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The Ticket Home

You see a different, peculiar Moldova on trains and airplanes. When strangers suddenly share a feeling of being at home together, people somehow open up more easily and even become a little kinder, it seems.

After all, you won't ever see each other again, so what is the point of building walls or worrying overly much about what kind of impression you are making? You take people as they are, just people sharing the road.

Natalia Morari is blogging for RFE/RL's Moldovan Service
In six years of traveling by train between Moscow and Chisinau and two years of international travel, I have met enough of my countrymen to write a book. Happy ones and unhappy ones. Strong and frail. Educated and uneducated. Confident, modest, fathers, mothers, drinkers, teetotalers, people who have found themselves and people who are looking.

Each one unique. But taken together they form a general portrait of a person seeking a better life. And they are almost always seeking it abroad, far from home and family.

Maybe that's why when you come across Moldovans abroad you often see they have a certain melancholy in their eyes. And the only way they can get rid of it is by having a ticket home in their hands.

I met Misha on a flight from Milan to Chisinau. He is a sensible, 34-year-old who had lived in northern Italy for nine years. During that time, two of his brothers had joined him abroad and in the last year he had married a Ukrainian, whom he'd met in Italy.

There is nothing tying Misha to Moldova anymore. His parents have passed on and his brothers are with him abroad. But he was flying home anyway, unable to explain what it was that was drawing him so strongly back to a home that really didn't exist for him any longer.

"You planning to live in Italy forever?" I asked him.

"No way," he said without hesitating. Yes, he has work there. He and his wife are even renting a pretty nice apartment. But nonetheless they can't live there. More than anything, Misha dreams of bringing his Ukrainian bride to Moldova, opening his own business and raising his children in the country where he was raised. He even has a bit of money saved up, and both his brothers are ready to return to Moldova with him and help out.

But, Misha says, they aren't sure they'll be able to make a go of it considering the corrupt officials who are always hungry. But they'd really like to.

As long as there are Mishas -- having lived by Western standards for nine years but still ready to return home and invest their money and raise their children in their homeland -- then Moldova will have a chance of developing normally.

These are the people who can pull the country forward. We only have to give them the chance to come home.