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Facebook Hill

With a population of just over 10,000, Poienile de sub Munte is the largest village in Romania, most of whose inhabitants are part of Romania’s Ukrainian minority. Unlike the rest of the country, and especially rural areas which have seen a falling population,  Poeinile’s has grown slightly over the past 20 years.

Bucking the trend of rural decline, this village is very much alive, with much commotion and a constant coming and going of villagers. People carry, pull, run, push, ride, work and busily go about their daily business. Even on the outskirts of this sprawling village, a number of kilomtres from its centre, there’s still much activity and life.

In the South, on the edge of Valea Cvasnitei, houses are bunched together either side of a narrow road that is barely  wide enough for a car to pass through. From here outward there is no phone signal or mains elecricity. Homesteads spread out into the surrounding mountains, some reachable in 10 minutes, others in an hour, assuming that you are able to keep up with the local people’s long, heavy stride.

Until a few years ago the road was only accessible by horse and cart. Now, a decent 4x4 can navigate the route and many villagers have invested in cars to make their lives a little easier, especially the younger ones who increasingly search for work abroad. They tend to only travel away out of season, though, as they are too involved in the agricultural calendar of village to stay away for too long.

In this series, Petrut Calinescu documents the life of a small community about an hour’s walk from the main village of Poienile de sub Munte which consists of houses scattered around the mountainside. The place has no name and doesn’t even appear on most maps. Some people call it Dardila’s Hill, after the name of a former owner but the young call it Facebook Hill as this is one of the few places in the area where teh 3G signal is good enough for using social media.

It’s also a place with a view so locals come up here to have barbecues and on weekends, young people congregate and post pictures of themselves having fun. Many of the inhabitants of this remote community also have houses in the lower village but there they’re not able to keep animals and have gardens where they can grow their own food.

Despite the hardship an inaccessibility, people like to keep cows and grow onions and potatoes – pretty much the only crops that will grow in this mountainous soil. To ward off the wild boar that like to dig up their produce, villagers surround their fields with empty beer cans and tins strung up on wires that rattle in the wind and scare away the intruders.

Nobody seems to mind the hardship of living in these mountains. It is as if they haven’t had their fill of the amazing views. For younger villagers things are changing fast and as the road into the hills is being extended, many are keen to get 4x4s so they can come and go more easily. Life in the village is not about making money – hardly anyone does. It’s about survival. And for the young, who want to come and go more easily, any vehicle will do, as long as the cars can navigate these often treacherous roads. The UK is a popular destination for workers wanting to make money as agricultural or construction workers and many are happy to bring back right hand drive cars, as they tend to be cheaper.

As time goes by, its difficult to imagine that the next generation will continue to live as their parents did. Cin Dimitru, 13, spends much of this time at the sheepfold up in the mountains with his after. He says he wants to become a border guard; or any other job where he gets to drive a 4x4.
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