The year that changed my reading habits

Delete, delete, delete.  I wipe one unfinished book after another off my Goodreads currently reading list, some of these books were on that list since about 2015 and the number kept growing and growing.

This year’s challenge does not look too promising either. Eleven out of 30 thus far, there are less than two months to go till the end of the year. Most likely, I will not even make it half-way. Two years ago I pledged to read 45 books, the year ended with 52. Only two books on this year’s read list are works of fiction. The change is also striking, but I suppose these changes only reflect the turbulent reality of 2017. 

Fiction used to be a refuge in the darkest of days, but fact is that the imaginary worlds also drew me in because they were a form of escapism. I do credit imaginary worlds of fiction for keeping me sane, for safekeeping a light at the end of the tunnel, but what this year has shown is that I started to live differently. Some days are still dark, some are also full of terror. This year has been one of, no, THE most emotionally charged of my life and it has taught me a great many lessons about my self. I have realized that I have changed, and so have my reading habits. I no longer intend to put frames, I do not intend to erase, rewind and press play. This is a new start on a blank page.

A death that is no crime

They said that when Cherry – that’s what his name apparently was –  fell off the slope, the fc892e674ff12b827b932bacd805a2e6rope twisted arround his neck. In the several minutes that it took to kill the elegant 2-year-old stallion, nobody came to his aid. His teenage handlers did not untie the rope. Cherry the horse died in a ditch in one of the biggest parks of Chisinau.

The case shocked the Moldovan web community to the core, although the initial incident did not get much reaction from the media. Animal abuse is part of deeply-ingrained culture. Punishment for criminals is laughable and literally unenforcible. In vilagges deaths like that are normal and go largely unnoticed.

Cherry’s owner, a 18-year-old woman who was promptly identified by Facebook users, was named and shamed accross the Moldovan internet. She used Cherry, another horse and a donkey to earn money from kid’s rides around the Valea Morilor lake and photoshoots with the pretty horses in the park. According to the owner’s Facebook post, the services of her animals cost a bit over 10 Euros each. The animals that lived in that very park in the open air were taken care of – if care is the word that can even be used in this instance – by a group of teenagers.

The stallion’s death was reported as an accident due to absence of witnesses. When the body of the horse disappeared from the Chisinau park, the owner began to insist that she sold the horse to some individual living in the north of Moldova. She insisted to authorities that she had no way to get in touch with the buyer. That’s when animal rights protection activist Karl Luganov came in.

With the assistance of a local policeman, Luganov managed to locate the place where he 20414348_1578534808876757_3830794966140891416_oassumed that the horse may be burried. His suspicions turned out to be true, as Cherry was found not too far off from where he died. The stallion was identified using the microchip. After the photograph was published on Facebook, numerous eyewitnesses came out. The horses, they


 said, worked in terrible conditions, were underfed, publicly beaten and deprived of medical attention… Cherry had a dog bite on one of his legs, which remained virtually untreated as he worked away the hours in the Chisinau park.

The owner – who is 18 by the way, only 18 – risks a fine of 1500 Moldovan lei (a bit over 50 Euros). According to Facebook discussion in multiple animal protection groups, her horses reportedly brought her something close to 4000 lei per day. Moldovan law does not allow stricter punushment. It does not enforce bans on keeping animals or the confiscation of the animals that remain with the offender. The girl that insisted that she sold the horse is back at work in Valea Morilor park, but can you really expect some remorse or prudence from an individual that posts things like “I can’t be loved, I’m a beast” on her Facebook page?




My #HarryPotter20

My, I do feel so old when I think it has been 20 years since I first laid my hands on Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone. The first book, one that I borrowed from a childhood friend has changed the way I see the world, but that’s what J.K.Rowling’s books did for most of the readers.

Those days weren’t the brightest ones I could look back on. Book one was borrowed, books two and three were brought by my parents, who went to Moscow to earn some money. When the Goblet of Fire came out,  I had to sell my copies of the Chamber of Secrets and the Prizoner of Azkaban in order to be able to afford to buy the latest installment.  A penpal sent me her copy of the Order of the Phoenix. Another friend from England sent me the Half-Blood Prince.  The last chapter, the Deathly Hallows, became the one – the first book – that I could truly buy on my own…

One of my closest relative blamed all my faults and mistakes on that book series. I forgot something – Harry Potter was to blame, I never did something – it was all about Harry. The smallest of missteps oftentimes resulted in degrading words about the books that – I’m not afraid to say it – kept me sane and, however irrational it may have seemed at these points, they kept me hopeful. These books have also made me loyal to the ones I have let into my life till the last.

