October 2004. Sibiu, Romania.
I was aimlessly wandering the cobbled streets of the medieval Transylvanian Saxon city of Sibiu, Romania, when i can across these two Roma women in a side door of a hospital. There was something that intrigued me and I asked them politely if they would pose for me, they obliged, feeling quite pleased that i’d asked them. The daughter asked me if I could help in anyway with paying for her operation. I told her no, unfortunately I couldn’t. She then told me in broken English that although it was a state-funded hospital, and there was a Romanian public health system, back-hander money was still needed pass on to the treating doctors to ensure proper speedy treatment. Corruption in other words. Sadly, public healthcare professionals only got paid peanuts, and a culture prevailed, only too often encountered in ex-eastern bloc states, of having to bribe healthcare professionals, and not only, the rot runs through the whole of society. I personally know it still does to this day.
Hopefully, the woman got her treatment, and is now well and happy. In the photo, she appears proud, head raised, almost defiant. Romania opened my eyes to Roma people. It had been the first time I had approached any to talk to. I believe this photo challenges a certain stereotypical negative image of Roma. Yes, they had asked me for help, but other non-Roma patients had asked me the same.
Andrzej Krauze, Veteran political cartoonist for the Polish trade union Solidarnosc during the 1980′s. Now a contributor to ‘The Guardian’ Rzeczpospolita etc. Pictured in his Chelsea studio. November 2012. ©Stan Kujawa
Profesor Aleksandra Jasińska-Kania, daughter of Boleslaw Bierut, the first post-war President of Poland. Photographed in Leeds, UK. December 2012. Published in Newsweek Polska, Christmas edition 2012.