Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Versailles of Bucharest

Visiting the People's Palace left me conflicted in a similar way to my first visit to Versailles. On that occasion I was disturbed by the knowledge that so many people had been living in poverty while the nobility lived amidst gilded luxury. The final King, Louis XVI, and his unhappy wife, Marie Antoinette were taken away by force and eventually beheaded.

Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena built this enormous building in Bucharest, as their personal residence.  Their people too were living in poverty and hunger. And these rulers were also executed.  

This building is enormous.
There are 1000 rooms, many of them large halls and auditoriums.

Long kilometers of underground tunnels hide beneath the palace, including an atomic bomb proof bunker.  
Although much of the labor was conscripted, and even done by the military, there is much beauty within.
All materials are from Romania and the artisans executed their work with artistry and skill.  Today it houses the Romanian Parliament.
As we listened to our tour guide and asked her questions we began to become aware of immense contradictions. She herself was conflicted, considering that perhaps Communism wasn't entirely bad, because a strong central government gets things done. She said that in her opinion, freedom is hard to manage, and a society needs to learn how to use it.  

We have continued to talk to our Romanian contacts here in Lupeni. Our guide in Bucharest, Adi, had never been to the building, and during the tour he hung back, clearly uncomfortable.  We have heard stories of what Jack, one of our project managers on the ropes course, calls "learned helplessness."  Adults today are less likely to try to be agents for change. They are used to the idea that the government is responsible for making things better, and individuals are helpless to effect change. That's why the people we are helping are working with youth. Young Romanians are willing to act to make changes in their society. 

The New Horizons Foundation is a bright star in Romania. We are proud to help them work with the youth of Romania. 

1 comment:

  1. Good Morning, Allegra, from an oppressively hot Cape Ann. Hoping you are cooler in the mountains of Romania. Loving all the photos and blog posts. Pray everyone is well and happy together. Love,