I speak/know/understand 7 languages. Going on 8 right now… When people hear this, they are almost always perplexed. How can this be possible? For those that do not know, I am from Moldova – a country which is not only bilingual, but is a country which brings together languages of two different groups. So, since childhood I have gradually gained understanding of languages of both Slavic and Latin origins. Russian and Romanian were the beginning. Harry Potter and J.K.Rowling taught me English. I have re-read the series in every language that followed. French, Spanish, Czech… Every line, every word in a language that I did not yet quite grasp was familiar and every time, I felt like I was reading the series for the first time. Just a little bit like that.

J.K.Rowling created a home for me, she created my friends, my escape and my consolation, her words stopped me from falling to pieces many, many times, she made me fall in love with English and helped me discover other languages. That is what she did for me and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Two days of winter. Chisinau caught up in April snowstorm

When I looked out of my window yesterday morning, I gasped so loudly I could have woken people up. The forecast promised snow and me and my boss were discussing how could we expect some 40 cm on the next day. It all seemed like a joke, until Chisinau became covered in white.
While, day one seemed like an annoying episode of the global warming, the next day brought an absolute disaster.  Take the images of the Easter Bunnies still standing in the central park of the Moldovan capital. That one day sure as hell made a difference. On April 21, we sure did get at least 30 cm of snow, which felled hundreds upon hundreds of trees, cut off the transport and electricity lines in Chisinau and many towns and villages caught up in the storm.
I love my job. I braved bad weather for it. The road to work took about an hour in a suffocatingly-full bus, which miraculously appeared some 15 min after I arrived at the station.  The road to the office was blocked by 3 fallen trees and torn wires. Considering the state of emergency in the capital, the work day was cancelled and all of us were sent home. Since the trolleybus circulation – the fastest and most efficient way of getting around the city did not get restored until the point of writing (10 p.m.), walking was the only option. Thankfully, I made it home intact – wet through, and limping


Day one of the storm


Kids Duathlon marks the return of the sport to Moldova

Sunday, April 2, 2017 marked a new beginning for Moldovan sport, as duathlon made theDuathlon Kids Moldova first solid steps towards revival. The inaugural edition of the Kids Duathlon Championship organized at the stadium of National Technical University of Moldova gathered over 50 kids, who competed for the title of the champion in three age categories.
The youngest participants of the competition aged between 6 and 9 years old had to run 400 m and cycle 800 m, while their older counterparts had to do overcome an increasingly more difficult course in order to fight for the chance to earn the country’s historic champion titles . The competition was judged by Iurie Ostashin, the country’s most renown triathlete and Moldova’s only IRONMAN.
RIO_2810The Triathlon Federation of Moldova was re-established in 2016, after the sport’s governing body failed to develop the sport nation-wide and ceased functioning. The newly-created Federation is currently led by Dorin Alexei. Iurie Ostashin serves as the vice-president of the organization.
While the Federation has already organized an amateur indoor triathlon test event this winter, the Kids Championship became the first major step towards the organization of a junior duathlon/triathlon program. The inaugural edition of the adult edition of the duathlon will be the biggest test for the national sport to date. The event is set to take place in the center of the Moldovan capital city of Chisinau on the 30th of April.

#straysofmoldova part 9 – Mashka

Mashka is a hero of one of the most controversial stray dog stories in Chisinau. 
There is a middle-aged lady in our neighborhood. She is often seen walking her dog – a male rottweiler-griffon cross-breed. When Mashka was in heat, she let her own homeboy procreate. The she let him do that again… She’s caring – in a way… This woman feeds the stray dogs, but she also effectively helps their numbers grow. Now Mashka is pregnant with her third litter of pups. 
While the two little ones on the photos below did get adopted, the second generation of her offspring did not fare well. A girl posted the adoption notice on Facebook said she managed to find a home for all 7 of the pups. In a day. All at once… Which, in Moldovan reality only means one thing – that the little ones were most likely dead soon after they left the bushes where they were born. 
Facebook is the most popular source for stray animal adoptions here in Moldova, but fact is it is oftentimes extremely different to find a home for one pup, let alone seven in one day. Some posts go without a phone call for many many days and very few dogs are lucky enough to find a home. The fact that all of the little ones were taken is a very dark sign. 

#straysofmoldova part 5 – Longie

Autumn 2015 – I was walking Bonnie, my tiny four-pawed daughter, when we saw a dog on the brink of starvation in one of the courtyards not too far from my home. She was, beyond doubt, one of the worst cases that I have ever seen. Her bones were showing, you could count every rib and every bone of her back. She was a nursing mum.

