Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

My creative friends and I have thrived in Utrecht

Ovidiu’s brother fled Rumania during the dictatorship. Things weren’t going well for him, is how Ovidiu puts it. He was six when his 18-year-old brother left and when he visited again five years later, Ovidiu hardly knew him. But he came back more frequently during the years that followed, telling Ovidiu all about Utrecht. “He said that you were free to do what you liked”, says Ovidiu. This sounded like the real deal, so after finishing high school in 2004, he went to join his brother.

“I lived with my brother in Lunetten for five years. The first thing I did was to take the entrance exam for HKU University of the Arts in Utrecht. I had to show them my portfolio and do a drawing. They accepted me immediately and even suggested that I start in the second year; I´d already reached a higher level apparently. It was an honour, but I preferred to start at the bottom. I wanted to spend the first year learning Dutch and getting used to the culture.” Initially, he didn’t understand a word the lecturers were saying. “Someone translated it for me in a few minutes at the end of each lesson – luckily they didn’t say much!”

He graduated as an illustrator and spent the first four years of his career working at the company where he’d done an internship. He then started his own company as an illustrator and graphic designer. That was until two-and-a-half years ago, when he became seriously ill. He now admits to seeing far too much of the inside of University Medical Center Utrecht. “I’m on social assistance benefits while I’m being treated and in rehabilitation.” He’s not keen to talk about his illness.

Room for creative spirits

Ovidiu chose to sit outside Café Ledig Erf for the interview. He has good memories of this place. “During my second year in Utrecht, I went to the Lentebok Festival for the first time. It wasn’t as popular then as it is now. Great beer and a friendly vibe.” This is where you’ll find Ovidiu on your average evening, either here or in another bar with a good choice of beers such as Kafé België and Springhaver.

He enjoys the opportunities the city offers. Not just for drinking, but also for the more creative spirits among us. “My creative friends, acquaintances, brother and I have thrived in Utrecht.” His friends have studios in places including the Vlampijpateliers in Zuilen and Das Spectrum art centre in Overvecht. “Great spots. Plenty of room for us, and more on the way.”

However, he thinks there may be less room these days for ethnic diversity. “When I first arrived, everyone said hello to me. Nowadays, people either ignore me or treat me differently. Nothing I can put my finger on, but I think it’s something to do with my accent and my appearance – racism seems to be on the increase. Having said that, most people are normal! Utrechters are open and the city is fun. If I spend too long on holiday in Rumania, I get homesick for Utrecht.”

Name: Ovidiu Opris
Place of birth: Cisnădie, Romania
Date of birth: 29 June 1979
Motto: “I haven’t really got a motto, but maybe: I don’t believe in traditions; I always do my own thing. ”

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

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Article by Fenna Riethof.