Andrei Won’t Return To Transnistria

Andrei* looks through the window of the minibus at the milky clouds, lightly dappled by the sun’s timid rays, that have enveloped the city of Bender. The chill of the late November morning doesn’t help to chase away the pleasant pang that has swept over his body. He has a few minutes to get off at the terminus, nearby the College of Commerce and Technology, where he has been studying for two years. He’s passionate about IT.

He takes five roubles out of his pocket and, as he hands them to the driver, notices a two-tone black-orange ribbon arranged in the shape of the letter Z, the main symbol of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The young man had never seen this sign before in Bender and, without thinking too much, took out his phone and started filming it. He knew that Transnistria

positioned itself as neutral towards the war in Ukraine and that Ukrainian refugees would not like to see the letter Z, but also that the authorities in Chisinau banned such symbols by law as early as April 2022.

The door opens and, half out of the minibus, Andrei confronts the driver in Russian:

– What rubbish is hanging here?

– Whaaat? asks the confused driver, a burly man in his 50s with a moustache and a bald spot on his head.

With a shake of his head, the young man points to the Z sign, next to which sits a photograph that reads legibly – Moscow. „The letter Z,” he explains quickly and excitedly.

Irritated, the driver slams on the handbrake and pulls out behind him, shouting rather angrily:

– Are you overheated, boy? What rubbish? Shall I punch you in the face?

– Yes, let’s do it, come out! Andrei urges him amused, continuing to film the scene.

– Is the letter Z bullshit [to you]?

A woman’s voice intervenes. The argument is over in the blink of an eye. The driver is already behind the wheel, resuming his route, and Andrei is keeping pace for college. On the way, he shares the freshly filmed scene with a friend. „What sick people live here,” he comments.


Andrei is 23 years old, and from 16 November 2022 until now, his life has turned into an ordeal, he says.

On the same day, at around 7 PM, a Transnistrian militia car stopped in front of his apartment building. The young man was outside. He was smoking a cigarette and fidgeting.

His friend had forwarded the video to a Ukrainian vlogger who practically immediately published it on his Telegram channel with the text: „Bender, Moldova. City controlled by the so-called Moldovan Nistrean Republic. Proper youth trolls a cowardly Z-rubbish.”


„I asked my friend if anything was going to happen to me, and he assured me that nothing would happen to me because it’s a small recording. I was also thinking it was no big deal that I had made a little video. I didn’t kill anyone, I didn’t steal, I didn’t hit anyone!” Andrei reassured himself at the time.

The militiamen approached him and asked for a light, the young man recalls, and one of them, not letting him out of his sight, asked him:

„- Hi, Andriuha! Remember me?

– No?

– You’ll remember in a minute.”

 „They put my hands behind my back and put me in the car as I was – in flip-flops and a T-shirt,” Andrei says with emotion in his voice.

Within 20 minutes he was in Tiraspol, in an office, surrounded by several militiamen and still handcuffed.

„- Where did you come from, fascist? I thought we wiped them all out in ’45”, one said.

„- You do realize we’re going to beat you, right?” another said to him.

„- We’ll stick a rubber stick up your ass, and if it’s the first time for you, you could die from the breaks. No one will even remember you anyway, you’re from an orphanage,” replied the third one.

„- Take your pick, what drugs do you want us to find on you?” asked another.

Different questions were asked of him, Andrei describes the situation that evening.

„- Say, what year did World War II start?

– In 1939. In Poland.

– Suka (bitch – in Russian)! The war started in 1941! You idiot! You’d learn history rather than make cheap little films.”

From all the threats in the form of questions, Andrei understood that they knew everything about him: that he had no parents, that he had been in an orphanage for about six years, that he had a wife and child at home.

What frightened him most was that it had taken the militiamen only a few hours to find where he lived, even though his residence visa was at a completely different address. And the ease with which they kept repeating that they were going to slip him drugs and beat him up made him perceive the threats as imminent.

„If they want to lock you up and have nothing to charge you with, they’ll say you had drugs on you. I freaked out. I started playing dumb, supposedly it was by accident, I saw something somewhere and thought I’d repeat it. I started prattling,” Andrei says.

The interrogation lasted about an hour. The young man reports that it wasn’t exactly a constructive discussion as to why he was filming in the minibus anyway. They would ask him a question, and when he tried to answer as he saw fit, they would interrupt and threaten him again.

