In the Republic of Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, more than 250,000 children and adolescents are growing up with a father, mother, or both, living abroad, according to the Child Rights Information Center in Chisinau (CRIC). These children are social orphans whose parents are alive, but have emigrated in search of a job that will enable them to survive and build a better future for their families. The money sent home by emigrants, some $500 million per year, is now the driving force of internal consumption in Moldova, a tiny country wedged between equally impoverished Romania and Ukraine. But the other side of the coin is minted with deep rifts that have emerged in the country’s social fabric. Due to the direct and indirect consequences of mass migration, which, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), now involves a full one-quarter of Moldova’s working-age population, thousands of children too young to get by on their own are being raised by their grandparents. Thousands of other children, many of whom also have living parents, are placed in ramshackle orphanages originally built to host orphans from the Second World War, while still others are left to fend for themselves.

When ten-year-old Iulia’s parents separated, the judge handling the case decided that, given the precarious economic status of the parents, Iulia and her two brothers should be sent to live in an orphanage.  Iulia and her siblings lived for three years in an orphanage in Romania, where their father is from, until their mother Ana decided to go to work in Germany. Her new income enabled her to take the children out of the orphanage and send them back to their native Moldova, where they now live with their grandmother.
When ten-year-old Iulia’s parents separated, the judge handling the case decided that, given the precarious economic status of the parents, Iulia and her two brothers should be sent to live in an orphanage. Iulia and her siblings lived for three years in an orphanage in Romania, where their father is from, until their mother Ana decided to go to work in Germany. Her new income enabled her to take the children out of the orphanage and send them back to their native Moldova, where they now live with their grandmother.
Ana’s mother Iuana now raises her daughter’s three children. Ana, 28, has been working in a meat factory in Germany for the past three years. Iuana, 60, is shown here with one of her other young grandchildren.
Ana’s mother Iuana now raises her daughter’s three children. Ana, 28, has been working in a meat factory in Germany for the past three years. Iuana, 60, is shown here with one of her other young grandchildren.
A woman walks into a grocery store in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. As of 2012 the monthly average salary in the country was about $290, barely sufficient to buy consumer staples.
A woman walks into a grocery store in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. As of 2012 the monthly average salary in the country was about $290, barely sufficient to buy consumer staples.
A woman returns from work on the outskirts of Chisinau. One-fourth of Moldova's working-age population has left the country to work abroad. For most of those who decide to remain in Moldova, the means to make a living remain scarce.
A woman returns from work on the outskirts of Chisinau. One-fourth of Moldova’s working-age population has left the country to work abroad. For most of those who decide to remain in Moldova, the means to make a living remain scarce.
An abandoned factory in the village of Taraclia. Moldova was relatively prosperous during the Soviet era, when it was a significant exporter of fruits and vegetables to the rest of the country. But today, it is one of Europe's poorest countries.
An abandoned factory in the village of Taraclia. Moldova was relatively prosperous during the Soviet era, when it was a significant exporter of fruits and vegetables to the rest of the country. But today, it is one of Europe’s poorest countries.
Ana’s son Bogdan, age nine. He lives with his brother, sister Iulia and grandmother Iuana, while his mother is working in Germany.
Ana’s son Bogdan, age nine. He lives with his brother, sister Iulia and grandmother Iuana, while his mother is working in Germany.
A young mother in her home in Chisinau. Only a few young people decide to stay and work in Moldova.
A young mother in her home in Chisinau. Only a few young people decide to stay and work in Moldova.
Children wait in line in the dining room of an orphanage in the village of Straseni. Many Moldovan orphanages were built to house orphans of World War II.
Children wait in line in the dining room of an orphanage in the village of Straseni. Many Moldovan orphanages were built to house orphans of World War II.
In the summer of 2013, Iuana was diagnosed with uterine cancer, causing her severe pain. Taking care of three children age nine, ten and eleven has become very difficult for her.
In the summer of 2013, Iuana was diagnosed with uterine cancer, causing her severe pain. Taking care of three children age nine, ten and eleven has become very difficult for her.
Children play in the park of an orphanage school in Straseni.
Children play in the park of an orphanage school in Straseni.
A house in the village of Iepureni being built with money earned by a young women working in Italy.
A house in the village of Iepureni being built with money earned by a young women working in Italy.
Ina, 2, in the arms of her father Steopa, 24, at their home. Ina’s mother went to work in Russia when Ina was just seven months old and since then has only sporadically returned to Moldova for short visits.
Ina, 2, in the arms of her father Steopa, 24, at their home. Ina’s mother went to work in Russia when Ina was just seven months old and since then has only sporadically returned to Moldova for short visits.

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Myriam Meloni is an Italian/French photographer and videographer currently based in Spain. Her personal projects explore issues relating to women and migration. She is a contributor for the INYT. Follow her on Instagram at @la.meloni.