Sandra EcobescuFrom: Bucharest Born on: 23 May 1973 Occupation: President of Fundația Calea Victoriei
Sandra Ecobescu leads Calea Victoriei Foundation, which was named almost 12 years ago after the first electrified street of Bucharest. Her life story is the proof that you can reinvent yourself any time, if you have inspiration, some intelligence and you work seriously.
In 2007, Sandra leaves the German logistics firm K.H. Dietrich, following a dream, a desire that has been defined in time – to give people of all ages, but especially young people, an opening to the cultural-humanist area through some small but big meetings with well prepared mentors.
The education offered by her parents brought Sandra close to cultural, art history, music and literature. The advantage of having the mother’s influence helped her see, assimilate and enjoy cultural subjects. Just as Sandra says, “She has this conscience to show us, me & my sister Cristina, to explain, to introduce us to a topic, because it is important not to saturate the child’s mind with a lot of information, but instead, you have to present to the kid some culture and education spaces, which will become familiar and appealing when he grows.“
After the curiosity started, Sandra begins as a child to browse on her own art albums, admiring the dresses of women from other centuries, famous paintings, she starts to listen vinyl discs on the ’60s pickup, easily selecting classical music. It was something spectacular in the areas played by tenors, baritones and sopranos, and amazed she hum them later in the house with the libretto in her hand.
Although they understood the essential role of a humanist education, her parents didn’t think that a cultural profession is a guarantee of a safe life. Although Sandra easily wrote beautiful stories, painted with talent or song pieces from opera house, her mother thought it would be good for her kid to become a dentist or an engineer. “Wonderful what you do here, beautiful hobbies, but far from the ’80s reality“, remembers Sandra Ecobescu. “I think that was the moment when I started to hate the word “hobby”; my activities were certainly more than that, it was perhaps more than they could see. With the 1989 revolution /seizure of power, I announced my parents that I decided, in last years of high school, to enroll at the Faculty of Letters.” She congratulates herself for that choice and she believes strongly that all faculties in the humanist field, either psychology or sociology, either it’s foreign languages or faculty of letters, all widens horizons, and later, if you have good teachers, some opportunities to a good profession. These faculties enhance your ability to express yourself well, understand many aspects of life, and structure your mind.
At the foundation, in a 19th-century house, in the salon on the door of which writes “History of Religions” (from a course organized by her team), with a Meissen stove in the back, proof of the owner’s financial strength, for a few seconds the silence settles. Only one wall clock throws noisily the seconds.
She has been a translator and librarian for 2 years at the Council of Europe Information Center in Bucharest, worked for several months at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then, together with her sister Irina, for 7 years worked at the German logistics firm. She coordinates the foundation and is currently attending the Master of Visual Studies & Society, supervised by teacher Vintilă Mihăilescu at S.N.S.P.A (National School of Political & Administrative Studies). “I have had the wisdom of leaving places where I don’t fit. As a translator I got bored over time and I left, at the ministry I found that diplomacy and politics were not suited for me and I turned to publicity, where I finally ran away. Although I had things to learn, I didn’t fit in as perspective. And now I do what I like and I do things for me, like this master.
When I started the foundation, I thrown myself in the project with a wonderful enthusiasm, after which came the hard work, the sustained work, a certain rhythm. Nowadays in our society people are speaking about months, about a sabbatical year, but I couldn’t even think of it. After 2 weeks of vacation I have to go back to work. I like what I do and in this way I function well.
There were a lot of things that match one another, there were a lot of people who supported us when we started the foundation, absolutely extraordinary moments, but there was a lot of work, patience and a kind of belief that things will work, no matter how hard it is. If I put my soul in and I have a good team, I have to succeed. There have been many situations in which I have brought money from home, where I thought if I was doing well, but I am convinced that if someone does as well as possible things and not just after his head, he ask for advice from someone smart, cannot fail.
You can reinvent yourself at any time, if you have some intelligence and you work for it. ”
Photo: Valentina Bălașa Ario
Sandra intends to take singing classes after completing the master. “Sure, I’m not going to go to a professional level, but charity concerts or visits to houses for elderly, why not? If a professional tells me that it is well enough, that I’m not a clown and I don’t destroy the audience ears, I will love to sing. In the high school no one advised me, no one told me that the voice is actually forming through study, that it is impossible to sing as a soprano without training, and that the high notes only comes after years of exercise. Maybe I might have went to the Conservatory!”
