Return of the Boyars

Petruț Călinescu / 28 March 2016
The peace of a west Romanian village is wrecked by the threat of eviction as the self-proclaimed inheritors of property stolen during Communism return to take back their land

In Romania's Arad county, the village of Nadăş maintains traditional ways of rural life.

The majority of its 1,200 inhabitants make a living from agriculture, breeding livestock, and exploiting the nearby forest.

But the peace of this village was wrecked in 2006, when the Romanian authorities returned 8,762 hectares of land - the entire village, its surrounding pastures and forest - to the Colţeu family.

The family argued that their ancestors owned the land before its seizure during Communism.

A new law on 'restitution' allowed them to take back the estate - estimated at a worth of 20 million Euro.

But the villagers of Nadăş considered this a miscarriage of justice and accused the Colţeu family of forging documents necessary for their claim.

The family counter-argued they are the legal inheritors of Ecaterina Mairovitz, a grand-daughter of Iosif Grosz, a Hungarian businessman who owned properties in Nadăş before World War II.

The villagers battled for their land in the face of eviction threats - and refused to abandon the little their families had earned over many generations.

They saw this as a return of the Boyars - the out-of-town aristocrats who ruled over regions in eastern Europe until the advent of the modern age.

In March 2016 Romania's National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) concluded a two-year investigation, in which it stated that the will that acts as the base for the Colţeu family's claim was a forgery.

As a consequence, the disputed land will probably return to the villagers of Nadăş.

Multimedia and text by Ciprian Hord


DOSSIER: Politics