Moldova Alumna Pens Editorial

Photo of Alina Turcanu
Alina Turcanu

Moldova Alumna Pens Editorial

Adapted from the original Romanian:

Turcanu was hosted in Kalamazoo, MI by Colleagues International from September 21 - 29, 2012.

I have a dream. My American dream, as they say. I want to grow old overseas, somewhere in California. Or, perhaps, further up north, in Michigan, on the shore of one of the Great Lakes, in a quiet locality with a strange name, Kalamazoo.

It’s a town like many others in the United States, with perfect roads, neat houses lined up like little boxes, beautifully trimmed grass and people smiling at you - on the street, in the mall, in the restaurant, everywhere. The Americans’ usual mask, you might say. No doubt, some of them are just being nice and all, but the majority have honest eyes. Especially the older people. Or maybe this is how I saw them in the ten days I was there.

Looking at Anne, my host, a serene-faced lady who in her 74 years of age loves doing things for others, drives a car with the skill of a teenage girl and is full of plans for the future, I remembered our own grannies, crouching under the weight of their daily struggles for survival, their eyes dark with care. And I felt sad.

Anne is not afraid that she will have nothing to eat tomorrow, that her pension will not be enough to pay her heating bills in winter, or that she can just die because of not having the money for medicine. Just like any “Auntie Anya” from Moldova, Anne has worked all her life and conscientiously paid taxes. The difference between them is that Anne enjoys the benefits of her age and does not pray to God, "that He would let her die and end her suffering on this earth."

Since she retired, Anne has traveled to about 30 countries. She has time for her own children and grandchildren and her cuddly dog that keeps her company since her husband died, but also for the poor of Libya, the orphans of Romania or the refugees from Kosovo. From time to time, along with other elderly Kalamazoonians, she collects money or clothes, brings them to the church and then sends them to strangers in some problem areas thousands of kilometers away, who she knows need help.

The old men and women of Kalamazoo are not weary of life. They jog in the morning, volunteer for community activities, discuss politics and never miss an election, browse the internet, subscribe to newspapers, go to the hairdresser’s, and do their shopping. They are curious like children. For this reason, absolutely for free, they receive in their homes guests from Eastern Europe – participants in Open World, a program funded by Congress with the money of American taxpayers. Perhaps, our elderly would do the same if they didn’t have to work their Soviet "daily quotas" lest they starve to death or stand with their hand outstretched on a street corner, begging for bread.

I’m exaggerating, of course. Not all of America’s senior citizens are happy, and nor does everyone in Moldova have to count their cents to live until tomorrow. But that's pretty much the general impression, one that I had after just a few days in the United States, and one that a foreign visitor takes home from a short stay in our country.

[Reprinted with Permission]