Project Bessarabia - An Introduction

This ongoing documentary art project is based on a piece of family history, namely my maternal grandmother’s (Nina Maxim) refuge to Romania in 1940 from the port city of Cetatea Alba, Bessarabia (currently part of Ukraine).


I have started documenting this event by recording our daily discussions. I have gathered audio recordings over a period of 5 years and my grandmother has written down some of her memories with a historical timeline of the events. I intend to incorporate her writing in the project as well as other family photographs and documents.

I’ve also been reading books about the history of Bessarabia and I have collected digital photographs from various online sources in order to piece together the stories that she told me.

I haven’t visited the city of Cetatea Alba (Bilhorod-Dnistrovs'kyi) yet but I intend to do so in the near future to collect archival data and to pinpoint the exact location of the Maxim house.

Artistic practice

Pencil and ink drawings illustrate the days of the refuge, the urgency and struggle of the refugees to board trains leaving for Romania to escape the Soviet invasion. They had only 4 days notice to evacuate or face the Soviet Army. These people had only 4 days to evacuate the territory of Bessarabia. Many of them stayed back and a large part of them were deported to Siberia. My grandmother lost 16 members of her extended family. The refugees left all their belongings behind.

I have used archival footage found online as reference for my drawings and also family photos to try and re-create the atmosphere before and after the ultimatum given to the people to evacuate Bessarabia.

All drawings are made on A4 and A5 paper but I intend to continue the project by creating larger pieces.

My main inspiration for this project is the work of Käthe Kollwitz (in particular The Weavers and The Peasant War).

Keywords: refugees, Bessarabia, World War II, Romania, dislocation, Soviet Union,

Read/see more:
A resource blog written in Ukrainian about the history of Cetatea Alba
A propaganda video about the Cessation of Bessarabia to the Soviet Union, including footage of the refuge


The first iteration of the multimedia project Bessarabia will be presented at the German Cultural Center in Sibiu (Timotei Popovici street, no. 9) within PAV (Platform for Visual Arts) @ FITS 2022, in the period of 24 June - 3 July.