„- Why aren’t you for ours (Russia – editor’s note)?’ a militiaman finally asked him.

„‘You’ve been in the army… Why are you doing this? Why are you with the fascists?”

 What can I say to them if I don’t agree with them?” the young man asks rhetorically.

From Tiraspol, they brought him back to Bender, but not to his home, but to the minibus driver. Filming the whole thing, they made him apologize „properly”. Andrei was parroting the excuses, trying to sound as credible as possible, as the militiamen asked him to, but the driver swore at him and shouted at him to get out of his face, because he didn’t want to deal with a fascist.

„The video ends, they shove me back into the car and I’m already on my way to the Bender militia station. They locked me up in the KPZ (pretrial detention facility – from Russian).” A smelly room with a wooden bed „like a table” and three drug and alcohol consumers.

Andrei couldn’t sleep. He thought of the wife he left at home with a child with a cold and without money, who didn’t know where he was, of the years in prison he was going to do, without understanding what for. He is becoming increasingly squeamish on the wooden bed, talking, in thought, to himself.

„- Why can someone deprive me of my freedom?

– Because they have this power… Not because you did something, but because they have this power to do it. This is the answer!”

Pavel Cazacu, a lawyer at Promo-LEX,  a non-governmental organisation based in Chisinau that campaigns for the development of democracy, including in the Transnistrian region, describes the video made by Andrei in November 2022 as harmless.

„It’s a small incident, a private discussion between two people. You say what you think, you express your opinion. Besides the fact that it’s freedom of speech, you’re expressing your position on a situation. From a human rights point of view, there is no violation […] As long as it is not a classic insult, there is no need for enforcement forces to intervene,” Pavel Cazacu considers.

However, Andrei was not only illegally detained by the so-called law enforcement forces on the left bank of Nistru River, but the next day he also went to court, where, by the „decision of the Bender court”, the young man was sentenced to 4 days of deprivation of liberty for hooliganism.

„Everything the driver did, who came out to punch me, swore at me, they distorted and incriminated me, accusing me of being the instigator of the conflict and physically and verbally assaulting the driver,” Andrei explains.

On the third day of his arrest, the young man was taken out of the Bender militia detention facility and to the so-called „ministry of state security.” They questioned him for 12 hours about whether he was collaborating with any structures in Ukraine, and at the end they forced him sign a paper „voluntarily handing over to them all his computing equipment, computers, and phones, for verification. Lest I may have something on my computer.”

Then they brought him home and, in front of his wife, searched his apartment. So as not to frighten his wife and child too much, Andrei asked them to remove the handcuffs. „They accepted, but they showed me their gun, supposedly to be careful not to do anything stupid, because they were armed. It was like in the movies.”

They took his computer, his laptops and his mobile phones. The young man mentions that he deleted the video with letter Z in the minibus the same day he made it, after his friend told him that the Ukrainian vlogger had published it.

„That’s when I deleted everything. There was nothing left in my phone. I only had the pro-Ukraine groups in my phone, where I was following the news. I had nothing else of the kind left in it.”

As they picked his equipment, Andrei explained that his only source of income was his computer and asked them to leave him at least something so he could work when he got out of the detention facility. „My child is ill, he needs medicine, I don’t have any money,” he tried to convince them. „Forget it, it’s not serious, you’ll last a few days,” one of the security officers told him.

Andrei’s wife watched the scene shocked. She was shivering. She didn’t understand what was going on.

„That was so scary…” she recalls. „I couldn’t talk to them, because they wouldn’t tell me why they were doing this and why Andrei was in prison,” she says, her voice still trembling, and the smile she forces on her face rather twists her small white face.

„How can you talk to people who have guns and absolute power?” her husband complements her.

„Does it make any sense to discuss anything with them? Maybe here, in Chisinau, it’s different, you can argue with the police. In our region, if you say something to them, they get angry and say you are arguing with them. So go sit in jail for 24 hours for this! In our region, if you try to go one step further, they lock you up, they fine you, they come to your house and take away absolutely everything,” the young man says.

After spending his fourth day in detention, Andrei thought it was all over, that they left him alone. „They didn’t get in touch with me again, no one came to me. The equipment was returned to me only two weeks later.”

However, the whirlwind of persecution had just begun. In parallel with his visits to the offices of militiamen and security offices, the court and the detention facility, the video he made that November morning was shared on several public sites in Transnistria.

