Pata-Rat is an inhospitable place. During summer it is a “Moloch” that you would rather expect to be located in the outskirts of an asian or african megacity, while it is an ocean of mud and garbage during the long winter. Some of the families live here in third generation from the leftovers of the majority society. During the 1990s about 200 people were living here in a shantytown that became widely known as “Dallas” named after the popular TV-series due to its clan structures. Nowadays, estimated 1400 slum dwellers are trying to make a living in three different communities around the municipal landfill on the brink of Cluj-Napoca, Romania’s second biggest city.
The garbage dump provides the only source of income and often food for the socially excluded Roma minority where they scavenge the waste for recyclable goods. 70 Bani, roughly about 15 Cent for a kilogram of plastic; twice the amount for metal. Many of the inhabitants are in debt and earn less. Some are only paid in food for their dirty work by the local bosses. Subsidies are often not even requested by the local politicians as they simply fear a loss of votes as soon as they try to improve the situation in the numerous Roma areas. Therefore, Pata-Rat still has neither a school, nor medical infrastructure. Even minor injuries caused by rusty nails or rat bites might have fatal effects in this hostile environment, where work itself is already dangerous and repeatedly caused fatalities.
Most inhabitants do not even have valid papers, which in fact makes them nonexistent in a legal vacuum. Indebted and caged in feudal structures, people of Pata-Rat work as slaves for the local patrons. “During the time of Ceauşescu, there were factories and work even for us. We wanted democracy. Now we can watch them selling our country. And us along with it.” says Imre, one of the few non-Roma in the community. “Them” are the beneficiaries of the new economic system and the ones who exploit the economic distress of the communities ́ majority.
“I never expected to end like that, says a bypassing man called Gusti and adds “that it’ll still get worse.” The landfill will close as soon as the new recycling plant in a neighbouring village becomes operational. New jobs will not be generated. The workers will be recruited from the communal prison – to resocialize the inmates.