It’s Friday, 9:30 AM. It is the time when the Poșta Moldovei car arrives in Sireți village, district of Strășeni. It takes ten minutes to have the letters, newspapers, packages and pension money delivered in front of the Post Office.
Postwoman Liuba Cipilenco receives the bags with excitement. In addition to the registered mail, there are stacks of bills that need to reach each recipient. She understands she has a maximum of an hour to group the bills and letters by neighborhoods and then get going.
She also has extra masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves in her bag. This has been a rule for her for over a year now.
She does not know if she is bringing today good news or bad news. Some villagers are waiting for her, others avoid receiving the letters brought by Aunt Liuba, as the village youth call her.
Liuba has been the village’s postwoman for 13 years. Agile and quick, she knows all the neighbourhoods, shortcuts and paths, as well as all the 6,500 inhabitants.
“It’s not enough to know the house, you need also to know who lives in that house, the children, the grandchildren. I call the mayor’s office to find out where to take the letters. But if I went back 13 years ago, I wouldn’t change this job. I really wanted to stay and work here, in the village, to be at home, to be able to cope in the same way with the domestic chores, to be with my family, with my children.
Some people see me as an ordinary postwoman walking through the village, but others really understand the work I do and my advice… You see, one calls me daughter. Another one calls me a family friend. A third one calls me friend.
I’ve also had insults from some younger boys who knew they had to receive letters.
- Aunt Liuba! Take them back to where they came from. I told you not to bring them anymore.
- Guys, I must deliver them.
My eyes even filled with tears when I arrived at that house, but they didn’t want to take the letters. That’s how I am, more emotional.
It has also happened that I wasn’t allowed to cross the gateway. I’ve had a case when they came out and I gave them their pension on the street.
I have been struggling for so many years performing this job, that I can’t even sleep at night, I think about the letters I haven’t delivered and that I have to return.
I don’t work just until five o’clock. I work until nightfall, and I work on Saturdays, to cope with the work. People ask me:
- Are you working today, too, Liuba?
- Well, I have many letters and I can’t manage, so I deliver on Saturdays as well.
- Do letters really arrive now, when there is Internet?
- They do. And I’d say — actually a lot of them.
It is very rare when people receive a letter, sign for and are content with that. Nearly every client asks:
- Where has the letter come from? And what’s in it?
- People, I don’t know what’s in the envelope.”
One day, she received 222 registered mails, which she had not seen in her 13 years of work: “Oh My God! The recommended mails,” the villagers said. “Imagine how many days I needed to deliver them,” Liuba says.
During the pandemic, she protects herself with a mask and tries to avoid exposing herself:
“I’m 62 years old. At first, I was a little scared. That’s because I come up to the gate, touch the clamp, talk to the people, ask them to sign for receipt. I wear glasses, which sweat from the mask. With time, the fear has passed. I’ve got used to it. There were some older people who were telling me they had already had the disease and that I shouldn’t be afraid to come close. They know me and they trust me. But I told them no: we should all wear masks.
My three children and two daughters-in-law keep telling me:
- Mom, be careful, you work with a lot of people!”
Liuba has four grandchildren and will soon meet her fifth one. Her husband died when the children were teenagers.
“You must have a lot of strength to be a postwoman because people are different. But I like it.
What I like the best is that I can help older people. Many can’t come to the post office and I deliver their pensions to their homes, and also pay their bills. It’s a little harder during the pandemic, but the work is the same. The good older people wait for me. It’s only me who crosses their thresholds now. Most of them want to speak with me, to know what’s new. I also bring them sad news about the villagers killed by the virus…
- Oh, Liubușoara, it’s good that you came, because we were wondering: God, did the disease also affected you…”
A dog is barking.
- Aunt Claudia … may I come in?
- Please do.
- I’ve deducted the bills from your pension and there are 2117 lei left. Sign here.
Aunt Claudia signs.
- See you next month! Please don’t you come out, because I will close the door and the gate.
- I can’t any more…
Claudia Simion is 81 years old and has not left her yard for 7 years. “Liubașa” is the messenger of joy, she says: “My children are gone abroad. Luckily for me, Liubașa stops by and we talk. I trust only her. She works so much and has no help.”
“Our Liuba is busy as a bee. She masters her job. She runs 10–11 km daily through the village. She doesn’t even need a treadmill. We want her to bring us only good news when she comes to us, even if she also brings the bills,” says Larisa Vrânceanu, saleswoman.
“If I had a device that measured my steps, then people would be convinced about how many steps I take, how many streets and paths I walk. Sometimes the road is better, other times I come across gravel and it’s hard for me to walk and it seems I’d never get out of that street. I’ve covered a great deal of kilometres, sometimes I crash. I don’t know how much it would be to go around the globe, but I think I’ve covered that distance, once or twice,” says Liuba, the postwoman of Sireți.
Whether it’s cold, raining or windy, Liuba distributes letters, bills, good news and less good news.
Text: Laura Bohanțova, UNDP Moldova. Photo: Marin Iliuț