We were all freezing cold when we finally reached the car. And, yet, we felt highly invigorated. We had walked among the crowds and had heard their voices. We had faced the wind and snow but had also met people who had strong and marked views. As I closed the door to the car it seemed I could hear all of their voices, freely, democratically expressing their views. Finally, after so many years of communism, Romanians know and care about democracy. The EU gives them hope and Moldova’s future a cause for optimism.
By Georgiana Constantin l December 11, 2014
Great Union Day or Unification Day on December 1st is Romania’s national holiday observed after the 1989 revolution. Bucharest parade photos: Brooke L. Heimbach
The recent Moldovan parliamentary elections have proven that the fight for power between Russia and the West is slowly but surely intensifying.
While the Moldovan people’s votes seem to have inclined towards the pro-EU parties, the preference was only a minor one, with pro-Russian parties obtaining only slightly less votes than their opponents. “No party appears able to form a government, although, after a partial count, the three pro-EU parties do have a narrow lead over their pro-Moscow rivals,” Euro News reported on December 1, the day after the election. “It is necessary to arrange a post-electoral deal and to act very quickly, being conscious that even after the elections pressure against Moldova will continue. It will consist of economic pressure, media pressure, meant to derail our country’s European path,” Liberal Democrat leader Vlad Filat warned.
December 1st, the day the votes were officially announced was Romania’s national day military parade held in the country Moldova once was a part, until the 1940 Soviet occupation. Romania supports Moldova’s EU accession and has, therefore, been closely watching the elections.
I asked Romanians what their opinion was of the election results in Moldova. My friend Mircea Carare and his sister Smaranda joined me on this mission, keeping the camera-phones steady so that the interviews might be properly recorded.
Some people were not acquainted with the subject, others were not willing to be interviewed, however, the ones who were disposed to talk to us had interesting and differing opinions.
While proudly holding the Romanian flag and trying to protect his face from the wind and snow, one man declared, “The feeling I got from the elections was that there was no firm pro-European message, unfortunately. I am disappointed and trying to understand why such a thing might happen.”
When asked if he thinks that Moldova would be better off in the EU rather than Russia he responded, “It is my wish that Moldova might be part of the EU. And not only that, I know what such transitions meant for Romania in the 90s as well. I know what such a period meant and what misinformation meant, and the fact that we managed to break free of such misinformation and move forward was an extraordinarily good thing. I think Moldova is repeating Romania’s 90s experience.”
The man’s friend, who had been nodding approvingly declared, “I agree with my friend. Yet, we do have to take into account all the votes. I don’t know what it meant to be a part of the former USSR. However, it seems to have had quite an influence on the people, since so many of them still voted pro-Russian and cannot seem to detach themselves from this country. It is hard for me to understand this. I would, however, say that it might be best for Moldova to be part of the EU.”
Joyful and ambitious youths
We thanked our interviewees and, making our way through the cheering parade crowd, we came upon a group of three enthusiastic young people holding up “VREM UNIREA” (we want unification) flags.
When asked about their views on the Moldovan situation, they candidly replied that even though they were not very well informed on the current results, they agreed that Moldova’s future should be a European one. But, adding a slight twist to the equation one stated, “We would prefer to see Moldova as having a pro-Romanian future. This is what these flags we brought out today represent and this is what we believe. We want Moldova to be reunited with Romania, since we used to be one country and then we were split apart and it was taken from us.” They ended with a joyful and buoyant, “Basarabia e Romania,” meaning Basarabia (the bulk part of Moldova and a minor part Ukraine) is Romania.
Father and son
Saying goodbye to our cheerful yet determined young friends, we walked on and encountered a father and son who were just making their way to the comfort and warmth of their car. They agreed to spend a few minutes with us out in the heavy December snowfall of Bucharest and share their views about the Moldovan elections. The young son watched on proudly as his father spoke of the situation in the neighboring country. “We know the results were a narrow win for the pro-European parties. Of course, it is important for Moldova to be pro-European. However, the country does have a significant Russophile population. This is a consequence of recent historical events. This population’s opinions also have to be respected, since this is how democracy functions. It is up to the government to make sure that the wishes of the Russophile population are also adequately managed. However, the pro-European route is the best way Moldova could go, along with its mother country [Romania].”
