As Moldova was flooded with Ukrainian refugees after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Smokehouse, a small Chișinău beer and barbecue joint, found themselves as one of the first responders to the crisis.
A contingent of Moldovan police have been stationed at Moldova's southern Palanca border crossing since the beginning of the Russian invasion. They oversee the border camp and the transportation of refugees into/through Moldova. They do not know when they will be able to go home, but staying there has become, for them, a way to show patriotism and solidarity to their neighbors to the east and north.
In the heart of Chișinău there is music and children's laughter emanating from a two story house called the Sunflower Center. Most Ukrainian refugees are women and children. Navigating displacement and trauma in a foreign country, these refugees have found themselves without many social services that they are accustomed to and need. The Sunflower Center was created to help them cope and find community in their new, unexpected home.
Budulai was dealt a tough hand from the moment he was born. Half-Roma, his parents gave him up shortly after he was born. Throughout the years, Budulai has been from heaven to hell and everywhere in between. Yet, it is his non-traditional background that has made him one of the most effective and impactful people in the response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis.