I got my latest certificate on Friday, an especially nice one from our city’s mayor, Sergiu Armașu. He gave it to me during an event honoring library projects, librarians and volunteers from across the district. Our library in Ialoveni, the district capital, hosted the program.
Certificates and diplomas are a big deal here in Moldova. They are awarded at sporting competitions, school ceremonies and other events. A certificate typically includes the official stamp of the organization and may be laminated.
Moldovans start collecting certificates as students. By the time they graduate from high school, they often have a thick folder of them, which they may proudly show to you.
This seemed strange to me at first. During our Peace Corps training, the local librarian arranged for us to meet some kids in our village. She asked one of the girls, a talented artist, to show us her certificates from painting competitions. The girl explained the certificates one by one.
As I thought about her later that evening, I recalled the many trophies and medals my two sons accumulated from their sports teams, science fairs and other activities. Their trophies filled two large boxes when we cleaned out our house before joining the Peace Corps. I also had my own stash of certificates, diplomas and congratulatory letters.
In other words, as the walls of many American doctors’ offices make clear, our traditions are similar in many ways. Here in Moldova, though, certificates are way more popular, not to mention cheaper, than sports trophies. Kids here sometimes also receive medals, like the boys on our robotics team shown below.
Last month, before Champa’s school held its big celebration of its new drama costumes, we needed to produce nearly 30 certificates to give to the teachers, students and parents who assisted the project. We also needed certificates for my partners in our library’s Bebeteca project. I was able to laminate all of these certificates with a machine at the Peace Corps office, which has undoubtedly been put to good use over the years.
Certificate ceremonies in Moldova are usually filled with pride and appreciation. The speeches are heartfelt, the smiles are genuine and the certificates themselves are lovely. The moment is always captured with a poza — a pose for the camera.
After they receive a certificate, Moldovans may use it to prove their eligibility to receive a job promotion or a raise in salary, or to apply for a new position. More often, they hold onto it as a souvenir of a memorable activity.
When I told a Moldovan friend what I planned to write in this article, she laughed and said, “I don’t want a certificate. Give me some cash.” She had a point, just as one might reasonably ask whether Moldova’s teachers would be better off receiving fewer flowers and bigger paychecks. As a foreign visitor, these questions are not for me to answer. I can only say I have come to enjoy these certificate ceremonies as a distinctive part of Moldova’s culture.
Champa and I now have our own folder of certificates, which we look forward to bringing home to America with us. They’ll be laminated memories of our time here.