At this point the parade was over, and, after parting with the knowledgeable gentleman and his young son, we started walking back to our own car. Yet, even as we could not resist the promise of warmth and a nice rest which we would have gotten had we reached the car, we stopped to talk to two more citizens.
Lady with the Romanian flag
The first, a lady smiling and holding a sizable Romanian flag, was quite happy to share many of her views with us. A few of the more memorable points she expressed were that “The Romanians, the Russians and all nationalities and ethnicities in Moldova live on Romanian soil. Moldova is Romanian soil. The pro-Russian forces want to plant the seeds of de-nationalization in Moldova just as Russia has always done imposing this artificial border between Romania and Moldova. Moldovans are our brothers and Basarabian soil is sacred. Moldova should choose the path of the EU. Russia does not even care about its own citizens. A better way of life will come from the West.”
The last person we stopped to talk to on our way back from the parade happened to be young aspiring Romanian politician, Moraru Ionut Cirpian.
He shared with us many of his views on the subject and hopes for the future. “The Moldavian people chose peace,” he stated. “They chose not to provoke any extremist organizations such as ANTIFA. The Russians voted with Dodon’s socialist party. Moderate communists voted with Vladimir Voronin and the pro-Western citizens voted with the pro-EU parties.”
“For now,” he explained, “the Moldovan people have not made up their minds. They are both pro-Russia and pro-EU. We do not know what their future will look like, Western or Russian, since they are right between NATO and Russia. For now they are trying to keep the peace.”
“They have to take small steps towards change,” he noted. “It is not possible for any shifts to be abrupt since that would lead to a disruption of stability in the region.”
We thanked Mr. Moraru for his time.
Observant poor man
We were going to the car. Then we met someone else, with whom we hadn’t stopped to talk. He was a poor man who liked to listen and observe people giving interviews. He had listened to Mr. Moraru speak.
This man said that Moldova would not have existed had Stalin not saved it after WW II and that the West, and especially America, exaggerated in getting involved in the affairs of other nations. Yet, he said, he liked to be friends with individual Americans, since they are nice people. There was a look about him that gave us the impression that communism represented a simpler time for him personally.
As we finally headed towards the car, we passed by a man who engages us in conversation and told us how much he wanted Monarchy to be restored in Romania and how happy he is that the King is back.
We were all freezing cold when we finally reached the car. And, yet, we felt highly invigorated. We had walked among the crowds and had heard their voices. We had faced the wind and snow but had also met people who had strong and marked views.
As I closed the door to the car it seemed I could hear all of their voices, freely, democratically expressing their views. Finally, after so many years of communism, Romanians know and care about democracy. The EU gives them hope and Moldova’s future a cause for optimism.
And, yet, all of the people I talked to seemed to share in the knowledge that Romania and Moldova are special. They are two countries between the Orient and the Occident and they are, as they always have been, in the middle of the battleground between two powerful forces. Many want to be Western, but many more still feel a stronger bond to the East.
In the end I couldn’t help but wonder how many people simply listen to others speak, like the poor man did, not expressing their opinions, but, rather, keeping silent and observing as the world changes around them, ever democratically unfair, ever spiritually cruel, ever unforgivably sententious. And so, many ask, why must the countries who are both Eastern and Western ever have to end up choosing one parent over the other? Eventually, the child grows up to stand on his own, hopefully, a strong independent adult. Yet, a loving parent knows when to let go.
Georgiana Constantin is a law school graduate who has studied International, European and Romanian law at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest and received her Masters from the Nicolae Titulescu University in Bucharest. Ms. Constantin, who is based in Romania, is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.