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Johnny Angel And The Stray Dogs Of Romania

There's this bullshit petition that's been floating around on twitter. An update to Romania's laws on stray dogs is going to result in the euthanasia of Romania's stray dog population. The animal activist set is in an uproar. In other words, in a country where a significant number of people survive on subsistence wages, and where they suffer the added indignity of being attacked by flea-bitten strays, this is the primary focus of the international civil society. I'm not going to link the actual petition because it has zero merit, but I'm going to address the absolutely false, misleading, and pretty much insane claims that it makes, one point at a time.

Let's start with the law itself. It defines a several new provisions to an already existing 2001 law that deals with "ownerless dogs" aka. 'Maidanezi' in Romanian, aka. Strays. I'm not going to put every single bit of it, just the clearly relevant aspects of it. Also added emphasis in bold where it's particularly relevant to the bullshit petition I mentioned.

1. It gives authority to county and city officials to implement animal control measures in the form of  'services that manage dogs without owners.'  Said services will also manage a database of all the dogs with no owners. (Basically, set up dog shelters)

2. The expression 'dog without an owner' is defined as: "Any dog bred, housed, kept in public places or in adjacent spaces, except the master's property or to the holder thereof,  uncontrolled, unsupervised, free, abandoned, including those identified by microchipping or other alternative means of identification set by the National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority. " It's wordy, but clear.

3. Local Councils are required to arrange and supplement their funds as needed to create public shelters for stray dogs. Local Councils are required to employ at least one  veterinary technician to the specialized services for the management of stray dogs, for recording and surveillance.

4. Shelters are required to chip dogs or carry out any other veterinarian interventions, and to manage adoptions.

5. Stray dogs will be accommodated in shelters for a period of 14 days. The local community must be informed of the shelter, visiting program, the possibility of adoption or claim by posting  at the shelter and specialized services. (Hours given as M-F 10:00 - 18:00)

6. Incurably sick animals deemed as such after a medical examination performed by the veterinarian, an examination to which representatives from animal welfare NGOs can assist, will be euthanized immediately.

7. Euthanasia of dogs may only be carried out by a licensed veterinarian, organized under the law, as stated in Annex 3. The killing of stray dogs is prohibited by anyone other than those provided in hereof or by any methods other than euthanasia. 

8. Dogs captured and recorded in shelters can be claimed or adopted as follows :
a) in the first 7 days from the date of registration in the records of shelters , dogs may be claimed by the owners ;
b ) after the expiry of the letter . a) until the expiry of 14 days, dogs can be claimed or adopted by individuals or legal entities in the country or abroad , under the law ;
c ) claim and adoption are free.
( 2 ) Dogs unclaimed or not adopted will be euthanized , according to a decision issued by a person authorized for this purpose by the mayor, according to the deadline set by this decision. The term will be determined taking into account the capacity of accommodation and budget availability . This period may be modified if motivation is provided.
( 3) The decision for euthanasia is issued for each dog individually, only if all steps prior have been taken.
( 4 ) Pending the euthanasia procedure, dogs can still be claimed or adopted .
( 5 ) Expenses necessary to comply with the procedures stipulated by the present ordinance is supported by the local budget and/or other sources."

There is a bunch more to this, several more addenda, all well defined and available here (in Romanian), but I recommend translating it all for context. If I was able to find the information I needed to inform myself, anybody can. This is not a cruel, unjust, or ambiguous law. But it's easy to find a sob story to dedicate yourself to when you live in a country where packs of mangy mutts don't wander the city streets following people around, snapping at their heels, and biting them.

So, time to tear this ridiculous petition apart.

It starts with the sordid description of a man pouring gasoline over a stray and then setting it on fire. His motivation according to the petition's author? That he would not be charged by authorities for his crime. Regardless of Romania's poorly enforced (though very clear) animal cruelty laws, this red herring only serves to incite readers while saying nothing of the issue -namely that the law on stray dogs has been reformed to allow for the euthanasia of dogs who roam the streets posing a threat to - and I know this is irrelevant to animal activists - people!

