This visual story takes us to Guşteriţa/ Hammersdorf in the heart of Transylvania. A district of Sibiu since 1950, it is one of the oldest Transylvanian Saxon settlements in the area still preserving its original typical rural structure.
It features Earth in Your Hand, a 2004 documentary by Eva Stotz, a German filmmaker telling us an apparently simple story made with few words and silent scenes. In fact a whole world on the brink of disappearance is evoked. It begins with a close observation of the daily lives of the few Saxon inhabitants who did not follow the German diaspora soon after the collapse of Ceausescu’s regime and winds up wondering about the true meaning of “earth and motherland”. Stotz is interested in reporting stories of people striving to survive the impact of globalization, keen on recording different forms of human resistance. In a way she looks for clues of hidden social tensions, her narrative investigating the inner energy places and people emanate through their apparently plain existence.
More than a decade has gone by since the documentary was shot, changes have been occurring even in Guşteriţa and its older inhabitants have been joining their ancestors in the local graveyard. Yet I believe that the spirit of place is still there, as compelling and timeless as ever.
Between the collapse of the Ceausescu regime in December 1989 and the spring of 1990, half a million indigenous so-called “Saxons” fled Romania for West Germany. It was the most astonishing, and little reported, ethnic migration in modern Europe. In the seven towns and 250 villages of Saxon Land in southern Transylvania, no less than 90% of the German-speaking population packed its bags and committed eight centuries of history to memory. They drove west to a country few of them knew, enticed by the notorious “return to the fatherland” speech of the German politician, Hans-Dietrich Genscher.
Continue to read The forgotten Saxon world that is part of Europe’s modern heritage by Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, 2009