Chisinau – Soroca

Ștefan Cândea
One of the consequences of Vornin and the Communist Party’s fall is a relaxation of political initiatives. In the days of the communist regime, any inconvenient political move would be punished by attacking the finances of the respective politician: his own businesses or those of the sponsors were thoroughly investigated by every state institution. Pursuant to this relaxation, a new party emerged in the Republic of Moldova: the Social Political Movement of the Roma (MSPR).

The party was registered this March and its leaders want to participate at the November anticipated elections everybody’s looking forward to. ‘We’ll get at least 4%, meaning we will have at least seven representatives’ Robert Cerari, the vice-president of the organization tells me, brimming over with confidence. ‘There are 250.000 Roma people in Moldova, though the officials recognize only 12.700. We will prove how many of us there really are. We no longer wish to complain.’ The MSPR have stated their number has already reached 7.000 members. Although most Moldavian Roma go work only in Russia, they have the same problems as the Romanian Roma: no legal papers, lack of official statistics, discrimination by the press and authorities and so on and so forth.

Cerari, the proud owner of a black BMW with a Tiraspol plate, showed us his house in Soroca while explaining his monetary sources: ‘I do bizniz: my main business is with cereals, but I also run several stores and a restaurant.’ The hill rising above Soroca is famous for the Roma’s palaces. For many years now, Soroca has been seeing a cutting competition as to who owns the biggest house and whose house has the most freakish architecture. A while ago, the town hall complained the Roma do not pay taxes on the respective houses and that they are way over their heads in debt. Cerari claims the town hall increased taxes twenty-eight times for houses covering over 200 sq.m. only to sneer at the Roma who, in turn, sued the town hall and won. I remember that, at the time, Artur Cerari, the baron of the Roma of Soroca, said that the town hall should be the one paying them a tax because the palaces at the top of the hill are the touristic attraction of the town. And, truth be told, the houses do have a rather high touristic potential.

Our guide is George, Robert Cerari’s son, a high-school student who wants to major in Law, in Chișinău. He proudly takes us to ‘the house on the 50-dollar bill’ which bears the initials of the owner (right on the top of the dome). He adds that the owner works in constructions in Russia and hasn’t had money to finish the house; he just fenced it in and went back to work. The guy doesn’t seem to fear thieves: he left a whole bunch of materials and statues on view. ‘Nobody steals around here. And even if they do, we settle the issue among us. We don’t get the cops involved.’ Next on the list is George’s uncle’s house or the house of Artur, the baron. The yard houses two steel-plated Volga limos (covered by a bunch of carpets), now lying in utter dereliction. We move on to ‘the house of the horses’ and we pay a visit to the neighbourhood fortune teller, surrounded by an army of garden figurines, some poker machines on the porch and, on the line, the object of her work: a fortune machine, just like the ones in amusement parks, where the client insert his palm into a niche and receives a ticket on which a computer has imprinted several observations regarding the client’s future.