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The story of Emily Zamourka – the Moldovan woman singing in the Los Angeles Metro who became an online phenomenon

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A lot of people saw Emily Zamourka on the internet – a 52-year-old woman with a lovely voice, discovered and filmed by a Los Angeles policeman. She was singing Puccini’s “A Mio Babbino Caro” at a subway station. Few people though, know that Emily is originally from the Republic of Moldova.

Daily Mail revealed her extraordinary story about a difficult childhood she had to endure in the Soviet Union and her failed American dream.

Emily (born Liudmila Grekova) is from Basarabeasca, being the ninth child of a Seventh-day Adventist religious couple. She was given up for adoption because of her mother’s health but met her biological family when she was a teenager.

Also, she suffered an abusive marriage before moving to the US at the beginning of 90’s. In recent years, she has struggled with health problems and even spent one Christmas in prison.

Emily recorded a CD but saw no success from it. Then, battled homelessness and eviction as she lived across three US states. She has been living on the street since 2017 after being evicted from her apartment because of sharing the apartment with pigeons she had taken home with her. The pigeons have also come between Emily and her family from US who have repeatedly said that they are prepared to offer her a home but not her beloved birds, as Daily Mail reported.

Recently, Emily suffered a fresh loss when her birth mother died aged 94.

She was recognised as a musical prodigy, a violinist and singer who also played the piano, but never managed to realise her dreams.

Now there is hope of change, as the director of her hometown Fine Arts School offered the 52-year-old classically-trained musician the chance to come back and teach music.

More about her story here.

Photo credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Culture

A building from Chișinău was declared “the ugliest building in the world”

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The “Romanița” building in the center of the Moldovan capital has been named by the French journalists as “the ugliest building in the world” in a documentary produced by Arte TV. The film is part of a French project that talks about socialist buildings, which are now abandoned.

This disappointed the artist from Moldova Tatiana Fiodorova, who appears as the protagonist in the documentary film and afterwards filed a complaint against the French channel Arte.TV.  “The documentary is more like an anti-communist horror movie than a research film. They cut and pasted the sequences in such a way that it changed the meaning of the words I said during the interview,” claimed the artist. Shortly after, Arte.TV renamed the documentary to “Moldova: The Colossal Communist Tower”.

Source: noi.md

The “Romanița” building has a height of about 73 meters, being the second tallest building in Chișinău. It has 22 floors, out of which 16 are inhabited by over 300 residents. A few years ago, this building attracted the attention of a team of Polish designers who made a selection of constructions from Eastern European countries that deserve attention, and which in time would degrade if no one intervenes.

In 2009, “Romanița” inspired Tatiana Fiodorova to realise an art project where she presented the uniqueness of this construction and the need to keep it. In this regard, she was contacted by several French journalists from Arte.TV who proposed to talk about the project and about the history of this building. “The filming for the documentary took 2 days. I talked about the project and how we collaborated with the locals, to give this building a new chance. The film’s producers asked me to invite some locals I told about. Some of them accepted. Now, the meaning of their message was transformed into a political one, although during the filming there was no ideological context, ” argued the artist.

Photo: noi.md

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Society

Violence against women in Moldova. Facts and figures

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The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) launched the “Break the Silence” campaign in the Republic of Moldova and throughout Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, on the occasion of the annual 16-Day Activism Against Violence campaign. According to the OSCE research, women who face violence in Moldova rarely contact the police.

OSCE Study

The study revealed that three out of four women think that violence against women (VAW) is common in Moldova. Cases of VAW remain under-reported to police and other specialised organisations because of a lack of trust in institutions among women and a limited specialised services for survivors of violence. Also, according to the survey conducted within the OSCE study, one third of women personally know someone subjected to domestic violence among their family and friends, and the same percentage within their local neighbourhood. Two out of five women say that they have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15 by a partner or non-partner.

Therefore, just as in other countries where the survey was conducted – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo and Ukraine – violence against women remains a huge social problem in Moldova, as well as a serious violation of human rights and the most serious form of discrimination against women. “The research conducted by the OSCE is essential for raising awareness with policy and lawmakers, but also the general public, law enforcement agencies and many other stakeholders. […] Attitudes, norms, and beliefs that justify violence against women need to be tackled at their root, as they continue to perpetuate this grave human rights violation. This survey provides the information needed to take action,” said Serani Siegel, OSCE Project Manager.

National statistics

According to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), violence against women is more common among women in rural areas, the phenomenon is more often with the age of the woman and it is indirectly related to her level of education. The married women are more reluctant to report cases of violence and, consequently, the highest rates of reported VAW is recorded for divorced women and widows.

60% of women from Moldova reported at least one form of psychological violence, while physical violence was disclosed by about 40% of women. About 19% of women said they suffered sexual violence at least once in their life. (Violence against women report, NBS, 2011)

13 women were killed by one family member, and another 22 women lost their lives as a result of traumas caused by their partners since 2018, as NGOs official data revealed.