Then, she goes on to say that these are everyday occurrences in Romania, as if people have nothing better to do than to kill and maim animals. I'm lucky I live in one of the few cities in the country where strays are a rare sight, but I've been followed by packs in Bucharest, and I know plenty of people who've gone through the same thing, or worse, who've been attacked and bitten. In fact, it's a guarantee that it's going to eventually happen if you live your entire life in Bucharest, or any city with large stray populations. In Canada, any dog owner knows the drill when their dog bites somebody, here, it happens with impunity and yet they still live.

Now here's the section where it really really started to piss me off. Apparently this new law, the writer claims, "allows and encourages any person on the street to torture and kill dogs". WTF! This blatant disregard for facts is more shocking even than the idea that there are people depraved enough to set fire to animals. Furthermore, she adds, "Romania has no money for humane euthanasia and therefore dogs are killed with axes and shovels or with antifreeze." I then stopped reading because this bitch is clearly off her rocker, but then I decided to formulate this post as a response instead. So I kept reading, and it got worse.

This next paragraph is posted in its entirety because in addition to everything in it being a lie, it also contains the absolutely most delusional claim I've seen anywhere for a long time. It's the embodiment of that modern adage, "people will say anything on the internet".

The mauling death of Ionut Anghel was one of Romania's biggest stories in 2013. The coverage it got in the Romanian media was akin to coverage of school shootings in the US. Front page news, numerous reports, ardent debates, and, of course, the eventual decision to update the stray dog law to allow for euthanasia. The doctor who examined Ionut's body said "If you saw it, you'd change your mind about the strays." All you have to search for is "atacat de maidanezi" on Google and you'll find almost a million results. There are numerous stories each month, luckily rarely fatal, but every year tens of thousands of Romanian are bitten by strays. And here's a person who's never set foot in this country, who can't even be bothered to find some reliable local sources, and who is saying that the highly publicized mauling of a toddler is an unproven claim!? Stray attacks are so commonplace that only the more aggressive and shocking stories are reported by the media. With all this, I find it abhorrent that this petition glosses over the poor, innocent, friendly, and shy stray doggies, while completely disregard the threat they pose to people.

The  Ceausescu angle is probably one of the most ludicrous things I've read about Romania, not least of all because I lived here during that era and I know that people had pets. What she meant to say is that people who were forcibly moved from homes to blocks in Bucharest during that era didn't all choose to take their dogs in apartments. Dogs have traditionally been used for functional purposes in Romania; as shepherds, rat catchers, for hunting, and most commonly, as guard dogs. The problem is that owners were not educated to neuter the dogs, and this is what has led to an ever growing number of unwanted pups who end up roaming city streets. I also find it laughable that, of all things, the Romanians are supposedly frustrated with the state of the country's leadership and economy because of the dogs. I laughed out loud at this one. It gets funnier the more you read that sentence and fully comprehend how insanely stupid it sounds.

The rest is just a rallying cry for justice for the dogs and a plea to sign the petition. The sad part is that nearly 2000 people believed that bullshit text. But at least it's far off the 50,000 mark. It's one thing when articles are sensationalist, but this is a prime example of idiocy. If I didn't know better, I'd assume this was a just troll. So sad that it isn't.

There's more that upsets me about this situation though. When I googled 'Ionut Anghel' there were plenty of Romanian articles that came up. But the only articles in English appear after the law was passed. No Western news editor thought the story of a toddler torn apart by stray dogs relevant enough when it occurred, even though it was a national story here, but hey, once the dogs are in danger, everybody needs to know. Just Google "boy killed by strays in Romania" and you'll see that the animal rights angle is the the only angle.

If the life of one child, another four year old Johnny,  were saved in exchange for the lives of all the strays in this country, I'd consider it fair game. I've written plenty about the incompetence of Romanian politicians and institutions, and while I applaud this very sane law as a response to a quagmire of a situation, my only disappointment is that any officials charged with enforcing it will surely be too incompetent to carry it out to any significant degree.

Harsh maybe, but not any more so than the Humane Society. Their site clearly states that they kill 3-4 million animals a year, down from 15 million in the 1970s. Why shouldn't Romania be allowed to control its animal population in the same way? Why should we walk in fear of rabid dogs? Are we, Romanians, less significant than our street dogs? If they're chipped it doesn't mean they can't bite. Let's get real, that's not an end-all solution. So it pisses me off to no end that, when the international community focuses on Romania, it's with such an insultingly base opinion of its people. The hypocrisy is disgusting, and though that's nothing new where Romania's international image is concerned, the fact that even Romania's stray dogs evoke more international concern than the killing of a child is particularly revolting.


