Recently I was in the Ungheni district to participate in the inauguration of a photographic exhibition at the Dimitrie Cantemir Library. I found an institution full of people, books, ideas, and future projects. Painting exhibitions, photography, 3D laboratory, American center, modern language courses – the library is a large anthill, with 2 floors of well-equipped spaces. No, it is not the merit of the current government and nor of previous governments. The Ungheni Library is the merit of a group of women who decided to maintain and develop the library, despite low salaries and temptations to go abroad for a normal life. It was difficult, but not impossible: they managed to obtain European and American funding for various activities, they obtained financial support for study visits to various libraries around the world, they brought experiences, materials, and gathered people. Currently, this library is the most authentic community center where any citizen of Ungheni of any age and social status can spend his free time.
But do people of Ungheni have the time to just sit in the library? Of course, a small number of locals come to the library, because in addition to the (sporadic) need to read books, people have many other needs. But I discovered that in other areas, things are as optimistic as in the library. People can get grants to develop small businesses, open more leisure venues, and initiate infrastructure projects. The park in Ungheni surprised me perhaps the most, it is equipped with spaces for different occupations, including a skate area that I have not seen in Chișinău. Moreover, in Ungheni it is quite difficult to buy an apartment, housing is in high demand and several people told me that some people from Chișinău sold their apartments in the capital and moved to live in this small town near the EU border.
What do the people from the villages near Ungheni do? The villagers are also enterprising. Vineyards are open nearby, orchards are planted, solar parks, and private kindergartens are opened. Some villages are champions in the number of newborns in the region, and in Cornești (and not only) a new aqueduct is being built, from European grants too.
And how do budgeters from Ungheni manage? Different, although many remained at home. When they can no longer manage at home, they work in Iași, living in Ungheni. They commute from Moldova to the EU every day. Doctors, but also people employed in the field of services found work across the Prut, living at home.
This is not just the resilience model of the people of Ungheni. A few weeks ago I spent a few days in the Cahul district with young people from nearby villages on a photo project. The people from Cahul seemed even more connected to their homes and more proud of their region. It is true that the Prut Meadow is a natural area not only for the growth and development of aquatic flora and fauna. It is an area that has an enormous potential to develop agrotourism, where the landscapes can be excellently combined with gastronomy, wines, art, crafts, and musical culture. But do people just need fun? No, in Cahul there are libraries, workshops, markets, universities. Science is also done in Cahul.
Visiting the ”Prutul de Jos” Nature Reserve, I benefited from a wonderful storyteller, Viorica Paladi, who knows practically everything about birds, fish, plants, insects that beautify the Prut Meadow. Viorica grew up in Slobozia Mare, left the village to study and returned to her beloved meadow to do scientific research, and stayed here. The main road to the reservation is so disastrous that you only want to go through it once in your life, to know what it’s like. Viorica walks this road every day for her professional interest, works for a miserable salary, rewarded with the satisfaction of doing something the meadow treasure needs so much.
People like these support the communities near the Prut. They hold Romanian passports and have the EU gate open every day, but they remain, resist, and build. They must not be lost, they must be regained and this text is small support for their great effort and a warning not to forget the most valuable resource of Moldova.