FINALLY IS a long time coming.
It is winter. From mid-November to early March the ground is covered with snow. Garbage piles up along the streets, but no one notices the detritus because it too is covered by the snow. When there is no fresh snow, the perpetual grey-colored sky seems reflected onto the ground. The color white becomes only a memory.
The temperature outside drops to zero and below. When the air warms to near freezing the constant automobile traffic rumbling over pot-holed, two lane roads creates a brown slush. Let the temperature rise a few degrees above freezing and small lakes form between the curbs slowing the already usually slow traffic to a near crawl. Pot holes are impossible to detect in these pre-spring lakes, and a bone-jarring drop into an unseen abyss damages the suspension of both the machine and its human occupants. If the temperature plummets, these lakes become stages for steel ballets.
Inside the buildings, the temperature varies little, it is never more than 10 degrees above freezing. The outside walls are thick and all the windows are double insulated, keeping the precious natural heat inside, but the hot water radiators, which two winters ago heated the inside to almost stifling levels, are cold. There is no fuel to heat the boilers. The supplier closed the pipeline for non-payment of an old debt.
FOR 30 MINUTES at a time, every two hours, the occupants of the buildings have electricity. Making use of enclosed spaces, they seal off many of the rooms and huddle in the areas which catch the winter sun for most of the day. Electric space heaters briefly fight back some of the cold, but everyone still wears layers of clothing topped off by hats, ear muffs and gloves. The residents bathe once a week -- it is just too cold to allow any additional total bodily exposure. When the cycle is up, the room is plunged into darkness and the heat drops.
The adult residents of the building are doctors and other medical staff whose pitifully small paychecks arrive only quarterly (without explanation, the last checks for 1999 simply did not arrive, and they held little hope of being paid early this year). The other three-fourths of the people in the building are sick, abandoned children. You are visiting an orphanage in Beltz, the second largest city in Moldova (compare Augusta with Atlanta). There are 35 children in this orphanage. The others, the most seriously ill, have been moved to an already overcrowded hospital where conditions inside the building are slightly better -- it has its own generator for heat and lights.
If you fly from Moldova to Moscow's Domodedova Airport, you are a 75 minute plane ride from Samara, Russia, the "Jewel of the Volga," and two hours from Ekaterinburg, the closest city in western Siberia. Last September, Detski Dom 3 in Ekaterinburg and Detski Dom 1 in Samara each received a six-month supply of children's chewable vitamins -- vitamins from America, four times stronger than anything available in Russia and six times cheaper (if were they the same strength). Leaders at both orphanages said that when the 1999-2000 flu season hit, the worst in recent years, their children (and the workers who cared for them) were miraculously well. They universally credit the vitamins which were made possible by gifts from individuals, churches, and organizations throughout the Central Savannah River Area.
Leaders in the Samara and Sverdlovsk Oblasts won acceptance for the delivery of 1 million additional vitamins for their children, but then Moscow bureaucrats voided those permissions and refused to grant new ones, so the vitamins were diverted to Moldova. The pastor at Christ the Savior Baptist Church in Kishinev, Moldova's capital, said the shipment of vitamins "is proof that God loves us." Twice that particular Sunday worshipers filled their building to standing room only. The fact that their section of the city had no heat seemed to have kept few people home.
VALERIU GHILETCHI, who is both a member of Parliament serving on the Committee of Human Rights and a pastor of Christ the Savior, and Dr. Liviu Gusac, president of the Emanuel Christian Medical Association, fight constantly for the health and welfare of Moldova's orphans. Permission for the vitamins to enter the Maryland-sized nation was received eight days after the application was made. Russia then delayed for almost two months granting permission to transport the life-changing medicine across its country. Then Finland wanted to see two of the original documents. But finally, last Tuesday, the container cleared customs in Kishinev. Sometimes finally is a long time coming, but very welcome when it arrives. And with the Lord God Almighty, finally is always right on time.
The author is a local free-lance writer
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