Migrationlab Business in Residence @KLUMP Subtopia, Sweden

Migrationlab Business in Residence @KLUMP Subtopia, Sweden

I spent the last 10 days in Stockholm; Alby – a suburb in Botkyrka Municipality within Stockholm- and Falun, a city 3 hours away from Stockholm, best known for its copper mining. The reason was a Business in Residence programme, enabled by the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and organized by KLUMP Subtopia, an incubator for cultural and social initiatives.

Here's what I learned.

migrationlab at Idea Camp 2015

migrationlab at Idea Camp 2015

migrationlab's "Welcome to The Living Room" concept was selected one of 50 most daring and innovative ideas, that uses culture in order to build inclusive communities in Europe. And I was invited to further work and develop this idea at the Idea Camp, one of the most inspirational programmes I've been to this year.

      Between the travels and the organization of migrationlab's presence in 3 different countries in the next 2 months, I am of course trying to stay up to date on the refugees situation in Europe at the moment and process everything that is going on.    Behind the economic facts, the political discourse in its hunt for votes, mass media manipulation and social media frenzy there is one essential aspect I feel is somehow forgotten: the emotional and psychological implication of these events on all of us whether refugees, migrants, minorities or locals, whether we live in the West or the East in the North or the South or we traveled from afar.  Being in touch with our emotions and the way we handle them and our thoughts influence our actions. We tend to forget that the way we think and feel inside shapes our outside world. And in this very difficult times, our emotions are quite mixed: anger, fear, trauma, the feeling of being invaded, the fear of loosing your identity, the feeling of loosing your culture, the feeling of not having anything to go back to, the feeling of not belonging anywhere anymore, the feeling of having to begin a new life away from everything you know, the fear of the unknown, the fear of having to deal with people from different cultures, the joy you survived a war and a crossing in a shaky boat over the Mediterranean, the endless pain of loosing your loved ones in the crossing, the sadness and disappointment of feeling unwelcomed in one land, the joy and hope of seeing people cheering and singing on your arrival in another land, the tiredness, the exhaustion, the feeling of not knowing what's next.  I believe that our collective challenges nowadays is to learn to live outside our comfort zones. To acknowledge that in order to be able to live together in all our variety in a common space we need to make a change about how we look at and think about each other. We need to be kind and patient with ourselves and each other. We need to learn and think before placing judgements. We need to practice empathy. We need to learn tolerance. We need to change our perceptions and challenge our stereotypes and prejudices, be more curious, stay informed, filter the information we receive, be active and involve ourselves in activities or projects that address this current issue or simply start our own initiatives. We need to start learning to see the beauty and benefits in the diversity not only problems and burdens. We need to open our eyes and minds if we want to peacefully coexist in Europe from now on.  Inspired by my own experience of migration, my goal with migrationlab from its very beginning was to give a voice to all of us internationally known as migrants, refugees, minorities or host communities/locals no matter our cultural and professional backgrounds; to introduce the individual behind the nationality, the political context, the geographical provenience, the stereotypes and give them a humane face; to share our stories and learn about each other in order to get closer. All this in an attempt to cancel the fear of the other and to accept one another.  Because recently I've been asked if I was planning anything special with migrationlab to address the current refugees situation, I will of course involve myself in any way I can depending on my location, as I'm quite mobile at the moment, but my main focus is and will be on continuing to carry on what I started with migrationlab: bring people together in spaces that we can call home, give them a voice and together find solutions for improving the intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding between communities across Europe. Everything I do at migrationlab is about bringing a change in the way we perceive migration with the involvement of all parts concerned; to inspire and invite to acceptance, understanding and tolerance between people of different cultures and present migration in a positive and creative way.   I can tell you how difficult that is especially when there's no or very little financial means. I can tell you how hard it is to run a social project, to organize activities not only in 1 country but in 3 at the same time. How much work it is without having a team behind, but fortunately wonderful friends and partners who help me in any way they can. I can tell you how psychology straining it is for me as well sometimes to meet and talk to some of the migrants or refugees, to hear their stories and emotional and psychological struggles; some of them are able to contribute but others simply can't as emotionally it is still too hard for them. But the kind of hardships I encounter is nothing compared to what these refugees are going through. So, I'm not complaining. I'm taking all the strength and motivation from these brave people, no different than you and I in wanting to rebuild their lives and simply have a chance to peace. Look how they inspire already!  We might be all under an emotional and psychological shock at the moment, but this shock needs to be accompanied by action, as rightfully suggests this  article . At the moment I'm also in the middle of processing everything that happens around me and at the same time I'm also deeply into the organization of migrationlab's activities coming up very soon as it follows:   Sept 23 - 25,  Idea Camp   - Botkyrka Sweden - for 3 days I'll be working together with other Ideas Makers in order to develop our projects which address migration challenges through culture.  Sept 25 - Oct 4,  Vienna Design Week  - Austria -  Welcome to the Living Room: 10 days of activities, workshops, cultural events and performances in Vienna's 10th district, called Favoriten, also the most densely populated district with a majority of immigrant population. A district where the different communities are segregated and which the neighbourhood itself is quite separated from the rest of the city. I will be there together with  Verein08  and  Storialab  to invite to Exchange worlds. Re-discover and Re-connect.   October 22 - The Hague, Netherlands - Welcome to the Living Room @ GEMAK art gallery as part of the ‪Spotlight‬:Romania, a showcase of Romanian cinema and documentary photography on show in the Hague throughout October. Also the first project of @eastwards.nl cultural initiative by two inspiring Romanians, Corina Burlacu (@corinaburlacu) and Bianca Olivia Nita (@biancaolivia29). More details coming soon.  There is much work to do, your help these days and in the future is much needed and you can get involved in many ways. At migrationlab I need  all the help  I can get. Because:  We are all Humans and we all deserve a chance to peace!  From The Hague with love,   Laura   