And „the police put my photo on the Instagram page Черно-белый лист ПМР (Black-White List of Moldovan Nistrean Republic (MNR)- from Russian) with all my data: XXX Andrei XXX, born on XX.XX.XXXX, he did that and that. People wrote in the comments how bad I was, that I deserved to be beaten up, that they would catch me and beat the shit out of me… I understand perfectly well that Transnistria is small, everyone knows each other, and if there are brainwashed cops, like those who detained me without guilt and reasons, then it is absolutely possible that they will come and beat me up somewhere near the house,” Andrei’s explains his fears at the time.

Andrei’s case is typical of the Transnistrian region, Promo-LEX Lawyer Pavel Cazacu says. „All those who express themselves publicly and criticize everything related to the region are persecuted and intimidated, the worst – they are put in jail. We are talking about serious situations, such as Andrei’s,” Cazacu explains.

The lawyer also states that, in terms of Moldovan law, everything went unlawfully: detention, conviction, unlawful deprivation of liberty for 4 days and detention in inhuman conditions. „Four moments that must be seen together,” Cazacu stresses.


Andrei was born in Chisinau where he lived until he was 10, when his parents decided to move to the left bank of Nistru River. „My father and mother did nothing but drink their lives away. Although my mother was a university educated economist, she stayed at home and waited for my father to come home from work to bring money and drinks. They were already unable to cope in Chisinau, so they sell the apartment, move to Transnistria and there they both die, shortly after, due to poor health, and I end up in an orphanage in Bender,” the young man sums up his life, rolling his eyes.

In 2016, he leaves the orphanage and enrols in college. Three years later he joined the Transnistrian army, where for a year „I dug trenches, pulled grass and fired only six bullets.”

Freshly released, he returns to Bender and enrols in another college. This time in an IT specialty. He meets his future wife, they marry and, a few months before the first year of studies begins, their baby is born.

He rents an apartment on the street named after Pavlik Morozov, „the most famous Soviet pioneer.” Alongside his studies, Andrei works in IT. His job

enables him to support his family and pay the rent for a year ahead. But he only managed to enjoy that rent for a few months.

The day after his release from the Bender detention facility Andrei receives a call from the Moldovan police, whose headquarters are opposite the separatists’, inviting him to come to their office. A call which initially pleased the young man.

„Allegedly, that video resonated, and they decided to see how I was.  They had a printed copy of the court decision and the video. They look at the video and see one thing, that I was defending myself, while the paper said the opposite, that I was turned against the driver and was going to f…k him for that Z. Those things were contradicting each other. They asked me to make a statement.”

However, in June 2022, Tiraspol added two articles (280-1 and 302) to the so-called „criminal code”, providing for up to eight years in prison for those „who report to foreign law enforcement bodies (i.e. including Moldova’s) or lodge complaints against actions or acts committed by representatives of structures and administration” from the region. Andrei knows well about it, because the subject has been widely publicized locally. And as he stands face to face with the Moldovan police officers, he thinks: if for a harmless video he has gone through so much in the past few days, he will surely get eight years in prison if he makes a statement.

„They (Moldovan police officers – editor’s note) know perfectly well how the Transnistrian militia acts, they know that people are kidnapped, beaten and killed. I explain these things to them, but they say, „You’re a normal guy, you did everything right. If there were more people like you, the union with Transnistria would have happened long ago. Don’t be afraid.” I am asking them to provide help for me and my family. I don’t feel safe, I need a psychologist. I can’t sleep or eat. They told me that they would see what they could do and, „Be careful, don’t leave the house, don’t go out anywhere in the open.” In fact, they scared me more.”

They helped him with one thing – to get a Moldovan passport. For the rest, „nobody told me anything, nobody announced me about anything,” Andrei alludes to the law enforcement bodies of the Republic of Moldova. However, on 20 December, one month after Andrei’s detention, the Prosecutor’s Office of  Bender opened criminal investigations for „abduction of a person by two or more persons,” a crime punishable by 6 to 10 years imprisonment.

The criminal investigations found that Andrei was abducted from his courtyard on 16 Nov 2022 and then placed in temporary remand of the so-called „Directorate of Internal Affairs,” illegally depriving him of his liberty, until 20 Nov 2022, by persons not yet identified by the prosecution,” an official response from the institution said.

