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Larisa Sitar - Home Palace

This series represents a documentation of a social mass phenomenon that has taken proportions in Romania after the fall of the communist regime, the labor migration, and more precisely, the house as a marker of the labor migration.

In many parts of Romania it has become common practice for migrants, especially in rural areas, to build absurdly huge houses that are not really used, because their owners work abroad all year round and can only come home for holidays. The villages are practically deserted. This is a big shift in the economic and social dynamics of this region (as well as in the landscape), as only the elder are left in the villages, (and they prefer living in their old houses), and sometimes young children who are left under the care of their grandparents. Paradoxically, however, the number of newly built houses is constantly increasing and strange brand new “ghost villages” appear. The migrants work and live in miserable conditions just so they can afford to build a palace in their home village and spend excessively while home for holidays. By having an expensive car, a house much bigger than their neighbor, bigger weddings and parties, the migrants are trying to put up a social status as close as possible to the top hierarchy of the village. It is the outcome of the need to compensate for the social disparagement they experience while working abroad.

The houses stand as an indicator of the migrants’ social status, their values and expectations, but also as warranty of their return to Romania someday. The photographs were shot between 2008 and 2009 in villages in northern Romania, in Maramures and Satu Mare Counties. The migrants from this area are mostly working in France.