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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// Alexandru-Vlad Murzac: “The voice of young people is not heard enough in Moldova.”

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He is Alexandru-Vlad, an ambitious dreamer from Moldova whose motto is “Always try hard and never give up”. His double name was given to him after his father and grandfather’s name who always believed in him and had a great impact on his personality.

About his life choices

Alexandru-Vlad believes that each person has a role in the society he lives in. Despite his young age, he already provides an example to his peers. “Through my activities and projects, I try to inspire other young people to strive to a better life and always get involved in their communities.”

He got the chance to study in the best schools from the Republic of Moldova and abroad. However, he talks with modesty about his achievements. “It is not important in what school you study or what activities you conduct. Trying to be a better person is just your choice,” says Alexandru-Vlad.

Two years ago, he earned a Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) scholarship and spent one year in the United States, studying at the Merrillville High School. “Thanks to FLEX, I have expanded my knowledge about the American culture and politics.” Besides his studies, he participated in two debate tournaments and the Civic Educational Workshop, a project organised in Washington DC where the participants met with government officials.

Most people do not know what America really is, until they get there,” our protagonist mentions. According to him, everything is different in the US: the educational system, the social life, etc. Alexandru-Vlad says that he had the chance to experience his own ‘American Dream’.

After his return, his friends from Moldova asked him a lot about the American elections: “I was in the US in the year when Trump was elected.”

Nowadays, Alexandru-Vlad is doing his bachelor at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. “It is a very challenging opportunity. You have to give all your time for studying but never forget about social life. Business is a new field for me. Every day, I learn something new and like it more and more.”

About his extracurricular activities

Alexandru-Vlad has been involved in many organizations. From 2014 to 2018, he took part in the Interact Chisinau project – a Rotary International service club for young people aged between 12 and 18. “Interact was the most important activity for me, since I was its president from 2016 to 2017. I was responsible for all the community service projects and tried to bring them to a next level: more impact on social media, more people involved,” he claims.

He founded together with a friend from diaspora a project called MoldX, which is an online community for Moldovan people. “I will re-start the project in April by communicating more with young people from Moldova that represent our country abroad. I hope to succeed in promoting their ideas in Moldova.”

“At the Association of Young Diplomats, our teams organized several meetings with embassies and their representatives learning about their work and opportunities of their countries,” says Alexandru-Vlad, while referring to another project he participated in.

Also, Alexandru-Vlad really likes to travel. “My next destinations are the Caucasian countries. All of them are a big inspiration for me. I am very interested in the architecture and culture of every place I visit.” He even tried to launch a blog: “Unfortunately, my ideas about my blog didn’t meet my expectations, due to a lack of experience, but there is still hope for this project to be reborn in two or three weeks. It will be about Moldova, US and Netherlands.”

About the Republic of Moldova

When asked whether he would return to Moldova, Alexandru-Vlad doesn’t have an answer yet.

“I am not sure if I’ll go back to Moldova in the next 7-10 years, but I am sure that our country needs young people in order to develop. So, if my contribution is needed, there is a big chance for me to return.”

Regardless of his uncertainty about his future plans, Alexandru-Vlad considers himself a patriot of his country. “It is hard to define what patriotism really is. For each of us it is something different. I always introduced myself as a Romanian from Moldova and tried to motivate people whom I meet to visit our country. There are a lot of notorious people that studied or lived abroad while considering themselves patriots.”

Alexandru-Vlad believes that the voice of young people is not heard enough in Moldova. He thinks that all governmental projects are organized superficially and there are few TV shows about young people where they would be invited to debates on different topics. “Many of our compatriots want to come back but they don’t see the proper opportunities. Let’s start bringing them back and stop the emigration,” he says.

Photos: Facebook| personal profile

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Diaspora

Stories from diaspora// Alexandrina Robu-Cepoi: “Be the change you want to see in the world and don’t hesitate to act immediately!”

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Since she was a teenager, Alexandrina has been involved in various social, educational, economic and cultural projects. She is currently working in Brussels as a Board Member and the Chair of the Women Committee within JEUNE – the Young Entrepreneurs Organization of the European Union, while writing her PhD thesis. Alexandrina Robu-Cepoi is the next protagonist of the “Stories from diaspora” series.

About opportunities

Alexandrina thinks that every person can achieve anything by being perseverant, ambitious, determined and by making the necessary effort for that. “Each of us has thousands of opportunities in his life. The difference is in the ability to recognize them and to fully exploit them.” Alexandrina is the person who seizes the opportunities and turns them into reality.

“When the opportunities are bigger than what I think I can cope with, I get out of my comfort zone and become better. Many of these lessons I learned during the one-year exchange I did in Brazil.”

When she was just 17 years old, Alexandrina won a scholarship for studying in Brazil – a totally new country for her, as she had zero knowledge regarding its culture or language at that moment. Still, she managed to quickly familiarize herself with the new environment and made a lot of friends there. “I learned to be flexible. This ability always helped me,” says Alexandrina.