  1. Give me your email I will happily send you slaughter videos of dogs and puppies in Romania. and pictures of evil cruelty,

    1. I don't need to see videos because I'm not denying that people have killed dogs here. I'm debating the irrational outrage to a perfectly reasonable and sensible law in light of the many more attacks on humans. Attacks that the citizens of other countries aren't subjected to.

    2. that's exactly why I support that law... the place of these dogs is not on the streets, they are in danger there and they are a danger there. They should be controlled and the euthanasia proposed in the law is the only human thing to do about them.

    3. What does that have anything to do with euthanasia?

    4. Wow, i saw videos of ngo members demonstrating and crying on the streets of Bucharest in order to support the rights of stray dogs (the same ngos who did not do anything for 20 years), i read articles about why animals are better and nicer than humans but I have to confess reading the petition and additional posts on Google+ I had my first experience with a text consisting of 100% pure inventions and damaging a society which is already traumatized enough. So the only thing that I can say is: dear madam, come to Bucharest and live in Ferentari for a week.

    5. The so-called animal abuses are just some isolated cases, exactly like in any other country. If it were true what Mel Royal is saying, it wouldn't have been this huge number of stray dogs on the streets terrifying the Romanians, because they would have been simply killed. Can't you see this is a non-sens? It is even in the NGO interest to manipulate and to misinterpret, it was also comfortable for the authorities.

  2. This is the best post about stray dogs and a very acurate descrption of reality of day to day life among stray dogs in Romania. Thank you Matt.

    1. Thanks Catalin. We need to stand up for ourselves, especially the few times that parliamentarians get it right and a long-standing issue gets a clearly defined action plan.

    2. Matt I add my multumesc for the article to the one from Catalin, it is the only lucid contribution that I read in these last months after the tragedy in Buc. I hope more readers will have access to it.

  3. You are a fuckin disgrace for the human race. Im ashamed to actually have spent time reading your text, typical dog hater.

    1. You're entitled to your opinion, grossly misinformed and naive though it may be. If I get berated every time I stand up for a person's rights over those of an animal, I'll sleep very well at night, indeed.

  4. Romania - used to dump it's unwanted children in appalling 'homes', tie them to their cots and starve them. Now they are less backward, (hopefully) this doesn't happen any more. The rest of the world made a fuss and things changed ... or were we all misinformed and naive?

    In time they will realise their treatment of animals is wrong, too. There's obviously a long way to go and a lot of educating to be done.

    Just because a person or animal is weaker and has no voice, it doesn't mean you can abuse them! And, yes, I'm equating child cruelty and animal cruelty - both acts are brutalising a nation, generation after generation, and normalising depraved behaviour.

    Anonymous - to shield myself from the inevitable abuse, and conserve my energies for the fight against these barbaric attitudes

    1. Anonymous, I doubt you'd get the same abuse I have received from animal welfare 'activists'.
      But since you brought up the orphanages, here's a little something to put this situation in perspective, as far as foreign media outlets and activists are concerned.

      "Some years ago I worked as a PR to an EU-funded project which raised awareness about the fact that Romania had implemented child rights legislation. My job was to tell international journalists that things had changed, that babies were no longer being institutionalized (or being sold) and that foster care was the order of the day. There were still huge problems due to poverty and corruption but a fundamental change had been made. The American, Dutch, Russian and French media were open to this news but British journalists seemed unable to get their editors to allow them to come and investigate.

      Eventually I found out why: an editor told me "whenever we need a horror story about institutionalized children we send someone to Romania, where they can always find a sad case to report on. These stories don't have the same appeal when they come from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic or other places." He was interested in the fact that Romania was the only Central and East European country to have reformed its child welfare system so thoroughly but told me "this isn't a news story."

      Tabloid editors like to attach particular stories to specific countries so that readers will make immediate associations (orphan, gypsy, scrounger, beggar, thief, immigrant in the case of Romania). To explain that there are so many gypsies in Romania because they weren't wiped out in WW2 (as happened in some of the neighbouring countries) or that most Romanians have no intention of moving to the UK, is too complicated and boring for tabloid editors."

