How are you today?
“I’m doing pretty well.”
Name, year, and major?
“Yana Kroytor, sophomore, bio major.”
Where are you from?
How old were you when you came here?
“Five years old.”
What are some of your fondest memories from your childhood?
“I loved sledding and I loved to play with the sled dogs. Having my grandma push me on a sled in the wintertime and her giving me bread, because we didn’t have candy. In order to get sweets, my parents say that you had to take a piece of bread and soak it in water and sugar to make it sweet. My grandma never had butterscotch candies in her bag. I also was very picky about my milk, and I had to have goat milk no matter what. My mom said they had to specifically trade five chickens for a goat just for me.”
How was life in Moldova?
“Hard. Everything we did was for our own survival. Like, all the animals that you owned and raised throughout the year were your food for the winter and all the crops to harvest, so if you had a bad season you had to beg your neighbors. If you did have a good harvest, people would beg you. We were more fortunate; we had a bigger house and were the only ones with a TV, but it was small.
In order to get appliances or something expensive, you had to go to city hall. You had to show them that you had enough money for it and you had to wait because the markets didn’t sell those things. People did not have enough money so manufacturers did not produce things because people weren’t buying so it had to be made. Moldova is the poorest country in the world with a GDP of 2,239.
There are no cops in Moldova; people had to fend for themselves. My dad had to beat up a couple of intruders.”
What was the role of communism?
“Taking our men, taking our crops, killing. They came and took my dad when he was young (18) and he was drafted into the communist army. In high school, they had military classes during the time the U.S. and Russia were in conflict. They didn’t want to get caught in crossfire, so they were preparing for the worst. Classes were about dismantling AK-47s, moving sacks of potatoes pretending it was a body, just survival. When my dad was drafted into the red army, he has a lot of pictures. The army wanted to take the men. They took crops just because they were soldiers and could just take things, and people who admitted to believing in God were shot.
One of the reasons we came here was to get away from communism because it was holding my family back.”
Do you feel like there are certain things you would not have been able to accomplish in Moldova that you have been able to accomplish here?
“Go to college. No one was allowed to go to college if you were a Christian. My parents went to high school and, thinking they would stay in Moldova, did want to go to college, but they were Christians and the college was in the city.”
How different would your life be?
“I’d probably be married with two kids by now. I wouldn’t be able to travel. Work would just be me working in farms. Money is virtually nothing there, a lot of it is just trade. I probably would not be able to drive a car; there’s no asphalt or cement, it’s all dirt and mud, I would probably drive a tractor.”
Tell me about the move.
“My dad did not want to leave because he wanted to go to war, but funny enough, he got appendicitis and he could not go on the battlefield. He has a picture of him by his cot and on one side on the wall there was a tally of how many days he had been there and on the other side how many days left to go home. He was very patriotic but my mother knew that Moldova was not the best place to raise a family.
Also, my family was leaving in great numbers, but leaving the country would be hard because the communists controlled who left the country and who came in. They wouldn’t have let us go if my dad did not have surgery, because he was actually well fit and strong enough to be in the army, but since he had surgery they let him go.
I still have my very first stuffed animal from Moldova. My whole family was on the same plane, grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. It took 14 hours to get here.”
“I don’t really know. I asked my dad that if we went back to Moldova would there still be family there he said no, they are in Paris. So I have family in France, Germany, the U.S., and Russia. If we would have stayed in Moldova longer, my cousins would have probably convinced my parents to move to Paris instead.”
Do you remember how you assimilated when you got here?
“Our first home here was an apartment in Richfield. When we got here my brother was already in a high school level so he helped me with English. I wasn’t put in preschool, but I was in ESL. It was hard because when we came here we did not have a lot of money; we lived off food stamps and it was hard to make friends because of language and economic barriers.”
Would you like to visit Moldova again sometime?
“My dad and my brother have gone back. My mom and I haven’t been back, but I feel like I would be scared. I’d experience culture shock because I’m Americanized. I’ve seen pictures from when my dad and brother visited and it doesn’t look very appealing and if I did go back there really isn’t family to stay with.
If I did go back, it would probably just to see where I was born. My dad only really goes back for medical and dental procedures there because everything is really cheap. How cheap? When my dad had appendicitis he only had topical anesthetic and he wasn’t put completely under. That’s how cheap it is.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
“My culture and traditions are very similar to Russian culture. My village was very religious up until the communists came, then we went into hiding. People did not live very long in Moldova, because healthcare was not the best. We used herbs to help with wounds; using vodka as medication is very usual. Holistic care was common in hospitals because actual medicine was too expensive.
There were a lot of funerals because people died a lot; my grandpa on my mother’s side died when he was 52. You were lucky if you lived to be 70. Since the medical practices in Moldova are so bad, my goal is to become a physician and go back to Moldova and work in the hospitals to exceed patients’ medical care for a couple years.”
What are your spring break plans?
“North Carolina with my boyfriend to visit family and we’re going to go to Myrtle Beach. I am very excited, excited to burn like a lobster.”