This 45-year-old woman has an energy and a desire for living enviable even for Generation Y and Z. She sees surprise on my face and somehow seeks to explain herself:
“It depends also on the people you look at, the models you set. Probably this helped me: the lecturers I surrounded myself with. For example, Neagu Djuvara was a very strong man who has gone through many difficult moments, even though it isn’t known. When the communist regime was installed he didn’t return to the country, and since then lived in France for many years, it has been hard because it was a very difficult time. Later he lived in Africa where also was difficult, but he managed to adapt. He fought in the war, after the war he saw from afar how his family suffered, lived among strangers, and after 1989 he returned in country and reinvented himself at 70 years. He came back to make changes for the better, to put his shoulder to the reconstruction of some ideals and values. He is one of my models. A man who at the age of 90, when I met him, came to the foundation and taught with great joy. He had a wisdom, modesty, and a charisma out of the ordinary, and I learned from him the joy of sharing and speaking with people. Models aren’t the people who say: “here you have to do this”, but those that encourages you and inspires you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone contemporary with you, it may be someone who lived 100 years ago, it may be a character in a book. It creates a starting point that can support the madness and enthusiasm you have at the beginning of a project.
Art and culture: These 2 are essential in humans life and have been instruments with which we have started the project. I want to give people a place to learn about these cultural subjects, become aware of their importance and how they can change their lives for better.
Share it: If you learned something or if you built something, you should share it. This means on one hand that our lecturers share their stories, experience, emotion, charisma with the audience. Neagu Djuvara, Tiberiu Soare, Georgeta Filitti, Vintilă Mihăilescu. And on another hand, it means that we – the team help younger teachers to form, to gather courage to teach, to grow.
Putting people in touch: Here, at our workshops, there are created friendships, lecturers with lectures, students with students, and in this way it become a micro-universe that can then inspire others.
Give courage: We have people coming from other cities to our courses and events. Perhaps we give them the courage to create something similar to the foundation, after theirs needs, in the cities where they live.”
Photo: Calea Victoriei Foundation’s Archive
MS: You talk about human role models. How would you tell your daughter that a strong human is nowadays?
I think it is very important to put in our minds and our soul resilient things. I specifically tell my daughter, Mara, who is looking for things particular for her age, 17 years old, when she wants to study at college abroad, that she must be smart, she have to read a lot and be a good person.
I inevitably turn back to the story of some people who have gone through hard times, who have been in Nazi camps or who have been in communist prisons and who have managed to go through misfortune, isolation, losing their home, family and friends only by their state of mind and soul. There are stories from the interwar period when people from the cultural elite who were sent in prison, were totally deprived, but they managed to communicate, to tell the books they read before, some to recite poems, others to do philosophical lessons or religious ceremonials. They haven’t lost their minds, they haven’t lost their hope. So, resilience and survival through culture and faith is a concrete, proven solution.
Whatever happens in life, we need to be inner “furnished”, and I’m not just talking about intelligence, culture, negotiation skills and diplomacy, you must also have content: kindness, empathy and openness to the others. A strong woman is a smart, educated, but very profound woman who also assumes her vulnerability. You cannot be strong without assuming your vulnerability.
I tell to my daughter that we always reinvent ourselves, because even if there is a strong core, which remains over time, the shells are constantly changing. There is always something new and this continuous change is not only specific to the 21st century, people have always sought to evolve, they wanted change. It is in our nature to be in a continuous process of transformation.
I say to her that all our experiences contributes to our maturity, that it is good to want to do more and better, but you also have to enjoy the work done. I hardly manage to say, “Well done, Sandra!” To breath, to acknowledge the beauty of what was built, to enjoy the finality and only then to ask myself what is next. (She changes her position on the chair, her legs sit differently, while the old parquet floor cracks elderly. She seems ready to start from zero right now.)
MS: Art and culture are essential in human life, but do you think our perceptions towards them have changed?
I think only the form of communication has changed, because, for example, the Renaissance hasn’t changed. There is video content, animations and strategies to attract the young audience in classical subjects, related to general culture of European civilization or of other civilizations on other continents. On January 15 was Mihai Eminescu’s anniversary (important Romanian poet) and, unfortunately, there is still a outdated speech, in the style of: “The unpaired poet …” which for young people is no longer relevant. Eminescu was a living, full of energy, a revolutionary, a rebel, who maybe would have hated all these boring ceremonies. He wasn’t rigid and always serious, he was going in bars, he lived intensively, he got angry sometimes, he wrote virulent articles in press, criticizing social problems and corrupt politicians, he love women, he was friend with Creangă (Ion Creangă, another Romanian writer) and they even wrote erotic texts. Art is the same, Eminescu is the same, but it must be presented with all the faces, not truncated, mummified. Plato is the same, but he must be reinterpreted from one century to another, the analysis of his texts must be adapted to today’s audience, to the way we perceive reality, in order to be understood and loved. You give it a new meaning that interests you now. The foundation didn’t invent the wheel, but the context and the way we communicate, the way we cultivate and educate is different. It is friendly, playful, unpretentious, without losing the essence.
