the centre in Bucharest. An excerpt of Selim’s monologue was presented during Palestine’s Day.

How much did the research last?

The research had several stages – at first it was our personal experience (Monica’s and mine) when we met Ahmad in Tajikistan, an afghan refugee who we became friends with. His personal story is revealed in the show and was the starting point of our play. Further on, we continued our research in Romania for several weeks-months. At the same time, the history of Estera from the show is based on the story of a good friend of ours, Margareta Eschenazy, with whom we worked at some other projects and shows within the programme Age4.

  • Jamal is a young afghan full of dreams and ambitions. He grew up as a refugee in Iran and he had to confront discrimination and racism even from his early childhood. After several attempts of living the life that he wanted and to produce music in Afghanistan, Jamal dreams about going to America via Romania.

  • Sonia Djukici, a refugee from Serbia who came to Romania together with her husband and children, wants to obtain her Romanian citizenship. Now a single mother, she is trying to offer her children all the best and she thinks that the story of war horror must be told in order for the history not to repeat itself.

  • A refugee in her childhood in Uzbekistan, during the Second World War, Estera Levi, a Romanian Jewish, rememorizes the experience of the refuge and the way in which the changes from one political system to another (fascism, socialism, and capitalism) changed her life. Within the actual regime, Estera was evicted from the nationalized house in which she was living and right from the streets she ended into a home for old people. She hopes to be able to return home.

  • Samira has nobody and nothing in Iraq. Her brothers are spread all over the world. She is an unemployed refugee in Romania, for a long time now she is depending on the financial aid of her brothers “from abroad” and she is desperately looking for a place to work.

  • What does it mean to be a stateless person? Selim was born in Kuweit and he grew up there as well. His parents were Palestinian refugees from Gaza. His identity and travelling documents were issued in Egypt. He is not a citizen of Kuweit, but more than that he is prohibited to enter Kuweit. He is not an Egyptian citizen, he is a citizen of no country. He is Palestinian and nothing more. He came to study in Romania and after finishing his studies he found out that he is a stateless citizen. After 20 years in Romania he became a Romanian citizen, he can travel to Kuweit any time he wants, he is longing for the Bucharest in the 90’, but “home” is the only place in which he cannot even travel – Gaza.

What cultural impact do you think the new minorities of Bucharest have?

I believe that from the cultural point of view, the impact is for now limited, because the number of the so-called “non-historical minorities” – the ones coming after the Second World War – is quite low. However, the number of cultural programmes dedicated to the communities has increased and at the same time there has been a consistent change in what concerns the local cooking.

What have you noticed with respect to the attitude that the citizens of Bucharest have towards the foreigners who settled here?

Of course that their attitude is not unitary at all. Moreover, it depends very much on what we understand by “foreigner” – the attitude towards the immigrants from Asia or Africa, respectively towards the so-called “expats” – the immigrants from the Western countries are certainly different. With respect to the refugees and other people originating in poor or conflicting areas, if we take into account the testimonies of people and of social workers, there is a lot of discrimination, especially on the employment market and when it comes about finding a place where to live. At the same time, the attitude of competent authorities can be extremely xenophobic and racist (the Border Police, the Romanian Office of Immigration, etc.) – even the psychologists or the doctors of such institutions make hallucinating statements sometimes (see The Invisible Migrants from the Detention Centre in Otopeni). But of course it must not be generalized, as many immigrants managed to integrate quite well in the system and they have very close relationships with the citizens.

By: Alice Monica Marinescu and David Schwartz

With: Alexandru Fifea, Katia Pascariu, Mihaela Rădescu, Andrei Șerban, Silviana Vișan

Art direction: Adrian Cristea; music: Cătălin Rulea; translation in Arab: Bashar Al-Kishawi.

Special thanks: Bashar Al-Kishawi, Margareta Eschenazy, Valentina Ivanov, Ahmad Marwi, Sana Rahimo, Simina Guga.

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