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Moldova through the eyes of a European immigrant: Marc Pilkington talks about politics, culture and diaspora// INTERVIEW

Marc Pilkington is an Associate Professor of Economics at the COMUE, University of Burgundy Franche Comté, France, where he was appointed in 2012. Between 2015 and 2017, he was on entrepreneurial leave in the Republic of Moldova. His business venture Moldova Tours 2.0 lies at the intersection between tourism growth, poverty alleviation and digital technologies. He has written two books and numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals.

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A: Could you tell me more about what brought you here?

M: I’m half French, half British and, before coming to Moldova, I was associate professor of economics at a French public university. A few years ago, I wanted to learn Romanian, for no special reasons: I liked the language and wanted to learn it in Romania, so I went to Brasov and did a summer course there. My first contact with Moldova was 10 years ago. I was teaching in Nice, in the South of France, and I had a few students from Moldova. At the time, I didn’t even know where Moldova was, I was curious. I just went there after my trip to Romania. I tried not to go on Google or get information from other people, I wanted to get my own impressions. Without much research, I must say I heard people say that “Moldova is a very poor country, poorest in the Europe, etc.” My first experience in Chisinau was, actually, kind of a good surprise. I like your country very much. At the time, my Romanian was very bad compared to what it is now, so people tried to help me out. When I first got to Moldova in 2015, your country was voted the least visited country in Europe. It’s rather sad that people don’t visit it, considering the fact that you have a nice country and nice people. I thought, why not go to Moldova, open a little company and try to make something with tourism? I feel like it’s not so explored, although it has a lot of potential. Even if I failed, I would benefit from the experience of living in a different country. Just before leaving, I answered a call for papers to contribute to a book focusing on technology and globalization. In fact, what I did was submit a proposal for what I had in mind back then, the idea that one can only improve tourism in Moldova if one uses technology. It’s because today, we’re living in a kind of platform-based world, with the social media. I think it’s a good idea to try to use technology and promote the country like that.

This was my whole reflection on Tourism 2.0. It’s getting people to interact, to contribute, to generate content, to share photos, ideas and experiences. If you go to travel agency websites, sometimes – you do find nice websites, with nice photos, etc.. But if people don’t know anything about Moldova, even if it looks nice, they will not go there. I remember very well, my feeling when I wanted to go for the first time. I was a bit impressed, because my language skills were not very good. It’s a bit of a mysterious country, it used to be part of the Soviet Union. All these post soviet countries are very interesting. Coming to Eastern Europe is like a discovery, it’s nothing like Austria or Switzerland. I was surprised, because it wasn’t that difficult to be in Moldova. People were nice, I could see that they had problems… I wouldn’t like to talk about all their problems, but life was tough, Moldova has a lot of poverty, a lot of corruption – these are the big issues. But in spite of that, people are trying to do something. Also, when you’re a foreigner, you’re being treated very nicely. I’m sad to say this, but most people in the world do not know where Moldova is. It’s not because they’re stupid, it’s because there isn’t a lot of communication, and this is the big problem with Moldova. Every time there is communication in the media – it is to highlight the problems. If you want me to list all the problems with Moldova, I’ll unfortunately write a very long list.

For us, foreigners being in Moldova is like an adventure. A lot of people who go to Moldova for the first time do it because they have a friend there. I think there could be psychological aspects for Moldovan people to overcome in order to attract tourists to Moldova. You have to show them the good things first; not just the problems, not just the corruption, not just the banking scandals, but also the culture, the traditions, etc.. That’s my general perspective about your country.

A: Can you briefly describe what each of the Moldova Tours 2.0 perspective tours offer within their activities?