As a rule, however, such cases never reach the courts, and the victims never get justice. This is confirmed by both statistics, and Promo-LEX representatives. „There are cases when they don’t identify the people who committed the crime and suspend everything. But there are also cases when they manage to identify the person and again suspend, because the person in question evades prosecution. And the prosecution cannot forward the case to court,” Pavel Cazacu explains.

„The frustration comes from the act that our people already have power, but they do not use it,” Cazacu continues. The power the lawyer speaks about refers to last year’s legislative changes „regulating the conditions for the completion of criminal proceedings in the absence of the accused.”

He gives the example of Andrei’s case, which he says is a happier one, because there is a decision of a concrete judge – D.I. Sokolov, based on which the young man was deprived of liberty for four days.

„According to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Moldova, this is a crime – art. 166.  Unlawful deprivation of liberty. They can at least invite the judge to the prosecuting authority to explain. Obviously, he will not come. […] Even if we don’t recognise this court ruling, we cannot ignore it. Our people often failed to do more, lest they rocked the boat somehow.

But when you have a serious situation, when the person is tortured and you have evidence, and you don’t complete to send the case to trial, then it is a stone into the courtyard of the Moldovan police and prosecution.  Now you have all the levers you need to send the case to court and end up with a sentence,” Cazacu says.

According to national and international reports, around two thousand people are held in prisons in the Transnistrian region, many of whom were originally in Andrei’s situation. „How do we protect victims of abuse if perpetrators are not punished, and victims are not restored to their rights?” Cazacu rhetorically asks. „We create impunity.”

Due to the lack of effective local human rights protection mechanisms, the more than 400,000 inhabitants of the [Transnistrian] region, of whom more than 360,000 – citizens of the Republic of Moldova, are hostages of a situation that has already lasted for three decades,” Promo-LEX notes in a retrospective of 2021.


After the conversation with the Moldovan police, Andrei did not leave the house for a month, he says. And after receiving his passport, he went to work in the Czech Republic for a month and a half. He washed dishes at a sausage factory in a small village on the outskirts of Brno in the south-east of the country. „I needed the money, but I was also afraid. I was on my own,” the young man explains his decision to go abroad.

All that time, his wife stayed home. And when Andrei returned to Moldova in early February 2023, he didn’t dare return to Bender. „If the state security people have taken an interest in your person, you will be in trouble for the rest of your life. They’ll be constantly watching you.”

He rented an apartment in Chisinau, brought his family and started looking for work. It’s just that the jobs in Makler that suited him did not match the needs of the young family. They offered a salary of between six and eight thousand lei, money that wouldn’t have been enough, the young man quickly concluded.

Rent – 200 euros, utilities – 200 euros, but where to get money for food, diapers and other necessities? Andrei wondered. At the end of the month, he found himself with the money he had made in the Czech Republic nearly gone, no job and a paid rent in Bender that he was not using. ” This money (eight thousand lei – editor’s note) is a very good salary in Transnistria. In Bender, I was paying 800 Transnistrian roubles for the apartment and about 300 roubles for utilities. I mean, maximum 70 euros,” Andrei does the math.

While looking for solutions to get out of the situation, the student also wrote some e-mails to the officials in Chisinau, without being sure if he wrote to the right person. So one morning he went straight to the Parliament. „I explain my situation to a guard, he calls a deputy for help… The man showed interest,

was very good, started making phone calls to ask what could be done to help me. Finally, we agreed that there was nothing in Moldovan law that would provide how to help people from Transnistria in such cases. I had to send out requests and wait. But I still had a few days before the rental period for the apartment [in Chisinau] expired. I had no time. I was against the clock.”

He was referred to Promo-LEX. Pavel Cazacu admits that Andrei wasn’t too insistent at the time, but he didn’t pull him by the sleeve either. He explained him what he could do to help him, where he should go, and that it took time. But most importantly, that Moldova does not support people fleeing persecution by separatists.

„Unfortunately, we don’t have any legislation on this,” Cazacu warns.

„We only talk about it when cases like this happen. It would be good to have a law on internally displaced persons. I understand that this is not going to happen soon, that the state will argue that there are not that many people, or there is no money, or etc., but a law like this would solve a lot of problems.”

Desperate, without a shred of hope and without money, Andrei decides to return to Bender. He understood the risks very well, but he could not stay on the street with his wife and child. „What the hell could I do? At least in Bender we had paid rent,” he now argues.

