Greetings From Brasov, Romania

The first message came last Friday. It looked like spam. “My name is Tibi and I write you from Romania,” it began. The note offered me a free banner ad and provided an example.

The note came from a free web service, and the sample was on a free web page service. But something about the note’s tone made me ask my correspondent for more details.

Tibor Ruczui is 43 and, like me, has been in journalism for 23 years. “My dream is to have my own business and to help the others. I discovered that the Internet is the perfect solution for me,” he wrote.

“In 2000 April I printed my first newspaper. I felt free. For this I needed money, so I had to teach e-business classes. (‘How to start a business on Internet.’) The plan was simple. I learn, teaching the others, so I learned very quickly.” In November a student who worked at the national television network offered to make Ruczui a web site. Ambition followed, then came the “Just Flash Banner business opportunity.”

I know nothing of this “business opportunity,” and I’m still suspicious but also curious. How does someone keep a journalism career going for 23 years in Romania? Didn’t he have to collaborate with Ceausescu, and wouldn’t he have been charged with it later?

Ruczui replied that he was a science writer, which kept him out of politics. He got a passport to Hungary in 1987, stayed close to scientists and engineers, and somehow rode it out. He said he still lacks confidence in his government but that doesn’t matter.

“The present political class can’t face the big wave that is coming now. Now like before the politicians and the managers are ‘slipping.’ They think that the Internet is a matter of science and technology. The present managers are seeing things from the wrong point of view. They are ignoring the social content of the Internet. In my newspaper and at my classes I’m trying to change their point of view.”

Ruczui also sent me some links to web sites in his hometown of Brasov. “Brasov is in Transylvania where people are decent, they love to work. In Brasov are living also Hungarians, Germans, Jews. In Brasov we have helicopters factory. We are making Puma helicopters, tractors, trucks, and we are selling them all over the world. The most important thing is that we are friends with the nature. The foreigners from all over the world came here for ski, to visit Bran castle (is known for Drakula, 20km).”

The cynical part of me still thinks this may be a scammer in Las Vegas or someplace. The idea that on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog works both ways — no one knows you’re not a dog, either. But let’s suppose that Tibor Ruczui is real, he’s sincere, and he’s 12 miles from Dracula’s castle right now.

“Now I’m dreaming [of] a virtual Brasov radiant in cyberspace, in same way like Las Vegas in the night. I share this dream with everybody. My dream is beginning to come true,” he concludes.

The next time you think that this medium isn’t worth it or doesn’t matter or you feel hopeless because business isn’t going your way, I want you to think about Tibor Ruczui. A free emailer, a free web page, a few dreams, and a lot of hard work — that’s where revolutions come from. Through your work in this medium, you’re helping make it happen.

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