Skip to content

Oana Filip - First-Person Plural

Author: Oana Filip

It was the 90s. I lived on the fourth floor of a communist block in Fălticeni. From time to time, it rained in the apartment. I still remember the sound of the raindrops landing in the sink.

Today, we'd call it “white noise” and listen to it on a Spotify playlist for hours to relax. Back then, it was just the reality of the post-communist years, when water seeping through walls was commonplace, something you didn't even talk about. It had made its way into our lives just as we had learned to get used to other things.

I was 5-6 years old when I became, informally, the block kid. I was raised by a whole bunch of neighbors, not just my family.

Downstairs lived Aunt Viorica, who used to yell for me to come and get the hot croissants and share them with the kids behind the block, with whom I played football.

On the first floor I used to go to Ibu's (that's his nickname, his real name is Tudor) to play computer games, something very exotic at the time.

We didn't have much to do with the second floor, we didn't make any great friends there.

On the third floor I used to go to Nana Coca to eat rose jam, drink tonic water and watch dirty jokes. And every once in a while, she'd call me to buy her a couple of blondes or take out her trash.

We lived together on the fourth floor, but there were more than a few days when I only came home to do my homework, take a bath and go to bed. By the time I arrived on the fourth floor, the rest of my needs were already covered by neighbors, friends, and generally living on the block.

The years 95-2000 shaped me fundamentally. During that time, I experienced first-hand what the strength of a community means and how it completes my life. Community had become the glue that made the days flow naturally and fluidly. It was a perfect whole in its imperfection, a universe to which everyone contributed and which we conjugated in the first person plural.

It was all about the “we” that we took for granted. I didn't wonder who made up this we, what holds it together, why it works flawlessly. It was a part of me, and it wasn't until 30 years later that I would find out how it had shaped who I had become.

I don't think I chose to become a community builder, but rather, I think I had unconsciously always sought to relive the state of my childhood years. Even if only for a few hours.

In fact, it's an accumulation of states over which I would paste a large sheet of paper and write with maker the word safety.

Safety in being who I am, without fear of non-acceptance or rejection.

Safety in having someone to share my day-to-day happenings with, without questioning whether or not I'm being heard.

Safety in belonging to a place, without having to do something or to behave a certain way to get it.

From that state, anything was possible, and it gave me a lot of courage and enriched my life in a thousand ways. Safety is what helped me feel free to be the only girl on the block who plays soccer, to not care if someone is too fat, too tall, too brown, too rich, too punk, and to support them, to run errands for neighbors (from carrying sugar and oil from one floor to the next to carrying groceries), to call on my mom's friends to do my homework and pass the class, to witness stories of all kinds.

I have also done this in my adult life, where I have tried to reproduce this condition through a series of communities I have built in Iasi. I have brought together students, artists, IT people, entrepreneurs and dreamers to tell our stories and see that we are more similar than different. We are not only united by the fact that we live in the same city, but also by ambitions, fears and dilemmas that we are all too often alone with. Once brought into this universe, they become a more easily digestible normality. It was no longer something that was wrong with you or me, it was a shared reality, and that gave us courage. But as time went on, the endeavor became messianic and therefore unhealthy and certainly not sustainable. So I preferred to close the books and switch from the role of creator to that of observer.

In the meantime, even the form of community on the block has been almost completely diluted.

We barricade ourselves in our own homes, turn the locks 3-4 times, mute our intercoms. We defend ourselves from our own neighbours as if they were the most dangerous people.

We relate to them as strangers we'd rather walk past unseen.

We sneak up the stairs of the block so that we don't have to interact beyond hello and then give each other hearts on Facebook.

Today, we get to talk in terms of us versus them. And the “we” is made up of a billion selves that make us blind to seeing the common good. The me-me-me era keeps us trapped in a selfish discourse where my needs are more important, where my pain is greater, where my living deserves more attention. From this state, all we've managed to do is live more alone and more afraid.

We need to relearn how to conjugate community in the first person plural and give it back its invisible power to bring us together and restore our sense of security.

Safety in being who we are, without fear of non-acceptance or rejection.

Safety in having someone to share our day-to-day happenings with, without questioning whether or not we are heard.

Safety in belonging somewhere, without having to do something or behave a certain way to get it.

Communities and, dare I say it, the future, belong to those who are willing to shrink distances, tame fears and embrace differences. And that can only be done if we come back to ourselves.


This site uses cookies

In order to provide you with the best browsing experience we use cookies. If you disagree with this, you may withdraw your consent by changing the settings on your browser.

More info