05 November 2005


The following is an extract of a translated article published in Italian in the “Gazzetta di Seborga nel Mondo” and written by the newly elected President of the “Seborga Nel Mondo Association”: Elisanna Capocaccia Lippi. We decided to publish it here and shared with you because this article is a vivid account of the many aspects that characterized this mission to Moldavia and a good insight into what the people involved in this project went through. As you will discover, this will not be the last trip to Moldavia. There is a wish – despite the difficulties encountered – to return and do a few things. According to Flavio Gorni from the Protezione Civile of Seborga and Vallebona (the Seborga and Vallebona Emergency Services) there is also a plan for next year to visit two places: one in April to Transnistria and the second one to Paraguay at the end of August. For more information, visit the following website (available only in Italian): http://seborga.blogspot.com

25 August 2005: from a small and picturesque village of the Liguria Riviera, a group of volunteers of the Emergency Services united under the name “Seborga nel Mondo (Seborga in the World, a non profit association) starts a humanitarian journey with the destination Chisinau.
This group is made up of people from regions such as Liguria, Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta, from Rome and my self, from Lombardy. Its 23:00 and the column of cars, vans and a truck start to move from the main public square of the Principality of Seborga crowded with people wanting to meet us and farewell us.

The local authorities are there and the Bishop of Ventimiglia too with his blessing for us. And so we go through the freeway illuminated by the beacons of our lights… via Tortona, Brescia, Verona, and then a short stop and up again towards Udine, Tarvisio, Austria...
More stops on the way for change the drivers have some breakfast with coffee made from home, lunches made of slices of breads with tomato, a little bit of salt and olive oil, all rigorously carried from home.
And up on the road again that leads us to Chisinau, but we must cross Austria, Hungary and Romania first! And while we are travelling we are full of enthusiasm, chatting along and wanting to exchange ideas and expectations about the mission and what may lay ahead for us.
We talk about our lives, the ups and downs, our hopes… we start to get to know each other better and lay the ground for a deep, solid and beautiful friendship that I hope will last forever.
And in the meantime the landscapes are passing by and changing in front of us: from the green and rich slopes of Austria, to the well kept Hungary and everything is going well.
Finally we reach the border of Romania! First signs of something wrong… the stop is long, too long and wearing. We try to occupy ourselves by having something to eat, by making some coffee but we talk less. It is our eyes that speak on our behalf while we look discreetly at our friends frantically dealing with the customs police. All our papers are in order: permits, authorisations, forms from the Red Cross and UNICEF and finally we can pass.
We feel something weighing heavily upon us, we feel apprehensive but at the same time hopeful, but this stop is bothering us. But we are travelling now and crossing Romania with cheerful spirits with songs and laughs to the next border. Here the truck full of humanitarian aid, clothing for men, women and children and other material is stopped. Hours of negotiations, of frantic phone calls, of begging, of waving documents are taking place. Nothing seems to help.
The truck that carries only aid donated by many cheerful hearts from Seborga is halted. It cannot pass. It’s night. We decide to go ahead with the rest of the convoy. We will try to resolve the problem tomorrow. Sadness and helplessness overcomes us and with heavy hearts we approach the Moldavia border. More bureaucracy… endless bureaucracy is awaiting us. They don’t even help us to fill in the visa forms that each of us has to pay from our own pocket.
After a couple of hours we cross the border. We travel the last leg of our journey that will take us to Chisinau: a shabby road, full of holes and dogs corpses crushed by cars.
Dogs that crowds the countryside and the cities of Moldavia, abandoned and stray dogs, ideal for spreading disease! Finally we see the lights of Chisinau, one stop in a trattoria for a frugal dinner and on the move again towards the association that will accommodate us all.
A cold shower (and for the next 6 days) and then everyone goes to sleep in their sleeping bags. No one has the courage to admit it but we have fearful of tomorrow, for what will happen to our truck full of stuff seized at the border. Will we get it back? Will they steal the goods? Will they want money? It’s morning now. Four of us will go to the border, the rest will remain here to get ready for the mission, to do training, to look for wholesalers and buy material that we need.
More problems… Between lies, indirect threats and excuses from those who are supposed to be interpreters and institutions, we become lighter and poorer!! But we begin to raise our heads and start to say “no” or "after" to try to buy time. There is no doubt that we are in a corrupt country but we are not so naive!!!

