In a corruption-prone country where everything has its price, gaining a space at Moldova’s city-run Saint Lazarus Cemetery, one of Eastern Europe’s largest cemeteries, also can come down to a matter of money, according to firsthand accounts.
With 300,000 graves spread over 107 hectares (264 acres), Saint Lazarus, located in the northeastern part of the Moldovan capital, Chișinău, ranks, without question, as the busiest and most prestigious of the city’s 11 cemeteries. It buries between 4,500 to 5,000 people each year, according to Saint Lazarus Cemetery Director Petre Ene.
Its status becomes particularly apparent on the so-called Easter of the Dead, one week after Easter, when hundreds of Moldovans, often dressed as if attending a wedding, come with gifts and food to place on the graves of friends and family. As in other Orthodox countries, they eat and drink graveside to honor the deceased and ensure he or she rests in peace.
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Nicolae Pojoga is a photojournalist and video journalist based in Chișinău.