For the elderly living in remote villages in the Danube Delta, one of the world’s largest wetlands, winter is a time of isolation. This year, they are also struggling to cope with a shortage of firewood and rising food prices.
So, days before Christmas, Romanian coast guard officers braced against icy winds to deliver care packages of food and cleaning staples as well as fruits and sweets to some of the most vulnerable villagers.
The Danube Delta, sprung where the river meets the Black Sea, straddles the Romanian-Ukrainian border.
A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Europe’s most bio-diverse regions, it is also home to impoverished villages where the aging population living off fishing and subsistence farming lacks indoor plumbing and access to healthcare.
The village of C.A. Rosetti, connected to the world by narrow Danube canals and a thin dirt road, has about 150 people left.
“Everybody is waiting for Christmas joyfully, but everything has gotten expensive, pensions are small, it is difficult with heating,” says 76-year-old Maria Parmac, a teacher for over four decades.
“There are very few children singing carols, the village has aged.”
In the nearby village of Sistofca, 72-year-old Marfa Halkin, one of 23 people remaining, says even priests have stopped visiting the local church.
So the arrival of the coast guard bearing gifts will be warmly welcomed.
“The Sulina coast guard wants to bring a little joy in people’s homes for the holidays in the isolated villages of the Danube Delta,” says Chief Inspector Razvan Duta.