M: What I was thinking was that everybody has their own reasons to go to Moldova. For example, the monastery tours would be for people interested in religious tourism. You have very nice monasteries in Moldova. One can take a whole week to just do this. Most people don’t just go to a country in order to visit a monastery. I think it was a good thing to divide tours in such a way, because I knew there would be people interested in them. For example, I was approached by a company in Pakistan. A Christian group of people with a travel agency in Pakistan. They wanted to send me some customers, because they do religious tourism in countries like Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, etc.. Moldova would be a whole new market for them. And then, there are people interested in wine. The French region where I come from, Burgundy, is very famous for wine. I must say I’m very impressed by the quality of the Moldovan wine. Then, you have the corporate tours. That’s for business men, for potential investors and so you need to organize something which is very suitable for them. I like the idea of the social business tours very much. A lot of people want to go to Moldova with some kind of NGO perspective. They know there are a lot of problems and so they want to help.

Most people are not going to be interested in doing one thing for a week, so that’s what the perspective tours offer. You go to Moldova for the first time and then, you could have a mix of everything. It’s funny, 2 days ago I received an E-mail from somebody in Florida, and I thought that was crazy, because they wanted to travel all the way from Florida, just to visit one monastery near Nisporeni. I thought that was crazy! Why would you come all the way up here and only want to see one thing?

Another thing I am exploring right now, and I believe has a lot of potential, is developing Russian teaching combined with tourism. One reason is because Moldova is nice and most people don’t know about it, and the other one is because it is, actually, very cheap. Moldovan people complain that there is no money, that everything is expensive, and it’s true, because the salaries are very low here. Now, if you come from the Netherlands with a very good purchasing power, you’ll find Moldova extremely cheap, compared to other destinations.

Moldova has very good doctors as well. I’ve spoken to people, and I know that the dental care you can get in Moldova would be the same as what you can get in France or Germany, but four times cheaper. It’s another thing you can think about.

A: Could you explain what is the role of Blockchain for Tourism 2.0, in easy terms?

M: That is a very important question. Blockchain is an area of interest, it’s something I have researched and published articles about. It’s really something very large that I’m interested in. At first, it all started with Bitcoin. It’s not just about Bitcoin, it’s about the technology behind Bitcoin. A British guy currently staying in Moldova has a big project here. In fact, he had a very successful experience on a Greek island about 2 years ago. There was a big turmoil in Greece, people were talking about the exit from the European Union. Finally, they saw the problems, but it was a big mess. So what he did, he went to a Greek island and introduced the cryptocurrency based on blockchain through just tourism – as an experiment. This cryptocurrency would be accepted by hotels, restaurants, tourism service providers, and there would be no fee. People would save money thanks to this cryptographic technology… You could transfer money without paying the fee. You pay very high fees when you transfer by credit card, for instance, when you travel abroad. This guy obtained a very good result on this island, where he introduced the blockchain-based currency. You need two things: you need people to work together as a coherent ecosystem, and this is exactly what tourism is about. Nowadays, you just have individual and separated elements. There are hotels, restaurants, guides, travel agencies. Everybody is working separately. If you could introduce a crypto-token – which would be accepted as a parallel currency – this could redefine tourism and, it would bring a lot of media exposure. There would be people that would come to Moldova because they’re curious. For example, a lot of people travelled to the island where the clip ‘Despacito’ was filmed (editor’s note: Porto Rico) – just because of the popularity on the internet. I’m not saying we should be superficial all the time, but sometimes you have to play with the marketing trends, the social media, so that you can create some kind of novelty. I think it would be interesting for people. The only people who go to Moldova nowadays either have a friend there, or are a bit adventurous, curious.

A lot of people interested in History come to Moldova as well. Moldova has a very rich history. There are settlements in the North of Moldova, and these settlements come
from one of the oldest civilizations that has ever existed in Europe, the Cucuteni civilization, around 7000 years ago. This civilization was, in fact, extremely advanced. I know someone who was doing her PhD in archeology, and she excavated some remnants of this ancient civilization. Those were very intelligent people, the most advanced, considering the level of technology they had at the time. The way this civilization disappeared is very mysterious as well. It’s a bit like in the Bible, there could have been a natural disaster, a catarstrophe – it’s very unclear under which circumstances this civilization disappeared.

