Sooner or later we all have to do it.This is the first step to healing.
People try to avoid or to deal with their pain in different ways. Stepping over it. Pushing it away. Ignoring it for the sake of keeping up with social requirements. Some bury themselves under heaps of work, or entertainment, or food, or self help and spirituality. Others completely resign. What is left is only a moving carcass. It can also be a beautiful, well dressed carcass. This is not the point.
The point is what follows.
My father ‘s struggle reflects the entire Moldovan experience of those years. His perspective is quite special because he has the power to see through the darkness knowing, intuitively, that it will be better. There will be light.
I believe that this kind of conversations should take place in all homes. Asking difficult questions should not be set aside for better moments (burial or the next big drama or divorce).
We have parents because they have a role, to guide us.
We as children also have a role in guiding them to the light. They might forget or get distracted by the noise of the world. But we can help. Simple things- a hug, a smile, simple presence, a sincere question or more of them, as I did here.
When my father was in Russia, going through his ordeal, I was in Moldova trying to get a grip. A job. Something to eat. To find a reason, the tiniest one, for going on.
Those were heavy days. So heavy I almost lost my breath forever.
Following is the first part of my father talking about his Russian wounds.Which means that they are mine too. Which means that now, after sharing the pain, he will have less to carry.
1.How did it happen that you were forced to leave again Moldova and go to Russia? Please tell us more about this.
A long and painful period followed after I had given up my role in the family business where I was a co-founder as well. We had behind 10 years of working together. All our plans and hopes dissipated. The situations was becoming even more serious because my partners were my brothers. There were accusations against me claiming that I am putting the business at risk through my activity. Taking this fact into account, I decided to step away, not to risk the development of the business, their lives and to let peace be among us.
During the following years their predictions did not became real but it was already too late.
There was also another reason.
At our shop (*furniture shop inside a build by my father with his hands) worked a physically impaired young woman. She couldn’t walk at the full capacity. Her husband was also in the same situation, he was even more affected. Those Moldovan years were extremely difficult for all but for this family it was almost impossible to survive. I tried to help them as much as I could.Things were going in a disastrous direction in general and only my help, the presence gave this woman a kind of moral support. But my wife Olga ( *Oops my mother) considered exaggerated this help of mine and gave it a different interpretation. So, this is how I found myself without work, the relationship with my brothers broken and with even less support from the family.
Time washed away these accusations and soon after I left, in their family a child was born. They live in out town still. But at that time, my wife’s jealousy was ruining the family, day by day.
I worked after that at a company in Chișinău but they were paying one time in 3 or 4 months and also it was payment under the table.
There were a few attempts of getting employed in Europe but in the end the company was suddenly bankrupt or revealed to be a fake one.
This is how I got pushed toward Russia.
2.I remember that we were accompanying you to the train station. How were these train rides?
To Russia I always got with the micro -bus and only the way back was done by train. (*see, I tend to remember my side. We used to wait for him at the train station at his return). It was against the legislation to stay on Russian territory for more than three months without a work permit. This permit is very expensive so I was going back and forth each three months.
These journeys, beside the changing landscape outside, constituted a huge problem. The drivers were demanding money from us in order to pay the guards at the border. The documents and the luggage were attentively inspected, two or three times, especially when entering or leaving Ukraine.The car could be stopped and forced to wait until a determined amount of money was payed.
Each time we were passing the border I felt like a criminal, the guards and the border police treated us as if we were criminals.
Also, very difficult was the time when there were no money transfer methods between the banks. If you did not declare them at the border you risked to lose them by having them confiscated. If you declared them, the risk of having the guards force you to give them away was as real as it could be.
3.Many Moldovan people are spending their days in Russia, in different parts of it.Could you please talk about this. What kind of communities did you see?
A great number of people from Moldova are working in Russia, especially in the big city centers and in the region Tyumen . Hundreds of thousands are working there living in miserable conditions, packed all together. Even today, hundreds of bus routes from Moldova are heading to those parts of Russia.
These people are from the same towns or villages in most cases. They are relatives among them. Now there are groups specializing in doing a specific type of work. In Tver, where I worked most, there was a group of Moldovans who were very good at building roofs. I know from local sources that they are very sought after and the most of the new buildings are done by them.
4.I know that you got through incredibly difficult situations. Please talk about them.
