Moldovan embassy in Chiswick seeks support for Ukrainian refugees

Image above: The Moldovan Embassy in Chiswick

Moldova is seeking help from the international community, with the number of refugees from Ukraine pouring into the tiny country now at 200,000. It fears being sucked into the conflict itself. Diane Chandler has been speaking to the Moldovan ambassador, whose embassy is in Chiswick.

Moldova – Ukraine’s most fragile neighbour

By Diane Chandler

Moldova is a tiny, landlocked country of around 2.7 million people, sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania. It gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 after the collapse of communism and Russian is still widely spoken either as a first or second language. Its official language, however, is Romanian (often called Moldovan).

During the interwar period, most of Moldova was part of Romania and both countries still share traditions and folklore. Its main resources are agricultural and it supplies neighbouring nations with fruit, vegetables and grains – and also wine, which is among its largest exports. Much of its wine production is of high quality, and Moldova has three historical wine regions, including Codru, just outside the capital Chisinau, where bottles are stored along more than 100km of underground roads.

In the 1990s, I managed the EU and later the UK overseas aid programmes to Moldova (also the programmes for Ukraine and Belarus). I travelled there often and, alongside Ukraine, it is another country which climbed into my heart and has stayed there.

Its people are warm, compassionate and so very hospitable and I recall fondly many official receptions and family invitations where we chatted and laughed together around tables laden with food and wine. I was once gifted a whole case of ripe peaches by a Minister who had grown them in her garden. After devouring a couple, of course I left the case with our local office staff.

Image above: Ukrainian Refugees

Moldovans driving to the border to take Ukrainians into their homes

Back then, we ran aid projects to foster the development of Moldova’s fledgling democracy and market economy. Now, this fragile country, the second poorest in Europe, is providing aid of its own and welcoming vast numbers of refugees from Ukraine. Over 200,000 have fled via the Moldovan border, 100,000 of whom still remain in the country. No other country has taken in more Ukrainians per capita than Moldova and 4% of its population are now refugees, with one in eight children on its territory currently a refugee.

Although the people have very little, they are sharing what they have and, like the Poles, Hungarians and Slovaks, Moldovans too are driving up to the border to take families into their homes. Ukrainians arriving there are also now being given the immediate option to move on to Romania, but the country is at bursting point.

The fragility of the Moldovan situation is also compounded by the fear that they may just possibly be next. As one BBC journalist put it: “this is the question in the back of many minds.” One glance at the map illustrates their precarious position. Although, as their foreign minister, Nicu Popescu, has stated:

“We see no reason why Moldova would be drawn into the fighting. We are a neutral country.”

Nonetheless, two weeks into the war, Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu formally applied for EU membership. The foreign minister has gone on to plead for financial and political support:

“We are Ukraine’s most fragile neighbour and our situation is complicated on all possible fronts” he said.

Here in the UK, already we are all donating so generously to get aid through, both to refugees and those still living in Ukraine. If anyone can spare a little more, however, it will go a long way in this small but spirited country. The Moldovan Embassy is based in Chiswick and Ambassador Angela Ponomariov tells me that the UK charity MAD-Aid is using donations to buy eg. medical supplies and equipment, tents, clothes and baby products for refugees arriving in Moldova.

mad-aid.org.uk

Another UK-based charity also currently on the ground at Moldovan borders and offering hot food and supplies on arrival is Action Against Hunger. They are part of the DEC venture and you can choose your donation to go directly to them.

actionagainsthunger.org.uk/our-impact/stories/how-were-helping-ukrainian-refugees-in-moldova

Diane Chandler is a former EU administrator with responsibility for the EU’s aid programme to Moldova and lives in Chiswick.

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