October 7, 2011

MOLDOVA : Life At Grandma's, Without Dad and Mom

PARIS, FRANCE / Courier International / October 7, 2011

Life at Grandma's, without Dad and Mom

By Natalia Radoulova,  Ogoniok Weekly

Forced to migrate to find work, fathers and mothers leave their children with grandparents who raise them. Natalia Radoulova reports from the land of Grandmas, and children almost orphaned, in the Russian weekly Ogonyok.

© Drawing Boligán, El Universal, Mexico City
"My mom works in Italy, and my dad is in Moscow"

She knows about it and tiny Sniejana lives this kind of everyday life. She is 6 years old and lives with her grandmother in a village in Moldova. When at school she is asked to write essays on "My family", she certainly begins with this sentence: "My mom works in Italy, and my dad is in Moscow." Her parents are part of the generation of immigrant workers that enables the Moldovan economy not to sink and every year they send $ 1.5 billion to their families back home.

"Every month they send us 500 dollars," says Sniejana's grandmother Anna Viktorovna. "This will be more than enough, because I also have to plan my retirement."

Sniejana was concieved by the young couple during their honeymoon. The groom was already working in Moscow. He had taken leave. Few weeks of happiness and love in the sun of Indian summer, new wine, the Brynza [feta cheese], apples, and nine months later came a baby of 3.6 kg.

Anna Viktorovna removes the seeds of a watermelon slice before handing it to her granddaughter, and explains what happened thereafter:

"First, she wanted to stay here with the daughter. Then one of her friends suggested she go to Italy with her husband, than vegetate here penniless. I did not try to dissuade her. Most women in the country have ended up employing for themselves out there. It is convenient as far as the language. Italian is close enough to Moldova. She thought a while and then she decided. And she was right, rather than stay here to wait to see her husband just once a year. 

Difficult to know how much Sniejana's parents earn totally. They do not say. They send something to provide for their daughter, that is most important. Maybe the rest they use to cover their own expenses, and can not put anything aside.

At home, in Moscow, life is expensive, said the grandmother. I hear that to rent an apartment it is nearly 1000 dollars a month. It's crazy. Here with that kind of money you can buy two cows. Her father shared a studio with other masons. Not true, Sniejanotchka?  He says it is very small.

The girl looks up from the watermelon slice and her face lights up with a smile: "Let him come here, he will make his bed in the lounge."

It is in the living room of Anna Viktorovna that the couple were sleeping when they met. In the beginning it was uncomortable, both for the couple and for their daughter. By the time they got used to it, they had to pack up, they had to leave.

"I wish Mom and Dad lived with us, but there is no work here," laments Sniejana.

True, there is no work there, and so many parents do not see Moldovan their children grow up.

"Most of Sniejana's girl friends also live with their grandmothers, says Anna Viktorovna. Here it is like that. "

This may be the reason that inspired Moldova four years ago to create the Festival of Grandmothers, "to affirm the respect and recognition of the company for the contribution of grandmothers in education of the younger generation and maintenance of national and family values.

"In the case of Sniejana it is indeed the grandmother who protects and binds the family. It is the grandmother who make at home a man and a woman living in different countries and regard this place as their home, where they may finally return in a few years. They will then know for good. They will try to live together. Here they take care of their grandchildren, children born to their daughter Sniejana, if it in turn she becomes a migrant worker.

And they will celebrate this sacred day, the Feast of grandmothers, every last Saturday of September.

BENCHMARK Statistics
A million Moldovans of an estimated population of 4 million, live abroad and work in jobs lower than their qualifications. The Moldovan Ministry of Labour, like Unicef, has estimated the number of children of migrants who are left to the care of grandparents in the country to be 200,000. Sociologists believe that the biggest problem in this situation is not financial, the parents are sending money to their children. This lifestyle leads to more depressive syndromes and school dropout..

Neighboring Romania is in the same situation: In 2009 there were more than 350,000 children were left at home. The "home-alone generation" often makes headlines because of children in this situation choose to commit suicide. In addition to children already abandoned, the number of parents refusing all contact with their children is increasing. The media now speak of Euro-orphans.
Translated from French via Google

© Courrier International 2011
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