“Do you have mold cell?” I’d just gotten off the plane when an agitated woman closed in. It was my first visit to my father’s ancestral homeland and this was not how I'd imagined it would start. But then how could I have known that Moldova’s leading cell phone provider would be in the middle of a promotion?
I know now that the women of Moldova are not shrinking violets. The compact overseer of the Alexander Pushkin Museum orders me to follow her, pointing out and describing, at some length, the significant items pertaining to Russia's greatest poet. That my Russian is remedial at best is of no interest.
This intriguing museum is set in the house where Pushkin lived, in exile, from 1820-1823. Ironically, he was exiled for his poem Ode to Liberty. While Pushkin complained about boredom, by all accounts he had a lively time here, bedding the wives of local nobles, fighting duels, and falling in love with the beautiful gypsy, Zemfira (who alas, ran off with a fellow gypsy who murdered her.)
You can see the desk where Pushkin wrote “The Gypsies” and “To Ovid,” and started his masterpiece, Eugene Onegin." There are also photographs and drawings (including the poet's lovely sketches of Zemfira).
Behind the house, there's a statue of Pushkin identical to one in Moscow except that the Muscovites could afford the entire body while the Moldovans could only spring for a head. One of Chisinau’s main streets, informally-named Al Pushkin Strasse, is named for the poet.