Born to Defeat

Born to defeat; the incredible life story of the young man raised at the orphanage and who now provided a warm meal for the homeless of Bucharest. By Ramona Raduly. Translation by John Korst.

Gabriel Ciubotaru was born the day after the devastating earthquake of 1977. He opened his eyes to the world for the first time in a near ruined Bucharest, and this was to predict his destiny. His mother was an artist, the father an airline pilot. His father died in an airplane crash. When he was just ten years old, his mother also died from the rottenest of the Communist regime; she had been diagnosed with an extra-uterine pregnancy that had to be aborted, but for this, a commission was needed and abortions were not allowed at that time. Until the answer came, his mother died, and after this second great tragedy, Gabriel was taken to the ”Children’s Home”.

His years of school and adolescence were sprinkled with everything, and good and bad, but he grew up, learned, finished College and a Master’s degree and now helps the little ones. He founded the Association; ”Your Chance” with which he carries out many good deeds projects, but the dearest of his soul is ”A Warm Chance”, with which, for more than eight years, he provides a warm meal to the homeless of Bucharest.

An incredible story. A true story that could one day come to the page of the book ”Born to Defeat”.

”What does a day in your life look like today?”

”First of all, I don’t think that there are any significant differences between my program and those of other people, more or less ”N.G.O’s. This list probably sounds familiar to you; sleep, healthy eating, family, career, sports, reading, writing, travel etc. What is different from what I did five years ago is definitely a much better organisation, which helps me to better distribute the twenty-four hours of my life.

The sun shines above my house, I start my day with optimism, I carry out all the procedures I do in the morning, after which I eat and start work; I answer emails, I read correspondence, I answer telephones, counselling, conferences, meetings with collaborators, etc.and we solve the cases that come or are being finalised, I visit the social centres, I go to get donations from where people want to donate. Depending on the day, we prepare various projects, but the evening comes quickly over us. And because the summer is much longer, I have time to walk on the forest path, to relax and to think about my life.

I still visit the beneficiaries; for example today I was with a father and four of his ten children to see their mother in a penitentiary. I also read Ionut Ursu, the young man raised in an orphanage who has been volunteering in Nepal for five years. How did a child who, until he was eighteen, was told that he would die of A.I.D.S to build the first dental practice in Nepal?

”What are your current projects?”

A Warm Chance, Smile From the Box, Camp of Your Life, Requirements for Your Future, Helmut Schlotterer Social Centre.

”What is the dearest, closest project to your soul so far?”

The project ”A Hot Chance”.

”When you were a child, what did you dream of doing?”

My dream was to be a driver for salvation, to save people, but with the time and experience gained, I could say that I fulfilled this dream to help people. I didn’t think then that I could do so many things. Now I want to be a man to help people and to fill my parental void- the lack of a family, helping those in need. If you are not well anchored in your values, you may be living the dream of someone else, (society, parents, friends, boss.)

”What happened to you at the orphanage?”

After my mother’s death, I went to the orphanage called St. Stephens Children’s House. It has now been abolished. There were one-hundred children, each with his life story. Relatives took me there. They probably couldn’t afford to keep me. I was in school, in fourth grade in Sector One when my mother died. At the orphanage, we tried to organise the birthdays of my colleagues every month. We went to camps, we also had difficulties with the biggest ones who beat us. The desert was a luxury for us, fearing that the bigger ones will take it. But I was running from the placement centre and going to hospitals, and the doctors were protecting me and I was admitted for a few days. When I returned, they didn’t take much notice of me, because I told the Director and I was running away.

I learned a job, I finished school, we had good educators who helped us with lessons, they were beautiful memories. When the holidays came, then I was suffering, because most were leaving to go home and nobody came for me. I kept wondering if, as far as this big world was concerned, there would be no family for me. I was crying and calling out to God.

The Revolution came, the foreigners came with help and I started to grow. To grow old and to forget about the lack of family. We changed the room with furniture from donations, we dressed differently, we received oranges, we made juice. We slept six-eight children in a room. There is a lot to tell and I have not yet found anyone to help me finish my book ”Born to Defeat”.

I was organising trips. I remember that I went to a Children’s Centre in Busteni where there were three hundred children. I talked to them and it was an exchange of experiences.

