[A]t 0 km from the Danube, Sulina’s old lighthouse is only a symbol. The eastern gate of the European Union since the accession of Romania in 2007, it illuminates no more cargo. The European Danube Commission has gone, and with it a host of traders: Turkish, Greek, German, French, Russian, etc. Since this period, Sulina has paid dearly for the isolation that once made its fortune. Accessible only by boat, 2 to 5 hours of navigation are necessary to approach its shores since Tulcea, the main town of the “judets” 71 km away.
Partially destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, the city has been redesigned by the traditional communist architecture of Ceausescu. A factory of canned fish established, the port has regained its status as free and the shipyard has been reinvigorated. After 1989, the port has lost three quarters of its business with the recovery of taxes and the opening of the new channel from Constanta. The shipyard was sold to a private company which employs less than fifty workers. It turned into a field of metal shells ripped and rusted by time. The global economic crisis has reduced the steel prices. As for the canned fish factory, its doors were closed in 1996 after 7 years of agony, leaving a huge playground for children, dogs and lost horses.
Ceausescu “is a taboo subject” confesses Mihaela Reva, high school French teacher. “When I was a child, there was nothing in the stores (…) we were hungry. Last year has been very hard”. Twenty years later, she has no regrets. The Older generations reminisce wistfully about a prosperous era in which “everyone was working”. For them, freedom is no more than an anachronistic concept, almost bourgeois. Florica Gheorghe, retired from the canning factory: “Today, people who use the freedom to travel do it to earn money they cannot find here”. (Anaïs Coignac)
(Julien Pebrel | Sulina, the European Far-East, PRIVATE 53 – Hope, pages 20-23)