Conflicts & War

Thousands of Ukrainian refugees are changing the face of Moldova’s capital

By Marcel Gascón

Chisinau, Mar 27 (EFE).- Tens of thousands of Ukrainian women waiting with their children for war to end in their home country are changing the face of the capital of Moldova, one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world and with an aging population.

As spring arrives in Europe, refugees take their children to the parks and streets of Chisinau, which has turned out to help its Ukrainian neighbors through these difficult times.

“They have received us very well, because they fear they could be the next to suffer a Russian attack,” Viktoria Aybakirova, a student from Mykolaiv city, told Efe. She arrived in Moldova on Feb. 28 along with her sister, mother and grandmother.

Aybakirova tells her story in a park in central Chisinau, while a Moldovan woman sings old Russian songs accompanied by music from a speaker. Retired Moldovans dance to the music and Aybakirova and her family sing and jump up to dance from time to time.

The family is staying with an uncle and plans to travel through Romania to Hungary, where they believe they will be able to find more work opportunities until the war ends.

“We do not know what is going to happen with our country, or our city, and we are worried about my father, who is fighting with the Ukrainian army,” Aybakirova says.

Since the days of the Russian Empire, the elites of what is now Moldova have traveled to the Black Sea port city of Odesa for holidays, study and work.

The Russian military campaign in Ukraine has reversed this trend, and now many Odesa residents have arrived in Chisinau, having traveled the 180 kilometers separating the two cities while fleeing the war.

“I have come from Odesa with my mother, sister, and eleven-year-old son,” Helena Prokovskaya tells Efe while lining up to receive food at an aid facility in the center of the capital.

Her family is hosted by one of the thousands of households that have opened their doors to the refugees and are helping the government manage the humanitarian emergency.

During the weekends, the usual evening crowd of youngsters at Chisinau’s shopping malls and burger joints has now been replaced to some extent by Ukrainian mothers, children and grandparents, who often recognize and greet each other on the street.

Also usually dominated by young people, hostels and dormitories in the city now have Ukrainian children running around, while their elders prepare food or wash dishes.

Every afternoon, dozens of young Moldovans and Ukrainians gather in front of the Russian embassy to protest with placards in support of Ukraine and urging passing cars to honk in support, with the drivers responding enthusiastically.

The main organizers are Diana Mazurova and Vladimir Ternavschi, young Moldovans who met at this spot a year ago while demonstrating in support of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.

Both Mazurova and Ternavschi speak Russian in their daily lives, as does a sizeable part of the population of this small republic, which became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. EFE


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