As a sign of solidarity and support, on the eve of the two-year of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Community Centre 151 hosted a panel discussion with and for refugees from Ukraine – “Inspire through change, inspire the community”. The event was dedicated to the theme of refugee integration in Moldova, 2 years after the start of the war in the neighbouring country. Topics such as adaptation in a foreign country, job search, education, opportunities, and needs were discussed.

The guests were internally displaced persons from Ukraine, Moldovan citizens, and partners. The event was opened by Constanta Dohotaru, Manager of the Laolalta programme, and Cecilia Chirila, UNHCR Senior Officer in Moldova.

‘The anxiety, the fear, and the problems we faced are very similar for everyone. I would like to say that we can do this; we can do anything. We Ukrainians have been through a lot, and we can go through a lot. We are creating new happiness; we are creating a new life. Yes, from scratch. Yes, we didn’t want that. But we get over the internal struggles and move on. One of the goals we want to achieve is to organize a community of Ukrainians who can communicate with each other, share their experiences, and share their successes. We all need a conversation, we need a conversation with each other because it helps; because it gives a feeling of involvement and somehow removes loneliness,’ remarked Olga Dynda, moderator of the panel discussion.

The speakers told about their experiences. One of them was Leonid Shpak, a resident of Odessa and a beneficiary of Community Centre 151, whose wife teaches music lessons in our choir. A former investigator and prosecutor, now retired, says, ‘The choir is a useful thing. I got involved more than a year ago, and now we meet once a week on Wednesdays. We are surrounded by such sincere company, although the ages vary, from 30 to about 80, but we have become like family; we all come and we know each other. And we know our grandchildren. This activity helps us survive in such conditions when we are separated from family, friends, and relatives. We already have friends in Moldova, at the choir, at English lessons, very good people nearby.’

On this day, I could feel the spirit of unity and cohesion. Together, we were able to offer empathy, assistance, and support to those present at the event.

‘We live and really enjoy this life. ‘Thank you very much to everyone who helps us in this way’ said Larisa Spirina, a resident of Kiev, panel participant, and one of the participants in the choir.

The youngest panelist was 19-year-old Anastasia Zakirova from Nikolaev. The girl lost her university and even her home in the bombings. She has experience of emigrating to different countries; her family and she have lived in Romania, Poland, and Bulgaria, but her final choice was Moldova. ‘We like it here because there is no language barrier. At the beginning, it was very difficult. We only found a place by miracle. At first, it was hard and stressful; I got depressed. For the first 8 months, I stayed at home and studied. When I arrived in Chisinau, my mother was working online, I was studying online, and we seemed to be living somehow. But we realized that things couldn’t work for so long; we wouldn’t be able to last. We expected everything to be temporary. But as a result, it wasn’t to be. And we decided that we had to start living because life goes on and staying in a frozen state is not an option. And then, I found out about Community Center 151. For me, it was a revelation because it took me out of this state I was in. When it seems like it’s hard, even after the night itself, the sun definitely comes out.’

‘Thank you for your help. Many thanks to those people who know how to open up, who know how to say a kind word, and to offer us support. I have experience working in Ukraine at Odessa Oblenergo as an electrical meter controller. At the moment, I am also here as an electricity meter controller in the city of Chisinau’, Tatiana Spanzuratu, another panel participant, shared her employment experience.

Laolalta Association offers several services for refugees and the local community. Visit our Facebook, Instagram or website for details.