Interview with Cristina Eremia
Cristina Eremia is a member of Rahova-Uranus-Sabinelor community and the leader of a group of tenants threatened with eviction from the nationalized houses which are being returned by the state to those who claim pre-socialist rights over them. During 2009-2011, she was the co-initiator and host of LaBomba Community Center. In this interview, we talk about the community’s view on the artistic projects and activities in the area, the relation with the artists and the authorities, and the housing issues and ways of struggle.
I’d like us to start with the art project in Rahova-Uranus. What did it mean to you to have artists coming here and work with all of you for so long?
At first, I didn’t know who you were and what you wanted. Seeing a bunch of youngsters engaging the kids in all sorts of games, the kind that I used to play when I was little…I suspected they were students, their clothes were different from ours, ordinary people – skirt and pants, glasses, backpacks, the hairdos – they seemed different from us. Initially I thought it was suspicious because nobody asked us, the parents, if we agreed to let our kids play with them. I remember our first encounter, when my son wasn’t in front of the house – he was 6 years-old back then – and he went with those people without asking permission. He was in the courtyard of the pub, playing. When he saw me coming after him, he was embarrassed and scared, but I was even more scared because I couldn’t find him. I thought they stole my kid (laughing). And I remember it was Maria, Bogdan, you, and I started picking on Maria, I think. I told her I wasn’t OK with this and I asked what they were doing here. They told me they were a group of university students and I was a bit more relaxed after talking to them. Then they did a workshop here at E-Uranus, across the street. And they came to ask me if Claudiu, my son, could come. I said “OK, but I’m coming with him.” I wanted to see what they were doing. I think they appreciated the fact that a parent was coming along to see what the kids were doing. And I saw that they were drawing and working, and I thought they were actually doing something good for our kids.
In time, I became friends with them by taking part in the activities. Actually, the community already existed when the artists arrived. There were always various events in which most of the people in the community took part. Back then, I and my husband managed the LaBomba disco, where most of the community went to relax and have a god time. When any of them asked for our support in organizing birthdays, weddings, baptisms or wakes, we would offer them the use of the disco. These things brought us closer. […]
How was the LaBomba Community Center established?
Well, for me, the kids’ first performance, in 2007, here at the Uranus garden, was the best. The music was great, the kids like it, and then Maria said: “It would be great if we could do these workshops all the time.” And then I said: “Come to our place!” And it worked out nicely, the kids continued with the performances and the music. And the first book came out – the Generosity Offensive album.
Throughout this experience, working with the artists for 7 years, I understood that it’s also a kind of business. I don’t call it a project, this is how I heard you call it. And with all our issues, the evictions, losing the house, Cherecheș and so on, I didn’t care about it, I’ll do what you want, come to all the activities, bring the kids, handle everything. What I want in return is to show these people who come to see us all the forgeries, all the problems people have, how they end up on the streets. That’s what I was interested in! Even if you got a bit of cash for your projects, I didn’t care! No one could be that stupid and not realize that the artist can’t come forever without money for the bus or for cigarettes and so on. I mean, I thought it was only normal for the artists to get paid for their work. […]
What was the community’s relationship with E-Uranus and The Ark, considering that they did help with certain projects, but on the other hand, they are precisely the ones who benefit most from the evacuation of the community?
I could say we have a lovely, but non-existent relationship with Doru Frollu [the owner of The Ark]. I think I first met him in 2008. He came to several events at our community center, but also to other events organized at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Eden Club. I know there are various events taking place at The Ark. None of us were ever invited and I know we are constantly avoided. He doesn’t get along with the florists at the market, either. I noticed that only those belonging to a certain social category get invited to their events. It’s easy to tell from all the luxury cars parked outside our houses. An anthropologist who came to work here once told me “Doru Frollu goes on and on about his projects with the community.” And she also told me that the first time she came here, she asked him: “How are the people here?” and he replied: “Just a bunch of Gypsies.” That’s when I started to understand their world, because I could have gone a long time seeing only the nice Doru Frollu, the man who shared some pizza with the kids. […]
Interview conducted by David Schwartz
 Cherecheș & Cherecheș, a law firm which bought the ownership rights over several buildings in the Rahova-Uranus-Sabinelor area from the descendants of former owners. Many tenants accuse the firm of forging documents in order to obtain the property rights over the buildings.