Refugee centre at Falesti

Moldova Day 5-6  Taking stock and the hidden story

(photo – at the Falești refugee centre)

Jane and Megan continue:

There is still snow and no signs of spring to be seen as we drive through the Moldovan countryside to visit a care home with spare beds ready for any older refugees in need. Having got an idea of what is happening to refugees on entering the country or just passing through, we are now thinking about what happens in the longer term to those who want to remain in Moldova for longer. The BEARR Trust will be thinking about this while continuing to maintain its efforts to help in the current crisis.

The village of Micleușeni has a female “mayor” in charge and has been making huge progress creating parks, developing a care home, improving the public facilities with a theatre, library and small computer room and many other improvements to village life. With funding limited, many of these projects remain unfinished and now there is the added burden of taking in refugees with no extra funding for these additional costs. Twenty people from Ukraine are now living in Micleușeni and a group of ethnic Ukrainians are being hosted by a Roma village nearby.  

At the village council centre in Micleușeni

From there we went to view a cultural centre with a playground, where my daughter Pippa is hoping to organise a summer camp with friends in July.  This would provide games, sports, English language lessons, music therapy, singing and performing for both local and refugee young people. She hopes to involve local NGOs and businesses, as well as Ukrainian teachers and social workers, so that the programme is fully inclusive.  

By Sunday evening, after a wonderful afternoon with Soroptimist friends in the country, we were ready for week 2; but we have to admit to feeling overloaded with information, impressions and contrasting viewpoints.   There are, for sure, huge numbers of big agencies and professionals, working on the immediate crisis of people on the move (of all different nationalities, such as Indian, people from DRC, Tunisian, Chinese, Azerbaijani and so on).  Lorries are coming in from many different countries, arriving at the same big refugee centres and unloading. The differences of scale in the relief effort are striking – but both large and small operations are needed.

There is another important underlying story, the longer term one, which is important for the international community as a whole.  The villages we visited, which are mostly without running or warm water, are all taking in refugee families.  They are feeding, clothing, warming their guests and caring for them.  They are helping the children get to school and they are trying to give the adults something positive to do to take their minds off what they have been through.  They do not receive compensation from the municipality or state; and so this will have a huge impact on their personal income and perspectives (especially coming so soon after the pandemic).  For the BEARR Trust, this will be something to consider as we prepare for our continued activity after the crisis – whenever that might be. For now we must brace ourselves for what is to come: Odesa is a big city close by and may soon in great danger, with another surge in refugee flows possible.

Life for Moldovans has not been easy for some time, with huge rises in heating costs in December now further exacerbated by the rises in fuel prices, pushing the cost of living up dramatically. Today we saw an elderly woman sitting in the road trying to sell the tatty books from her bookshelves at home, trying to make some extra money to top up her pension. The situation was similar when the BEARR Trust was founded, and exactly 30 years ago Megan was driving a lorry with medical aid for hospitals and food for older people. At that time BEARR provided emergency assistance, but over the years moved on to a different model, helping small civil society organisations to develop and become sustainable, and focussing on a wide range of vulnerable groups. Back at the beginning there was very little in the way of civil society in the region, and BEARR had to work through government agencies. Right now, we need to get support to the refugees and the families hosting them, as well as those who remain in Ukraine, through the excellent civil society organisations that now exist.

Lady selling her books

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