Female emigration. From rural romania to the adriaticcoast: women on their journey between opportunity and social vulnerability. “The italian syndrome”
- Ottobre 16, 2023
- Pubblicato da: admin
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Psychologist, Psychotherapist and anthropologist.
Adjunct Professor at the University “G. D’Annunzio” of Chieti (Italy).
PHD graduate student at the Faculty of Geography, University Babes-Bolyai Cluj Napoca (RO). He has conducted field studies in Africa, India, South America, northern and eastern Europe.
Author of numerous research and publications in the field of psycho-anthropology relations and migration.
The twenty-first century can be called the “age of migration”, in fact since the de-colonization and markedly since the eighties migration affects the entire planet, qualifying as a global phenomenon. Comparing it with it in the past today prevails new elements and in fact, in addition to a geographical change of the phenomenon, it has turned its composition, showing a growing feminization.
Looking at Romanians’ migration, we can observe that more and more women are creating a migration project venturing towards the uncertainty of the so-called “trips of hope”, done to improve their economical and social living conditions.
In Italy the greatest number (more than a fifth) of foreigners is represented by Romanians.
The analysis that I have proposed to this Congress, The 6th International Conference
”Rural Space and Local Development. Peripheral Rural Areas between Certain Existence and Uncertain Development (Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, ROMANIA. July, 23-27, 2014), is the result of a study which I partly did during the research for my still ongoing ph. D. – Faculty of Geography of UBB – and partly in collaboration with my professor of “Sociology of cultural and communicative processes” – University G. D’Annunzio of Chieti in Italy, where I also teach.
The intervention involved specifically the migration of women from rural areas of Romania, from the areas of Muntenia and Moldova mainly, including Bacau, Galati, Braila, Neamt, Suceava counties to Abruzzo.
Once they arrive in the country of immigration, a significant part of them find a job in the domestic sector, usually improvising as domestic helpers and carers.
These jobs are characterized by particular conditions of work exploitation, conditions that have somehow been permitted by the women themselves because of their migration project and the limited time they have to achieve their goals. Their migration way, is also characterized by the constant contact with the country of origin. One of the most relevant phenomenon which can be noticed in the migration processes in Italy is the creation of the mixed couples in which, at first sight, there is the identity of the partners to suffer the changes. The dominating identity will therefore be born from this process, which can open up spaces and borders and in which the different identities brought by the partners, will origin the final shared one.
Italy is also one of the main areas of destination of the flow of prostitution from Romania. The presence of women in the sex trade is very complex and differentiated; this kind of activities takes place in apartments, public or private, or on the streets. It’s manifestation which, on the one side, can express the will of many women to achieve fastly the Western wellness and lifestyle. On the other side, in case it is subject to violence and exploitation, it reflects injustices and exploitation already there prior to emigration and sadly present on a global scale.
This work outlines the salient features of the experience that characterizes the process of women’s migration. It has been observed that normally women who migrate move through strong relational circuits, created by other women who preceded them. Many of them start looking for new life opportunities, in a country where the work is a clear pattern of attraction, in order to maintain the family they left back in the country of origin, and to earn a better life for themselves also.
A special consideration deserves those women who leave alone, without a strong network of social contacts which can help them during the migration and the integration in the foreign country.
These women, called Pioneers, are the same ones that create the networks. They are women with a strong personality and a great determination, undoubtedly determined mostly by the conditions of their family from their country of origin. They are strongly focused on the economic well-being of their families. The misery and the difficulties they face are firmly stood because it is considered a temporary situation.
Analyzing those women, the tenacity strikeout and the determination which leads them to accomplish their project and their simplicity and naturalness, which makes the story of their lives original and full of authentic meanings.
The migration of women and mothers often brings with it dramatic lacerations in the families, which sometimes have tragic consequences. Since 2008, according to Associations, 40 Romanian children (30 according to official figures) committed suicide.
