Wednesday, December 3rd: Cristian Capotescu

Please join the European History Workshop on Wednesday, December 3rd from 6-8pm for the following paper and discussion:

“Ordinary Solidarity: Humanitarian Aid for Communist and Post-Communist Romania”

Cristian Capotescu
Doctoral Student of History
University of Michigan

The paper is available on the European History Workshop CTOOLS site. For a copy of the paper and/or access to the site email the workshop coordinators.

Please also see the European History Workshop Website for announcements and updates at

The event will be held in 2713 Haven Hall.

Dinner will be provided, as usual.

Please find an abstract of the paper below:

“After the Romanian Revolution in 1989, hundreds of neglected and malnourished orphans were discovered by Western journalists in run-down children’s homes across Romania. Their sudden appearance drew immense international attention to the human costs of pronatalist policies and economic austerity measures imposed on the Romanian population by the ousted communist regime. The following sensationalist media attention on the Romanian orphans obscured the numerous campaigns to mitigate the complex historical roots of this human tragedy: notably, the existence of humanitarian networks that had already emerged in the 1970s in Western Europe to remedy the erosion of the Romanian welfare state and the detrimental effects of banned abortions. In my first case study, I explore the emergence of extensive humanitarian aid through care packages and private transports organized in the community of Transylvanian Saxons in West Germany for their kin in communist Romania. In the late 1980s, as my second case study demonstrates, private humanitarian aid for Romania spread across the Soviet Bloc. In particular, I look at individuals involved in the East German civil rights movement who organized humanitarian campaigns through care packages and illegal border smuggling to Romania. After 1989, these humanitarian networks expanded into a proliferating aid sector that sought to reconstruct the social fabric of post-communist Romania. In this paper, I recuperate the unwritten history of a non-institutionalized form of humanitarian aid that largely exceeded the scope of intervention by established relief agencies and NGOs commonly studied in the literature such as the Red Cross or Doctors without Borders. This project advances the scholarship on Eastern Europe by studying the transnational mobility and solidarity of ordinary people in Cold War-Europe. It sheds light on the contested nature of communist biopolitics and offers a new reading of the post-communist period in Romania.”