Source: Transylvaniaworld.com

Click here for more about the Cucuteni civilization.

It’s not just the 20th century and the Soviet Union that attract tourists interested in history. A lot happened in the Middle ages as well, or around the Stefan cel Mare time. It is a very deep belief to me, that a lot of Moldovans are very critical about their own countries because of all the political problems. Most of the time are not aware of their own heritage, their culture. Surprisingly to me, a lot of Moldovans haven’t even visited their own country. On my second day in Moldova, I was in Tipova. Talking to some people later who’ve lived in Moldova forever, and they told me they’d never been to Tipova. And it’s a very nice place in your country. How can you promote your country if you don’t know it too well?

A: I’d like to talk more about poverty and corruption in Moldova. What way do you believe in, that would get Moldova to consolidate the rule of law? What “propels judicial nihilism and corruption in Moldovan society?”

M: May I ask what you’re studing in the Netherlands?

A: It’s called Interactive/Media/Design, a conceptual art-related subject.

M: So you’re not a law student. The question you asked me is very difficult. How could we consolidate, strengthen the rule of law? You said it very well, Moldova is a very young country – 26-27 years old, the problem you have in Moldova is the same problem a lot of transition economies have: high levels of corruption. One could find the same problems in a lot of similar economies. With more economic grouth, with more economic prosperity – there would be less corruption. But this is only in the long term, so the question is, how could we improve the situation in the short term at least, knowing that it’s a difficult problem, because corruption in Moldova is a big problem. You asked a question about Blockchain, and I should’ve added something. Blockchain has some applications for the e-government, and also, more transparency in everything: for public services, in public life etc. What I think Moldova needs is more transparency about politicians. They have vested interests, and it could be that blockchain technologies could help out here. Say, you use blockchain for publicizing information related to politicians, especially politicians involved in previous elections, and see if they have any potential conflict of interest. You could see, for example, if they have a contract with a big company. One could use digital technologies, like blockchain, to generate more transparency. It would be a step in the right direction. I see that a lot of people vote for politicians for very superficial reasons. And this is what happened last year, in 2016 – people being disappointed with the EU movement and decided to look backwards, up to the Russian standards. If people reflected more upon this, they would understand it’s not as simple as it seems. People need to create a more transparent environment and know exactly who they’re voting for – the ideas they are going to present in the parliament. 

A: I’m not sure whether you’ve read “Society of the spectacle” by Guy Debord, but he wrote a lot about the political spectacle, comparing the authorities to some sort of ‘pseudo-stars.’ He said “The spectacle exists in a concentrated form and diffuse form depending on the requirements of the particular stage of poverty it denies and supports.”

Unquestionably, the Moldovan authorities manipulate people in any way they can. If you agree with that, what is the reason this whole spectacle is happening? Why have people become hopeless and inactive in what comes to being part of a community and fighting for a better country?

M: Thank you for this question. One of my best friends who I’m collaborating with for this project, is a journalist here. She told me, many times, that there isn’t really any independent journalism in Moldova. People have tried, and failed – because of the lack of financial resources. The media is politically controlled, and so a lot of people are extremely passive. A thing which is very sad about Moldova is the divide between people who live here and the diaspora. When you go abroad you get to interact with other cultures, other people – it opens your mind. A lot of people in Moldova have a very narrow mindset, and this is very easy to understand. They have a life which is very difficult, they may be making around €250 a month, so when they go back home in the evening – they’re tired, they have to look after their children, their household. They turn on the television – they don’t really have the energy, the strength to go further than that. I know there are some people who are trying to do this – people with a more critical perspective. These people should really be given credit for trying to open minds and eyes of the masses. Poverty turns it into an extremely slow process.

