Together with other journalists we investigated how military and police uniforms are being made in Romania. Workers in the textile factories make the minimum wage, which does not cover half of their monthly cost of living on the Romanian countryside. Shouldn’t we expect public institutions to show a good example of procuring products that allow for decent living standards in the production countries? What could the European Commission do to stop this kind of situations happening within the EU region? The work has been published in Knack in 2020. The full article can be read here.
Villages around Falticeni are formed around one main road. In the morning textile workers take the bus to go to the city where they will produce military uniforms for European countries and NATO.
Workers arrive early in the morning to start their shift in the textile factory of Siorom. The textile factories pay the minimum salary, which is hardly needed for most of these female workers. Often they are the only working family member to bring in money to pay for housing, electricity, school and medical costs.
Almost every family has an extensive vegetable garden. Here they have their own honey from the bees in the backgarden. On a weekly basis, they send eggs or vegetables to family members in the cities to make life more affordable.
After working in the city and spending time on the field, this woman lets her sheep graze in the village just before sunset.
I spent some time getting to know the Romanian countryside around Falticeni. People were incredibly welcoming. I camped in their gardens, shared beers and got to taste incredible home-made wine. An adventure that will remain in my memory and that made me make some friends I am staying in contact with. Some work in Belgium in construction, others stay in Romania.
Hillsides around the villages where multiple of the textile workers live. Many of the families here have a daughter, son or husband living in Belgium. This allows them to have a decent life in the Romanian countryside.
Most corn grown in Romanian villages is used to feed animals throughout the winter months. Winters are becoming longer, requiring a better preparation to be able to feed chickens, pigs and other animals kept in the garden.
These haystacks are to be seen all around the Romanian countryside. It is part of the food supply for the animals during the cold or snowy winter months.
Magazin Mix or bars are spread over most of the villages in Romania. This is the place where men drink wine and beer all through the day. Romania has a large consumption of alcohol per person. Only few women are to be seen here.
The city of Falticeni is characterised by pastel coloured apartment blocks. A group of men hangs around and drinks beers in the shadow. Women are almost never to be seen in bars or when alcohol is being consumed by men.
The bus companies in all small cities in Romania have direct bus lines to all over West Europe: UK, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Italy, Spain… of the 25 million Romanians, an estimated 12 million live and work outside their home country.
The bus from Iași continues all the way to London. The only travelers are Romanian people working in Western Europe throughout the year, leaving husbands/wives and children in Romania. It is needed to allow their families to live a decent live and construct a house to live in.
The busdrive from Iași to Belgium takes more than thirty hours, with breaks for lunch and diner. This twenty year old couply just got married in Romania the week before going back to Belgium for work. She works in a Frituur restaurant in Bruges, he works in construction. They send most of their money to their family back home in Romania.