The pain of the children and mothers that were forced to move away from home to find a job is identified in what psychologists call the “Italian syndrome”. It is a severe form of depression that is highly spread among the migrants and among their children. These children are called
“white orphans” who grow up with their grandparents and are put to bed via Skype by a mother who lives thousands miles away. “It’s painful to take care of other person’s children while your own are thousands miles away,” said Silvia Dimitrache, president of Adri (Association of Romanian Women in
Italy ) .
In Romania approximately 750.000 children, out of a total of 5 million, have at least one of parents working abroad and many of them are aged between 2 and 6 years; 15% of the Romanian family have at least one member who emigrated for work. 80% of the children left home, miss their mothers so much that they get seriously ill with heavy consequences on growth and personality. Since 2005, the international medical jargon uses the diagnosis of “Italian syndrome” to indicate a deep and insidious form of depression which threatens the health and sometimes the life of the children. At the Congress, it was presented a video it made in Italy and played by a young Romanian boy, who tells in rhyme, his own story of emigration (Spoke – Amintiri in rime), according to the canons of rap music.
The word Immigration today is very current and represents a varied universe, as well as a phenomenon which was always present in the lives of the human beings. It is defined as a permanent transfer or temporary movement of people in a different country like the one of origin. The immigration affects the entire planet, although the states of origin and destination have changed along with the succession of historical epochs. Even the immigration is characterized by numerous and various reasons, as any phenomenon.
The present work focuses particularly on the immigration phenomenon from Romania to the Italian peninsula, specifically to the Adriatic Coast.
This phenomenon has assumed a considerable resonance when the Romanians citizens obtained the right to move freely in the countries of Europe, after the accession of Romania to the European Union. They used this opportunity to migrate more and more.
The true reason for which the Romanian men and women have left their homes is caused by economical problems. Thus, they decide to go to foreign countries where they earn more, including Italy and Spain, the countries preferred by them, due to the linguistic similarities and the temperament of the people.
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were about 300,000 people to emigrate from Romania, German and Jewish minorities most; after 1989 the migration flows have increased significantly and if in the first moment they went only to the neighbouring countries, afterwards they expanded their migration area farther. In the end, even the women and the people who lived in the rural areas were involved in this process.
The Romanian migration in Italy has increased considerably since 1994 and its structure has suffered many changes over the years. From 1999 to 2002, the migration of women was increased thanks to the reunification of many families or due to the tourist visas. The feminization of the migration process in Romania in this period is numerically the most significant and it affects the entire country.
The emigrants face a lot of sacrifices in order to beautify or build their houses or to afford to pay the studies of their children. We have to pay special attention at the precious role that the Romanian women who are inside the Italian families, fulfilling domestic tasks, at the fact that they have left their families home, entrusting the care of their children to other family members and exposing themselves to the danger of the family disintegration, being disposable to marry Italian persons.
The Romanian women’s migration is a recent phenomenon, which have developed in the last years and it is particularly interesting because the women are spokesmen of change. This phenomenon have increased mainly since the fifties, representing 50% of the migration movements worldwide.
The reasons of the immigration can be various:
- the need of the Romanian women to escape from their role of psychological subjection and
/ or physical conflict which can occur in their marital relationships, with authoritarian men which sometimes can be violent too;
- searching for a solution for a failed marriage in the origin country;
- the earnings from the western country, which comes to be 30-40 times higher comparing to the one that they used to receive in the country of origin;
- the poverty.
Therefore, the women who decide to emigrate improve their standard of life. When they arrive in Italy, they want to be part of the host society, to participate to the social life and to different events. They want to have equal opportunities with the women from the country where they migrated too, but this remains very often just a wish. The discrimination which they live can be divided in three levels: gender, ethnicity and social class.
The occupation of the Romanian immigrant goes into the direction of care services, particularly since the ’90s when it was been a slow but gradual dismantling of the Welfare State. Those women, therefore, work like domestic helpers , caregivers, domestic workers mostly and they don’t change jobs in years, despite the qualification they possess because of the rigidity of the labor market. Due to the fact that a care job is not very known and “important”, it can be said that the work done by foreign women in our houses is made by “invisible hands”.