My first experience in one of this communities was in Bryansk. This group was engaged to renew a furniture factory. They needed someone to manage the exterior isolation and retouching work. We lived there on the building area. There was a slightly larger room with bunk beds occupied by 25 people. Next to this room there was a small one transformed into WC and shower. After more than one month, me and other three young men, completed already one third of the whole job. Up to this point everything was fine until the free days began and my colleagues were returning from shopping in town.
*Same here father. This is where I lived while working in Shanghai for who cares what fashion brands.
A simple dinner together or the celebration of someone’s birthday ended with my colleagues getting completely wasted. I did not take part at this parties. I told them that I am christian and I don’t drink alcohol. Funny thing, they thought that something was wrong with me. They were saying that I am sick or that I already had drunk my dose.
One night, after one of this parties the young men from my team came up to me to sort me out. To re-educate me.
Also, before getting the money I found out that we would have to share them not among four, as we worked, but among five. We had to pay our boss. The truth is that after they understood the work technique, they didn’t need me anymore.
I actually heard recently, on a Russian radio station, that the most profitable business these days is selling and using contemporary slaves. Street people or those searching for a job are caught, the documents are taken away and they are forced to work, beaten and threatened. Very often, physically impaired people are forced to beg around the metro stations.
After Bryansk, I left for Sankt-Petersburg.
*I remember the in between. Waiting at the train station. The wind. The mother. A squeezed father would come out. His did not smile. He had no teeth anymore. His hands were rough and his clothes over washed. The hair even whiter.
I found a small hotel and started looking for work. One announcement in the newspaper attracted my attentions- they were looking for people for exterior work and Russian citizenship was not requested. I found the office. A bodyguard showed me the way. Then, a receptionist spoke to me and saying that they have a building outside town where there is work. She also told me that food, lodging and the tools are included but I had to pay first a commission of 7000 Russian Rubles (200$).
I accepted. I thought it is a good chance. I was told to come in three days, to another address, with my things and from there to go the construction site.
When I arrived there, at the appointed time, the front door was closed. I called the number I had. The bodyguard answered, I could recognize his voice. He told me to come back in a week because the lady had an accident and there was nothing to be done. After one day I went back to the office and the receptionist was there. Angry I asked them to take me to the building site or to give me the money back. The woman told me to write a request and that I could come to take the money in one month. I got even more angry and I told her that I can’t wait that long, I had no money for the hotel. Then she called someone describing the situation. She looked at me assuring me that the problem will be solved. On a piece of paper she wrote a new address where the boss was supposed to come and pick me up. But, by the expression on her face, I understood that the voice on the phone said something totally different.
5. How is the state of a soul, a human being going though this kind of experience?
After having been treated in this way you regret a lot for having left, the mind is finding different solutions to try at home which, so far away, seem possible. Seem valuable ideas. But not all the time. When you work and you get a decent salary, life becomes a little bit more colorful.
In Russia, the destiny of a Moldovan is as unpredictable as the cube in the Russian roulette is.
6.How did a usual day in your life look like? How did you get to work? What were you eating?
My days were not very different from one another. In the evening I prepared dinner and something for the morning.
There was a time when I lived in the cottage of my boss, it was at 20 km away from the town and I pedaled my bicycle to get there. I still remember the taste of the currant (coacăză). It was very tasty and perfumed.
I bought food for a couple of days. It was possible to have to change the house or the job any time so all my things suited in one bag. During the week I used to eat cereals, vegetables and some fruits which was satisfying but during my free days I would cook something like home.
7.What people impressed you or is there someone whom you still remember?
In Tver, where I spent most of the time, I worked with a freelancer. His activity was related to renovations. He had a small team of which I also became part. I knew him as a honest person, a good specialist but one specific case exposed him in a different light. I was home in Moldova when he called saying that he might need help in finishing a few jobs. After two days on the road I arrived in town on a Friday night.
I didn’t have a place where to go so I just stood there at the station. I was calling him but he was not answering.
For two days I walked around the town.
He showed up on Monday. During the weekend he was on a party with his friends.
*I remember my father’s enthusiasm about this call. He was happy about the possibility to work. He even prepared a small present for this man whom he considered his friend.
In Sankt-Peterburg when I was broke and waiting at the fake work office, one time a woman came out from the next door. I asked about her neighbors and told her my story. She told me that they are renting the room for a few days already. Without thinking she gave me 1000 rubles. Her name was Natalia and she refused to give me her address or the phone number so that I could, when possible, return her the money. For me this Natalia represents the Russian people. That nation which brought into the world numerous bright minds, the nation that impressed me in adolescence with their classical literature.
Thank you Natalia.
Thank you for reading. Take care of other people. Take care of you.