When I came to Moldova, about to establish myself, I’ve arrived on September 4th 2015, and 2 days later you had the biggest demonstration ever in the history of your country. Chisinau had more people on the streets than on Independence Day in 1991. I think it was around 100.000 people, and that was a big movement. Through the winter, there were big protests in front of the government building. I thought that, maybe, there was going to be a similar scenario – like you had in Ukraine, with Maidan. I thought people were going to revolt, rebel against the government. And what happened was… it faded away. Everything went back to normal. People were resigned, I think. People – they can’t just spend 6 months in a tent, in front of the parliament. They need money, they have children… It’s just an economic necessity that brought people back to where they were. In fact, I don’t think anything has really changed, the appearance perhaps – on the surface. And this is sad, people are victims of their own economic conditions. There was a nice window at some stage, for people who want to change society. But this window is not really effective. I’m glad it didn’t turn into a similar movement as in Ukraine, because what happened in Ukraine was very violent. There was bloodshed, and I did not see Moldova as a country like that. It’s a very divided country. You have Russian speaking people, Romanian speaking people… Turkish speaking people (editor’s note: Gagauz), and so on – but it’s not a violent country. I’m glad that in spite of the problems you had, you didn’t take the same route as Ukraine, because the situation hasn’t improved much in there ever since. What Moldovan people need is to get more education. Education is another big problem in Moldova. It needs better education, better paid teachers, so that people have a more constructive criticism about what is going on around them. It’s more of a long term thing.

Getting back to my topic – it’s very important for your country that more foreigners go there. Of course, tourists are going to bring money, but they’re also going to bring in ideas by interacting with the locals. That’s something that could really help your country.

Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, May 6 1968. Photograph: Bruno Barbey/Magnum

A: What would be an advice you could give to the Moldovan diaspora as well as the people living in Moldova in order for them to contribute to the country they hope for?

M: There are lot of different people in diaspora. It isn’t one whole mindset. There is something I wrote in my papers: it is about the future of Moldova the diaspora has a key role to play in. Diaspora may be the most decisive force for the future of Moldova. We were talking about technologies. What diaspora has to do, is try and be more united, try to be better connected on a platform, and thus, better organized. Diaspora needs to have a voice in the domestic affairs.

Today, the diaspora isn’t very well represented. I don’t think the voice of diaspora is very powerful. Using a platform-based technology would get diaspora to speak with a common voice in a way that is more coherent and powerful. Right now, you have Moldovans living almost everywhere in the world. Every country has a consulate, an embassy, and there is a need of organizing everything at an international level. I like Moldova.org a lot. I think you are doing something in the right direction. The platform you have is, in fact, a very powerful instrument. What you do – you are trying to inform people. My objective is trying to arouse interest about Moldova as a first step and bringing people to Moldova as a second step. It may sound like a foundation, but my project contains a private component, which is business, or profit-oriented. It’s ambitious, because it’s a big project, but I like to be optimistic, regardless of the problems and difficulties.

Access the Moldova Tours 2.0 website here.
Further readings:
Historic protests in Romania: are there any lessons for the Republic of Moldova? By Irina Staver and Marc Pilkington
Can the Blockchain Help Fight off Corruption in Developing Countries? The Case of the Republic of Moldova.
Why Everyone Is Getting Excited About This Underrated Travel Destination

Currently studying Interactive/Media/Design at the Royal Academy of Art. Based in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Diaspora

Stories from Diaspora / Irina Madan: “I live between two worlds and I try to bring them together”

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It’s time for a new story from Diaspora – the series of articles meant to demonstrate once again that there are so many exceptional people from Moldova who can move mountains even though they are far from their homeland.

This is a story of a dedicated and extremely creative woman – Irina Madan who gave a new definition to painting. She blends fashion with art painting and spices it up with traditional ornaments brought from Moldova. Each of her works is a unique masterpiece.

