Bringing relief to poor people & families in
JANUARY 2015 IN MOLDOVA
Moldova is Europe's poorest nation"Moldova is the first former Soviet state to start the process of joining the European Union" said a front-
Trafficking troubles poor Moldova
That would have come as a surprise to the European Commission, which treats this tiny, east European state, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, very much as part of the "wider Europe" which is not at all ready to think about joining the EU.
Moldova is Europe's poorest country. Almost one-
And a huge majority of those who remain, according to research, would leave if they had the means.
In the east, the sliver of land along the Dniester river, known as Transdniestria, populated mainly by Russians and Ukrainians, has declared de facto independence.
The EU wants Russia to pull its forces out by the end of the year, but there is little sign of that happening. In the meantime, the two parts of Moldova snarl at each other across the river, and even -
To the west, the Moldovan government is locked in an ideological war with Romania, denouncing Bucharest's talk of "two Romanian states", which Chisinau regards as a slight on its own, Moldovan, statehood.
The country's language is Romanian, but the authorities here refer to it as "Moldovan" in order to bolster their separate identity.
'Not for sale'
Compounding the misery are political tensions to east and west.
The political instability alone would be enough to keep Moldova out of the EU. But it is worse than that.
The country is the source of much of Europe's human trafficking. Billboards in the streets of the capital, Chisinau, depict a girl gripped in a huge clenched fist, being exchanged for dollars.
The caption reads: "You are not for sale". There are few countries in the world where people have to be reminded of that by public advertisements.
In fact, tens of thousands of Moldovan women have been sold into prostitution in more affluent countries. And the trade in human organs, particularly kidneys, is a growing and frightening problem.
"The traffickers are smart psychologists," says Ana Revenco of La Strada, an organisation set up to help the victims of the sex trade.
“ I was so poor I couldn't even buy clothes or food for my little girl”
"They go to poor villages where women are most vulnerable. For many of them, prostitution is a survival strategy."
I met Jana, a 22 year-
Jana says she went to Istanbul voluntarily, believing she was being offered work in bars and restaurants.
When she realised her employer wanted to turn her into a prostitute, she tried to escape, but was caught, handcuffed and driven to the seaside town of Bodrum. She tells how she was sold to a succession of pimps, her price-
Her last owner, an Armenian woman, put a gun to Jana's head when she refused to work, beat her, and even pushed her off a yacht into the sea for complaining. Jana says she never received a penny for her "work"
She speaks with horror of how another woman in the town who refused to work was brutally murdered, her face and genitals carved up. The pimps showed photographs of the body to Jana as a warning.
Eventually Jana escaped with the help of a benevolent client. She stole her passport back, and with her client made her way overland back to Istanbul, where he paid for a ticket home. It was four months of terror.
Why did she go there in the first place, I asked. Wasn't she naive?
"Maybe. But I was so poor I couldn't even buy clothes or food for my little girl," she said. "I couldn't even buy her sweets."
Prostitution is a 'survival strategy' for many Moldovan women
In a village in the north of Moldova I found victims of another kind of trafficking. Iurie, a young man with dark stubble on his face, looked tough enough to take care of himself. But tears brimmed in his eyes as he told me how he was forced -
e says he went there thinking he would be given work as a stevedore. Instead, he ended up on an operating table. He was sent home, $11,000 richer, but traumatised for life.
The realisation that one can live with just one kidney has prompted many Moldovans to go abroad voluntarily to make a quick buck. In the village of Oknita a 20-
In Edinec, a young musician named Sergiu plays the saxophone he bought with his. He hopes the instrument will enable him to earn money.
"Of course it was a risk," he says, "but I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. Now I have this saxophone, and a clarinet, and a house."
I found these people with the help of two officers from Moldova's anti-
But it's an unequal struggle. They themselves are poor: their salaries just $100 a month. Their 20-
For our four-