CHISINAU, Moldova – Moldova's sprawling Saint Lazarus cemetery is one of the largest graveyards in Eastern Europe.
It lies on a hill in Chisinau, the capital of this impoverished nation located between European Union member Romania and Ukraine. Built in the 1960s, it covers 200 hectares (495 acres) and is dotted with wooden, metal and stone crosses, inscribed in Russian and Romanian, reflecting the languages spoken in this country of 4 million.
Mourners in this predominantly Christian Orthodox country visit their relatives' graves every weekend to pay their respects to the dead. The cemetery has an estimated 300,000 graves, many of them well-tended, festooned with flowers and candles. Among those buried here is Sergei Savchenko, who once played soccer for the Soviet Union.
That respect comes even as the average monthly wage in Moldova is just 220 euros ($240). Some 600,000 Moldovans work abroad, in Russia or Western Europe, because the salaries are so low.
Moldova has been in a state of political turmoil for months. Many citizens have been protesting since September 2015 after more than $1 billion disappeared from three banks prior to the country's November 2014 parliamentary election. New Prime Minister Pavel Filip has promised to reform the justice system and tackle corruption.