About the path to achieve her biggest dream

Irina is passionate about art and fashion design since her childhood. That was the moment when her talent started to crystallize. “I remember my favourite activity back then – drawing and making dolls’ clothes,” recalls Irina. She always wanted to learn professional painting but was given this opportunity only at the age of 19, when she took her first painting course in order to prepare for the entrance examination at the Academy of Arts in Chișinău. “The art education offered me the possibility to fulfil my childhood dream and showed me the path I want to follow,” she says. During the 5 years of activity, she managed to accomplish a lot of her dreams and tried to enjoy every step to her biggest dream.

“I dream of having my own fashion house, go to the street and see happy people dressed in my painted clothes. I want paintings to be dressed all over the world.”

About leaving home

It wasn’t easy to leave Moldova and to move to San Diego, a city located in California, the Unites States. “I faced many difficulties in the US, but there were beautiful things as well. Every day is a new challenge as one must start it from scratch,” states Irina. “San Diego is a truly artistic city and I am glad that I can live here.” A young artist like her manages to make a living by selling art work, but at the same time, there are many other possibilities for employment.

According to Irina, the hardest thing in the adaptation process is to cope with the internal struggle, not to surrender to the obstacles. “A part of my soul remained in Moldova because that is the place I was born in and that is the place where my dearest people live. That makes me think of home and miss it a lot,” Irina says. She returns home every half a year.

“I really wanted to make my dream come true at home, but from the inability to do it, I had to leave.”

Irina believes that a person that lives abroad can contribute to the well-being of his home country by promoting its values. “Most Americans do not know where Moldova is, although in California it happened several times to meet people who had heard about our country and had known more details about its history,” declares Irina. The thoughts about Moldova offer her peace of mind. “I always try to emphasize the beautiful things about my homeland. Moreover, I feel proud to represent Moldova through my creations that show how wonderful my country is,” Irina states.

About her works

The idea of painting on clothes came in 2013 while Irina was working on her bachelor’s graduation collection. The source of inspiration for her first collection was Venice – the city that helped our protagonist discover her vocation. “I did not know that I was going to create a hand-painted collection. I was sure that I won’t find such fabrics in the regular shops, so I started to produce it myself by painting it,” mentions Irina. In the summer of the same year, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in fashion design. At the beginning of autumn 2013, Irina began to create custom-made clothes and continues to do it.

The today’s stimulus for Irina’s creations are her own feelings. “I’m trying to play with colours and tell a tale through each of the paintings on the vestments. I am also inspired by artistic and vibrant places from nature, and by music,” specifies Irina. She never looks into the works of other artists because that would be unconsciously translated into her creations. Thus, there would be no room for originality.

“I think we can create trends by ourselves because what comes from inside, characterizes us. Every person is unique, and the inspiration can be found in nature and in our inner world.”

A manually painted dress hides a large amount of work and emotions behind it. The entire process lasts for two weeks on average and begins with shaping the idea. Then, the composition is sketched on a piece of white cloth. The next stage is painting. After the painting has dried, the clothing details are cut and the entire process of sewing a garment follows. “I have to execute the entire process by myself. Therefore, it lasts longer,” says Irina. Yet, the result of her efforts and the fact that it is appreciated by people inspires and motivates her to create more. “There is no greater happiness for an artist than the appreciation of his creations,” says Irina with a bright smile on her face. The works of Irina Madan won a multitude of international awards, including the 3rd place at the Top Designer Award Fashion Week in San Diego, in October 2018.

Irina’s most precious work is called “Fata Moșneagului”, a fantastic dress inspired by a Romanian fairy tale character – a hard-working and kind girl that managed to make her dream come true. “That is the work I would certainly never sell. I remember when I was at a presentation in London, in 2015, and a lady wanted to buy this particular dress. She was really insistent, but I did not sell it anyway. This dress reflects my personality and I have a spiritual connection with it,” confesses Irina. Some of her works can be found here.

