by Tatiana Solonari
These beauties from Pelinia — the biggest village in the north of the Republic of Moldova — reflect authentic values collected for centuries and specific only for this region, which were doomed to perish in a few years.
The beautiful village is deserted
Once Pelinia was one of the biggest villages in the north of the country and had over 14 thousand residents. In the last ten years, every third person in the locality has left looking for a better life and higher revenues.
Although those who left abroad send the money earned back in Moldova, the village looks deserted and deprived of opportunities: lack of jobs, no stable income sources, and fewer people.
Traditions, habits and craftsmanship, once the business card of the community, seem deeply buried, as people have no time and interest in them.
Pelinia shares its beauty with the world
Hundreds of carpets woven once by the mothers and grandmothers of those who left are a real treasure for the village. These women with skillful hands and eyes of artists are fewer, and the secrets of the hand work specific to this village and region risk to disappear from Pelinia and the country.
This is why, the Town Hall together with the natives having discussed (via the Internet) how to boost the economic development of the village. They all agreed that Pelinia has beautiful places, good food, valuable handicrafts, exceptional traditions and storytellers.
Valentina Chilaru is the woman who combined all these new elements and brought together skillful women and men of the village. An artistic manager for more than 50 years, she knows how to keep traditions at home. Thousands of children learnt from her to dance, passion for traditional clothes and brought home numerous distinctions from national and international contests where she took part with eight artistic groups of the village.
“To gather the beauty from the whole village, the people brought to the Community Centre all their valuables from their ancestors: weaving, embroidery, knitting, and wool processing tools. But this was not enough to start such an ambitious project – local economic development through traditions and customs,” said Valentina Chilaru.
So, a new project was born. The Government of Switzerland via the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provided a grant of USD 25,000.
The natives contributed with over USD 3,000 for the establishment of a Handicraft Center in the village.
Women bring traditions back to life
In three months the Handicraft Centre was furnished and equipped with necessary equipment. At the same time, the activity plan of the Centre and the range of products were developed. The Handicraft Centre of Pelinia was opened in August.
”It is very good that such a center was created. I live with my carpets. They are like my children who give me life and make me feel younger, especially because it is very difficult to be alone and have nobody to talk to. I am very happy when I finish to harvest, when it is cold, we can meet and make carpets and embroideries. When it is really freezing and the snow is deep, I will take the stand at home and will work: I will make fire, warm the place and weave a bit, then feed the chickens and back to weaving,” notes Aunt Volinta, who at the age of 80 years, has made hundreds of carpets and now, can have an income from her passion.
Located in the Community Centre, the “Dowry” has about 200 square meters. It was established to meet the needs of the people and to provide income opportunities and sources of income to residents already involved in carpet weaving, making clothes, footwear, and other traditional accessories.
Hence, the launching of the local brand “Zestrea (Dowry)” creates employment opportunities and promotes the image of the locality and the traditions in the north of Moldova, both in the country and abroad.
Traditions develop the village
”Today, seven women are already involved in designing handmade items: carpets, towels, traditional clothes, and two men are making hats and flats from sheep leather. Moreover, several women with disabilities will be involved in weaving the wool and will receive a salary. Hence, over 15 men and women from Pelinia have stable income,” said the mayor of Pelinia, Titus Sarateanu.
The Centre has already hired four women aged between 30-45 years who are sewing and are making embroideries. The rest work from home, and deliver on the orders made in advance by the center.
”It reminds me of the childhood and youth. I built the entire house I live in now, from the money earned from selling carpets made by me. The handmade carpets were of great demand,” said Liuba Parea, 64 years.
First beneficiaries of the Centre are over 500 children and youth who take part in 8 artistic groups at the Community Centre in the village.
”We have dancing and singing bands, a choir and a band of whistlers, etc. All need traditional costumes, flats and hats. Besides, we participate in many festivals with exhibitions of our craft works where we can sell our items made by people of Pelinia at the Handicraft Centre,” said Valentina Chilaru.
A local festival of traditions and dishes, “Dowry of the North” was conducted, to launch the Handicraft Center. So, first articles produced by the Centre were sold and promotional materials were distributed.
”The Handicraft Centre Dowry is a local business model, which meets the challenges faced by the localities in the Republic of Moldova. On one hand, it produces synergies between the opportunities and needs, and on the other hand, harnesses the local cultural potential, conducts income-generating activities, decreases the unemployment rate, reduces migration and promotes exchange of experience between the generations,” mentioned Oxana Maciuca, Project Manager of the UNDP Migration and Local Development Project of Moldova.
The Handicraft Centre is one of the 14th local economic development projects implemented in 38 partner localities of the UNDP Migration and Local Development Project and financially supported by the Government of Switzerland.