It’s mid-March. He passes the so-called customs. Nobody says anything to him. No one bothers him.

The next day, a knock on the door takes Andrei’s breath away. He opens. The district police officer hands him a summons that he is being called to court again. It was 16 March 2023. „They said they found drugs when they tested me in the first incident in November. They handcuffed me in court, too. They gave me three days for drug use. I signed everything and accepted to agree to everything, just so they would leave me alone already. I was in the same militia remand facility with alcoholics and drug addicts and in much worse conditions,” he laughs bitterly.

Again, they searched his house and took all his equipment for inspection, without returning it. And they scared his wife with the fact that she was also a Russian citizen. That there „is a law that if I talk bad about Russia, even if I am not in Russia, they can lock me up for it; and for not stopping him [my husband] from speaking out, there’s also an article,” she says.

Andrei puts his head down. He swallows with knots. He’s upset, tired, angry and desperate. „I thought that only in Russia it could be like that, to lock you up without any guilt. It’s easier to kill a man than to say the letter Z is bullshit. For murder you get seven years. If you post a video on the internet, pretty much the same.”

After three days in the remand facility, the investigator informs him that a criminal case for Nazi rehabilitation has been brought against him. He takes him to an office, where Andrei is handed a summons requiring him to report the next day, 20 March, at 10:00 a.m. to the „investigative committee” in Bender. „For further interrogation.” In addition, he is notified that he is prohibited from leaving the locality.

„I was thinking that worse than that, nothing could happen to me… It was the same story as with the minibus. They show me a paper about an alleged forensic examination which analysed my words in the video and concluded that I, when I trashed the letter Z, did in fact say about the St George ribbon it was made of. And that means I’m rehabilitating Nazism. Although I don’t say anything about the ribbon [in the video].”

He agreed to everything he was charged with. He signed every piece of paper that was put in front of him. „People are locked up for nothing there. What is the point of fighting for justice if you are not heard? There’s no one there to help you…”, explains Andrei. „In general, I was not interested in Transnistrian politics. I had an excellent understanding that someone simply put their paw on a piece of territory, and they make fun of it, they play politics.”

Two hours later, there was no sign of Andrei and his family in Transnistria. He borrowed money from acquaintances and paid for a car to take them to Chisinau, bypassing Transnistrian checkpoints. They stayed the night in the same apartment he had rented in February, giving away the last money he had borrowed.

The next morning, Monday 20 March 2023, Pavel Cazacu was at the office when a colleague asked him if he was expecting guests. The lawyer replied that he did not seem to have anything planned. At the door of the organization, in the cold, stood Andrei, with his wife and child and a few bags. They did not know where to go, they did not know what to do next. Scared and tired, they clung to their only thread of hope – the young lawyer from Promo-LEX.

Pavel Cazacu was astounded. They have often assisted people on the left bank of the Nistru River, only on the legal side. However, the three people in front of him needed much more than complaints and applications sent to the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for the Rights of the Child, the Reintegration Policy Office or the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, which they wrote and sent on the same day.

„And if this [conference] room had been occupied, what would we have done with them afterwards? You can’t chase them away in the street,” says Pavel, with slight indignation in his voice.

After some phone calls from Promo-LEX, Andrei’s family was placed for two weeks in a placement centre in Chisinau. The centre is dedicated to young girls from socially vulnerable families and belongs not to the state, but to the Diaconia Mission, a social structure of the Metropolitanate of Bessarabia.

„If you have a normal, functioning state, you pass the case on to the state and not to NGOs…” Pavel Cazacu’s words float loudly in the conference room of Promo-LEX, the room where the three family members spent the whole day of 20 March.

And since such „escapes” happen, and as long as the Transnistrian region exists, they will continue to happen, another question arises, Pavel Cazacu remarks, „What assistance do you offer these citizens and what leverage do you have to intervene and protect them?”

As an essential element of sovereignty, it is the governments of states in which internally displaced persons are found that have the primary responsibility for their assistance and protection, says the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Reintegration Policy Office (BPR) of the State Chancellery of the Government, the institution closest to the Transnistrian region, responded to Promo-LEX’s report on the case of Andrei and his family on the fifth day after it was sent.