The dress “Fata moșneagului” by Irina Madan

We are happy that Irina found her vocation and wish her all the best in the future. Her work springs from her soul and spirit and it deserves to be recognised.

More of Irina’s works as following:

Photo source: personal archive

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Diaspora

Stories from Diaspora/ Carolina Sclifos: “No matter how far away you are from home, if you are willing to contribute, you will find your own way to do it.”

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She calls herself a global citizen, being involved in international projects and aspiring to restyle this world. Her next dream – working in the UN. Her name is Carolina Sclifos – the protagonist of  the story from diaspora for this week.

About her beginnings

Carolina was only 12 or 13 years old when she started to be involved in extracurricular activities. It happened in Criuleni, the city in the Republic of Moldova where she is from. While dreaming of having the power to change her homeland for the better, Carolina was participating in volunteering activities such as debates on wide interest topics with local authorities or youth and community development projects.

Her weekends were scheduled for attending trainings, workshops and meetings at the Resource Centre for Youth she was working at, whereas her holidays were planned with projects and volunteering activities. This is where Carolina got her enthusiasm to be active and to inspire others for doing more. “All that time I had wonderful people next to me who contributed to my formation and development. Being enormously grateful to them, I consider it my own duty to contribute to the development of other young people, to tell them about the experiences I had, and to encourage their participation in their own communities,” says Carolina.

Photo source: personal archive

That idealistic, tenacious, even though sometimes hesitant teenager has grown up into a fine, active and successful young lady that never gave up on her old dreams. Today, Carolina is part of the active youth, with a sharp critical thinking and an intense desire to find out new things. And that means, for her, to get out of her comfort zone, to accept new challenges and to continuously grow.

“I’m a humanist in my heart and my mind, and I want to dedicate my further activity to this cause.”

About her studies

Being passionate about volunteering, youth policies and diplomacy, Carolina clearly knew in what direction she wanted to go. First, she graduated in European Studies from Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Then, she got her master’s degree in Security and Diplomacy at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration in Bucharest. “From 2011 until now I have studied and lived in four European countries. Each of these experiences was unique and very useful. I became aware of the importance of education and professional development. Even though I took a study break, I’m not giving up on the desire to move forward, hoping to attend soon a PhD in London,” states Carolina.

Photo source: personal archive

In addition to her studies in Romania, Carolina earned an Erasmus scholarship twice and went for exchange studies to Prague, Czech Republic and to Bonn, Germany. “Another key element was to discover the importance of cultural interaction. As a follower of tolerance, solidarity and of other European values, I plead for the positive impact of diversity, as I know how much it contributes to the social development and progress,” she adds.

About her job

When referring to the job she has, Carolina mentions that the European Union offers a lot of freedom combined with competitiveness, where one can’t make it without clearly set strategy and objectives. That’s what she did.

Photo source: personal archive

Carolina became a Young European Ambassador at the end of 2016. Since then, she has been involved in numerous projects, launched in the Eastern Partnership countries, as well as in the European Union. The projects were aimed at informing about the European education opportunities. “This experience combines two of my passions: involvement in youth policies, and the opportunity to advance in my job in the field of European studies, where I have graduated,” our protagonist mentions.

Photo source: personal archive

“I do not even imagine having an office job with a simple routine. It is possibly because we have always had continuous challenges, cultivating the spirit of non-formal education and engaging in various activities.”

Carolina’s mission, as a Young European Ambassador, involves explaining how the European Union has contributed to her personal development and encouraging young people to follow their dreams and passions by accessing opportunities offered by the EU. “I like the fact that we can contribute to the activities of our network and we can do it remotely as well, through the content on social networks and communication in the online environment,” Carolina reveals. The most rewarding about her job is that it takes her home. As she mentions: “in the period of 2017-2018 I visited Moldova within the project I work more than I did it in the period when I was a student in Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest.

