10 February 2020

The Last of Romania’s Transylvanian Saxon Communities

10 February 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

Exploring the secluded village of Richiș and its Saxon community in the heart of Transylvania, Romania, Davide Bertuccio’s documentary imagery traces a parallel between age-old traditions and globalisation.

“This is my house, but over there in Richiș, I feel at home.” This is, above all, the phrase that most aptly sums up the situation which Transylvania’s Saxons are currently experiencing. These are the words of Susanna, a Saxon of Romanian origin who’s now living in Nordheim, across the Neckar river, the last bulwark to overcome to get to their home in Germany.

Saxons are a community with German roots. Since the 11th century, together with Hungarians and Romanians, they’ve been living in the green heart of Romania. From this very land, a major migration is now taking place which marks the decline of centuries of history. Saxons are disappearing and their culture, their tongue, and traditions along with them.

After the 2nd World War and Ceaușescu's communist government, people of this community were forced to abandon their homes. Some wanted an ethnically homogeneous Romania. Richiș is one of the few villages not yet completely transformed by tourism, which is ruining the authenticity of these lands where the passing of time seems to have stopped. Cows and sheep are free to roam the roads. Life is not hectic. It is in Richiș that the journey of the Riemesh-Wachsmann family began. A journey that led them to cross many borders, only to lead them in the end back to the heart of Germany, where Saxons have their roots. A journey that didn’t scratch their ancestry and the fondness for that world, different from the one they were thrown in. Nordheim is in fact a new frantic world, made of success and money to be earned. An unusual way of life where the slow passing of time is nothing but a Romanian memory. Nowadays, the new German-born generation of Saxons travel back to Romania for holidays, to visit their grandparents. They reject their language, their roots, and traditions. They’re the future of Transylvania’s Saxons and none of them want to go back.

Across the River’s Flow aims to be a work about the disappearance of ethnic minorities, overwhelmed by the pace of modern life and globalisation. Saxons are an example of how authenticity is wiped out to make room for a fictitious daily routine and how entire ethnic groups and populations must surrender to outside forces such as racism. Racism has proved to be a major cause of imbalance throughout the history of these communities.

“I only know that when I’m with people my age, I have great stories to tell about my family. Stories different from theirs. Stories of a life spent in the fields, in close contact with nature. A life different from the one I’m currently living.” These are words of Johanna, a 15 year old Saxon girl born and growing up in Germany.

Words and Pictures by Davide Bertuccio.


Davide Bertuccio is an Italian photojournalist based in Milan. Since 2016, he has focused on the theme of globalisation, looking for stories that would give voice to the small realities crushed by that indefatigable desire for equality. Bertuccio, inserted in 2014 among the 10 best under 25 Italian talents, has been published by National Geographic and his works received national and international awards. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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