Five Manchester University Students and their faithful Parish Assistant had adventures in Romania. Here is an account, with apologies to Enid Blyton’s more Famous Five.
‘Golly!’ exclaimed Alice, ‘I didn’t realise it was going to be as hot as this.’
‘Romania is ever such a hot country at this time of year’, explained Lisa as they left Bucharest Airport and climbed into the back of the van that was to take them several hours north to ‘Pro Vita’ in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.
Before long, they had arrived at ‘Pro Vita’ a small village at the end of a track off the main road. The village was founded in the early ’90s by Father Tanase, a Romanian Orthodox Priest and his family to look after children, young women, adults with learning difficulties, elderly people and families who would not be able to support themselves.
‘Welcome to Pro Vita’ came a cheery, welcoming sort of voice from the porch of Casa Tyrol, the house in which the volunteers stay, ‘I’ll show you to your rooms.’
‘Fancy having this beautiful view all to ourselves!’ remarked Thom standing on the balcony of his room. Below was a small patch of scrub with beetroots and onions and all around were the smells of a bustling community and the dogs and flies that seemed to be in equal abundance.
The next few days were busy for the five with plenty of game playing with the children of all ages. Thom played football with the older boys and the girls seemed to make a never ending stream of friendship bracelets and craft activities.
The five from Manchester made great friends with the volunteers from America, Scotland and France and joined them in making the football pitch safe from dangerous litter such as glass and razor blades, cleaning the river of waste and toxic burnt rubbish, and painting the wooden balconies on the houses.
The evenings were spent chatting, sitting around the campfire, playing cards and drinking rather less than ‘lashings’ of raw plum brandy. ‘I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a sight so lovely’, marvelled Katie as the sky above her was filled with stars and a cool, comforting blanket fell over the village in the valley with a little chapel on each hilltop either side.
One night the five were invited for a hair-raising ride on the back of a pony cart, normally used for hay, fuel and other things. Never ones to turn down an adventure, they found themselves shouting with excitement and pleasure as they bounced along rough country tracks up to a shepherds’ camp on the hillside. Before their return journey, they had just enough time for games, a spot of traditional shepherds supper (cornmeal and salted goats’ cheese) and to help with the evening milking. ‘You were definitely the best milker, Becky’, conceded Katie in a spirit of fair play that was inevitable after such a fun adventure.
‘Next stop Bucharest!’ exclaimed Becky, articulating the excitement of the whole group as they left Pro Vita, not without sadness, for the capital city.
‘I wonder what it’s like?’ Lisa said, thinking aloud…
Fr Patrick Irwin, Anglican Chaplain to Bucharest, met them outside his Church shortly after lunchtime, ‘Hullo!’ he said cheerily, ‘Welcome to Bucharest, there are lots of things to see and do…’
For the next day or so the little party explored Bucharest and explored the sights, with pleasure and curiosity, just as one might a remote Cornish Cove when you’ve got it all to yourself.
‘Well, what a jolly holiday that was!’ Alice said, speaking for them all, as they landed back in Manchester. Jack, their faithful Parish Assistant, barked in agreement.
Lisa, one of the students kept a blog too. You can read it here.