Many homes in the Moldovan village of Hîrtop sit empty, either uninhabitable or their owners live in larger cities and abroad. Roughly 140 kilometers, or roughly 87 miles, from Ukraine, residents told CNN they could hear the bombing on the first day of the Russian invasion.
Resident and activist Rusanda Curca, 33, knew a humanitarian crisis would soon spill over into Moldova and she wanted to help.
“I was thinking what to do, how to act, how to mobilize the community,” she said. “We have totally empty villages. We have ghost villages. Nobody is living there. The neighboring village is 150 people, and houses are empty.”
Already she has found housing for more than 50 refugees in her small village.
“I want them to give the best that we can. Houses, not those spaces with 700 beds. But normal houses where they can cook for themselves. Have this private space and everything,” she said.
Widower Boris Makeyev, 75, welcomed a family of four, including two children, into his home on March 5.
“I’m lonely. I live alone. So why don’t they live here until it calms down. I feel badly for them. The children are small. This little one is innocent,” he said while holding a squirming two year old Andrei.
Andrei’s mother Olga Kuznetsova said the decision to flee came about 5 minutes before they left. They did not plan it at all. They just gathered a few belongings and ran.
“With little kids, hiding in the basement every two, three hours, putting the little one to sleep, feeding and bathing them, it wasn’t possible,” Kuznetsova said.
“We had no idea we were going to leave. There was very little we could take with us. A suitcase with some stuff for the children. We didn’t plan to go anywhere. But at the last moment we decided it would be dangerous," she said.
When the family left, they had no idea they would run across a border into Moldova. They thought they would leave for a day or two and then go back home.
“We hope that it will calm down. We hope our town isn’t destroyed. We hope this to all end soon and for us to have peace so that we can go home,” she said.
Olga and her mother, Halina Parpacak, teared up talking about “Grandfather Boris,” saying she can never repay the kindness he has shown her family.
“I want to say a huge thank you. First of all to grandfather Boris. Because if it wasn’t for him this would be so much more difficult. For the heat he provides us, the home, even the support,” she told CNN. “And the entire country of Moldova. Because there are so many refugees, women and children. So a huge thank you to all of them.”
Asked how long he could afford to continue hosting this family, Makeyev said as long as they need.