”How were your school and teen years?”

The years of school and high school are unforgettable; full of joy, smiles, ears, emotions, years when I was part of a great and wonderful family. I remember with fondness the first day of school when, full of emotion, I went to class together with the teacher, a second mother to me, full of warmth and kindness, who loved us enormously and did everything she could to help us. She was the one who showed us, for the first time, with great patience, the magical powers of the pen, and the one who helped us choose the best path in any challenge we had. Even though I was in the more energetic group and I was upset about the lady teacher, she always had the power to understand us and to forgive us very easily. The day I finished fourth grade was full of strong emotions, both happiness because I was starting a new chapter in our lives, and sadness due to the separation from the lady teacher. I remember how many hugs, flowers and tears there were.

For me , the hardest stage in my life was in grades V-V111 and in High school when I felt alone in the world. But I learnt, worked hard to get somewhere, despite the obstacles in life. Thus, with the beginning of 5th. grade, I embarked on a new adventure of my life. We were all scared and curious at the same time. The years of Highschool proved to be wonderful and I learnt a lot of new things. Each teacher took care to teach us both lessons related to the subject taught and life lessons. I remember with joy the wonderful teachers we had, with all the defining gestures, how to teach and make us easily understand what they want to teach us and all the passion they had, each of them for own matter. I was forced to change High school but I quickly made friends. The school was in the orphanages yard, and my bedroom was facing the school yard, a wonderful view; I could see when children were leaving or coming to the school, and when the yard was filled with children, I was motivated to learn and to move on.

In school, I connected with beautiful friends. We were surrounded by two different worlds- children from families and those from the placement centre. I was watching and seeing the differences. Even though the children in the families were poor, they were more educated, but we from the centre were happier because we lived permanently in the community.

But the nucleus of life forms in the family. I did not understand then that there is another world.

”Who trained you to become a man today?”

People come and go from your life. Many special people have passed through my life, but some people remain for the rest of my life in my heart and mind. Every person who goes out of your way puts a brick in your character. It is not one particular person who trained me, it is a labyrinth of people, from my mother, educators, teachers, my aunt, to new people who came into my life after I opened the ”Your Chance” Association. Several doors opened to me. I got in touch with another kind of people, more responsible, serious. Also, every thank you from an orphan child or a child from a poor family has given me hope to move forward, change destinies and train at the same time.

I can remember a few people; my wife Gabriela, my aunt and my niece, Casiana Fometescu, Carmen Stoica, Diana Milea, Andrei Stan, educators, Mrs Mihai, Physics teacher, Aikido coach, Mr Grigorescu.

”When did the idea of helping sprout in your mind?”

A psychologist told me that God has put in me a special seed, to help people, because not everyone can do this because it is difficult to work with people. I liked to help as a kid, even though I grew up in an orphanage. After ’89, I was a volunteer at various N.G.O’s, such as YCC Romania,(Love and Home for Children), UNICEF, Ovidiu Rom, Alinare Foundation, etc. I was involved in all kinds of projects, from building houses, painting and offering clothes and accessories to counselling etc.

”And why do you do that?”

I help because I feel good about what I do, it’s a lifestyle, a passion, like medicine or other specialities, it’s a calling. By doing good things for others, your self-esteem will increase and you will have the satisfaction that you have given, that you give people a chance to be more responsible and to value your help. When you help, you take the burden of the beneficiaries soul, but give it the power it needs to recover. You can be an example to others and try a state of joy and fulfilment. Because when we help, we can make amazing things happen by pushing those in need to be happy.

”What is your motivation?”

When I give, I feel happy, and especially when I see others happy. As I am connected to the needs of poor people, with those who want to help, I am glad that I can be a bridge between the poor and the helpers.

”Were there times when you cursed your fate? Or on the contrary, do you thank God for living and being healthy?”

I thank God for giving me this opportunity to move forward. It is not easy. There are all kinds of obstacles in life. I had moments when I was about to give up, but Heaven always lifted me up and gave me the power to move forward.

”What’s your biggest regret in life?”

My regret is that I didn’t have my parents near me to see how I grew up and be satisfied with myself. I can’t speak well in words, but I think life gives you a lemon and you have to make lemonade. I was pleased with what I had and my regret is that I am too open and exposed to less good people. I can make mistakes but I also learn something from it every time.

