A hole in the ground. A border between two parallel universes.
When I first visited their subterranean house in Bucharest city centre, I never expected that, over time, I would become part of their family. Children, aged up to forty years, were the street tribe of Gara de Nord.
Trained by violence, they have learned to growl in order to be heard. Many of them, growing up without parents and in social exclusion, bear the marks of early-discovered addiction, disease and prison. Sometimes it seems they rush towards death on purpose, and sadly someone has truly told me so.
Yet, by themselves, they have learned the values of hospitality and sharing. In search of affection and safety, these kids have given each other mutual support gathering around a fatherly and authoritative figure. With a few rules, easily misunderstood by the ‘civilized’ world, they managed to found a small community opposed to the society above ground.
The leading figure of the group, a charismatic and experienced man called Bruce Lee, spent the last years trying to provide a comfortable house for his family. He was proud to show their struggle for self-sustenance, despite being neglected by the rest of the world. As if they were natives of the street, they sought survival through the resources that were available to them. But in July 2015 local authorities arrested Bruce Lee and many others. Accused of organized crime and drug trafficking, they will be sentenced to 10-20 years in prison.
For two years I lived on the streets of Bucharest with one of the most marginalized communities in Europe. I witnessed a complex reality, in which illegality and drugs were largely the side effects of a process of adaptation to their marginalization. With this work I would like to enable the audience to imagine what underground life was like in Gara de Nord, without their eyes being clouded by pity, judgment or fear, and make them part of a personal encounter.
One Girl’s Tunnel Life: Under the Streets of Bucharest Bucureşti, RomaniaJune, 2015