The help provided by the Romanian women had a strong resonance in the traditional way of conceiving the family in the Italian culture.
The arrival of a new person of foreign nationality has brought with itself a review of the balances and schemes of the classic Italian family. The women who practice this type of service need to learn the Italian language and other expressions which belong to the context where they operate.
The origin of the Romanian women was analyzed by regions: as for the Muntenia region, the percentage of women that immigrate is 32.72% as can be seen in Table 1.1; In Transylvania instead there are only 9.39% (Table 1.2); In Maramures region, the percentage is 2.04% as reported in Table 1.3; in Crisana the percentage is equal to 2.64% (Table 1.4); in Oltenia is 6.98% as shown in Table 1.5; the Banat region recorded a rate of 2.11% as shown in table 1.6; in Bucovina there is a migration of 4,97% (tab.1.7); In Moldovia 29,13% of women went abroad for working (Table, 1.8); Finally, from the Dobrogea 4.72% of women decided to go in another country to work, as shown in Table 1.9.
Table 1.1 Phenomenon of migration in Muntenia (%)
Table 1.2 Phenomenon of migration in Transylvania (%)
Table 1.3 Phenomenon of migration from the Maramures region (%)
Table 1.4 Phenomenon of migration from the region Crisana (%)
Table 1.5 Phenomenon of migration from the region Oltenia (%)
Table 1.6 Phenomenon of migration from Banat region (%)
Table 1.7 Phenomenon of migration from the Bucovina region (%)
Table 1.8 Phenomenon of migration from Moldova region (%)
Table 1.9 Phenomenon of migration from the region Drobogea (%)
Analyzing the phenomenon of migration from every county, we can notice that the migration flows are higher in the areas of Braila, Bacau, Galati, Neamt, Suceava.
The main part of the Romanians present on our territory (province of Pescara, Adriatic coast) are those who have graduated the secondary school (50.12%). The lowest percentage of migration is constituted by those who have graduated the university (1:24%) as shown in Table 1.10 and figure 1.1.
This figure allows to observe that the migration flows are represented mostly by members whose study degree is not so high. Those who possess a university degree is obvious that want to migrate to other locations.
Table 1:10 Title of qualification possessed by the Romanian Women from the area of Pescara.
Figure 1.1 Qualification Romanian women (%)
Since the early nineties, not only the foreign presence on the Italian territory were increased, but there have been important changes of migratory flows also. The high diversity of the origins and the diversity in the increment of the foreign population by country of origin are among the main features of foreign immigration in Italy: for example, in 1994 in the first ten countries of citizenship for immigration there were included the 50% of foreign residents in Italy; in 2011 the 50% of the foreigners came from five countries of origin: Romania, Albania, Morocco, China and Ukraine. In the period 1994-2011, have changed not only the weight of the main nationalities , but the ranking also changed: Morocco is always located in the first three countries, but it was exceeded by Albania during the nineties and then, by Romania, arriving at the point that in 2011 more than one-fifth of foreigners who live in Italy are Romanian.
After mentioning the presence of the foreigners who are residents in Italy divided by the main countries of citizenship, insisting on Romania, narrowing the field of research, we move in the region of Abruzzo. It can be noticed that between 2005 and 2008, the highest number of residents with Romanian citizenship are found in the province of Aquila, passing then since 2009 till 2011 in the province of Chieti. In addition, it can be seen that since 2005 to 2011 the presence of the Romanian population is constantly increasing in different provinces of Abruzzo (Table 1.11).
Table 1:11 Residents in Abruzzo region with Romanian citizenship on 1st of January of each year
On the territory of Abruzzo, the number of the Romanian women is higher like the men’s number, not only in the entire region, but in different provinces of reference also (Chieti records 3798 immigrants; L’Aquila 3534; Teramo – 2823 , Pescara – 2468. In all Abruzzo region the number of the Romanian women was amounted to 12623, as shown in Table 1.12).
Table 1:12 The presence of the Romanian women on the territory of Abruzzo.
