In a recent private tour deep in the Northern territories of Transnistria, we found ourselves hunting Soviet relics in the far-flung villages of this time warp republic. From the corner of my eye, I spotted a concrete monument to two Young Pioneers. Located behind a large fenced off block building in an isolated village, I assumed it was all abandoned, and we stopped the car to get inside for some photos.
As we snapped some shots of the seemingly maintained monument, suddenly, the door of the block building opened to reveal to smiling babushkas bemused to see foreigners in what was technically their garden. After explaining that we were interested in Soviet history, the women beckoned us inside for an impromptu tour, and we had no idea what awaited us inside.
The building was full of giant dormitory rooms for groups of Young Pioneers who would visit the area for hikes and other activities. As the Soviet Union collapsed and civil war tore through the republic, these women were part of a team who dedicated their time to protect the building in order to provide local children with the same pastimes they were allowed during the Soviet era.
We were led room to room, checking out the theatre and artist’s room before suddenly entering a YPT version of Alladins cave. All of the Soviet decorations, relics and flags had been carefully placed in one dedicated room as an unofficial museum. On one table was an array of helmets and rusted handguns and bayonets from the raging battles that tore through this region during WW2, the women said they had been found in the garden when they had been clearing bushes and planting flowers.
Despite the inevitable damage of time and lack of funds, these women had maintained the rooms immaculately and kept it perfectly clean in case any guests would arrive. We exchanged details and promised them that we would bring tourists who would adore staying in a living relic of the Soviet past!
Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend the night at the camp this time as our private tour was headed to Soroca, the Roma Gypsy capital of Moldova and home to the infamous Gypsy Hill full of gaudy mansions.