About her life ‘momentum’

Our protagonist is passioned about the energy sector, international policies and entrepreneurship. In fact, she managed to perfectly blend them together through her activity. “My passion for the energy field has materialized five years ago when I became the executive manager of the Employers Association in the Energy Center of the Republic of Moldova. It began, though, during my flight to Brazil when I met an energy expert who told me with great passion about his field of activity. It was the moment when I realized I was interested in working in this sector.”

Alexandrina already had several jobs in Brussels and all of them were related to energy, international politics and entrepreneurship, as she was working in lobbying associations. “The latest project I was involved in along with my colleagues from Central Europe Energy Partners is the Central Europe Energy Day. There, the Vice-President of the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament, representatives of companies from the energy sector and other interested persons were present. This kind of projects have a great impact on EU policies and will be also organized in the future,” proudly claims Alexandrina.

In her spare time, she likes to travel. The last country she visited was Thailand. “I really love to discover new cultures, traditions, places and people. Traveling helps me find myself, express my feelings and fill my soul with positive energy. Thailand really impressed me with its landscape, culinary traditions and its vast culture. I would like to visit all the continents until the end of my life.”

About crucial decisions

Alexandrina is belonging to the category of young people who make changes, not just wait for them. In the past, Alexandrina was the President of the Rotaract Club from Chișinău. Afterwards, she earned a scholarship for studying at the College of Europe in Natolin for one year. Besides her studies, she was again involved in various projects, including the establishment of the Rotaract Club in Poland.

“I had a great experience at the College of Europe. It was a very intense year, with many challenges and successes as well. I gave priority to studies but I also interacted with young people from 32 countries, I made very good friends, I was introduced to new cultures and had the chance to present my culture.” The College is famous for its strict and busy program.

“It is like a Spartan battle where the most powerful and well-organized people win. It is a lifetime experience.”

Still, the decision to study at the College of Europe in Natolin came to a cost. Alexandrina had to take a hard decision regarding her future actions. “The news that I was accepted at the College of Europe came right after I was hired for the position of assistant and non-key energy expert at the EU High Level Advisory Mission to the Republic of Moldova. It was a difficult decision. I asked for advice from several people, including the college graduates. I was advised to choose the studies and I am really grateful for that. The College of Europe was the ‘business card’ for my future experience in Brussels,” recalls Alexandrina.

About JEUNE

Currently, Alexandrina is managing the Women Committee of the EU Young Entrepreneurs Organization JEUNE, which is one of the largest profile organisations with more than one million members in the EU and neighbouring countries.

When talking about the path to reaching such a position, Alexandrina mentioned that she first had became a member of the JEUNE Organization and after 4 year of hard work she was entrusted with the Chair of the Women Committee mandate. “I was the President of the European Association of Young Entrepreneurs from Moldova, established under the patronage of the EU Delegation in Moldova, when I filed an application for joining JEUNE. Later I became a member of the Board of Directors and the Chair of the Women Committee, as from this position I could support more the young female entrepreneurs and help them make their voice heard in the European Institutions.”

About ‘changing the world’ home

Alexandrina comes home as often as she can to see her family, to observe the changes that occurred while she was absent and to eat her favourite homemade chicken soup. “Our origins are the places where we were born, where we find spiritual balance. For me, they are the places where I grew up – the house of my parents and my grandparents. Our roots are also represented by the wonderful people who served as a role model and have transmitted their values to us. So ​​that in the good and bad moments, the family is what makes us rediscover our capacities and believe we can overcome any obstacle,” she says.

Alexandrina always talks about Moldova and tries to present it in the best light.

“Now we have hard times, but the political situation can’t ruin the country’s incomparable and wild beauty.”

When comparing the people from western and eastern Europe, Alexandrina believes that “sometimes, westerners are more favoured but we, easterners, are fighters, having a lot of courage.” She says that there is a big difference in mentality between Easterners and Westerners: from the way they treat their jobs to the way they trust politicians. But in the same time, “both sides have their pluses and minuses.

Furthermore, Alexandrina thinks that each Moldovan citizen can make a change. “I am sure that each of us, whether living in Moldova or in diaspora, can change things for the better in our country. I’m trying to implement at least one project per year in Moldova. Even if it’s very hard to manage it remotely, I’m making this effort because I care about my country and I want to contribute to its modernization.”

Alexandrina thinks that it’s not easy to change the people’s mentality, “but if you inform them correctly and show them examples of how to do things in a more efficient way, perhaps they would make the right choices themselves next time.” Alexandrina provides her own example of how to change the people’s mentality: “The last project we implemented in Moldova was the Diaspora Business Academy for young female entrepreneurs where we talked to 30 young women about the best managerial practices. We have also tried to foster economic relations between Moldovan and foreign entrepreneurs.”

Alexandrina is a great dreamer and an optimistic person. She always sees the light at the end of the tunnel and tries to guide others to it as well. Even though she talks less about her goals and dreams publicly, she plans to come back home and contribute to the development of her homeland.

Photos: Facebook| personal profile

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Culture

Stories from diaspora// Marcel Lazăr – the pianist who tries to revive classical music in the Republic of Moldova

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Marcel Lazăr is a talented musician, a romantic soul and a tenacious person that is continuously seeking for development. He never chose the easiest way, in fact, there is no easy way when making music, as he affirms.

