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Thousands of Ukrainian refugees and their families transform the capital of Moldova: this is their lives

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Moldova is one of the oldest and most depopulated countries in the world. However, in recent weeks, as reported by Marcel Gascón for EFE, His physiognomy has begun to slowly transform. The arrival of tens of thousands of Ukrainian families, mostly women with children, awaiting the end of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine, is changing the streets of the capital, Chisinau.

Currently, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), this country neighboring Ukraine would be hosting 379,204 – a figure from March 25 – who have fled the Russian invasion. This in a country that ended last year with a total of 2,620,495 inhabitants.

These days, taking advantage of the arrival of spring, EFE reports, the refugees – since the majority are women – have gone out to walk with their children through the parks and boulevards of a capital that, like the rest of Moldova, is turning in helping their Ukrainian neighbors in these difficult times.

Despite the good reception received by Moldovans, the humanitarian information portal ReliefWebdependent on the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), warns that the majority of families who arrive in the country and stay there belong to the most vulnerable communities in Ukraine.

Ukrainian refugee families upon arrival in Moldova.

Mikhail Kalarashan

EFE

“They are part of impoverished sectors of the Ukrainian population and do not have the economic capacity or the means to continue traveling,” says this UN entity. And he adds: “They need humanitarian aid, protection and urgent support.”

Hungary Road

“They have received us very well because they understand us and fear being the next to suffer an attack from Russia,” he tells EFE. Viktoria Aybakirova, a Ukrainian student from Mykoláiv who arrived in Moldova on February 28 with her sister, mother and grandmother.

Aybakirova tells her story in a park in central Chisinau while a Moldovan woman sings old Russian hits, accompanied by music from a loudspeaker. Moldovan retirees dance to the rhythm of the music and the young woman and her family sing and jump onto the dance floor to some songs.

The family is staying at the house of an uncle who lives in Moldova, and plans travel through Romania to Hungarywhere they believe they can find more job opportunities until the war is over.

“We don’t know what is going to happen to our country, to our city, and we are worried about my father, who is fighting with the Ukrainian army,” Aybakirova says with a smile, happy to be able to practice her English.

Little Odessa

Since the time of the Russian Empire, the elites of what is now Moldova have traveled to Odessa, the main Black Sea port, to entertain, study and look for work. The Russian military campaign against Ukraine has reversed this phenomenon, and today many Ukrainians from that city have traveled the 180 kilometers that separate it from Chisinau fleeing the Russian military threat.

Ukrainian refugees upon arrival in Moldova.

Mikhail Kalarashan

EFE

“I came from Odessa with my mother, my sister and my eleven-year-old son,” he tells EFE. Helena Prokovskaya while queuing with other women to receive food at a help point set up in the center of the Moldovan capital.

Like most refugees, Prokovskaya and her family are being hosted by one of tens of thousands of Moldovan families who have opened their homes to strangers and are helping the State manage the humanitarian emergency.

A changed city

On weekends, when evening falls in all the cities of Europe, groups of enthusiastic teenagers take over shopping centers and hamburger restaurants in droves. The clientele of these places is different in Chisinau these days.

Those who go out to be entertained by the sunset are here mothers with their young children and teenagers and their grandparents, who recognize each other when they pass each other and greet each other as a sign of solidarity in their language.

Another place dominated by young people throughout Europe is hostels. In Chisinau, children are now running around while their mothers and grandmothers prepare the food. or wash the dishes.

Protests at the embassy

In front of the Russian embassy, ​​dozens of young Moldovans and Ukrainian refugees demonstrate for hours every afternoon with pro-Ukraine banners and posters encouraging cars to honk in protest against the Russian war. Drivers of vehicles with Moldovan and Ukrainian license plates respond by honking their horns and waving behind the window.

A young Moldovan woman during a demonstration in support of Ukraine in Chisinau.

Mikhail Kalarashan

EFE

The conveners are Diana Mazurova and Vladimir Ternavschi, two young Moldovans who met in that same place a year ago while demonstrating in support of the Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.

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

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