Dimitra Stasinopoulou is a Greek amateur photographer who has been in love with Romania for more than 15 years and who, in 2005, collected her photos about Romania in a book, a kind of visual “travelogue” capturing various picturesque spots of the country.
“Actually I started taking pictures 15 years ago in Romania, where we have a pharmaceutical company, only because I was trying to show the pictures with my friends in Greece who had a different opinion for the country I consider my second home. In 2005 I published my first book for Romania <Romania of my Heart> and then more followed, since I decided to travel in remote places of the world and coming back to share all these marvels with people who were not as lucky as I am,” Dimitra told us.
“More than 15 years after its first publication, my first book “Romania of my Heart” still hold the same magic for me. From the Danube Delta to the forest mountains and their crystal-clear springs. From the castles and monasteries of Bucovina, the hills and secluded valleys of Moldova and Maramures to the wonderful villages of Transylvania and the sea. I am very happy that these treasures of Romania are more and more appreciated by everyone. I continue to believe, especially in these difficult times, in the importance of celebrating the treasures of tradition and nature. It is because οf this, that I do not look for skyscrapers. Romania’s emblematic beauty is built (still) horizontally, stretching… like a miracle”.
Now she prepared an e-book unveiling the beauties of iconic Transylvania region.
“Here, I continue the journey that I started with “Romania of my Heart”, in a stubborn pursuit of primeval and real values. The steps of this album’s path do not seek images of wealth, technology, or modernity. These are images of primary authenticity. Light, color, vibrancy. Love and tranquility. That witch is fundamentally real. In the portraits of the people I met, one can see a hard life. A hard life, but not hard people. One can see an, I would say, optimistic sadness in some cases. However, one can also see stories that inspire an absolute feeling of joy. The joy of life weaved in vibrant colors of love. Without rejecting the influence of the new and different, tradition nevertheless engulfs and prevails here. The many sights bring back memories of times past. The beautiful folk dresses, worn with such pride, and the passion for traditional crafts are but a few such sights. People here still make a living at such time-honored occupations as shepherds, weavers, blacksmiths and carpenters.”
Dimitri recounts that, even though they have been clearly marked by the passage of time, the buildings reveal a rare beauty. “More than just conveying beauty, the outside and interior of buildings house a wealth of soul. The ever present churches, a constant and dominant part of the landscape, proves not just a deep connection to religion but also a precious historical record. This is southern Transylvania, a high plateau of wooded hills and valleys shielded by the Carpathian Mountains, where Transylvanian Saxon settlers and their descendants have farmed, traded and fought to preserve their land and traditions for more than 800 years. Romanian Saxon villages might be tiny, but the churches are mighty! After all the Saxon villages in Transylvania doubled as outposts used to defend trading routes through the countryside. Most of the churches are big enough to house villagers fleeing from invaders – sheep flocks, cow herds and family dogs included.”
According to the author, besides its beauty, the area is also an outstanding testimony to their 850-year-old culture. “The apparently unstoppable process of emigration by the Saxons, the social stratum which had formed and upheld the cultural traditions of the region, threatens the survival of their architectural heritage as well. This area of the Carpathians, is one of the last unspoiled and untouched areas in the world. All the great scenery of the mountains, castles and fortified churches are still in their place for almost a millennium. Tales about vampires, werewolves and witches are still very popular in these peaks and forests. After all, this is the home land of the famous Dracula that more than a century ago the writer Bram Stoker made famous all over the world.”
Dimitra reminds that UNESCO has designated some of the Saxon churches as world heritage sites, but not the villages. “With no money for repairs and no enforcement, such designation carries little weight. There is thus a race to save the most endangered pre-industrial landscape in Europe from poverty-stricken newcomers understandably eager for modernity. HRS Charles, The Prince of Wales has special affection for Romania, a country he visits regularly for nearly twenty years. In 2015, he decided to set up his own charity in the country to take forward a number of projects he cares deeply about such as the preservation of Romania’s architectural heritage, supporting small farmers and the creation of small enterprises in the countryside. The Charity engages with rural communities in particular and offers many courses from heritage restoration to cooking and start-ups every year.”
For the author, the pictures encompassed in the her e-book of Transylnania are the proof of her love for a country she met many years ago and which, in the meantime, became a second home, where lifetime friendships were built.
“It is mainly the spirit and soul of these people and what they have created I tried to document. In their day to day moments and in their eyes shines Romania of tradition and potential. They are open, simple, generous, optimistic, and despite their concerns, they maintain their dignity and pride.”