Life before WWII in one village of Bessarabia

A few weeks ago, I posted a fragment from Ion Moraru’s testimony about his own suffering after the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia. This is a fragment in which he describes life before WWII. It is the description of a peaceful place, where people used to live in connection with the world around them.


I was born on March 9, 1929, in the village Mândâc, near the city of Drochia, in Bessarabia.

The village of my childhood was just like all the villages of Bessarabia before the war.


In the heart of the village there was an old wooden church, where all people were going on Sunday. People were faithful, and not going to church on feast days was a shameful thing.

Even at home, prayer was said before everything. My bunica, Alexandra, had her own rule every morning and evening—even if the village were on fire, even if the house were on fire, she would have not given up prayer! When she was finished, she sat down, combed her raven hair, put it in a bun,[1]and when this ritual was done, she began working! She went to the oven made out of stone and clay, just next to the house, and she did her work there the whole day: two-three polentas per day—polenta with scrambled eggs, polenta with fish, polenta with scraps, polenta with sheep cheese, just like every other Romanian. I don’t know how the Bessarabians did not die from so much polenta!

During feast days, it was completely different because feasts were sacred for us. On Saturday, toward evening, when the sun was going down three spears from the earth, bunicul went to mow lucerne and brought food for horses and cattle, so that he would not have to mow on Sunday. Bunica was also cooking on Saturday, as we were all going to church on Sunday morning.

In those times, people were not very learned; their lives flowed naturally, according to what was given to them. They knew to do many things naturally, following the nature of things.

Bunelul, for example, did not know much agronomy, but he knew with precision when to sow the corn. In the spring, he was just coming to me saying:

“Vaniusha, come, let’s se if it is time to sow!”

There was a large cross made out of stone on our land, on a small hill. Bunelul used to make a cigarette from corn, sit on a stone, and begin puffing that cigarette. After a while, he would stand up and say:

“Let’s go home, for it is no time for sowing!”

I was wondering how he could know. Then I realized where his knowledge came home: the stone was cold. He did not need academic studies to understand that it was too cold for sowing.


People believed and hoped that this Resurrection will come for them as well. Nobody knew, however, how it would be, and this is why death was feared. As soon as it was heard that someone was about to die, either because of age or sickness, all went to him to ask for forgiveness and waited around to hold his candle because it was considered a sin to die without a candle.

[1] “Foflic” in original, a regionalism.

About Tavi's Corner

Blogging on ancient philosophy, communist persecution in Romania (including deportation to Siberia), and Orthodox Christianity. I've translated books from Romanian to English, and I also write about them from time to time.
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