In Pescara city, on the 1st March 2014 there were about 1657 Romanian women. The prevalence is represented by those who still reside in Pescara city (940), followed by those who have immigrated from Pescara city and then, at their turn, they have re-emigrated (394), those who have immigrated and then have “disappeared”, thus untraceable (254), and those who have immigrated and then later have moved to neighboring towns, and therefore they are considered non-residents (62), these data are shown in Table 1:13.
Tab.1.13. Marital status of the Romanian women from the city of Pescara.
|Not to be found
Since March 2014, considering the Romanian women only who are residents and those who have emigrated, it can be observed that only 30% of the immigrants from Pescara city, decided to emigrate in another city, while the remaining 70% decided to remain and to assume the status of resident as shown in the figure 1.2.
Figure 1.2. Residents and emigrants in the city of Pescara
Since 1990, it can also be evaluated how varied is the frequency of the migration phenomenon of the Romanian in Pescara town in the last years. There is a gradual increase of the phenomenon until 2004. Since 2005 to 2007 there was a sudden culmination which was, however, followed by a gradual descent to 2010 and then arriving to 2013, when an evident decline can be observed. The evolution of the phenomenon, thus, expresses a gradual recovery, followed by a disproportionate increase of the phenomenon and then inevitably ends in a sharp decline. It could be assumed therefore, that in the next years probably the phenomenon will be directed toward a further decline or
to the achievement of a long-term constancy (Figure 1.3).
Figure 1.3 Performance migration
By analyzing a sample of women starting from a minimum age of 18 years, to a maximum age of 72 years, we founded out that the most part of the Romanian women that we considered are aged between 43 to 47 years old, followed by those who have ages between 33 to 37 years old, then 38 to 42 years old, and so on as shown in the table 1:14 and Figure 1.4.
Table 1:14 The presence of the Romanian women in the city of Pescara divided by age.
|AGE Romanian Women (From 18 to 72 year old)
|From 18 to 22 year old
|From 23 to 27 year old
|From 28 to 32 year old
|From 33 to 37 year old
|From 38 to 42 year old
|From 43 to 47 year old
|From 48 to 52 year old
|From 53 to 57 year old
|From 58 to 62 year old
|From 63 to 67 year old
|From 68 to 72 year old
Figure 1.4 The presence of the Romanian women in the city of Pescara divided by age
One of the most significant changes which affects the migration processes of our country is the
“phenomenon of mixed couples.”
Among the mixed unions different types of marriage can be identified:
- marriage cohabitation (to legalize the presence on the territory of the Italian foreign person);
- wedding facilitator (to facilitate the insertion into the country of immigration);
- shotgun wedding (occurs after the birth of children);
- wedding elective (based on the love that unites the couple);
- marriage rights (the immigrant partner wants to learn things about a new culture);
- Marriage Agency (husbands who choose his own wife from a catalog);
- marriage of care (between caregivers and the assisted persons);
- marriage support (an isolated individual native, marries an immigrant of the opposite sex who is isolated too).
Italy is also one of the main destinations of the flow of prostitution from the Balkans and in particular from the south-eastern part, namely Albania, Moldova and Romania. In these countries there are, many flows of women that are violently used for prostitution. The more we penetrate in these traffic flows, the more we can identify the trading cycles of the women, the “trading cycle” meaning the full range of the active criminals to accomplish their objective of exploiting women coercively on the market of paid sex; this process involves the recruitment, the journey, the process of progressive enmeshment in the practice of forced prostitution.
Romania is one of the countries of the Balkan region that in the last ten years has been the most affected by the formation of mixed migration flows, as well as by persons who decided to emigrate for work purposes, even by significant groups of very young women unaccompanied by adult family members. These elements, under specific environmental conditions and existential, increases the degree of vulnerability of these immigrants section.. In fact, the risk of being intercepted and involved in criminal circuits dedicated to trading and exploitation, seems rather high. In many cases the trading of women for prostitution determines and gives rise to the phenomenon of child trading, between which we find strong interactions.