About Moldova

In one of the most multicultural environments one could be, Carolina’s mission extends to the way she spreads the word about her homeland. “The opinion about Moldova depends on the interaction with Moldovan people,” says Carolina, “but sometimes you have to be ready to combat the stereotypes, if necessary, and explain that some news or general facts do not represent the whole picture.”

As she lives in London at the moment, Carolina is proud to hear about Moldova from British people that have good friends in Moldova or know something about the Moldovan wines, sweets and hospitality.

Photo source: personal archive

Carolina knows from her own experience how a young person that left Moldova can still contribute to the country’s development even being far from home. “During my studies in Cluj-Napoca, I was a member of an NGO for three years and promoted the involvement of students in the community formed there. While I was studying in Germany, I became a Young European Ambassador for the Republic of Moldova. My work included the promotion of our culture, the development of various social, economic or political projects and changing minds about Moldova,” highlights Carolina.

Thus, the protagonist of our today’s story is the person that found her own way of combining her passions with her job, and the need to return home and have an impact. We congratulate her for that.

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Diaspora

Stories from Diaspora/ Cătălina Dumbrăveanu: “Take the feeling of home with you, otherwise you can’t find it anywhere.”

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Every day, we get inspired by people and their stories. Especially, fascinating and inspiring are the stories of the persons that left their home, started from scratch, faced a lot of challenges and ventured out into new worlds.

Moldova.org decided to bring to you a series of such stories. These are stories of sparkling personalities, people that live far from their homeland – Moldova, but have never forgotten about it. Such people contribute to the prosperity and a good name of their homeland, despite the distance. They are little ambassadors of their country (as the protagonist of our today’s story usually says). They dedicate their time and efforts to something they truly believe: a country is made not only of people that live in it, but also of the people that chose to live far from it.

Meet Cătălina Dumbrăveanu, a girl born in Moldova, passioned by people and cultures. You won’t find her résumé anywhere: neither on social media, nor on public platforms. She is the most modest and discreet person you could ever come across. However, she has a lot of stories to tell the world. Being a specialist in international management and public policy, she gathered an experience of more than 7 years in the non-governmental area and in project management.

Cătălina reads a lot, having an affinity for biographies and existentialist authors, speaks 5 languages, improvises new cooking recipes, makes a lifestyle out of yoga, and every time her lungs and thoughts ask for more fresh air, she ventures into hiking or solitary travel.

Cătălina is grateful about everything she has. She believes that happiness can’t be programmed or planned according to a standard strategy. “For me, happiness is an intense and full emotion that you feel at some point, when all the stars are aligned according to the scheme that you had in your own mind,” she states.

Photo source: Facebook

About her work  and life philosophy

Over the years, her home was shared between 7 countries. At the moment, she lives in Berlin, being involved in several activities. Most of her time is dedicated to working in an organization that facilitates the implementation of digital health reforms in Germany. Cătălina is also doing research and, in parallel, co-manages a daring storytelling project called “Edges of Europe”, a project that wants to bring to the international audience the stories of young people from countries neighbouring Europe in a creative multimedia format. Catalina is one of the authors of a lovely multimedia story about Ocuppy Guguță, a viral movement of young activists that fight for democracy and a better future in Moldova, and about some of the Ocuppy Guguță key characters. Check it out here.

Cătălina is an archetype of the most dynamic and energetic young generation. She always has something to do. Moreover, she is absolutely in love with everything she does: public policy, health management, population development and sustainability. “My interest for these areas appeared during my master studies at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and Bocconi University Milan,” says Cătălina.

Photo source: Facebook

Cătălina aspires for a more conscious and sustainable thinking in the future. “Everyone could do something: including more fruits, vegetables and grains in the diet, to the detriment of the meat; waste recycling; conscious shopping and spending less on unnecessary items. These are just a few simple, necessary and beneficial changes for everyone,” states our protagonist.