      (full article here:

    2. Hmmm, not sure what point you're trying to make here.... I'm well aware that Romania now treats its children somewhat better than it did (some plucky British journalists obviously outwitted their editors and got the news to Blighty!). Romania got educated and dragged into the 20th century (as it was at the time). They realised that what they were doing to their unfortunate children was wrong.

      And in a similar way, Romania will eventually accept that the way they are treating animals is wrong. It is purely a matter of educating these people (and I'm afraid you are to be included in that group) that they need to have regard for other living things. Life is not all about YOU.

      And PLEASE don't play the race card - it's boring, outdated and a sign of a losing argument! I couldn't care less who these people are, or what their origins are, or whatever, cruelty is cruelty.

    3. If you don't get the point, how/why should I address your reply to said point?

  5. Thank you so much for explaining the situation in such a clear manner.

    We should also underline the animal rights activism is big business. Many, not all, are like the UK newspapers you were talking about which, once they found the story which will increase their donations ( readers), will care little about reality. They don't even realize they tarnish the dignity/memory of a child.

    This campaign against Romania is very visible on social media platforms where Romanians are being perceived as animal abusing monsters. There is no sympathy for people, only for animals.
    In a way such attitudes towards Romanians are constantly promoted by the media. It's not enough that they go in the EU to steal jobs but the ones left at home are crazy animal abusers.

    I tried to point out that dogs are permanently euthanized in Western Europe, but with no avail.

    Again, Matt, thank you for writing about this situation.

    1. These things have to be said, unfortunately most of these animal advocates are delusional when it comes to facts.

  6. It is a lie that the NGOs are making money in dogs. There have been few persons that have tried to take advantage of situation, but it does not last, those how donate want to see where the money goes, as in a receipt for purchases(food,medicine etc.), a receipt from vet visits, new photos of the animals on a regular basis, photos of premises, etc. And usually there is a group that supports different NGOs,private shelters and they will visit in Romania, regularly.

    So are tens of NGOs from different countries tampering with hundreds of photos on a daily basis? Make dozens of fake videos every day? That's a lot of work, only to defame Romanians and hide the truth about Romanian human and legal ways to "euthanize" dangerous dogs? I ask this because Matt claims that all these abuses that have happened are lies, total BS..No Matt, horrible acts of animal abuse has happened ,is happening. You can think that millions of people are just stupid and wrong and this country
    And has been proven on numerous occasions that the killing of stray dogs is not a viable solution. Romania has already tried this before. The child died, it is terrible and extremely sad. But now, the Romanian government should take care of the dog problem rationally and to obtain long-term and lasting results, so the dog catchers don't need to chase the dogs forever?

    You have your opinion on the matter,but I don't believe the conspiracy, forgery-proof-story, so .. the truth is that dogs treated really horribly and it's happened on the streets so that the children can see. It should not happen, at least the dog handling and killing should be humane if the killing is the only way to be taken. Sterilization, and public education, at least not to reject the dogs, puppies on the streets,sterilize the dogs it would be more effective ..

    And no I don't hate Romanian people, I don't think they are coming to steal our jobs..? I admire immensely some Romanians that I know. But no of course I cant look up to the people that harm animals, no those people i don't like.

    And please listen the press conference of EU parliament about Romanian dogs after they visited there three times. Or are they in the "lets lie" gang too? No they are not.

  7. I moved to Bucharest last summer and was shocked about the number of strays here. Yes, the problem needs to be addressed but not in inhumane ways. They are not euthanised with injections (which I would not mind), they are left to die of dehydration and starvation or they are killed in brutal ways. And who cares? It is shocking to see so many people have no empathy. I talked to a Romanian about this recently and what was his response? "An animal is an animal. They don't feel like we do." What can you say.
    The cruelty to animals in Romania (not just dogs, just go to any pet shop and look how exitedly people look at rabbits squished into hamster cages) in my eyes is a symptom of a society that does not care for the weak in general.

    1. I've seen plenty of pet shops in Romania and there is no difference between the cages I see here or those in Toronto.

      As for dogs dying of dehydration or starvation, how is that surprising if they roam the streets and have no owner? It only makes a stronger case for euthanasia.

      Finally, a little bit about empathy: Have you seen what some people have to deal with here? How is it surprising to you that they're more concerned about their own issues than whether the dog on the street got his fill of kibbles and bits that day?

