GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our Moldavia Motorcycle Collection Film Shoot
Story by Alexandru Curilov
An old friend once asked me to try to find five similarities between a training shoe and a pencil. After letting me simmer for a while she broke out laughing and informed me that it was a rudimentary test for schizophrenia. The joke was definitely on me as after about 15 minutes I managed to come up with a few things those apparently unrelated items had in common. I guess that’s what we do as filmmakers, we look for stories and we see connections all around us. Whether it’s film, animation, a good song, or even a dish, all these things can tell a story.
And those of us who are both plagued and blessed with a consuming passion for all things motorized, we know that oftentimes the stories are much more valuable than the items themselves. When you’re lucky enough to stumble upon someone who shares this delightful mentality, you immediately know you’ve found a kindred spirit and that you are going to have the time of your life “working.” As is the case with any new acquaintance, it takes a little bit of time to reduce the distance, to start peeling away the layers that separate strangers from friends. It took me and Dan six months to finally find ourselves standing together in the yard of an abandoned Soviet era bakery that he rents for his shop and garage work.
He unlocks one storage room after another, and I begin roaming though numerous motorcycles—some brought back to their original glory and some left untouched—and I begin to realize that I am struggling to find a pattern. There’s a definite affinity toward sidecars of different eras, but between the Soviet IMZ-URALs and IZHs I stumble upon a WWII-era BMW and a 1950s Royal Enfield and inevitably the shoe and pencil proposition pops to mind. What’s the deal here? I keep asking myself.
There must be more to this than random choice. And sure enough, as is often the case with people who are truly passionate, you have to do very little convincing to make them tell you all about it. Suddenly, there they were, little stories started attached to everything within those walls. They were heartfelt but concise, almost like short visions, pieces of lives lived long ago, all contained and preserved together with the motorcycles.
Many of them have no collectible value other than the stories they tell. It’s just like those commercials: the object itself is of little worth, but the story behind it is priceless.
And while you listen to them you can’t help but visualize the Soviet soldier who brings the BMW back to his village when coming home from the war. A motorcycle obtained under dubious circumstances of which we will know nothing about—a war trophy perhaps, or just a lucky find. You can’t help but commiserate with the Indian missionary who rode his Royal Enfield all the way from India to Moldavia, barely keeping it running just to have it die completely once he got here.
And while looking at that 1961 Ural M-62 with a sidecar, you can see the determined gaze of a man who’s left everything behind to find the girl he fell in love with on first sight. They met at a conference, she was from a village in Moldavia and he was from the other side of the Union. Once he got home, he got on his bike and rode all the way across an immense country to find a girl he’d just met but intended to marry. He only knew her name and the name of the village.
With his most prized possessions stacked in the sidecar, he took this leap of faith and as the presence of the motorcycle suggests, his gamble paid off. It’s these little stories that make or break the deal for Dan. That’s what he is collecting really.
Having spent his formative years doodling and drawing bikes and cars he’d only seen on TV, he was determined to become an engineer or designer. His parent however had different plans for his future, so he became a doctor. But fate it seems has a sense of humor after all. Dan became the most mechanical doctor you can be, doing his residency in orthopedics and trauma. The exact branch of surgical medicine where you’re using “pretty much” the same tools you’d need in a garage. You’ve got your power tools and ratchets. Only difference being that the mechanical problem that your trying to fix is a human body.
In many ways putting people back together is the same as putting motorcycles back together; it takes a long time and you have no guarantees, Dan says to me as he looks with an eagle’s stare, sharp and eager. We’re standing in the yard of the bakery flooded with his bikes. Each equally priceless, each equally worthless. These are not collectibles. These are stories, saved and passed on. This is folklore preserved.