„As of November 2022, the problems faced by A. have been permanently in the attention of the relevant national authorities,” the representatives of the office assured, mentioning the fact that they had referred the case to a number of institutions, „as a matter of priority”, „with the request to examine the existing possibilities to support the family.”

The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection was also among the structures referred to, and it took the Ministry nine days to find, in a two-page official reply, that „citizen XXX and his family do not meet the eligibility criteria” to be placed in one of the 14 centres run by the institution. Nor is it „eligible” for accommodation in Temporary Refugee Centres, „as the centres concerned provide placement services strictly for displaced persons from Ukraine.” Instead, it recommends that they turn to other state structures.

„I ask for help from my government and the government says it has not invented laws, recommending that I try to do this, maybe this,” Andrei remarks grumpily. „It’s nonsense, bureaucracy, answer for answer’s sake. It makes no sense; it contains nothing of value. We do not recognise Transnistria, but at the same time they do not recognise me as a citizen either.”

Sitting on the couch in the living room of the Diaconia Mission’s placement centre, Andrei looks out of the window at the road as the cars whizz by. A car with Transnistrian license plates is parked opposite. His wife admits that the presence of the car scares the hell out of her.

The two weeks they’ve been allowed to stay at the centre are up. Andrei feels finished. He does not know where to go. „The government does not react in any way. How long have they had the information that such a person exists? We have freedom of speech, so we can criticise! But what’s the point? Allegedly, they have no law, allegedly, we don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do either. Maybe I should go to prison? And be locked up for nothing?”

At some point, the authorities intervened on this issue. „Following a request from Promo-LEX to intervene with support for the temporary accommodation of the XXX family, the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Oleg Serebrian, held a discussion on this case with the Metropolitan of Bessarabia, His Eminence Petru,” the BPR response reads.

However, when exactly this intervention took place, the representatives of the office avoided telling us, even though we specifically asked.

After Diaconia agreed to extend Andrei and his family’s stay, I visited him a few more times at the placement centre and, each time, the young man was dejected and scared of ending up on the streets. „I can’t sleep at night,” he complained. He had stopped expecting anything from the authorities. He understood quite quickly that the Moldovan government could not help him, as such a law has not been conceived and he was in fact on his own.

While at the centre, the young man kept in touch with Nicolae Afanas, the BPR employee in charge of his case. „The point is that we don’t have an offer for you at this point,” Afanas told him frankly during their last discussion.

The official made a point of explaining that the Office dealt with reintegration policies and only tangentially with the social protection aspect, which is why they had informed specialised institutions about their case. „Unfortunately, those answers that came, they did not contain any element of a solution to the problem,” Afanas concluded at the time.

„Internally displaced persons, however, have specific protection and assistance needs and vulnerabilities, which national legislation usually does not fully address because it is not adapted to the particularities and challenges of internal displacement,” the authors of a study justify why governments should develop a specific legal framework to regulate this issue.

The lack of a legal framework for the protection of people leaving the Transnistrian region due to serious human rights violations was also raised in 2020 by MPs of the Action and Solidarity Party, now in government.

„Unfortunately, we note that, at the moment, there is no clear legislation and procedures to ensure and guarantee the rights of internally displaced persons, and they are not protected in accordance with the provisions of international instruments,” Doina Gherman, MP, said. „We therefore propose to come up with a legislative initiative to promote viable mechanisms to prevent such problems.”

It’s just that on her profile on the Parliament’s website I found no draft law that would refer to her proposal made three years ago. We tried to speak to her on the subject, but she did not return our calls or our messages. We then approached Oazu Nantoi, an expert on the Transnistrian issue and one of Gherman’s party colleagues who stood by her in 2020 when she announced „a legislative initiative.”

„There is no draft law that would have been aimed at protecting Moldovan citizens fleeing from the left bank of Nistru River to the right bank,” Oazu Nantoi confirmed.

According to him, „after the turmoil and Russian aggression in 1992, about 25 thousand people became internally displaced persons” and that „all governments in Chisinau have ignored this problem.”

At the same time, Nantoi believes that „the only solution to all problems, as a package, is the restoration of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, unconditionally and in accordance with the Constitution.”

Until then, even in the absence of a law, Pavel Cazacu suggests, at least there should be some protocols, some regulations that allow the authorities to intervene promptly, so that people, when they come to ask for help, do not end up in the street.

