‘We will be next’: How a Moldovan citizen in Oxford is helping with relief efforts in Ukraine

For Angela Trubceac, Feb. 14 began like any other day. She woke up, ate breakfast, reviewed lesson plans and made sure her youngest son Darius Trubceac was ready for school, but her day took a drastic turn when she received a terrifying call from another son that he and his fiancé needed to evacuate Ukraine, where they were working.

Trubceac asked that his name not be used out of safety.

That son and his fiancé could not leave because of COVID-19. His quarantine ended two days before the war broke out, and he fled to Munich, Germany. Ten days after the war began, his fiancé was able to escape with her mother to Austria.

“I could not sleep,” Trubceac said. “I went through a depression. It was a nightmare.”

The couple reunited in Munich.

At the beginning of March, about a week after the war broke out, her son asked Trubceac if a displaced woman and her two children from Dnepro, Ukraine could seek safety in the apartment.

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Moldova shares a border of 1,000 kilometers with Ukraine and was an evacuation route for many Ukrainians.

“Many, many people, more than 1 million people from Ukraine were going through the West to Moldova,” Trubceac said.

Trubceac first came to Oxford in 2012 on an Edmund S. Muskie Scholarship to pursue her Master’s of Education from Miami University. However, her scholarship was only for one year in the U.S., so she returned to Moldova where she lived for two years. During those years, professors from Miami University offered her a spot in the Ph.D. program that provided her with an additional scholarship and teacher assistantship. Now, she is teaching at McGuffey Montessori School on a visiting teacher visa.

Even though Trubceac said she hopes to return to America after her visa runs out, Moldova is her home, and her family always returns there in the summer. Despite the war, Angela said nothing was going to prevent them from returning home and seeing her son.

On July 2, two days before the Trubceac family was supposed to leave for Moldova, a group of 11 refugees was looking for shelter. Five mothers and their six children left Odesa, the closest Ukrainian city to Moldova, but had nowhere to go. In addition to her apartment, Trubceac inherited two houses from her parents in Ciocalteni, Moldova.

“[The houses] were locked since nobody was living there … and the electricity was disconnected, the water was disconnected, telephone, everything was disconnected,” Trubceac said. “So they were living there for two days without perfect conditions, but at least there were no bombings, no Russian rockets above their heads, and they were happy to be there.”

Two days later, the Trubceacs returned to Moldova, and she helped them settle into their new living situation.

“We will be next,” Trubceac said. “We understand that if Ukraine falls, Moldova will be the next one because we are so small … so we pray and support Ukraine as much as we can. I cannot support it militarily, but for people who need shelter, I can do that.”

In addition to housing refugees, the Trubceac family brought tourniquets to Moldova to give to Ukrainian medics. A tourniquet is a medical device to stop excessive bleeding of a hemorrhage. She bought the tourniquets with money raised from the Oxford Presbyterian Women, a female group that meets at the Oxford Presbyterian Church.

“We collect money each month, and at the end of the year, we decide where we are going to give it to,” said Nancy Sturgeon, a member of the Oxford Presbyterian Women and longtime friend of Trubceac. “Knowing the situation, we thought it would be a very good place for the money to go to save some lives.”

The women collected $1,600 throughout the year, and Trubceac was able to buy 55 tourniquets with the money.

They brought the tourniquets to Moldova to give to her son and his fiancé, who gave them to Ukrainian doctors.

Sturgeon said although the Oxford Presbyterian Women have not made any decisions, they would consider giving this year’s funds to Trubceac again because of her efforts in Moldova.

“We all really like Angela and have great concern for her family that is still over there,” Sturgeon said. “We have great concern for all the Ukrainian people.”

The Trubceac family stayed in Moldova for two weeks, their shortest trip to date. Even though they weren’t there as long as they usually stay, Trubceac said there were noticeable differences in Moldova due to the war.

“I noticed, unfortunately, that some Moldovans were supporting Putin or supporting Russia, and that shocked me,” Trubceac said.

And though Trubceac was frustrated with some of her country’s citizens, she doesn’t blame them.

“Although Moldova declared independence from Russia on Aug. 27, 1991, some territories (the separatist region Transnistria) are still controlled by the Russian Army,” Trubceac said.

Despite her frustration, Trubceac said through this whole experience, she’s learned how innately related people are.

“Unfortunately, we needed this war to prove that we, as humans, are interconnected,” Trubceac said. “I was surprised at the number of Moldovans who opened their houses, took in families and refugees and continue to help them.”

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