Moldawien: Cleopatra Vnorovschi

Life is the best test for any theory. Critical times can help you go further.

— Cleopatra Vnorovschi

Cleopatra Vnorovschi (1911–2005) has been a model of resistance to repression of the freedom of thought for many generations of students. As a professor of philosophy at the main universities of Moldova and a prolific writer, she gave people the support and courage needed to survive under harsh conditions of life and lack of freedom of expression and thought. After her retirement, she continued to teach and give interviews to the mass media, encouraging people in the difficult post-Soviet period in the Republic of Moldova.

Cleopatra Vnorovschi was born into an educated family in Ukraine and moved to Moldova with her family when she was seven years old. She studied in Chisinau and was one of the best students in her secondary school. From 1932 to 1936, she studied philology and philosophy in Iasi (now part of Romania) and later in Bucharest. She graduated from the University magna cum laude. Back in Chisinau, she was one of the best teachers at the girls lyceum. She was preparing her Ph.D. and admitted to the University of Paris, when World War II broke out and her family was evacuated to Uzbekistan. From a house full of books, Cleopatra and her family found themselves in a train of fear. Nobody knew where they were going or for how long. “We brought some books and crochet hooks. We crocheted many white napkins in a train full of misery and lice. People were smiling at us, but we still have those white napkins. Look at them – they have the forms of stars and flowers – some of the most beautiful things that God created on the earth. Those forms convince you to survive, to move away, to feel that there always will be something to help you see a better future.” Cleopatra Vnorovschi had to learn how to survive in a very difficult situation, and she has taught others by her example how to manage difficult situations, how to survive hard times, and how to move forward. After the war, her family came back to Moldova, and Cleopatra Vnorovschi began to teach again. She continued to teach students to appreciate freedom and to think freely despite the difficulties this caused her during the Soviet period. She was forced to teach only Marxist-Leninist philosophy, but she always managed to offer information about other philosophies and authors, for which she was dismissed from universities many times. Despite this, she never ceased to speak and write about freedom of thought.