Many of my contemporaries will probably hate me for saying this but I miss the socials, marches, chronicles and all of those forced or ‘semi-forced’ gatherings that socialist state posed on us when we were growing up in the 70s and 80s. I have recently posted a blog about Moldova’s region of Leova that I had fallen in love with whilst researching for my PhD. Its horizons, stretching along the river Prut, have bewitched me and gained even more significance when I found out my grandfather fought the Second World War somewhere along the borders of Bessarabia. I adore its cultivated as well as ‘primitive’ vineyards. I love the fruit orchards, juices from which used to be famous all over Soviet Union. You can still see the rows of peaches, apricots, grapes and watermelons today although the market they used to saturate has long disappeared.

But I am even more intrigued by Leova’s region history of lavender, rose, sage and tobacco growing. The Soviet essential oils industry, largely forgotten today has woven its own story in the Leova region History Archives I had visited earlier this year.

The picture documents the ‘lavender gang’ – the men in charge of lavender harvest that required a swift collection and action!

Most socialist towns used to keep a local chronical looked after by the named ‘chronicler’, someone with an eye for aesthetic and ‘some’ calligraphy skills. Pictures and reports document how the socialist state sought to create an image of the close knit community that celebrated with anticipation every newborn, every house move and every factory performance target reached. It documents the world that is largely forgotten today and that, for some reason, I nostalgically miss, living in the anonymous big metropolis that Birmingham UK is today. Is this kind of nostalgia justified? Would my friends say I only experience it because I had immigrated? I don’t know.

A modern wedding at a local registry office – elaborate hat, celebrity like shot?

My friend and artist Teresa Buskova spoke of similar nostalgia before screening her brilliant Clipping the Church happening in Erdington Birmingham. “I miss the groups, the clubs, the socialising of mothers, children and neighbours that were so common during the times when I grew up in the communist Czechoslovakia“, Buskova said.  And I wholly empathise with her. She said out loud something that I & my emigre friends have felt, though subdued, for a while.

So here I would like to offer you a glimpse into a regional/disctrict/local life in the Leova region as selected by me from the archives – a sort of a cure for my nostalgia of late:

Leova region celebrates a child being born into a family of a successful tractorist worker. Below is the local Women’s Group meeting  captured in the photo. On the right, the village marks the occasion of planting trees for future generations to enjoy.
Every village and town had a person working in a local council committee whose job  it was to chronicle major events. This usually consisted of gluing photos into a sturdy photo book and handwriting (often using calligraphy) or typing a little explanation of what the photos represented. Here we have a page demonstrating how a family moved from the ‘darkness into light’ by turning their backs onto this ‘backward dwelling’ and moving into a more modern house. (the picture here only shows their old dwelling).
A new clothes store has just open in the village!
Children are reciting a poem and singing marking the occasion of 30 years of ‘kolchoz’ – existence of the socialist cooperative in the region.
Another wedding, another story about to be unfolded…many of these lives continue in immigration…

Clipping the Church has its own WordPress blog

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