I saw her some days before, heavily pregnant, begging the passersby for food. Unfortunately, when it comes to wondering strays – not the usual residents of your Chisinau neighborhood – there’s rarely a chance for you to actually feed the dog. Sometimes you don’t have the money, sometimes there’s no supermarket or butcher’s nearby, sometimes they just run off before you can return with a juicy bone…

Longie, as we later called her, stopped and stared at us. I took Bonnie in my arms and sat down. The stray approached me and put her head on my lap. Stroke me please…  

The next day we went out searching for the litter, there weren’t that many places to hide and the pups simply had to be nearby. Two days later, we found them hidden beneath central heating pipes. You had to get through some heavy undergrowth in a secluded spot where nobody really walked. This is what saved both her and the pups, 5 beautiful furry babies, who were all adopted.

This winter I almost cried when I saw she was alive after almost a month-long absence. She’s no longer a skeletal creature, because Longie has character and skill. She knows where to get food, who could give it to her and she’s not below taking the food away from more timid dogs. She also is quite crazy and loves running around in circles.

#straysofmoldova part 4 – Red

Red is one of the offsprings of a cat that lived near a huge supermarket just across the street. Sometimes, there’s Red the First. Sometimes he’s joined by Red the Second (a brother). One is fatter than the other, he also is cross-eyed. Both were grew up on those steps.

Chisinau is home to thousands of stray cats and I would refrain from giving even a modest estimate of their numbers. There are two colonies of cats that I can see from the windows of my apartment block. While one slowly dwindled to some 4-5 mostly feral cats, the other one amounts to at least 15. There is a third colony living in a courtyard where the pups from #straysofmoldova Part 3 used to live and one more a bit further down from there. Even the most modest estimate would amount to at least 50 homeless felines (most likely the number is closer to 80-90) in the space of a bit more than one square km.

The situation in other parts of Chisinau is even more dire. Why are the numbers so high? Unfortunately, as it stands with dogs, cats do not benefit from any legal protection and breeding is absolutely unsupervised. Cats end up in the streets because numerous carless and uneducated owners prefer not to neuter their supposedly beloved pets because that is against nature.

What happens very often is that cats are left to roam the streets during the day and come in for the night. Knowing the extremely large numbers of both male and female cats that have not been sprayed and neutered, such carelessness leaves a regular increase in stray cat population…

Oftentimes, cats get thrown out for misbehavior, for instance a fairly recent Facebook post by a cat owner comes to mind. The man in question was looking for a new home for his young cat because he was misbehaving. The man wrote on Facebook that he’d put the animal down if a new home will not be found…

Aside from it all, the stray dogs which used to roam the streets of our neighborhood and many other neighborhoods around Chisinau get routinely poisoned. Thus, stray cats are left without any natural predators (aside from humans of course) and cold and hunger become their primary concerns
These are a few of the many reasons behind this drastic situation.

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#straysofmoldova part 3 – the pups that lived under a tennis table

Back in the Soviet days, most of the neighborhoods had playgrounds that could put modern equivalents to shame. The remnants of the former cult of sport remain scattered around Chisinau courtyards. This particular courtyard – a two minute walk from my apartment block – had table tennis tables made of solid concrete. These days these weathered and worn things hardly remind of their former purpose…

This is one of the five pups that were born under one such table. I’ve noticed them by pure chance, when I took an unexpected detour on my way from the gym. Only two male and one female pup remained at that point. The mum would sometimes be present too, although she was mostly out scavenging for food.

The female pup, as I was told, was once thrown into one of those huge garbage bins used by the nearby houses. The one that threw her was a kid. At one point – after the original incident – she could not walk at all, once again falling victim to abuse.

About two weeks later, all three of the pups were found with a broken neck. Almost at the same time, one of the local street cats was found with her head smashed in. The witnesses have once again named a child as the murderer. Nobody was ever punished.

The mother of the three pups was still alive in Autumn 2016.

#straysofmoldova part 2 – the Nightstand

Tubochka, or the Nightstand, lived at Dinamo stadium in the center of Chisinau. Was she well-fed or just sick and overweight? I wouldn’t really know, but her short, stocky and angular body earned Tumbochka her peculiar nickname.

What I do know is that Nightstand was a victim of abuse. First time I saw her, she ran away, even though I wasn’t even trying to approach her to make our acquaintance. Strangers terrified her. Strangers 10 meters away made her run and hide somewhere under the stands. A gentle talk from a distance would make her wag her tail, but an attempt to approach would make her flee.

A few months after our meeting, she finally allowed me to pet her and give her food, even though she’d flinch and run at the slightest movement.