Volunteers Article

A visit from ‘Aunt Natasha’

Already one of the poorest countries in Europe, The Republic of Moldova has been deeply impacted by the conflict in Ukraine. Indeed, many thousands of Ukrainians have found sanctuary in Moldova, which borders Ukraine to the north, east and west. The Red Cross Society of the Republic of Moldova is helping both refugees and Moldovans as they face compounding economic hardships. The modest but regular support from Red Cross volunteers — like ‘Aunt Natasha’ — can make a big difference.

It’s a typical winter day in Basarabeasca, Moldova, where Vika and Artur are raising five children in a modest house. Outside it’s snowy and cold, but the sun pokes through from time to time, and their heavily bundled children occasionally go out to play. But like most days, Vika and Artur are worried: What will they eat this evening now that the last potatoes are gone? Will we ever be able to afford to fix the broken washing machine?

On this day, however, they are getting a bit of help, and a boost in morale. The woman they affectionately call ‘Aunt Natasha’ has come for a visit, bringing some helpful household supplies and a listening ear. She can’t solve Vika and Artur’s many challenges, but her presence is a sign that in times like these, the small but consistent showing of support and solidarity can make a big difference.

In their living room in Basarabeasca, Moldova, Vika and Artur beam with pride as they hold their youngest children close for a family photo. Raising five children is challenging due to harsh economic circumstances, which only worsened with the arrival conflict across the border. Once a daily labourer, Artur’s work collecting and carrying scrap metal is barely cost-effective due to plummeting metal prices. Despite his best efforts to find other employment, Artur’s lifelong disability limits his options, leaving him with few opportunities to support his family.

 

 

Volunteers and staff from Moldova Red Cross have stepped up and helped thousands of people coming from Ukraine since the escalation of the conflict last year. But they have also helped families like Artur and Vika’s, who are from Moldova but who are also struggling on the brink of survival.

Among them is Natalia, the head of Basarabeasca branch, who has become almost part of the family for many in this town.

“We often call her Aunt Natasha,” Artur says. “Aunt Natasha helps us with food, shampoo, soap… A lot.”

“All that I have,” adds Natalia (People named Natalia are often also referred to as Natasha in many eastern and central European countries).

“I am grateful to her as to a Mother,” Artur continues.

 

Vika never stops her from taking care of their children and her many household tasks.

In addition to preparing meals for everyone, she has been hand-washing clothes all day due to a broken washing machine.

Heavily bundled the children go out to play amid a colorful forest of hand-washed laundry. For now, it’s being done by hand because repairing the washing machine is not feasible due to financial constraints. But on the bright side, notes Vika, at least they will have some savings on the electricity bill this month

 

 

 

Vika and Artur’s family relies on the food that one of their children receives at the kindergarten.

While many parents choose to keep their children at home over the weekend, the family sees the importance of sending their children to school for a meal. With only 3 or 4 potatoes left at home, they made a soup for breakfast, but the looming question of what to eat in the evening hangs heavy on their minds.

 

But Vika and Artur is just one of many families that get regular visits from Moldovan Red Cross volunteers. A hardworking mother of eight, Aliona used to run her own farm where she took care of cows and 40 goats. In addition to raising her own children, four of which are still minors, she also helps her daughter take care of her little grandchildren. Just as with the other families, the Moldova Red Cross plays a vital role in Aliona’s household.a

Here a Red Crosser brings basic household supplies, for cooking and hygiene, which are often hard to find and expensive in the local markets. While they are far from meeting the deep needs of people here, they allow families to focus their limited resources on other essentials.

 

The Moldovan Red Cross continues to look out for other people they might help. In the village of Chabankovka, 100 kilometers away from Basarabeasca, 70-year-old Fima burns wood in a stove to keep her small flat warm, despite living in a multiple dwelling. Formerly a pig-tender on a nearby farm, Fima had to raise her children alone since her husband drowned long ago while fishing. As her daily duties becoming increasingly difficult, help has arrived in the form of a town administrator who come by to help. The Moldova Red Cross is now assessing Fima’s needs and exploring opportunities to provide further aid.

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