One of Transistria’s few independent culture spaces, Club 19, has shut down at the end of February after nine years of championing creativity and debate.
Since opening in 2012, the club has hosted hundreds of events, ranging from film screenings and concerts, to talks and interviews with ambassadors, representing a small oasis free from censorship in the unrecognised republic.
“It was a truly open space for everyone,” former administrator Alexandra Telpis told The Calvert Journal. “Anyone (except politicians) were encouraged to organise the events they had thought and dreamed about.” The club hosted between 15 and 30 people on a regular basis. In total, administrators say 30,000 people have crossed the club’s threshold.
But running such a venue with little funding, support, and human resources, also took its toll on the administrators, prompting the team to finally shut its doors. “The club took a lot of my energy, and I realised that I had given everything that I could give to it, and I wanted to move on,” Telpis explained. The situation is similar for other Club 19 team members. “The current coordinator is exhausted and there is no one to replace him,” said Evgeny Dunaev, another former coordinator and administrator of the venue, who first brought a series of debate nights to Club 19.
Mass emigration has also contributed to the shutdown, Dunaev says. “A lot of people just decided to leave Transnistria, including the two current administrators.”
Still, those involved in Club 19 continue the spirit of the venue in their other work. Telpis co-founded an international documentary film festival, Chesnok, in Transnistria, which she helps run from Prague, while Dunaev is supporting civic initiatives as a chairman of Apriori, a human rights NGO offering informational and legal help to other non-profits.