What affects deeply these women and relate them to us, in our families and Services, is the fact that their countries of origin often enact behaviors of blame towards these women, accused of having broken up their family that they abandoned: This “blame” serves to their countries of origin, because in this way they don’t take care of their children, but only take the benefits from their remittances. This leads to the emergence of a new form of depression that is haunting Europe, and which is called “Italian Syndrome.” It’s not about the schizophrenia of finance or the risk of a new recession.
The syndrome which takes its name from the beautiful country affects the workers, or better the women workers, or, in a few words, the invisible carers from the East. The typical symptoms are recognized in their years of activity (they are in a bad mood, persistent sadness, loss of weight, loss of appetite, insomnia, fatigue, and suicidal fantasies) and they establish in a different fracture, which mixes the weakening of the sense of motherhood with a deep loneliness and a radical split identity. Those young mothers do not know anymore to which family they belong or to which part of Europe, as if it were an ancient harmony that has suddenly broken. The first to notice this were two psychiatrists from Ivano-Frankivsk, a city of two hundred thousand inhabitants in western Ukraine, marked deeply by the tragedies of the twentieth century. In 2005, Andriy Kiselyov and Anatoliy Faifrych noticed that two women in their care department have a clinical situation different from the others; they had a bad mood, persistent sadness, loss of weight, and suicidal fantasies. The “dark evil” has clear social origins. It was thus called the “Italian Syndrome”, named after the most “badantizzato” country of Western Europe and perhaps of the world. The women who are affected of this syndrome are caregivers abroad, assure for long periods the company to the Italian women, they are nurses, or handyman in Italian houses. They do this for years, 24 hours daily, they are far from their home, and they have left their children alone, to take care of old people alone too, on the other side of the continent. They hold on their fragile shoulders two delicate transformations: on one side, the aging of Italy and the disintegration of its families; on the other side– because of their remittances, that often are the only source of income for their families left there – the tumultuous transition of the eastern countries. They remain alone for a long time and no one perceives their increased stress. And in the end they can resist anymore and collapse. The first cases have been diagnosed in 2005, just three years after the great 2002 amnesty that allows to regularise tens of thousands of domestic workers.
In Romania, some psychiatrists began to study the other side of the coin, the children left in the country of departure, extending the new term “syndrome Italian” to them, calling them “white orphans” of an absent mother, children who have grown up with their grandparents and who are put to bed via Skype from a mother who is thousands miles away.
“It’s a pain to take care of other people’s children while their children are thousands miles away,” said Silvia Dumitrache, president of Adri (Association of Romanian Women in Italy).
The association has developed a program to help these women and their children, it was called “Mom loves you!” and which involves the network of libraries in Romania, where children and teenagers can find acceptance and a computer to talk via Skype to their mothers apart. There are more than 300 children so far who have used this system to communicate with their distant parents. Even in Romania, the phenomenon is not far behind. According to the FONC (the National Federation of the non-profit organization for children of Romania) 1 million children are left home alone by parents who are abroad to work. EUROCHILD has confirmed that about 350 thousand of 700 thousand “white orphans” in Europe come from Romania and 126 thousand of them have both parents working abroad. 16% of them do not see their parents for more like one year, while 3% of them haven’t seen their parents for more like four years. In the north Italy only, there are more like 130 thousand workers Romanian women with an average age of 40 years who have left children in Romania in the care of grandparents or relatives or just by themselves. Approximately 750 000 children in Romania, out of a total of 5 million have at least one parent working abroad and many of them are aged between 2 and 6 years old; 15% of Romanian households have at least one member who emigrated to work. 80% of the children left home become seriously ill with nostalgia for parents with serious consequences on education and personality. A heartbreaking laceration, which sometimes has tragic consequences: there are forty, according to the associations (30 according to official figures), the Romanian children who have committed suicide since 2008 due to the remoteness of their mothers.