„The state needs to recognize it has a problem and intervene. What do you do with this person? We couldn’t keep him with us. It’s good that it was us and we wrote requests, including to the National Employment Agency, but until the answers come, it takes time, but he cannot wait,” Cazacu warns.

And situations similar to Andrei’s will happen again, Pavel Cazacu is sure, which is why „we don’t want this case to become routine and a rule. We really want the authorities to facilitate this process and, where we can, to help. Diaconia is good, but they have their limits.”

„In the future,” he believes, „the authorities must know what they have to do, and the victims – must receive concrete, not abstract help: not promises, not recommendations, not suggestions. They don’t have to build him a house or give him humanitarian aid for 5 years, but they have to give him simple and equal opportunities as to other citizens, support to get him on his feet, but taking into account the context. The context is that, because of persecution and intimidation in Transnistria, he needs support.”

In 2022, the Republic of Moldova went through the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, after which the authorities in Chisinau received 209 recommendations from UN member states on how to address the most important systemic human rights issues.

Six recommendations also address the human rights situation in the Transnistrian region, including: Systematic support and assistance to victims of human rights violations in the Transnistrian region.


It’s Easter Friday and the fourth week the family has been housed at Diaconia Placement Centre. Andrei has to get near Uzinelor Street in Chisinau. The day before, he had a job interview – a porter at the warehouse of an appliance store – and is getting ready to go and see the working conditions.

„The National Employment Agency gave me three offers. I’ve also had construction and cooking offers,” the young man says.

He longs for his job in front of the computer. „I kept studying and found myself locked up. And I ran over here. I’ve already been expelled. As I was saying, I had not left the house since November. I didn’t go to classes. I had exams to take… Eh, I had two more years to study,” he says.

But he’s ready to go along with the new offer, just to support his family.

„They told me I’d make over 10 thousand.” He says it without joy, because he still does not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Diaconia allowed him to stay at the centre until 25 April. „I mean, I’ve got a roof over my head for another week,” he says as he watches the hellish traffic jams in the North Bus Station area.

In any case, he cannot go to Bender. „They went to my wife’s parents’ house a couple of times and looked me up. They keep asking for me.” „I’m tired,” he confesses outside the warehouse where he would be working as a porter. „I have no hope from the job they found me either.”

Two months later

Andrei’s excited. He’s brightening up for the first time since I met him. He carefully steps into the apartment with his little boy and wife. He puts the bags down, sweaty, and with eyes the size of onions. Together with the tenant, he starts to tour the house.

He did not expect such decency. It is a small but cosy apartment. After living for a few months at the Diaconia’s placement centre, where they shared the toilet, the kitchen and the courtyard with socially vulnerable young women, then spent a month in an old apartment in the centre of the capital, soaked with grease and mould, where „it was unbearable for us, three people, to live there,” he now finds the apartment behind the Circus a little paradise.

The new house also seems to be magic to his wife who still thinks she’s being chased by separatists.

„The balcony is nice! Great!” the man greedily measures it with his eyes. He then runs outside and brings in a few more bags of pans and a couple of pillows.

The tenant, a woman in her 50s, after showing them the apartment, asks them to be careful and keep it clean. „From my side, I’ll do everything on the level,” the young man promises beaming with happiness. At the end, the woman leaves him the keys and leaves. Andrei takes his little boy in his arms and goes to the window to show him the dusk. His wife, tired as she is, cannot wait to sort the few things out through the cupboards.

Andrei will sleep in a decent home for the first time. It’s been three and a half months since he fled Bender and risked remaining in the streets. Diaconia’s placement centre could no longer accommodate him.

„I’m sorry for what Andrei’s going through. I did not expect such indifference from our authorities. He needs help and we’ll be happy to do it. Already after three months they will pay us a symbolic price. Hopefully in the meantime it will settle down a bit. Before him, I offered the apartment to Ukrainian refugees,” explains Svetlana about her gesture.

After we published the article, shortly afterwards, a Moldovan family, settled in Iași, wrote to the „People and Kilometres” editorial office that they would like to help Andrei with a house, free of charge, for a few months. It was Svetlana’s mother who toured Andrei and his family through the apartment.

On the other hand, Andrei promises to do his best to live up to the expectations of the people who helped him.

– I can’t believe there’s so much kindness, says Andrei, his voice choking with emotion as he locks the door.

Illustrations – Daria Rusu

Andrei* – name changed to protect identity.