By: Capt Wayne Salls
I had the opportunity of a lifetime to spend my Language Intensive Training Event in Moldova to learn about East European culture and to develop my Russian language skills. After spending one month in-country, I came back to the United States with a better understanding of Moldovan culture, cuisine, art of wine-making, and made life-long friends. Not everything was strife free though. I witnessed the divide between pro-Western and pro-Russian factions in the country and the ongoing political battle this has had. It does not help that there is an ongoing political stalemate with the breakaway region of Transnistria since Moldova declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Remnants of Moldova’s past continue to haunt it to this day.
The program consisted of attending classes Monday through Friday while staying with a host family to practice in the target language outside of the classroom. A few excursions were organized by the schoolhouse to museums and tourist hotspots like Old Orhei, Soroca, Balti, and Cricova to get that cultural element. After class, we were on our own, which allowed for time to explore the streets of Chisinau (pronounced quiche-now). By doing this, I was able to learn a lot more than from the classroom or even online. For example, I learned the Soviets demolished all but one Russian Orthodox Church in Chisinau during the Communist-era. Also, I learned how Stalin-era architecture was more elaborate in terms of design, building material, and money spent whereas the buildings put up during Khrushchev’s reign are simpler and hence cheaper, in order to quickly address the housing shortage of that time period. Both styles of architecture are juxtaposed next to each other along Chisinau’s main road, Stefan cel Mare. Chisinau, founded in 1436, is a city that has seen much and has a lot to share with the world.