John McConnico is an American Pulitzer Prize and World Press Photo award-winning photojournalist. McConnico has spent the last 25 years as a wire service photographer and photo editor. He has worked in over 90 different countries. Much of his work focuses on photo essays in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Some of his clients include the New York Times, UNICEF, Conde Nast, and the Associated Press.
This is the story of John’s time here in Romania and neighbouring Moldovia:
After having lived in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale like land of Copenhagen for 5 years, our family was told by my wife’s employer, UNICEF, that we would be moving to Eastern Europe in 2007.
Our firstborn Liam was 4, and we felt like we had settled into a place where everything was comfortable and certain. Everything worked in Denmark and we were not keen to leave at all.
Where would we move? Our son asked. Moldova, we replied, which we tried to tell him was like a little hat on the top of Romania. People often got it confused with Syldavia, the fictional country from the Adventures of Tintin. Or sometimes the Maldives, off the southern coast of India.
After a frenetic period of checking hospitals, schools and housing, we decided to make the leap from the comfortable and certain into the great unknown. Liam, a French speaker, liked the idea of moving to a place associated with Tintin. And his soon to be little brother Luka would know Eastern Europe as the only home he’d ever had.
What we found after 4 years in Moldova and 5 years in Romania was that it was the best decision we could have ever made. Living in these two places has shaped our children in ways we could never have imagined possible. They are worldly, they are resilient, they understand myriad customs that their parents had never been exposed to as children.
And they have come to know how absolutely magical these two countries are. When they move on to college, they can tell their friends they were raised in the land of Tintin. And Dracula.
And while most of that is not exactly true, the mysticism of living abroad and seeking out the unknown when it is usually not the easy thing to do is what counts in the end.
We now move to Belgium. Back to the normal. But we know our children now have it in them to seek adventure in their lives. To find places which stoke their imagination and make them citizens of the world, not of any one country.
Just as the cartoonist Hergé did with Tintin. Tintin may have been conceived in Belgium. But he lived in a place more like Moldova.