At first some students were scared by cultural subjects, were reluctant, saying they didn’t have the necessary training to understand a classical course of classical music presented by Tiberiu Soare, for example. I told them that the presentations were designed for the general public: “Come, listen, talk and take what you need.” Especially for young people, we offer free places. If they discover on the site courses that inspire them and open their minds or offer them a professional direction, all they have to do is write to us. By all this, but also by what happens physically in causes, we assure them that they don’t waste their time, that they will be inspired and in no case bored.
Diversity helps you choose precisely what you need, there are several perspective that we use: you can choose an elegant presentation of historian Georgeta Filitti about Marie of Romania, or a practical and playful photography course of the anthropologist Mr. Vintilă Mihăilescu, who has humor, but also do many expert references, a painting course or a relaxing musical event with conductor Tiberiu Soare, who speaks passionately about the composer Richard Wagner. The public has a lot of choices.
Photo: Valentina Bălașa Ario
MS: What do you have in mind now?
Beyond everything we’ve been talking about, my family is a priority. I am passionate about what I am doing, some would say workaholic, and in this way you can end thinking that your family comes after work. And it’s not fair. I have many roles to accomplish: mother, wife, employer, student, human and there were moments when I failed in accomplish all of them in certain intense periods. In the first year of the foundation I was like a little horse running on a field, with 700 ideas in my head per week, and I implemented them in a crazy rush. Some succeeded, others didn’t. The problem was that I got tired, but I also learned a lot from this run: how to do or not to do a thing, where to involve and where not, and what I like to do or not.
Now, that little horse who rushed to recover the previously lost time and to discover things, goes more slow now, gallops sometimes, but I try to temper that inner self that is very curious, sometimes chaotic, sometimes brilliant, ageless. I don’t allow me to be distracted by all my ideas, I try to sit down, to think more, to build something meaningful and lasting.
In fact, you have to make a strict program. It is a continuous negotiation, but as I also told to my husband (he too works a lot): “Let’s see each other in the city and to drink a coffee outside home during the week.“ You have to make time for your family. If you have a job that steals you – as it is the foundation to me – more than a job, you lose the other aspects and it is a big trick. I think many successful active women are falling into this trap. It’s so easy to focus on the professional plan, where are involved a lot of pride, recognition, appreciation, from strangers in the end. You can end up alone. It is something tricky. And then, from time to time, the universe, God, or whatever you want, hits you and tells you to take it easy, to look at all the things around you, to think what really matters, forcing you to learn the balance between plans.
MS: Angels are in the paintings of the room we are in, are on the foundation’s website, are everywhere. You like them. Where and how did this affinity start?
I am a faithful person without being a bigot. I think God exists, it is one for all of us, although it has different names depending on the geographical area or on the historical period we look at. The connection with divinity centered and balanced me in many difficult moments of my life. Some years ago, when I focused more and more on work and when I thought things were going on by their own in family, the angel’s image emerged from nowhere, in moments of meditation and prayer. What if you ask them for help? I don’t want to become mystic, but the stories I have read, more or less commercially, have also reminded me of Mr. Pleşu’s book, “Despre îngeri” (About Angels). He held conferences on this subject in my university time, where hundreds of students were gathering in the Amphitheater at the Law School.
I realized that regardless of whether we are believers or atheists, Christians or Muslims, angels remained in collective imagination, in the arts and in spirituality, always with us. They have been reinvented all the time, but they have remained a pleasant, available, consoling presence that we need. I find it very interesting. I consider them “imaginary” friends, but also real, and I like to joke, often telling my friends that I believe more in the unseen things than in the ones I can see. After all what is real and what is imaginary? Love for someone, inspiration in the profession or, more specifically, the strong emotion you feel at a concert or at a theater play are not palpable, but you experience them intensely and they can change you. So they exist.
Some say that under the word angel would hide a high vibration, an energetic field of good to which we can all connect.
Finally, I come to the conclusion that all things work together: families, friends, psychologists, angels, and that the therapist doesn’t exclude the church, as the church doesn’t remove the psychologist.
I don’t think there are characters like angels from nothing, it lasts thousands of years and people don’t give up on these light entities – because if you just search on Google, you discover millions of contexts in which they appear. So, whether we are concerned or not, now, in the 21st century, the angels are with us.