Do you know “The Cat in the Hat” and “Good Night Moon”? If you’re an American, especially if you’re a parent like me, of course you do.
Here in Moldova, an equivalent question might be: “Do you know Guguță?”
He’s the beloved character created by Spiridon Vangheli, one of Moldova’s most famous writers. Wearing a distinctive hat, Guguță faces adventures in a series of books that children and their parents have enjoyed for decades. Vangheli has also written other books, poems and translations. His work has been translated into many languages, been performed on stage and received numerous honors.
Ialoveni named its children’s library after him a few years ago, as you can see on the sign near the door. On Thursday, many of the city’s children turned out to honor the great author, now 85, at a charming ceremony.
Little kids dressed in traditional costumes presented Vangheli with flowers and serenaded him with songs and dances. That’ s him in the purple shirt. The kids shouted “la mulți ani!” — or long life! — and stepped forward to recite short speeches they’d memorized with their parents and teachers, some of whom mouthed the words as they watched. The mayor, Sergiu Armașu, extolled the writer, who then thanked everyone, signed books and posed for photos. Television crews captured it all for news reports and a future documentary.
The library has interesting exhibits and memorabilia about Vangheli. It is marking its own 25th anniversary this year, so Ialoveni has been celebrating both the facility and its namesake, who lives nearby in Chișinău. The Vangheli library is tucked away on a small street near the heart of Ialoveni, not far from the city’s main library, which also has a nice collection and programs for children, including a weekly English class taught by Champa.
I recently began trying to read one of the Guguță books myself. The Romanian is still a bit difficult for me but I’m making progress. Now that I’ve met the famous author, I’m even more motivated to finish it.
[The short video clip of the kids at the top of this post is also viewable on YouTube.]