      I agree that it's much more beneficial to have a holistic approach to all the aspects of one's life, including community issues like the plight of dogs in your neighborhood, but it's not a realistic expectation.

    2. I meant that the dogs die of dehydration and starvation in dog shelters. That's definitely cheaper than humane euthanasation, isn't it? I mentioned that I agree with humane euthanasia. However there is no such thing here due to a shortage of funds, corruption and greed.

      I agree that some people have hard lives here and I understand that they have neither the means nor the energy to support street dogs with food or shelter. However empathy does not cost anything. It is a basic human feeling.

    3. Thank you for your comments Anonymous. Of course, nobody wants to be bitten by stray dogs on the street. Nobody wants stray dogs on the street period. BUT, you cannot "euthanize" them by the Romanian methods. Euthanize them by injection, with no pain or fear! No need to beat them, starve them, electrocute them, poison them!!

  8. Thanks for the article Matt. Very down to earth approach to the many sides of the problem. But what the outsiders don't know about Romania, is that Romanians like, actually they absolutely love, talking about problems. We don't really care about solutions, solutions are to be implemented by someone else. And so is problem solving indefinitely postponed for future generations to worry about.

  9. Shame on you for this post! Shame on you!

    1. Your outrage sustains me.

      No but seriously, I'm all for adoption. Please note I mentioned that in the post. The law states that animals can be adopted by international benefactors. If you would all come in and adopt all these dogs out of here, believe me, this country would be very grateful.

    2. Yes, we should all come adopt the abused dogs from Romania so that the people there don't have to deal with them anymore. Give the problem to someone else, right? Maybe then the people of Romania can start helping the children who live in the sewers. Or don't they deserve any decency, either?

    3. Oh, please. There are animals abusers in Western Countries. Just watch the news and/or SPCA USA on Animal Planet. Almost all Western countries put down animals, not just dogs, that are not adopted. You even put down cats. In Ro they made a law that allows vets to put down stray dogs if they're not adopted and for some reasons that is not good, even thou it's the same in the West.

  10. criminal ''doglovers'' are still killing people

  11. What I would really like to know is how on earth this happened in the first place and what laws are going to be put in place to ensure people have more responsibility over their animals, in order to prevent a repeat.

    I also agree with you where the law is concerned, as regards the removal of stray dogs, but where I do disagree, is with methods used to carry out the law. It seems to me that a lot more effort should be put into making this an all round venture, which involves both Government and private animal rescue charities. So far it appears as if the Government has simply gone on a sweeping rampage of cruelty and abuse, rather than create a mechanism which does not cause the sense of outrage, which has swept across the whole of Europe and beyond. It is that issue which needs addressing, rather than the law.

    I do suspect a lot of this has come out of poverty and a complete lack of responsibility. However it is true to say, that Romania is doing itself no favours at all by continuing this. If rational people are expressing concern then it is the way in which the policies are being implemented, which needs to be looked at, not the law.

  12. Matt hope your not from the UK you ought to be ashamed these dogs are eating each other starving killed strangled electrocuted beaten the dog catchers are brutal ive heard the story of the 4 yearold boy was killed by dogs on private property not strays yet they get tortured for it load of monsters out there they should be forced out the EU we have all seen plenty of evidence see whats going on land of death for animals yet these people have caused this problem without being responsible murderers the world is watching!

    1. No darling, the little boy was killed by stray dogs. Stray dogs will go into private property if there is no fence. Also, the stray dogs were adopted on papers by a lady who works for a ngo. And look into your own yard before pointing fingers. It's like there are no animals abusers in UK or other countries. You are not better, even thou you like to think so.

    2. It was actually found and prooven that those werre not stray dogs :) research more, please.

  13. I hope YOU'RE going to learn to use punctuation in your sentences.
    Seriously, how can I even discuss this with somebody who is unable to formulate an argument?


    I'm going to guess that your eyes are brown Matt because you're full of shit! If you are so damn proud of your homeland, than why did you flee????????

    Neglect of Stray Dogs - MEPs Deliver Damning Indictment of Romania's Mismanagement

    Brutal Massacre at Four Paws Dog Shelter, Romania
    Posted: 26/03/2014 13:37 GMT Updated: 24/05/2014 10:59 BST

    1. I already know that the Western media organizations only care to hear stories about the abuse of dogs, so those links are useless. Everything else you wrote is basically unintelligible. You're either a very stupid person or a very smart dog.

