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Letter in response to The Last Peasants:

What the producers of this programme have achieved with The Last Peasants is a
distortion of the social realities inherent in Romania. The enterprise has potential in that it
depicts the difficulties of the rural life in the post-Communist, post-macro-industrialized
Romania, and what would be some of the reasons why a number of peasants have left
their ruined villages to adventure in the West dreaming of rapid economic advancement.
However, major questions arise from the very connection between the story of the three
peasant families and the topic of asylum seeking. As the dialogue of the peasants actually
indicates, they are willing to: get there no matter how... in the end not to seek to
settle in Paris or Dublin but to have access to the enticing economic resources which the
West is able to supply. For that matter, they are economic migrants rather than asylumseekers. In the last Saturday edition of the Guardian (1 March, 2003), the Home Office
charted the number of asylum seekers who have applied for asylum in Britain between
2001 and 2002 and ranked them by nationality. Romania does not even appears in those
charts, because most Romanians do not intend to remain in the West, but aim at making a
fortune and returning to a better life-style to their place of origin. For that matter, the
programme should have dealt with the reasons why immigrants from countries that rank
high in asylum seeking charts, like Iraq, Zimbabwe, Afganistan, China or India, are
storming the Home Office, after illegally entering into UK, searching for safer havens.
Back to The Last Peasants, the headline may mean many things but in reality makes
little sense in the same way in which the grave pronouncement about the death of a
[rural Romanian] culture which has survived two World Wars and half a century of
communism, is an erroneous idea. Romanian rural life has been critically deteriorated by
a complexity of reasons and facts, among which the idiotic ambitions of the Communist
regime that led to Collectivization and Urbanization Projects have been just one
important factor. For that matter, the Romanian village did not survive but was kept on
life-support until 1989. The presence of the horses and carts is no big mystery, as during
the 1970s Ceausescu forced the Romanian peasants to use horses as cheaper means of
transportation and agricultural work, in an attempt to save as much oil as possible in
order to prevent the deficient industry from collapsing. The proper Romanian village was
long ago condemned to destruction, and it will take severe social reforms to re-shape the
deteriorated face of the Romanian rural life.
As for the minority of emigrant Romanian peasants who abandon their miserable life and
attempt illegal entrance in Western countries, one must understand they are seeking for an
interim solution. Moreover, from my own experience with a group of Romanian
immigrants (most of them hate the English weather) in London, I found them more
focused on getting good jobs, even though illegal, than being a plight for a British society
already riddled by so much crime. Talking with the employers of these people, one
discovers that Romanian workers are sought on the black market in London for their
hard work, reliability and trustworthiness. Such are the kind of aspects Channel 4
programmes should emphasize, instead of cheaply dramatizing the struggles of a minority

of economic migrants in the West who make a profit with very hard work in order to
provide an income for their families back home.
In the end, while I commend the minimum concern that The Last Peasants has for
representing the human side of the faceless horde which is formed by the immigrants in
the West, I wish the Channel 4 producers were sensible enough to be able to see in these
stories the reflection of their own social problems, which abound in todays Western
society.
Cristian Romocea
Oxford, UK

The Last Peasants: Journeys


Asylum Seekers
Published: 05-Mar-2003
By: Channel 4
Channel 4 has released a new three-part series focusing on the subject of asylum seeking
from the immigrants perspective.
The Last Peasants takes one of the most important issues of the modern world - migration
- and explores it in intimate close-up. Newspaper headlines depict asylum seekers as a
faceless horde - this series tells the human story behind the headlines.
At the same time, The Last Peasants depicts the death of a culture that has survived two
World Wars and half a century of communism, but is dying after just a decade of
democracy.
Award-winning director Angus Macqueen and cameraman Roger Chapman gained access
to the lives of three families torn apart by the realities of migration.
More than 16 months in the making, the resultant series of programmes follows the
fortunes of a group of Romanians struggling to survive in Western Europe, and those of
the families they left behind.
The remote village of Budesti in Northern Romania is a world of medieval beliefs where
locals still see witches and demons lurking behind every tree. It is filled with horses and
carts, threshing machines and water mills. A world from the past that we in Britain see
only in costume dramas.
But for the young villagers there is no romance in their existence. Their eyes are turned
firmly to the modern world of the West.
In the opening scene of the first programme, Journeys, Ion Damian says: I will get there
in the end. It does not matter how. I will get to the West in the end.
The documentary encounters him as he arrives in Vienna after a terrifying five-hour
journey holding on to the bottom of a train. From there, the film follows his bid to reach
Paris en route to Dublin.

The programme also meets Mihaila, a young woman who works illegally as a cleaner in
Paris and whose home is a nightmarish, derelict warehouse.
These immigrants are desperate and lonely, but what is it that drives them? Mihailas
answer is brief: Money is the devil. Most plan to return to their homeland when they
have earned enough.
But economic advancement comes at a price. Ions brother, Petru, is working in Dublin,
his wife is in Paris and the strain of separation is destroying their relationship. Emotions
are brought to a head when Petrus father dies thousands of miles away in the village.
http://www.channel4.com/news/2003/special_reports/the_last_peasants.html
THINKTV
9th Mar 03
Newspaper headlines depict asylum seekers as a faceless hoard. This series tells the
human story behind the headlines, looking at the western world from the immigrant's
perspective. At the same time The Last Peasants depicts the death of a culture, which has
survived two World Wars and half a century of communism, but is dying after just a
decade of democracy. More than 16 months in the making, The Last Peasants tells the
story of a group of Romanians as they struggle to survive in Western Europe and of the
families they leave behind. Award-winning director Angus Macqueen and cameraman
Roger Chapman gained access to the lives of three families torn apart by the realities of
migration. The immigrants are desperate and lonely but what drives them? The Last
Peasants takes one of the most important issues of the modern world - migration - and
explores it in intimate detail.
This first programme of three tells the story of a group of Romanians as they struggle to
survive in Western Europe and of the families they leave behind.
http://www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/T/thinktv/comments/mar03_lastpeasants_co
mments.html