I recently read a blog that ranked Moldova as the unhappiest nation in the world. And I quote, “Many countries are poorer than Moldova yet happier. Nigeria, for instance, or Bangladesh. The problem is that Moldovans don’t compare themselves to Nigerians or Bangladeshis. They compare themselves to Italians and Germans. Moldova is the poor man in a rich neighborhood, never a happy position to be in.” On reading this I could not reconcile how Victoria Benderschi, the pigtail rockin’, fashion picks poppin’, gesticulatin’ Moldovan girl that lives across from me could be a product of such a depressed state.
In this interview, I learned the ubiquitous truth of imperfect nations, and how our lives are not confined to be reflections of these states, but our light to serve as triumphant testimonies. Five years ago, allured by the aesthetics of American high school life, Victoria’s older sister signed up for a scholarship to study in the States. Consequently, despite her gripe of sibling imitation, Victoria applied too and fortunately got in.
Since coming to Suffield, her favorite things about the experience have been the diversity, an aspect absent in Moldova. Actually, at the beginning of winter term, Victoria played in the ensemble of Young Frankenstein where she met a myriad of students. She credits the night of the last show as her favorite memory at Suffield. “It’s a tradition that we ring the bell. And as we were running up the hill, it started pouring outside. I’ve never seen rain this big—big droplets of rain—just coming in our faces. We rang the bell, and it was such a moment. And we were dripping wet, all of us, as if we took a shower.”
Despite not feeling homesick, Victoria reminisces about her family traditions: Victoria and her mother have a “special bond,” that is especially exercised during the holidays. Usually, Victoria says, “On New Year’s Eve we cook all day together and watch Russian TV.” When I prompted Victoria with the quote about Moldova as the unhappiest nation in the world, she immediately agreed. She said, “That is exactly how it feels sometimes. But also, I felt it a deeply rooted sentiment of Moldavian people. This feeling of unfairness because we’ve been chased and beaten for ages throughout history. First, it was the Roman Empire, then the Ottomans, for hundreds of years. We would just try to survive instead of thriving. Because they just stripped everything from us. Every crop, every cattle, they would just take, take, take.” Although I believe that America has been the victor on many battlefields for the past two centuries, I feel a parallel dissatisfaction for the land of the free. However, my hope for the future is not necessarily a utopian dream for these two nations, but that our joys will not be ceased by the evils of corruption, hate, and division. That, in the words of Willa Cather, we may be “battered, but not diminished,” that in times of scarcity, we will still be standing with a formidably sanguine countenance.
Victoria in her own right still trails with joy: the youthful and mischievous tendencies that spur her to race to the front seat in Ms. D’Oleo’s AP Calc class before me or Kelly Kim (she loses most of the time); the guileless, yet the zealous way she responds to every journal question in Mrs. Rawlings AP Lit classroom—these I pray will be the posture in which she continues to combat the issues of this world, specifically in Moldova. There’s still hope for Moldova now, despite the “corruption” and “bribery” in the government. Victoria believes that they’re “getting back on track.” In front of me now, with a small smile on her face, she says, “We do have the first woman president now. So, we’re getting places, I guess.” Indeed, we are Victoria. Indeed, we are.