How can this European evil be cured? It seems almost to follow the severe economic (and geopolitical) downturns of the new global job market? Often, it is enough to reconstruct the household, and suddenly all the malaise vanishes. But the situations sometimes are more complex. When they return to their country of origin, many women find themselves in a new limbo. They find themselves in a country which no longer consider as their own; and in the meantime, their children have definitively turned their backs to them.
Two constants, which affects women, seems to return. They leave of t e n a skilled job as a teacher, doctor, engineer, and they come to Italy to practice disqualified tasks, for which there was not been formed. In addition, over time, they are perceived as card-women: the only relationship with their family is sending them money. They become the only source of the income. These women need just to break the cage of loneliness. It is not normal to work 24 hours daily, absorbing upon themselves the problems of the new family, forgetting their own.
The “Italian Syndrome” is cured with warm, with community work, developing new forms of self-help. The mass migration will not stop, because the caregivers serve like the bread. It is unrealistic to think that the return home is the only solution, they need a better life here. The carers need to be considered women, not machines. Even here in Italy they are the subjects to be favored them the interventions for integration are designed. They are the key figures for the mediation between different worlds and cultures.
The twenty-first century can be defined as the age of migration, in fact since the decolonization and after, more emphatically, since the eighties of the twentieth century, the migration has affected the entire planet, being qualified as a global phenomenon par excellence. To prevail today are the new elements compared to the past, in fact, in addition to being changed the geography of the phenomenon, it has also transformed its composition, showing a growing feminization. As described in the article, the migration of Romanian nationality, are more and more women to create a migration plan and to venture into what are called “voyages of hope” with the objective of improving their conditions of life, both economic and social.
On the national level the higher presence among the people of foreign nationality, in Italy, is represented by Romania, in fact more than one fifth of the foreign nationals is Romanian. As we show the tables in the article, in Abruzzo region the most interested by immigration Romanian is the province of Chieti; Pescara city has, since 1 March 2014, 1657 total Romanian women and of these 70% live in a stable manner in Pescara. The Romanian women present on the Adriatic coast are aged between 43-47 years old, have children and is in possession of a degree (Junior High 50.12%). These women come mainly from the areas of Muntenia and Moldova.
These immigrant women, once that they arrive in our country are part of the household sector, by working as domestic helpers or carers.
One of the more significant change which affects the migration processes in our country is that the phenomenon of mixed couples, which first of all will be the partner to be changed. Dominating will be therefore an identity, seen as a process that can open spaces of the border, in which a series of different identities brought by the partners, to arrive at a shared identity. Italy is also one of the main target areas and landing daily flows of prostitution from Romania. The presence of women in the sex trade is very complex and differentiated, in fact the pursuit of such activities can take place in apartments, public or private, or in the street. Its manifestation, on the one hand therefore expresses the willingness and ability of many women who aspire to wellness and life style Westerners, on the other hand, when it is subject to violence and exploitation, and once again reflected in our country imbalances, inequities and exploitation prior to emigration and present on a global scale. Many of these women start looking for new opportunities in life, where the work is a clear pattern of attraction, as it allows they to create your own project and they contributed to the maintenance of the family by sending remittances they acquired a fortune. Special consideration must be made for those women who depart alone, leaving behind their lives, their homeland, their children.
The name “Italy syndrome” comes from the fact that our country is the one with the highest number of carers in Europe. It is set up as a great form of depression originated from at least two factors, both related to an identity crisis; these women do not perceive themselves more as “good mothers” for the prolonged absence from their children, and an identity crisis of their nationality due to the dismemberment of the land of origin. With the work of carers look after a family, often elderly, that isn’t their own, in a land that isn’t theirs, with the inability to be reunited with his family for many years and therefore often forced to leave their children with grandparents.
The return to the land of origin means the inability to recognize; then also feel alien to a country that floats like identity and doesn’t guarantee nor a primary sense of national belonging. Depression is a psychosomatic disease and these diseases are always born from a fracture, most often unconsciously. They are alone women, who do a hard job and it isn’t qualified as are their actual qualifications, women also slowly dying inside because they can not be mothers.
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