This is the second of a series of articles about my personal experiences of how an NVC International Intensive Training (IIT) comes together. The article is about the IIT we are hosting in Romania from 20-29th October 2015 and my hope is this will also be of interest and support to participants and organisers of past, present and future IITs.

Find out more about what an IIT is HERE  and find out about our Romanian IIT HERE.

I’m often asked why, being British, I live in Romania – especially when many Romanians dream of living in keep-calm-and-love-romania-51Western Europe. My response is always that I’m here because of love. While this doesn’t tell the whole story, it is the truth.

My love affair with Romania started when I first visited in 1995 to run management training for a large corporation. At the time I was fascinated by the contrasts such as the beauty of the countryside and the ugliness of so many of the post-war buildings. Or the obvious affection for children and their neglect in the state institutions that came to light after the revolution. Or how a nation of dog lovers lives with packs of stray dogs roaming the streets. Or how the charm, warmth, generosity,  openness and hospitality I experience so often in the people I meet, seems to disappear the moment they are in a position of authority.

I visited the country regularly over the years since 1995 and this fascination gradually changed into love. It took an unexpected turn when I met Mona, a Romanian, in 2006 and we fell in love. It seemed the hand of fate was somehow guiding me to live here – and indeed Romania – and more specifically, Bucharest, is now my home.

Marshall, Valentina and Mona (2006)

Marshall, Valentina and Mona (2006)

Mona was active spreading NVC when we met, inviting NVC trainers to Romania (including Marshall among others), publishing NVC books and writing articles in the press. A mutual desire to learn and share NVC brought Mona and I together in the first place and is still a core part of our lives.

Our NVC Association was incorporated in 2007 at about the same time I finished my Certification and Mona shortly afterwards. We started reaching out with NVC on a bigger scale and now this International Intensive Training in October marks an important step up for us in the work we’re doing here.

Why Come to Romania for an IIT?

Practically speaking Romania is easy to get to as it’s well served by the major European airlines (regular and budget) and it’s relatively inexpensive compared to the rest of Europe, which means the accommodation costs for the IIT are not so high.

Despite this, unless  you have a personal connection with Romania, it may not be an obvious location for someone considering an IIT.

I would like to offer some personal perspectives and some dreams for this IIT in the hope there is something that inspires you – or at least attracts your curiosity and wish to discover more.

Healing and Letting Go

_59749595_rom_uprising_1989Bordering Ukraine and the former Yugoslav countries, Romania is no stranger to proximity to recent conflicts and violence. The Romanian revolution of 1989 that overthrew and executed Ceaușescu was the only violent one of all the regime changes that year and the revolution came after decades of a political order based on fear, distrust and control over people’s lives.

The post-war regime in Romania is often regarded as the most oppressive of all former Soviet Bloc countries. To give a few examples:

  • Romania maintained zero foreign debt mainly by exporting basic provisions needed by Romanians, resulting in mass shortages, rationing and impoverishment of an already poor country.
  • A brutal and pervasive system of secret police, informers and bugging in public places was designed to suppress any and all dissent.
  • A policy to increase population removed birth control, outlawed abortion, taxed childless adults and forcibly examined working women for signs of pregnancy – pregnant women were then placed on a watch list to ensure they went to full term.

I have no doubt that for most, life was challenging and difficult and given this I’m surprised by how little it is talked about. I imagine there is a lot of untold trauma and unhealed pain from those times and its aftermath.  I would add to this reconciliation still needed between the different players in the old regime and between the younger generations and their parents who lived through it.

In the context of an NVC Intensive Training I see plenty of rich opportunities for healing, empathy practice, reconciliation and letting go of the past – whether you are Romanian or not.

Creating the Future

Although the revolution was over 25 years ago, in my opinion the country is still in the process of finding itself.

No clear, visionary leadership has emerged in the political sphere and politicians generally are distrusted and believed to be corrupt and self-serving. Many of the changes in the country have been led by foreign investment, chiefly multi-national corporations. Shopping malls and fancy office buildings are everywhere without anything to identify them as especially Romanian. The stores are at least now full of food but there is still widespread poverty and even the basics of life are a struggle for many.

While it may be ambitious to believe a single IIT can make much difference to shape the future there are already many people who are creating the future – through raising children – and many of them are involved in NVC and already signed up to come to the IIT. These are parents, educators, school directors and those working in humanitarian NGO’s supporting children at risk or in dire situations.

There is a compelling reason children are the focus for the future here.

Romania made international news in 1990 after the revolution when it was discovered how children in state institutions were being treated. The laws of the Ceaușescu era designed to promote population growth had resulted in many parents effectively forced to produce children they could not care for. Many of these were abandoned to severely underfunded ‘orphanages’ or hospitals and later on abandoned to the streets. This was horrifying to those outside Romania and equally so to Romanians themselves.

Now we have many parents and educators coming to our workshops and conferences determined to raise their children in compassion and respect and change many of the ‘traditional’ approaches to parenting and education that are still sadly all too common.

I’ve been very touched by those who choose something different and they find in NVC both a set of principles to help guide them and practices to help live those principles. We have reached thousands, if not tens of thousands, of parents through conferences, workshops, radio, TV and magazines.

If you have a passion for raising children compassionately whether as a parent, educator or as a fellow human being, at this IIT you will find community and plenty of opportunity to share and learn from each other.

International Healing

In Europe and beyond, Romania is regarded on the whole in a negative light.  A land of beggars and thieves who cannot be trusted and who abuse their children. The countryside is poor, backward and full of vampires (literally). The cities are dirty, crowded and dangerous.

A few years ago I was working with some employees at the European Commission in Luxembourg. I remember one lady, a senior Civil Servant from Romania sadly telling the story of an encounter in a local grocery store. The shop keeper had started a conversation and been very friendly and helpful until she asked where this lady was from. On hearing ‘Romania’ she suddenly became very cold and refused to serve her. I believe most Romanians living abroad will have experienced similar reactions.

Whenever I hold a stereotype in my mind I believe I fail to see the human being in front of me. When this happens I not only de-humanise the other but I also de-humanise myself.

I see this IIT as a unique opportunity for those outside Romania to get in touch with the beauty and depth of people we might initially discount as beggars or thieves.

8cdd3909734d2bab54d3569e98851b3fIt is also a chance to taste a different culture. One with a long history of art, folk tradition and simple living combined with a love of music, poetry and story-telling.  A people who long to play and to laugh and be loved and to love. Who care deeply for their families, sometimes struggle to make ends meet and have a resilience to cope with adversity.

And maybe those who come to Romania from abroad will take home with them stories and experiences that will start to change how the country is perceived and reduce some of the distrust and fear that only comes from ‘not knowing’.

Find out about our Romanian IIT HERE.

Read the previous article in the series HERE.