Embassy reaches out to its own

The Romanian Embassy in Oslo has arguably had more than its share of dealing with a less-than flattering image of its citizens in Norway. Ambassador Daniel Ionita decided it was time to instead turn the spotlight on some highly educated and successful resident countrymen, and opened up the embassy on Monday with a ceremony and art exhibit to do so.

Romanian Ambassador Daniel Ionita delivering one of five diplomas to Horia Cernusca at the embassy on Monday, part of an effort to showcase "Young and Successful Romanians in Norway." PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Romanian Ambassador Daniel Ionita delivering one of five diplomas to Horia Cernusca at the embassy on Monday, part of an effort to showcase “Young and Successful Romanians in Norway.” PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

It’s not always easy being the ambassador from a country that often grabs headlines for all the wrong reasons. Ionita arrived in Oslo in October 2011, just in time to see hundreds of people with Romanian passports land on the front pages of newspapers for their illegal camping around the city, their occupation of a church and their forced moves to new but temporary havens. The debate continues in cities all over the country over how to help poverty-stricken Europeans who’ve been arriving in Norway, or how to chase them away. Over the weekend, one of the political parties forming Norway’s government, the Center Party, actually approved an effort to close Norway’s borders, a move aimed especially at keeping out “organized criminal elements” tied to eastern Europe.

Ionita and Vasile Ungureanu, deputy head of mission at the Romanian Embassy, were candid about their desire to shift the spotlight over to many other Romanians who often are overlooked. Ionita thus awarded diplomas on Monday to five young Romanians whom he called “extremely talented” and who make a valuable contribution to Norwegian society, instead of threatening it. “We want to promote their image in the kingdom of Norway,” said Ionita.

Ambassador Daniel Ionita with three of the embassy's honorees: Diana-Christina Iancu (left), Horia Cernusca and Cristina Moldovan. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Ambassador Daniel Ionita with three of the embassy’s honorees: Diana-Cristina Iancu (left), Horia Cernusca and Cristina Moldovan. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

They included Horia Cernusca, a 25-year-old Romanian living in Oslo who recently beat out the competition at an event for entrepreneurs in Oslo with what’s dubbed a “revolutionary slideshow tool” called Swwwipe. Horia intends to build a company like Dropbox or Basecamp.

Another young Romanian in Norway who caught the attention of the embassy is Diana-Cristina Iancu, who arrived in Norway in 2009 after winning a scholarship to get her master’s degree in financial economics at the Norwegian Business School BI (Handelshøyskolen BI). Now she’s working for state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) and involved in a research project on entrepreneurship in Norway, especially for women. Results of the research will help shape Norwegian tax policy and programs to nurture start-ups.

The business school BI figured in the education and careers of two other honorees as well: Cristina Moldovan, who studied for her masters degree in finance at BI and also is involved in start-ups, and Dragos Talvescu, who also studied for his masters at BI and now is heavily involved in climate issues, working full time for a specialized energy consulting company that offers advice to companies and public authorities on commercial and strategic issues.

Neither Talvescu nor Raluca Popescu, a project manager for Visma Software, could attend Monday’s ceremony because of business travel and commitments, so a colleague of Talvescu and Popescu’s spouse collected their diplomas. Popescu and her colleagues defined and developed an acclaimed keyword-driven automation test framework, according to the embassy, and she’s behind the “Foundations of Software Testing” at the masters and doctoral levels at the University of Oslo.

Urged to come home
Mariana Campeanu, a Romanian government minister in charge of labour issues who was visiting Oslo this week, said she was happy to join in honouring the winners of the embassy’s “Young and Successful Romanians in Norway” program but said she’s also sorry they’re working in Norway given a shortage of highly educated and qualified Romanians in Romania. Campeanu said it was “very sad” that so many young and talented people have left Romania and she hopes they’ll return home some day. “They will remain forever Romanians,” said Campeanu, whose government has been criticized in Norway for failing to assist poor Romanians who also leave, many of them Roma. The Norwegian government has also been sending financial aid earmarked for aid to Roma in Romania.

The embassy also honoured five Romanian artists who all are living and working in Norway, several as teachers as well as active painters. They included Victoria Adriana Babadac, Doru Dumitrescu, Mina Anca Daniela, Georgeta Onofrei and Maria Alina Pasca, the latter who also teaches Norwegian in Sandvika, west of Oslo. Their art will be on exhibit at the embassy through the end of the year. Romanian artist Calina Pandele Yttredal, whose work already adorns the embassy as well as buildings like the Rica Seilet Hotel in Molde, was an invited guest as well.

April 8 was also the international day for the Roma people, many of whom have Romanian passports but otherwise nurture their own culture and identity. As the embassy function attracted its crowd, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that despite recent bloody conflicts among Roma families in Oslo, many were gathering for the fourth year in a row at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo for an official commemoration, supported by the Norwegian government. Another event was being hosted in Trondheim.

Tone Karlgård, a university lecturer who helped arrange the Oslo event, said the museum had contacted charitable organization Kirkens Bymisjon to help spread the word among Roma who recently have arrived in Oslo that they were invited to participate. “They’re not here to party, though,” Karlgård told NRK. “Nor do many feel presentable enough to take part.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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