Most of the time, the women do not report the cases of violence because they are afraid of the aggressor, they are blamed by the society, they do not trust the authorities and the judiciary, they do not have sufficient financial resources and employment opportunities (especially if they have children), and the support services are insufficient or even missing.

Istanbul Convention

Several organisations and representatives of civil society are calling for the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) until the end of 2019. The NGOs from Moldova also launched an appeal the President of the Parliament of Moldova Zinaida Greceanîi and to Prime Minister Ion Chicu.

The Istanbul Convention is currently the most effective international tool to ensure the prevention and fight against VAW, being based on the belief that VAW seriously violates the fundamental rights to life, security, freedom, dignity, physical and emotional integrity of women. The document calls on implementation of comprehensive and coordinated policies against this type of violence, governmental support for specialised non-governmental organisations (NGOs), collection of relevant data, changes in social and cultural models for eradication of prejudices, customs, traditions and other practices, which are based on the idea of ​​inferiority of women or on stereotypical roles for women and men.

The document also provides for the development of support services for victims, raising awareness, education and training of professionals, participation of private sector and media in preventing and combating violence, etc.

The Istanbul Convention was signed by Moldova on February 6th, 2017 but until now its ratification has been delayed, even though the representatives of the Government and the Parliament have repeatedly assumed a public commitment in this regard.

Legal measures

Moldova is part of the European Convention on Human Rights since September 12th, 1997. The Convention is the main instrument within the Council of Europe for guaranteeing fundamental human rights. Moldova also has an obligation not to infringe the guaranteed rights and freedoms and to ensure adequate judicial protection.

Since 2008, the Republic of Moldova regulated domestic violence, adopting the Law on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence. The law prohibits the aggressor from approaching victims for a specific period. Still, the authorities do not have an effective mechanism of protection, as the victim is rarely offered a place in a specialised centre, psychological counselling and material assistance.

In 2017, the Government of the Republic of Moldova adopted the National Strategy on Prevention and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence for 2018-2023 and the National Action Plan for 2018-2020 regarding its implementation.

NGOs

The National Coalition “Life without domestic violence” is an informal platform that gathered 21 NGOs and public institutions that try to do their best in their work to prevent and fight against domestic violence.

The Coalition members managed to provide telephone counselling, emergency and long-term psychological counselling, legal, primary and qualified assistance, social assistance, financial support, material and placement to 5600 beneficiaries, working in 1681 localities with the direct involvement of 200 specialists.

There are also local projects supported by international organisations involved in fighting against VAW. One of them is “Combating violence against women in the Republic of Moldova: exploring and learning from local solutions” – a pilot project from Autonomous Territorial Unit (ATU) Gagauzia, supported by UNDP Moldova.  The purpose of this project is to help the local implementation of the the National Strategy on Prevention and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence for 2018-2023 and to use the lessons learned, as well as the results of the initiative proposed in the pilot project, for offering improved policy recommendations to the decision makers.

Photo: Tumisu – Pixabay

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Culture

Lost in Moldova – a miniseries from and about Moldova supported through a crowdfunding campaign

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Lost in Moldova is a short drama series created by John Lewis and directed by Calin Laur that tells the story of a young man called Diego. He joins the Peace Corps to win back his ex-girlfriend and gets to Moldova. He imagines exotic, tropical places, instead he ends up “Lost in Moldova.”

source: seedandspark.com

The movie will feature the cultural aspects specific to an Eastern European country, its creators hoping to build “a bond between the people of Moldova and Americans through laughter and their shared humanity” according to the description of the movie.

The first season of Lost in Moldova revolves around Diego (played by Kenny Grimble Jr.) teaching English at a school in a small Moldovan village, the characters he meets, and his adjustment to life in Moldova. In the movie, the protagonist has to undergo a transformation through a series of adventures that changed his assumptions about the world, especially about Moldova.

source: seedandspark.com

The crowdfunding campaign

The funds needed for production crew, equipment, travel, permits, insurance, editing, etc. were raised through a crowdfunding campaign, the team planning to re-shoot the pilot episode, along with 3 additional episodes from the first season.

Up till now, $14 175 were raised, the campaign ended successfully and the pre-production phase of the project started. The supporters of this campaign had the opportunity to receive a wide variety of perks: exclusive access to finished episodes (for a donation of minimum $50), a digital signed copy of the pilot script (for a donation of at least $75), a “Thank You” in the credits (for $250 or more), upgrading the name of the grantor to associate producer (for a donation of $1 000) or even to executive producer (for a donation of $2 500) in the credits.

source: seedandspark.com

According to its authors, the project will make a big impact in creating awareness about Moldova, transforming the image of Moldova in the eyes of people around the world.

Along with shooting the episodes of the first season, parallel content will be developed using new characters. The glimpse of ‘behind the scenes’ are planned to be shared on the Facebook, Twitter  and Instagram channels.

The crowdfunding video for the Lost in Moldova series:

Photo: seedandspark.com

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