To cut it short: the truck arrives after paying 910 euro and leaving 10 tons of goods, plus 300 euro for being granted some cold water for the showers and a shelter to sleep in our sleeping bags... They still want more money and goods but “we will bring them in the next trip...” He who deceives is himself deceived!
If you think that – after all - we were lucky, listen to this: we wanted to inspect an orphanage that was reported to us with big problems in Transnistria (a Moldova region self proclaimed independent in 1990 but not recognized by other states).
At the border we were robbed by the customs officers of 200 Euro with the threat that if we did not pay, they would have to put us in jail for two years for transporting suspicious equipment!!!! In order to maintain contact with the convoy at the traffic lights and crossings we were equipped with portable radio transmitters with a maximum capacity of 5 km radius. The same types used by kids to play. After we pay and see some smiling faces in return, we get back our portable radios and are wished a good trip.
However, despite all these depressing episodes, all the rest went well. The population that lives their poverty with dignity is in need of everything. Just a visit to the market and you discover that what they sell in plenty of supply is misery!
Someone sells one of his two eggs or one litre of the one and a half litre of milk to be able to buy some socks for his kid or to buy one loaf of bread. The earth itself is black, empty, untilled and seems to cry of desperation! There are no usual agricultural tools here. To cut the grass they use a scythe hook. Every morning the women take their cows to graze the grass in meadows 3 or 4 km away...
In the cities groups of stray dogs roam in search of crumbs that will never fall from those who have not bread to eat! However, we carried out the entire programs that we planned and regained the time lost. We managed to hand out everything and buy locally to then distribute towels, underwear, stockings, antiseptics, detergents, rice, pasta, flour, tins of tuna and meat.
Nothing special for such poverty but the smiles, the poetry recited for us, the eyes
full of appreciation made us feel "great"! And this thanks to all of those that have helped us… You are the providers of this beautiful gesture that we have only carried out.
We came home with beautiful memories; beautiful evenings spent together among the local people (all documented by our famous photographer and photo reporter, both volunteers). I hope that they will make a photo album and a CD to sell and finance other projects.
We have plans to renovate an orphanage and build proper bathrooms for another orphanage; therefore we need the help of everybody! Even the 50 cents from a child that renounces his snack could help!
This precious money will go to a less fortunate child that with his little nose resting on a dirty and broken window frame is dreaming of a cuddle, a friendly hand, a pair of socks in order to protect himself from the cold! We can all make a difference for these and other less fortunate ones!

To those who are planning to visit the Liguria Region, I would like to say this: come to visit the Principality of Seborga. You will get to know and meet GEORGE I, a charismatic and altruistic person, beyond every expectation. You may also have the chance to see his knights in their white uniforms. Come and have lunch or dinner in one of the three restaurants of the Principality. Buy some Luigini (the local currency) and some stamps.
And when summer comes, take part in the parties and festivals held in the public square of Seborga. The local Pro-loco association will direct 10% of the revenue to us from these events. You will do well and at the same time have fun between a tango and a waltz!
To conclude I must thank all the Seborgans, from the first (Prince Giorgio I) to the last. Thank you for all the volunteers that also gave me the honour of electing me as their president and have given me the nick name of “mamma”.
Thank you to the people of Seborga who have accepted me like one of them. I want to thank you Graziella who, like a sister, has made her house available to me.
A big hug from my heart and with God’s help, for any need, I will be among you and won’t disappoint you. Thank you for those that have helped us and will help us again. Together we will make progress.
Elisanna Capocaccia Lippi
(President of Seborga nel Mondo Association)