Silent Land

Åsa Sjöström

2005 - 2017


Moldova is wedged between Ukraine and Romania and is little known outside its own borders. There I met people with integrity, a striking seriousness that captured my imagination from the moment I arrived. I saw the people, their poverty and their dignity. I saw a beauty in the brutal and fragile reality I experienced. When I began photographing in Moldova, it was an isolated society that had recently voted for the return of communism. In contradiction to the beautiful landscape and picturesque houses there was an identity crisis amongst the people – a fight between old and new, between the Russian- and Romanian-speakers, between East and West.

Eight years later, the communists were voted out of power once more. The borders had opened, and I arrived in a country that had become emptier and quieter. More than one million people had left, more then a quarter of the population.

My project gained new urgency. I returned to places where I had photographed before and searched for the same people. I tried to go beyond the reports in the mainstream media and document the lives of those who never would have made it into the news. I found that the local stories lost behind the headlines were the most nuanced way to understand the profound changes the country was going through. This is my story about Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, through the people I met. The Gradinari family had moved me in a way that is hard to explain – over the years we had developed a symbiotic relationship as we have shared experiences and learned about each other. While I sometimes feel I gained more out of this connection, they were always eager for me to return. And I did, again and again.

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  • Hugh jr, Baroncea 2014

  • Iosif, Chetrosu 2016

  • Iosif and Kristina Chetrosu 2017

  • Beniamin, Chetrosu 2017

  • Beniamin and Karina, Chetrosu 2015

  • Maria, Chetrosu 2017

  • Maria, Chetrosu 2015

  • Beniamin and Iosif, Chetrosu 2014

  • Balti, 2014

  • Iosif, Chetrosu 2016

  • Son of an unknown father, Hîncesti 2006

  • Shield on a watermelonfield, Moldova 2015

  • Zina, Chetrosu 2016

  • Little Kristina kisses her mother Ana on skype, Chetrosu 2017

  • Kristina, Chetrosu 2016

  • Birthday boys, Baroncea 2014

  • Beniamin, Chetrosu 2015

  • Karina and Mihaela Dumitraschuk, Dorot¸caia 2015

  • Vadul lui Voda˘ 2015