Some time ago, she was more intrigued by international relations, communication and journalism. These were the areas she explored while being in the Republic of Moldova, by taking part in volunteer activities, internships and study exchanges. Cătălina Dumbrăveanu was a member of the National Youth Council of the Republic of Moldova, as a board member and later, coordinator of the project “Intercultural Dialogue in Moldova”, as well as, program coordinator of the Young Journalist Centre of Moldova. “I am grateful to the experience at the Young Journalist Centre, where I encouraged and supported young people from across the country to pursue their dream of exploring the media, and also to the National Youth Council, alongside which I went through a practical school of public policy, advocacy and good governance,” she confesses.

Photo source: personal archive

The idea with which she always resonated is to return the whole goodness that universe blessed her with, or, in other words, to contribute to positive changes, regardless of the existent context and circumstances. “That’s what excites me and what I try to achieve continuously – the concept of effective altruism,” says Cătălina.

Her entire activity is nourished by Cătălina’s fondness for human interactions, especially in a multicultural context.

“Perhaps tolerance, respect for diversity, openness to the unknown, the courage to believe in adventurous ideas, and the feeling of belonging to the European cultural family that I display today are rooted in both the education I received at home and in volunteer activities. I started to be engaged in volunteer activities at the age of 16 and grew up with them.”

Cătălina has a vast international volunteer experience. She participated in many Erasmus + projects, in an EVS (European Voluntary Service) and, for 2 years, she was a member of the European Youth Press, an umbrella organization of more than 50,000 of young people passionate about media and communication.

Photo source: personal archive

Still, one of the most memorable experiences she had, was the moment she received a scholarship of the Global UGRAD academic exchange program, supported by the US State Department. “Thanks to it, in the 3rd year of my bachelor’s degree I had the chance to study at a university in the USA and to discover the American culture. It was the experience that marked many beginnings in my life,” claims Cătălina.

When asked about what she learned from her volunteering activity, Cătălina mentions the feeling of belonging to an idealistic team, in which one can learn from mistakes and develop multilaterally. “I am grateful for each of my experiences and I am aware of their role in defining what I am today,” Cătălina says.

Photo source: Facebook

Generally, she thinks that a daily gratitude exercise is useful for becoming fulfilled. Cătălina advises “To stay alone for a few moments, to gather your thoughts and to remember the good that happened in your life, being thankful for what you are, what you have, and any experience of yours… And there is something else – living now, because that moment alone belongs to us.”

About her connection with Moldova

She misses Moldova. But even living in another country, she still believes something could be done.

“I think that every person living abroad is a non-formal ambassador of his country. That’s a responsibility and an opportunity at the same time. Everything we do and say can cause an outsider to love our country and perhaps possibly visit it. That, indirectly, is a contribution to the development of tourism.”

Then, Cătălina says that every Moldovan that lives abroad could promote local producers by simply buying and including the products/services from Moldova in their daily life. “From my own experience, I can say that it is more than enjoyable to hear some admirable commentaries addressing the products from Moldova,” says Cătălina while cheerfully smiling.

Moreover, according to Cătălina, there are a lot of examples of young people that invest their time and efforts in home projects, which they coordinate remotely, through regular returns, or through social networks. Last but not least, by discussing with the relatives that live in Moldova and providing a new perspective, different from the one inoculated by most sources of information in the country, one can contribute to a small change of mentality.

Photo source: personal archive

Cătălina already does all of this and is encouraging other people that live abroad to contribute with the little they can. “I meet people that don’t know much about Moldova. The good part in this case is that I can create a first positive impression. I try to motivate them to discover the charm of our authentic cuisine, the nature that harmoniously blends with villages forgotten by time, the traditions I remember from my grandparents (which, unfortunately, started to fade away) and the uniqueness of our bilingual folk. Initially, I try to omit the complicated political issues and try to avoid the label of poorest country in Europe that is often assigned to Moldova by media.

Featured photo source: Facebook

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