We didn’t really plan to go there. It wasn’t on the way. Many told us that during winter it’s not really worth. At first we couldn’t find any interesting project to volunteer in. But there was something which really called us to Moldova. Maybe the fact that we didn’t know what is Moldova about, even finding it on the map was a little bit challenging. Maybe because although it’s an European country, most people don’t really consider it Europe? A forgotten corner, somewhere there, far away. We didn’t even know any Moldovan person… Or at least we thought so.
Moldova turned out the most fascinating country in this part of the world. An enigmatic land, a place which surprises every day, full of amazing people, complicated stories and delicious wine. Below we describe some of our experiences for those who look for adventure, calmness, good people and unforgettable memories.
Everything started at 6 am in Chisinau. We arrived with the night bus from Cluj-Napoca, Romania. It was still dark, fortunately we found an exchange point open. All the rest around was closed. At 9 am we were supposed to meet in a café with a local changemaker, Andriano , founder of the Moldovan Youth Orchestra. It was cold, January, at least -10. We didn’t have much of an idea about what to do, so we started to walk in the direction of the bar. Fortunately, it occurred to be open 24/7. We were the only clients. The waiter was taking a nap behind the bar. We ordered a cappuccino, peering around with curiosity. The bar was a mixture of ZSSR style, modern art and Irish pub. Here an there the portrait of some old-school Hollywood star. But it had its own charm. Coffee was good, making us ready for the next adventure. Andriano turned out not just a changemaker, but also an artist which helps other to express themselves through art. And it was the first, but definitely not last, very hospitable Moldovan. He gave as a lift to the couchsurfer place. Our first host agreed to host us in a small single-room flat. A IT guy, sportsman. He was born in Moldova, lived all his life in Moldova, but basically did not speak Moldovan. Surprising, we thought. And that was but the beginning of language challenges.
In the following two weeks we were hosted by a Polish family: Gosia, Tomek and three kids – Agnieszka, Michał and Paweł. Tomek is the director of Solidarity Fund PL, an organization we collaborated with during our stay in the country. We led workshops, all together for more than 250 people in 12 different places in Moldova, speaking about traveling, initiating discussions about dreams and changing the world. Sometimes after a workshop we came back to Chisinau (Moldova is so small that basically any place in the country is close enough to the capital), sometimes, though, we would stay for the night in one village. In Ochnica, for example, the northernmost end, near the Ukrainian border. It started with a workshop in the local library. 20-25 participants from the high school. It was difficult to find an interpreter who would be able to speak English, but it turned out that with Italian it goes quite well. I have the feeling that in Moldova there are more people speaking Italian than English. Even the bus driver who brought us to Ochnica. So we run the workshop in Italian with translation to… yeah, what language? It’s a difficult point since it is a political statement. Here the ashes of the cold war are still lit. First of all – Moldovan or Romanian? Some say it’s the same language and should be called Romanian, some don’t. As if that was not enough, we couldn’t just be translated to Moldovan/Romanian as part of the group doesn’t speak it: some people here just speak Russian. But teachers don’t really want to translate to Russian, all in all, we are in Moldova. Anyway, the workshop went on, in 4 different languages, as finally also English was used from time to time. It’s not easy with this jam to have a flow about dreams and values, but we hope that something stroke in participants’ minds. Or hearts. After the workshop we had a tour of the library - beautiful - led by local women. Women in Moldova are usually amazing. Very strong, engaged, leaders. In Ochnica they not only created the library, but also a small museum and fantastic sculptures from old books fantastic sculptures from old books. After visiting all of that, we slowly moved to Lilia’s house, we stayed that night with her and her husband. Although they are probably our parents’ age, we had great time together, speaking in Italian (Lilia) and mix of Russian and gesture language (her husband). We don’t know Russian, but with Polish and a bit of wine we were able to talk about everything. And with everybody, also with their son, who called us by skype from London. As many other young Moldovan, he moved abroad. The number of those who emigrate is even higher in Transinistria, country which is basically not recognized by any other. Yet, there is a border in the middle of Moldova, checking passports and all the rest. You need special permissions if you want to stay longer than 10 hours. We wanted to stay overnight. Fortunately, we crossed the border with a local girl, so everything went quite smooth. We arrived in the evening and left in the morning, so there was not much time for sightseeing. The first thing we noticed was emptiness. Empty streets. Few people, no cars. In Chisinau, day or night, you always find somebody around. Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, has no hustle and bustle. Apriori, the local organization which hosted us, tries to face this challenge. It’s led by young people. Even they, though, treat this job as temporary and plan sooner or later to move on. Or rather move out. Most of young people in all Moldova seems to be ready to leave any moment. Today they fight, they act, but any change in the political scene could be the reason to leave. For obvious reasons, those who speak with us, or at least, those willing to share their point of view, are pro-European. But Russian propaganda goes here very well. And Europe is not doing much about it. Although those who are here, as Tomek for example, stay out of passion toward the country, people, they stayed fascinated and terrified by the situation of Moldova. Poverty, lack of perspectives, constant thoughts about leaving. All of that intertwine with goodness of people, their hospitality, their authenticity, with the passion for change of those who stay to fight for a better reality. It’s worth to visit Moldova, see it as it is today. Who knows what will happen within the next few years.