Our collective challenges nowadays is to learn to live outside our comfort zones. To acknowledge that in order to be able to live together in all our variety in a common space we need to make a change about how we look at and think about each other. We need to be kind with ourselves and each other. We need to learn and think before placing judgements. We need to start learning to see the beauty and benefits in the diversity not only problems and burdens. We need to open our eyes and minds if we want to peacefully coexist in Europe from now on.

8 years abroad

8 years abroad

While you are out of your comfort zone and everything you know, you need to practice understanding, you need to be able to carry your roots with you while the new you is taking over. You need to understand who you are and where you're coming from. Otherwise "you" becomes <me> and "they" become <they> and in between is just hate and anger.

Welcome to Europe! A Romanian Austrian Dutch Story

Welcome to Europe! A Romanian Austrian Dutch Story

I arrived in Austria in the summer of 2007. Not on January 1st like many European countries feared, even 7 years later. No, on January 1st, 2007 I was in Piata Universitatii in Bucharest (University Square) and celebrated what the Romanian newspapers at the time called "The New Year's Eve of Integration". Alongside French friends and other thousands of Romanians, I was taking part in a historic moment for Romania: its accession to the European Union 18 years after the fall of Communism.

Domestic Products

Domestic Products

4 young Romanian professionals teamed up in order to tackle the issues of discrimination and abuse the Filipino domestic workers face in Romania and give them a voice. Produse Domestice (Domestic Products) is a play about domestic work and migration which premiered in Bucharest on October 17th, with a second representation being set for October 25th at WASP-Working Art Space and Production. The leading actress is a Filipino engineer who came to Romania to work as a housekeeper. The play is based on the true story of Ynia and is produced by young Romanian theatre director Ioana Paun, writer Xandra Popescu, journalist Laura Stefanut and artist/composer Catalin Rulea.

Discrimination at work

Discrimination at work

Two years ago I was in Paris with an Austrian delegation for an event my company organized in collaboration with Polish partners. I was part of the management in a private company in Vienna and I regularly organized events in Cannes, Paris and Frankfurt. The day before the event, we were invited by our Polish partners to an exquisite dinner in one of the oldest restaurants in Paris. In total, we were people of four nationalities: Austrian, Polish, French and me, the Romanian.

On Identity

On Identity

I remember that I have never thought of leaving Romania, but if by any circumstance this was to happen, I knew that the country I would go to would be without any doubt France. Till this day, I keep a deep connection to this land, its people and language. France has always felt familiar to me, a comfortable feeling of being at home every time I was there. And I believe that all of this is rooted in my first visit to a small village near Paris, called Escrennes, while on a school program. My first time ever in Europe, in Western Europe, 4 years after the fall of Communism in Romania. That was in 1993 and I was 12 years old.

      I can’t properly start this project without writing about how it even came to life. 
 Earlier this year, I moved to a new country, The Netherlands, after spending the past 6 and a half years of my life in Vienna, Austria. It was a big step to take, as meantime Austria became my home, my other home besides the Romanian one, but as equally important. It felt right to leave though and joining my Austrian partner in The Hague played an essential role in my decision. 
 Going through the accommodation process and basically having plenty of time for myself, I started to explore the issues of identity particularly how mine has been shaped through the years as a result of living in two different countries and interacting with people from different cultures. At that point I had no idea that I was slowly starting to build the basis for this project. 
  Few months later, during a summer holiday trip to Vienna, I had one of the most bizarre conversations in German with a Serbian taxi driver. The talk, a completely comic malentendu, not only made me feel like we were characters in a Woody Allen twisted film, but it also got me thinking: here there are two members of two different ethnic groups who live in a country that is not of their origin (every time I go back to Austria it feels like I still live there) and try to communicate in a different language from their own. And they somehow fail to pass the right messages, but this doesn’t stop them to have a polite conversation and laugh together. The story still hunts me with questions on inter-cultural communication and inter-cultural sensitivity, and I will dedicate a separate post to it, as it rightfully deserves so. 
 This particular experience, which happened few hours after I met an old friend of mine who was encouraging me to start writing about my migrant experiences in Austria while exploring essential issues that come with it, was the final confirmation that the time has come to start a project. So, I am ready and I expect this will be quite a ride!

I can’t properly start this project without writing about how it even came to life.

Earlier this year, I moved to a new country, The Netherlands, after spending the past 6 and a half years of my life in Vienna, Austria. It was a big step to take, as meantime Austria became my home, my other home besides the Romanian one, but as equally important. It felt right to leave though and joining my Austrian partner in The Hague played an essential role in my decision.