by Dan Tanasă
A few months ago I met Yvette Larsson on Facebook. Yvette is a Swedish teacher and leadership trainer who lives in Helsingborg, and is the founder of “The Bucharest Lounge”. I was astonished by what I saw on the Facebook page of “The Bucharest Lounge” so I decided to ask Yvette to share with us some details on her project. She was kind enough to give us the insides of “The Bucharest Lounge”.
Dan Tanasă: Yvette, it’s been a while now since we became friends on Facebook. I’ve noticed that you are the founder of “The Bucharest Lounge”. I see beautiful pictures of you in the Romanian traditional blouse (the “ie” as Romanians call it). You travel a lot in Romania and promote all that is connected with Romania. I am pretty sure you heard this question before but I cannot help asking you: what is “The Bucharest Lounge”?
Yvette Larsson: The Bucharest Lounge is a place where I spread the beauty and meaning of Romania seen through the eyes of a Swede, to show the world outside Romania a more nuanced picture of Romania. Romania and Romanians are unfortunately suffering from constant negative press and a bad image abroad. You know why. The world we live in right now is a visual one. We consume pictures through all sorts of media, both traditional media and on the internet. I believe pictures, but also art projects and graphic design campaign can be powerful tools to rebrand Romania.
Dan Tanasă: When did it all started? What made you get involved in such a project, a unique one from what I know?
Yvette Larsson: I was in Romania in 1985, when I was 13 years old. I met a boy who was 14 and we started to write letters to each other. That correspondence continued for approximately 20 years. First with letters and later emails. The emails are lost in cyber space. The letters we saved most of them and they are now the base for the manuscript I wrote for one and a half years. Hopefully it will be published in the near future, if I find a publisher who will be passionate about the story. (details here)
Our handwriting is like a fingerprint. It’s unique. However, communication is faster now with emailing. Back then, in the 1980’s, we wrote handwritten letters to each other. We don’t do that so much any longer. I hope those of us who are parents will keep encouraging our children to write, not only on the computers, but by hand too.
Back to Romania. My friendship with Mihai made a big impact on me as we met so young. Him growing up during Communism and me in open Sweden. My family and I always kept an eye on what was going on in Romania.
I never went back again until 2011. 26 years later.
I didn’t get involved with the Bucharest Lounge, I started it. I started it basically for two reasons. First one was because I was so amazed by the beauty of the country and the people, when I rediscovered the country in September 2011. Surprised that Romania doesn’t promote itself abroad. It’s like a hidden treasure. I came to the conclusion that I had to do it in the way I could and all has a first step. Second reason was because I started a collection of donations to the village Valea Screzii in Prahova (see details here and here) and I needed a means of communication to show all the people that donated where their donations went.
After starting the blog I also set up a Facebook page half a year later. Now I predominately use Facebook. The blog is more like a webpage with Thursday interviews with people who inspire in Romania (see here). I have my daytime job as a teacher and I also have two children, so keeping up the blog is a matter of time.
My dream and my goal is to be working with the Bucharest Lounge fulltime somehow.
Dan Tanasă: How can others get involved and help you with this project?
Yvette Larsson: I am in contact with lots of people who I collaborate with in one way or the other. ALL collaborations have to come from an own inner drive and passion. I am a passionate, driven person myself and I came to the conclusion that I work best with others who are also passionate, take actions and are self-driven in what they are doing.
What I need help with predominately is to find fundings for being able to work fulltime with the Bucharest Lounge.
Dan Tanasă: What’s next? What plans do you have for the future?
I am teacher and I have summer holiday now and spending one month in Romania. The purpose for this month’s stay is to follow up and meet all those people who wants to collaborate in one way or the other with the Bucharest Lounge. The other reason is to go to Valea Screzii and spend some time with the children and staff there, which I will do for five days. I will also also go to Făgăraș to see more closely how the Țara Făgărașului is working with community strengthening activities in the area of Făgăraș.
This September The Bucharest Lounge will have, every Sunday, a two hours Lounge at a newly opened Cultural House in Helsingborg called Salongen (see here). I will have one hour of story-telling with kids and one hour debate and cultural event forum for adults. I look forward to this very much.
Goals for the future :
– To continue the work with rebranding Romania. Putting Romania and the capital Bucharest on the map, using photography, film, graphic campaigns, art, cultural events, exhibitions and more.
– Setting up a leadership programme for young Romanians: adolescents and University students. Working with values, visions, talent and their impact in the world. I strongly believe in the new generation of leaders.
– Make the OneItem an sustainable program for support to Valea Screzii.
– Develop the activities at the Culture House Salongen in Helsingborg.
– Publish books. I already have material for three.
– Have The Bucharest Lounge, as in a physical place and a hub, from which I could do all the projects I plan for.
Dan Tanasă: Thank you for your kindness, Yvette.