On our blog and in the album that we are preparing, you will find stories from all over the world – about schools, girls, women, initiatives. You will also find so called „silent heroes”, who are equally worth our attention. This is Olga, whose personal story surely resembles a fate of many mothers-emigrants.
With a faint, little-reassuring smile Olga shows me her passport, where pages are filled in with stamps from the Polish-Ukrainian border. She turns page after page – the paper is covered everywhere in red ink: Moldova, Ukraine, Poland. And then the return journey: Poland, Ukraine, Moldova. It goes round and round. These are practicaly the only journeys she makes. Sometimes whe she is back home for summer, she is going to the seaside with her family. She then travels again to Ukraine, because Moldova does not have a direct access to the sea, but ”once had” as she stresses. When asked about Poland, she says that she likes it a bit, she also got used to it a bit. One can hear in her voice that her life is in Moldova. Only that she is not there too often where her life is.
Six years ago she decided to leave to „earn her crust”, without the language, without any preparation. Just like that, without too much time for consideration, forced by her life situation. She found a job agency, but in order to pay for it she had to take a credit. Welcome mortgage! Only the flat, and her family lives there – two dughters and her husband. The decision seemed to be risky, but she was thinking that in Poland she will be able to earn enough to pay off both the credit ratek and support financially her family. She says that her husband used to have „work occasionally”, sometimes he had it, other time not. Because of that, the family situaton was dfficult, most often really bad. Once can say „that’s life”, but the earnings in Moldova are really low and even when one works hard, it is difficult to make both ends meet. When someone is really lucky, he can earn 200 euros, i.e. slightly more than 3000 Moldovan lei. Bread – 5 lei, milk – 10 lei, herring – 7. Even if buying only these products, one spends nearly a quarter of the salary in a month. But here the whole family has to be fed. Someone had to do something about this. Somehow, at the expense of something else. Olga admits that her stay in Poland is a necessity. Many know this, because Olga is not the only one who could not cope.
Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. Only ten years ago, more than 20% of this society lived below the poverty line – they had less than $2 to survive on per day. The Human Development Index ranked this country on the far 111 place. Today approx. 25% of Moldovan citizens live in exile, which means that practically everyone has someone in their family who works abroad. Most of the ones who stayed declares willingness to leave. Children and grandparents have no choice – they are the ones who are Stasing on guard of the deserted homes.
These days, her daughters stand above all for Olga – one has just started her studies and these have to be paid for. Soon the other one will also go to university. It will be both of them and she is ready to do everything for them. „My husband has a job now, but he will probably lose it soon”, she adds.
Prior to leaving to Poland, Olga probably did not fully realise how much one earns in our country. She dreamt about Europe, earnings like in Paris and Rome, but she ended up in a small town in Silesia. The job agency did not dissolve her delusions, when she was welcoming the mortgage to pay for the service. Her first work in Poland did not even meet the minimum of expectations – they were paying poorly, so her financial needs were not satisfied. She had to had to start repaying the credit to keep her family safe in the house. Otherwise what? Woult they turn them out into the street? Changing her work was no option due to the contract, papers, residence permit…
She survived. Again somehow. She admits thats she cries sometimes, because it is sad, but in comparison to what was at the beginning, she is rather pleased now, maybe at least calmer. She cannot see her future beyond Moldovan borders – she wants to be with her family and whenever possibile, she will return.
Today she speaks Polish with a touch of Russian and with soft, eastern accent. It sounds more familiar than foreign. She is telling me about Polish girls and their behaviour, which is not always obvious for her. „Because in Poland when something is „not right”, people separate from each other.” She does not reveal, what she really means by that, but her face gives away that she has already experienced few „not right” moments. She admits that separation might be even a better solution, but she would not be able to do it herself. When asked „why”, I can’t her any concrete answer. She shrugs her shoulders. Maybe Chisinau society would not be too shocked with a break up of a marriage, but outside of the capital, the family and church pressure would be most probably unbearable.
From the moment of crossing the border, her phone rings regularly. First her mum, then her daughter and then one of her friends. Later her daughter again, then her mum and the daughter again. The conversations do not last very long – exactly how long they should to amek everyone aware how much they have missed each other. Together they are making first plans: what will they prepare, what will they eat, who and when will come.
She is going home for holidays. Eastern orthodox church celebrates now Easter and she is happy that she will spend them here, not there. Or maybe there, not here?
I am slowly getting lost where is here and there for her.
Olga is a believer. She sometimes goes to Polish churches, but the priests irritate her. „He comes, carelessly says the surmon, sprinkles with Holy water in a way that no one even feels it and that is the end of the mass”, she comments. She does not like it this way. In Moldova, when a priest sprinkles you with Holy water, you need half a day to dry your clothes. He does it so that you can actually feel it that Holy water is poured on you and that holiness flows down on you. In Poland you don’t even notice it. Besides in Moldova whenever there is a holiday, people spend hours in church, listening to a real surmon. There is no timetable, which would have to be followed and when after an hour everyone would have to get out the church and where priests would not talk to people – they are actually not celebrating the holiday with anyone, she sums it up.
She is going home for a month, maybe even two, because the company that she currently works at, has no clients at the moment. Everyone got holidays. In her case, the more the better.
Nearly an hour before getting to the destination stadion, she already stands up wearing her jacket. Turning her head to the window, she is observing buildings and farms that the train is passing by. Her suitcases already taken out of the lockers lie ready in the corridor. Whe she runs out of ideas what to occupy herself with, she starts wishing me all the best. When she is done with me, she starts wishing all the best to every member of my family – my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, cousins, even my dog that I must have mentioned to her already…When the first, longer moment of silence falls, we are reaching our destination. Olga hurriedly grabs one of her suitcases, I help her with the other when she jumps out of the train. She is coming from her emigration for a moment and that is why every moment counts.