  15. OK, i agree with you on a humane euthanasia on the aggresive dogs and i repeat aggresive dogs while sterilising the others but unlike you, i've always lived in Bucharest and i see how they are treated. There is no humane euthanasia because the money dedicated to the lethal injections are being stolen and while they make a fuss about stray dogs, there are other problems being covered . In other words i give animal lovers the credit of being smart enough to see the treachery behind it all but i would also love to see young kids stopped from throwing rocks at dogs daily then wondering why they got bitten. Yes, i said daily because it happens daily.

    1. I don't know where you're wandering, but I didn't saw not even once a kid throwing rock at a dog.
      And I have lived in Bucharest for 30 years.
      I did saw though, many unprovoked attacks by pack of dogs (I am not saying daily because that's an obvious exageration).
      2 times I was the target of the attack.

  16. This is very sad ...:(

    1. No, this is sad:

  17. AstrophysicistApril 01, 2015

    "He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals".
    Immanuel Kant

  18. killing never worked. what works is neutering the dogs. it should start in the countryside with the dog owners. So sad to blame our problems on stray dogs. it is not their fault they are on the streets but ours collectively. every life matters.

  19. What do you have to say now when it has been disproved that the boy was killed by stray dogs? Your whole article is just sad. You value the life of one person for than many thousands of dogs??

    1. I don't want to be goaded into feeding the troll who gets their 'facts' from tabloids.
      But to answer your second question: Yes, of course. Over one million dogs even.


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But I managed. Stalled an average of once per trip during the first week, and then a couple of times in the second week, and now, a little over a month later, I sometimes stall at stoplights when I forget I'm driving stick and leave it in gear when I release…

Why Romanians Don't Like Romanians

To my knowledge, this national self-loathing is a uniquely Romanian experience. Maybe we share it with some of our neighbours, but I doubt it. I've never seen a people dislike their own as much as the Romanians.
This is going to be highly generalized, but as with most things I write here it's rooted in personal experience and observations. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

1. Romanians like the exotic, to be Romanian is the antithesis of what it means to be exotic.

2. Romanians are often prejudiced. The thought process goes something like this: If you're Romanian you're probably bereft of interesting experiences and financially limited. You're from 'the-worst-country-on-earth', after all. If  you're well off, then you're just a rich asshole (probably a thief, too). Either way, your Romanian-ness ensures you're seen as a person with limited horizons who likely can't offer anything new or different.

If you're Western European or Nort…

Here Is Why Romania's Future Is Bright

The festival is only in its second edition, but following last year's inaugural event, Electric Castle has stirred up enough buzz to attract visitors from beyond Romania's borders. Walking around the festival grounds I had the impression that every other group was comprised of foreigners speaking Hungarian, English, German, or French. And judging by the license plates in the parking lots, every county in Romania was well represented. While there's plenty to be said about the artists and the music, there's something else I want to discuss in this post.

When you think "music festival", the image that comes to mind is that of overly excited youth on a drug and alcohol infused rampage, laying waste to everything in their path. Maybe it has something to do with the way festivals like to promote themselves; these are basically the images that stand out on most 'Official Aftermovie' videos from major music festivals. But obviously the experience is defined b…

Rosia Montana - An Informed Reply

It's always a pleasure to see a new email message from somebody who's been reading this blog. In this case, the message came in from a reader who first contacted me last year. He moved to Canada quite a while ago and settled in the Northwest Territories. He wanted to respond to the previous post on Rosia Montana, but given the length of the reply, I've asked him to allow me to publish it as its own post. He asked me not to share his name, but outside of that, I'm copying it verbatim.

(Edit: In Romana mai jos)

Hello Matt,

Here we go again: Rosia Montana. I got involved in this project about four years ago. I had had phone interviews with radio stations in Bucharest; I published several articles in two or three magazines in Bucharest. I hosted, guided and loaded up with data and portable computer equipment one “Romanian explorer” as the Romanian media called her: Uca Marinescu. Perhaps the name rings a bell. Anyhow she never got back to me; there was no feedback, no follo…