In the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union was about to collapse and Moldova proclaimed its independence, one of the regions of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic decided to stray. The self-proclaimed Republic of Transnistria is an approximately 125-mile-long sliver of territory along the left bank of the Dniester River running between Moldova and Ukraine.

For 27 years, the republic has had a disputed status, and yet a whole generation identifies as “Transnistrians.” Only the unrecognized republics of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh acknowledge Transnistrian independence.

The republic faces more challenges than its unrecognized status, however. Its villages are dying out because of an exodus of young people. At first look in the rural north, it seems as if they have an idyllic life in the midst of hills covered in thick woods. They have a close relation to the soil, nature and farm life, they are used to hard labor and love their native land.

However, there are very few paid jobs, little entertainment and sparse growth opportunities. Many people are forced to abandon their traditional way of life and break the link with the place where they were born. They move to the cities or abroad. At some point, young people have to choose: Stay in the village or leave their home to look for a better life.

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