About growing up with music

Marcel has been playing piano since the age of 7, when his first piano was bought by his parents. Then, he decided to take music seriously and, at the age of 13, he went to the School of Music “Ciprian Porumbescu” in Chișinău, Moldova. Afterwards, he studied at the Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. Marcel sees it as a journey: “From one step to another you get deeper into studying music and infiltrate more into its philosophy. Music is such a mystical and subjective art. The more musicians I meet and more ideas and opinions I hear, the more questions I ask myself, for which, in the end, I hope to get an answer.”

Marcel thinks that music has no borders. It is a universal language used and understood by any individual in this world. “It is said that every second, somewhere in the world a Mozart composition is played. Even tribes in Africa make music. It is different from that in the Western world, but it is certainly music as well.”

About being a musician in Moldova

Our protagonist says there is a long path from Vienna to Chișinău and he doesn’t refer to the geographical distance. “I think the music listened to in every house depends on the social class and the education level of the population, but there are many exceptions. In Vienna, if you walk on the streets, you see music stores almost at every corner. That is telling us something. In Germany or Austria, it is a normal thing for children to know how to play an instrument. A common practice for doctors, economists or lawyers is to meet at evening and play chamber music. At least, that was a normality in the 19th century, while in Moldova there were still no schools,” says Marcel.

In Moldova, as Marcel states, the situation is totally different.

“It’s hard to be a musician in Moldova. People do not know what this means. Many think it’s a game, or even worse – a waste of time. There is a big difference in the way people look at a young man who is carrying his violin in Chișinău and the way people do it in Vienna or Berlin.”

“Culture and education are strongly linked to each other, that is why we have a single ministry for them. A developed and strong society means educated and cultivated people. I read somewhere that to destroy a state, no attack is needed, it’s enough to destroy its schools. I think through education and culture, i.e. books, music, painting and theatre one can change the society,” Marcel says.

Marcel claims that people of Moldova aren’t guilty of not having a high culture in music. “People’s priority is, first of all, having food on their table, only afterwards they think of going to a concert or an exhibition.”  In the same time, Marcel expresses his hope for the future of music in Moldova. “Surely, somewhere in a Moldovan village, there is a house where the volume is turned up when a classical music composition plays on the radio.”

About Moldo Crescendo

Moldo Crescendo is a music festival, a movement of a group of musicians that want to take music home, to Moldova. Their goal – to bring people closer to the universe of music. “In a century where speed, ephemeral things and noise have taken control, we want to bring eternal music and harmony into your lives,” states the Patreon page of Moldo Crescendo.

Marcel was the one who brought together the musicians of Moldo Crescendo back in 2015. “We felt a desire to play music together at home, in Moldova. I think we have grown visibly from one edition to another.” Chamber music concerts, charity concerts, concerts organised on the street, on parking lots, in museums, in buildings of historical and cultural value for raising awareness about the importance of their renovation, symbiosis events with painters, artists, actors, photographers, are just some ideas they implemented or want to implement in the future.

“I think the greatest success was this year’s edition of  the festival, when we reached 10 major cities on both sides of the Prut. It was really an experiment and a resistance test. Unusual, for me, was the concert in Sibiu. In a former European Capital of Culture, the hall was almost empty, and we were able to focus so much, as if we had played for thousands of people. Beautiful feeling.”

Marcel and his friends try to remain optimistic: “I noticed a different attitude towards music. From our concerts in 2012 to those organised in 2018, people started to understand and enjoy music. That is making us happy.” However, he can’t look at the world through rose-coloured glasses. “We have made great efforts to convince people to donate for our cause. We spent hundreds of hours of conversation and explanation. I have made many friends, many have listened and understood me. Some of them helped us. Others have distanced themselves from us. Fighting ignorance and indifference is not so easy. There is a great distance from talks to actions. It’s painful. That’s why we decided to not try to persuade people anymore. We play music. Whoever has ears to hear, will listen to us,” reflects Marcel.

Their Patreon account displays today only 15 patrons that donate a total sum of $130 monthly – a tiny amount that is planned to be invested in a website for Moldo Crescendo. But there are still so many unrealized ideas…

Another challenge they have been facing from the very beginning is the lack of an organizational team. “We have always succeeded in motivating some friends to get involved in the organisational process. Organizing a festival, however, is a full-time job, requiring high commitment, especially in Moldova, where one has to convince people, companies, organizations to donate money for classical music concerts.” They still need people in their organisational team and ask for help here as well: “If you are willing to get involved in the organizational process of the Moldo Crescendo festivals, you are more than welcome.”

Moldo Crescendo is apolitical. That means one less source of raising more money in Moldova. “Many people do not see a problem as an artist playing today on a red stage and tomorrow on a blue one. I do not know if someone has a different attitude towards us because we are trying to be apolitical.”

Marcel lives in Bucharest. He still visits Moldova for concerts. However, he says he doesn’t know when the next occasion to come home will be, as he is working on his dissertation at the moment.

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