Just a few days ago, things were looking pretty grim here in Pridnestrovie.
Police officers were patrolling the parks and public areas, fining or arresting anyone caught sitting down, even if they were completely alone. The streets were utterly deserted. A 27-year-old woman who had tested positive for the virus died in the hospital. And no fewer than four doctors tested positive for the coronavirus.
But then, something near akin to a miracle happened.
President Krasnoselsky announced that it was now okay for people to visit their dachas, walk on the streets with their children, and even go fishing.
Overnight, Tiraspol transformed. Once again, I saw people biking and jogging on the riverfront. Little kids were merrily pushing their scooters down the sidewalks. And from my balcony, I even saw some couples walking hand-in-hand, enjoying the warm afternoon sun.
This morning, I spent a wonderfully relaxing and energizing hour down by the river, soaking in the sun and the nature. I made friends with a new cat (there truly are a lot of cats here in Tiraspol) and laughed as she lapped up water from the river and pounced on a tiny little water skipper.
I didn’t have to crouch down in the bushes in fear for getting fined or arrested, and that was great. I also walked around town a little and saw that a lot more businesses are now open, including my arch-nemesis, a barbershop (more on that, perhaps, in another post). The shopkeepers whom I spoke to were all friendly and upbeat.
Yes, most folks are still wearing masks, and getting your temperature checked and sanitizing your hands before going into the grocery store is still mandatory. Nobody’s invented a cure or developed a vaccine, but it really does feel that the cloud has been lifted.
I really can’t say. Despite having lived here for some eight months, I still haven’t yet developed an innate sense of how things work on a deeper level. I just haven’t had time to make enough friends to get that informal, backchannel access.
I don’t know if some of the estimated 20,000 calls to the government’s hotline were complaints about people wanting to get some fresh air or if President Krasnoselsky got some kind of cue from his hero, Vladimir Putin, or what exactly happened.
All I know is that I and my neighbors are all feeling like we’ve been sprung from prison, and my goodness, it really is a wonderful sensation.
Here’s hoping that it lasts!