Being Inspired In Moldova

Alexi Buzu, one of Moldova's youngets elected officials.
Alexi Buzu, one of Moldova's youngets elected officials.

Sometimes a reporter goes after one story, only to find himself coming back with something entirely different. So it was when David Turecamo landed somewhere in Eastern Europe on Moldova's independence day.

He arrived in Moldova with the intention of highlighting the country's struggle to transition from part of the communist Soviet Union to an independent democracy. He came to report on a center for victims of torture run by Ludmilla Popovic.

"Here we have no real democracy, only a democratic process but no democracy," she said.

Recent torture victims are too afraid to speak out, but Moldova is also home to survivors of the communist purges under Josef Stalin, like Alexander Pripac, who was shoved into a boxcar and deported to Siberia when he was just 19.

But Turecamo isn't convinced that Moldova can't move ahead.

"It's an experiment in democracy," he said. "But it's getting some help from an unlikely source and the future here ... his name is Alexei Buzu .. at 23 probably the youngest elected official in Moldova's government."

"When I first time voted I voted for myself. So I expressed my both rights like to elect and be elected," Buzu said told Turecamo.

Turecamo met Buzu through Popovic and a Peace Corps volunteer, Molly Lamphear from Texas. She said Buzu became involved in politics "because he really cared about young people and doing something and being active and being involved." She took Turecamo to his small town where he met Buzu's mother, a school teacher, which may explain how he taught himself to speak English.

"And I started to read a lot about American system, American democracy, American society," Buzu said. "You had, like now you have a Republican mayor in New York? And I think before him was another Republican?"

"Yes. Do you know his name?" Turecamo asked him.

"No, but I know he wrote a book about leadership," Buzu said.

Buzu continued to wow Turecamo with his knowledge of American life, with tidbits about IBM, General Motors, General Electric, Dell and Starbucks.

"Well, I didn't even know the names of the dishes Maria was serving, much less any significant details about the country in which I was being served them — kind of embarrassing when you realize that Alexei has never been outside of Moldova," Turecamo said.

Buzu's world opened up about three or four years ago when he met an American who became his mentor, a woman named Mary Schuring, his town's first Peace Corps volunteer.

"She said I have the confidence that you will be well, that you'll do something sort of great in your life. And I said 'Oh yea, really?'" Buzu said.