Heartsick for home in Moldova

CG-Belgium foreign exchange student hopes that when she returns to her country bordering Ukraine and impacted by invasion it will resemble the one she left
Ozaukee Press staff

Alexandra Bernaz of Moldova is loving the year she is spending in America, trying new activities and immersing herself in a different culture.

Come late June, the Cedar Grove-Belgium High School sophomore exchange student hopes she can return to the same country she came from.

Many Americans perhaps hadn’t heard of Moldova before, a nation about the size of Maryland, but recent events in eastern Europe have led more people to be able to find it on a map.

Moldova borders Ukraine to the east and Romania to the west.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Alexandra said life back home for her parents and younger brother has been altered.

“There are a lot more Ukrainians around,” she said.

Her city of Causeni is 45 miles from the Ukranian border, and its 16,000 residents can hear bombs exploding in Odessa, Ukraine.

“The city is setting up shelters and funds that provide supplies for Ukrainian refugees. There are 1,000 refugees per hour coming into Moldova,” Alexandra said.

“Our government is doing our best to help Ukrainians. Some Moldovans are hosting Ukrainian refugees. Our government is also setting up refugee shelters. People are donating supplies and money to help.”

The language barrier isn’t an issue. Romanian is spoken across Moldova, but many people know Russian as well and can easily communicate with refugees, she said.

The country has seen a shortage of supplies as a result of the war.

“A lot of goods that are usually imported from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine such as food items and other goods have stopped, so there are shortages,” Alexandra said.

“However, our government is looking to Western Europe to import goods.”

Alexandra’s mother works for the government issuing passports and has been especially busy lately.

“Her hours have increased because there are a large number of Moldovans who are worried about the war, so they are registering for passports in the event that they would have to leave Moldova,” she said.

Her father works in business.

She and her family support Ukraine, but a small portion of Moldova leans pro-Russia, Alexandra said.

“They believe that they are part of Russia, but they are not recognized. They are not outspoken in their viewpoints so there is very little confrontations or controversies,” she said.

The two groups have one thing in common. Both are worried about violence in Ukraine spreading into Moldova.

“I am also concerned about economic stability,” Alexandra said.

She is staying with the Harvey family, which annually hosts a student through the  American Field Service program. She and her American brother, high school student Logan Filtz, talk about the changes going on half a world away.

Alexandra said she doesn’t watch the news, but she has picked up on some misconceptions.

“There are some misunderstandings about the situation that I hear in conversations. For example, there are a lot of opinions about the solution to the situation without truly understanding the history between Russia and Ukraine,” she said.

In the meantime, Alexandra is loving life in the U.S. She has tried new sports such as basketball, volleyball and softball, and she loves to cheer on Logan at his hockey games. A visit to the Willis Tower in Chicago was also a big hit.

Alexandra even has discovered a new career path. After considering law, a sewing class at the high school has put fashion design in play.

“This place became so close to my heart, I’ll come back sometime in the future and rediscover the beauties of Wisconsin,” she said.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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