From the Desk of Connie Belciug, CERI Executive Director
The Republic of Moldova is a country with harsh winters and frozen Christmases, especially for the poor. Temperatures routinely drop below 0 (zero) Fahrenheit, sometimes lasting 2-3 weeks in a row. Thick coats, scarves, hats, gloves, and insulated boots are a necessity for anyone to go outside. In the winter of 1998, as my country was enjoying its 7th year of independence from the Soviet Union, the population was struggling to make ends meet and desperately fighting with poverty, hunger and joblessness. I was 16 and I hated winters.
Cold weather, snow showers, icy roads and blizzards were not reasons to stay home in Moldova, unlike in Texas. Otherwise the country would have been shut down for 3 months each year. Adults and children alike had to leave home and brave the elements – catching public transportation or walking so they could get to school, work or elsewhere. I recall those early mornings when I used to put on my winter gear and go to school. At 7 a.m. the sky was black, the air was crisp and the temperatures unbearable. With each breath, the frost was wrapping around my lungs and permeating my coat. I was walking fast towards the bus stop and constantly moving my toes, so that my feet wouldn’t get numb before I got into the trolley. But, I always lost that competition – my feet were getting numb and I was losing feeling in my toes way before I got to the bus stop. I still recall that feeling – looking down and seeing my own feet and boots, but being too pained to move my toes or too scared to walk. But something happened that year, which changed my feelings towards Eastern European winters. I received a phone call from a dear person, an aunt of mine, who said “Let’s meet at the gates of the market in 1 hour.” Several hours later, I was the proud owner of the best pair of winter boots on the market!!! My aunt took me shopping and allowed me to handpick the cutest, most fashionable, best fitting, and without a doubt my most favorite pair of winter boots I ever had! I was happy and grateful – I didn’t have to dry my boots every night any more… I didn’t have to fear getting out of the home in the mornings any more… I didn’t have to feel that toe pain every day… I didn’t have to carry a second pair of socks with me every day… Recently, the aunt who bought me that pair of boots went to be with the Lord. I never told her about the difference she made in my life through that pair of boots, or her other gifts. But I decided to give to the ShoeRaiser2016 this year in honor of my aunt, and write this piece, so that her act of kindness and love will never be forgotten and would bear more fruit by motivating others to give. A thoughtful act of kindness, done at the right time, brought confidence, joy and hope in my life in the winter of 1998. That’s how I stopped hating winter.