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I love Romania

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To Dutch Harry van der Bruk Romania has become his home, after settling in a village of the southern county of Giurgiu and opening a cattle farm, carrying on his family’s tradition.

Photo credit: (c) CAMELIA BIGAN / AGERPRES STREAM

The 33-year-old Dutch has inherited his love for animals from his parents, as it has been handed down from generation to generation. After working in the Netherlands and the US, the young man decided to come to Romania, where he used his experience to open a farm at Naipu and another one in Slobozia.

‘I have chosen Romania of all the countries. I graduated from an animal husbandry faculty in 2003, after which I practised for six months in the US and six month in Romania, in Deva, but in the end I chose Romania because I like it very much as a country; I like its people and opportunities. In the Netherlands and the US there are full-blown systems with strict rules where it is hard to get. Everything is well established there and there is no more room to get in the system. The opportunities in Romania are greater than in the US or the Netherlands,’ the Dutch farmer says.

He says he first came to Giurgiu County in Romania as a manager and opened his first farm in the village of Naipu, after which he acquired another farm in Slobozia. He admits that prices are also much smaller in Romania: one hectare of land costs 80,000 euros in the Netherlands, while in Romania he paid up to 3,000 euros for one hectare.

‘I started up with a farm in 2004, at Naipu, where we own 1,000 hectares, and two years later we bought land in Slobozia as well, where we now have 200 hectares of land, we started with 100 own cows from the family’s farm, money from our parents, no bank loan, and now we have 1,600 cows with calves,’ he says.

To reach Harry’s farm in Slobozia we followed the indications of a local villager, who waxes poetic about the Dutch young man, saying he is proud to know him, because the farmer is employing some 20 locals, paying them European wages, because ‘Dutch people mean business.’

Photo credit: (c) CAMELIA BIGAN / AGERPRES STREAM

Harry’s farm was set up in the former communist collective farm of Slobozia that was abandoned after the December 1989 Revolution. His office is modest, located right near the cattle halls — a small, concrete floor room without floor covering. The young man follows on a display everything that happens in the farm. Nothing escapes him. A white coat and a bonnet stay at hand that he puts on when entering the halls. His feet are shod in leather clogs with wooden soles.

Harry says he has fallen in love with the places, he feels good here and he cannot be away for long. Romania has become his home country. ‘I have made my home here, but I also go to the Netherlands. Last time I went there it was as short while ago, for my Grandpa’s funeral, but I arrived there by plane at 09:00 o’clock in the evening and the next day at 09:00 o’clock in the morning I took the train back to Romania. I call this place my home; it is here where I feel good; I have my own family, my own business. We also spend our holidays here in Romania, but in the mountains. I like Romanian villages because in the Netherlands there are no more houses with pigs and cows; the animals are staying at farms only,’ adds Harry.

He is married to a Romanian woman and together they have a daughter. ‘I met my wife at Naipu, where I opened my first farm. It was love at first sight, at least on my part. I believe now it is on the part of both of us, because we have a 10-month daughter who received Romanian names,’ says Harry.

In fact, the only picture he keeps on his desk is a picture of his wife and his daughter, confessing that he loves his family and traditions a lot, and that he has a respect for his forerunners. ‘Our daughter is called Andreea Maria: Andreea because that is also the name of my sister, and Maria because that is my mother-in-law’s name. I like the children to bear the names from one generation to the other; my wife does not like it, but I am traditionalist and I insisted on that,’ he says.

After almost ten years in Romania, Harry van der Bruk has got to know the country and its people. ‘Romanian workers know a little something of everything — agriculture, soldering, computers. Dutch employees are specialised and if some unspecialised comes to a cattle farm he or she knows nothing; I cannot say which is the better, but that is what sets the Romanian and Dutch workers apart. Workers knowing a little of everything could be an advantage. For the rest, my cooperation with the local officials goes on well, but there is a lot of red tape,’ the young farmer says.

When he arrived in Romania, he had 100 cows from his family’s farm, but now Harry has 1,600 and has managed to access two European projects — one worth 600,000 euros, under which he bought equipment for his arm at Naipu, and another one worth 2 million euros, under which he wants to set up a 400-cow hall at his farm in Slobozia.

Photo credit: (c) CAMELIA BIGAN / AGERPRES STREAM

Asked about what else he wants, he says everything revolves around family, children and health, and less so around wealth. Talking with Harry goes on smoothly, but his eyes are glued to the displays on his desk.

When we left, he volunteered to give us a bottle of milk. A worker explains his gesture, ‘He is of Germanic origins, but he has borrowed some of the Romanians’ customs: he has become more welcoming, more giving.’

Here in Romania, Harry has found his peace and he knows he has made a decision he will never regret. To him, the Netherlands is a pleasant memory, but the book of his life is being written in Romania. AGERPRES

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