In February, I attend the play “Copiii Foametei. Mărturii.” by Alexei Vakulovski at the Mihai Eminescu National Theatre of Chisinau. The play tells stories from one village during the famine in Moldova from 1946 to 1947. The somber set and stories had everyone in the audience in tears and there was also hope found in survival, weddings and finding lost family members. There is a quote from the director that says that the actors at times could not practice their lines because it caused too much pain and sadness. The play was a good reminder to be grateful for the abundance of healthy, fresh food that is so easily available to me and should be available for everyone
The village in the play is just a few miles down the road from mine and while the stories were specific to that village, there are similar stories from my village and other villages in Moldova and Ukraine. In 1945, the year before the famine, there had been a drought that impacted the production of the fields in Moldova, Ukraine and parts of Russia in 1946. This reduction in yield and the Soviet regime’s requirement of shipment of grain from Moldova and Ukraine created a food shortage. Some believe that it was the Soviet’s plan to cause this food shortage and there are stories about grain rotting in barns that could have been used to feed people. The famine was so severe that people were eating things like tree bark and sawdust to survive and there were several tales of cannibalism in the play.
For many weeks after the play, I discussed it with people in my village. What amount of stress is someone living with to make a choice to eat a family member that has passed away and how do you live with that decision and action afterwards? We discussed how important it is for people to know the history of their great-grandparents/grandparents and what it is like to live with nothing. We talked about how children/people (myself included) today are not satisfied with what they have and demand what they want and how this can been seen by someone who had nothing as egotism and greed. We talked about the need for gratitude and conscious consumption.
I still ponder how much time and effort it took for me to reduce the stuff that I owned and how strong the pull to buy new and convenient things is. When I return to the US, I would like to continue on my path of conscious consumption and not be so easily pulled by consumerism. Finding articles like this one, The Tyranny of Convenience, in the NY Times is always helpful to remind me to be more aware of my behaviors.
On a more uplifting note, the theater was beautiful with large chandeliers, elegant hallways and intricate wood floors.