Pursuing a passion for storytelling at THREAD

Like all the participants of THREAD, a gathering of writers and journalists that took place at Yale June 5-8, Ana Volosinovici came to campus because she has stories to tell. The conference, founded and led by writer and columnist Mark Oppenheimer ’96, ’03 Ph.D., is a four-day gathering of storytellers of all kinds: writers, visual artists, photographers, and podcasters, who came to learn from leaders in their fields, get inspired to tell their own stories, and share them.

Ana Volosinovici

Volosinovici comes from Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, with an economy still feeling the effects of the breakup of the Soviet Union. She works as a project manager at Simpals, a computer animation studio in the nation’s capital, Chisinau. Simpals creates film shorts and is currently at work on Moldova’s first virtual reality film.

In Moldova, work opportunities for university graduates are extremely limited, and opportunities to work in the arts, as Volosinovici does, are particularly rare, she says. “Every day, over 100 people [out of a population of 3.5 million] leave Moldova, because they don’t see the future there.”   

Volosinovici believes that instead of joining the brain drain, young people with promise should stay in Moldova and change it for the better.  

Inspired by a talk given by Oppenheimer, detailing the importance of building a community of storytellers and a support system for people who want to be creative, Volosinovici plans to return to Moldova and start a website where people can share stories about how they achieved something good, and what it meant to them.

“Everyone has an interesting story,” she says. “If we tell stories, we can find solutions to improve our society. And we should listen to each other.”

Each of the 73 participants in THREAD — who represented 11 countries including Nigeria, Brazil, and Ukraine — brought a piece to be critiqued in a workshop led by a prominent member of the media. Workshop mentors included Oppenheimer, who writes the monthly “Beliefs” column for The New York Times and leads the Yale Journalism Initiative, from which THREAD originated, as well as New Yorker staff Sarah Stillman, and journalist Linda Gradstein.

Volosinovici’s workshop piece was a short story, “Orphans with Parents,” about a young girl growing up in Moldova alone because her parents have gone to earn money in Europe.

“It is not a true story, but it is representative of many children in Moldova. They have parents who love and take care of them, but they are not together because the economy of our country split them up,” she says.

Volosinovici says she witnessed the suffering of many friends who grew up this way.

“Now I think Moldovan young people don’t believe in their future, because when you grow up without your parents, nobody teaches you how to believe and to build your future, and make plans,” she says.

Yet for the country to move forward, Volosinovici said, this should change.

While many young people in Moldova have left the country to pursue opportunities elsewhere, Volosinovici vows to stay to continue telling stories, and to lead by example.

“We just need action. Maybe one of my friends will make a change, and friends of theirs will change, and it will start [a chain reaction],” she says. “We need to start believing in ourselves.”

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