”What makes you happy?”

If you fail to make a lifestyle out of being happy, because happiness is from God. It activates according to your state and your involvement in helping others. Let me throw away all the useless things and keep only the essentials. To read and learn new things, not to upset anyone and see happy people.

”What does ”Your Chance” mean?”

The Association ”Your Chance” was born from a desire to give a chance to everyone in need. To be a chance for both the people who want to help and for those who receive. Why is ”Your Chance” the expression that gives you the power to move forward even if you are going through difficult times in your life? Because we all have a chance in life and it’s a pity to waste it and not use it to do good.

http://www.asociatiasansata.ro

Barnabas Ministries Romania

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KIDS AND TEEN OUTREACH

Two weekly outreaches are held where they have the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ and to develop a good support group of Christian friends their age.

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CAMPS

Numerous camps are held during the summer in the isolated village of LAZ.

Kids, teens and adults are able to get away from all distractions and concentrate on God.

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ADOPTION

There are over 57,000 children in Romania, living without parents in State institutions. Many grow up dreaming to be accepted and adopted into a family.

We work to encourage Christian families in Romania to adopt. By sharing and making aware this huge problem.

As Christians, we believe it is our duty to look after those in need!

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THE UNSEEN

We are the hands and feet of Christ.

God has blessed us with energy, resources and possibilities to reach out and lend a helping hand.

Counseling, standing up for the weak, helping a need, keeping a family together… whatever God opens our eyes to and puts on our heart, as Christians we believe it is our responsibility to take action.

Although many times some things we do may be unseen, God knows and always provides wisdom, resources and ability.


“Our vision is to see happy, healthy children and successful Christian families raised up in Romania!

— Barnabas Ministries, Sebis, Romania

WHAT WE’VE ACHIEVED

  • 1993 – Barnabas Ministries was formed and outreach to the elderly and poor families began in Brasov, Romania.

  • 1994 – Church planting and Orphan care work began.

  • 2001 – Land was purchased in Sebis, Romania for the construction of Casa Ezra orphan and ministry center.

  • 2003/2008 – Construction of Casa Ezra

  • 2008/2009 – Weekly children’s and teen’s outreaches began at Casa Ezra.

  • 2009 – Oasis of Love, kid’s camp was started and the first camps were held.

  • 2011 – Advocacy for adoption began and a family of five children were re-united at Casa Ezra. (These children were eventually adopted by the Hurrelbrink’s after a difficult adoption process lasting seven years.)

  • 2017 – Property was purchased for the future Community/Outreach Center in Sebis, Romania.

  • 2018 – The Community Campaign to finance the building of the Community/Outreach Center was started.

Deaths in Siret Horror Orphanage.

Siret is a northern town near the border with Romania. It is an isolated place; ideal to hide away children not considered ”normal”. In the 1980’s, during the Communist era, Siret was home to 2,000 orphaned, sick and abandoned children.

Criminal complaint for the death of 340 children, in the Siret horror orphanage, during communism. Valentin Nas shared the link.

The image of the children in the Siret Orphanage is from the personal archives of Ronald Federici.

BY FLAVIA DRĂGAN | Updated: June 25, 2018 – 5:21 PM

The Institute for the Study of Communist Crimes (IICMER) has filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office concerning the inhumane treatment of orphaned children confined in the Siret Hospital for Children with Chronic Neuropsychiatric Condition (HCCNC). 340 children died there between 1980 and 1989.

IICCMER has denounced the deaths which occurred in the last decade of the communist regime. The largest number of deaths, 81 children, was recorded in 1981.

According to IICCMER’s statement released to the editorial, most children died of illnesses that could be treated, and for most of them the deaths were caused by the inhumane way they were treated in the orphanage. A very large number of children have died during winter, most of them due to pneumonia, epilepsy, heart, kidney, and liver diseases.

Figure: Deaths in the Siret HCCNC, by age (Jan. 1980 through May 1991)
SOURCE: IICCMER

Most children died when they were between one and four years old. Many of the children admitted to the Siret orphanage were from Suceava County, but also from Bucharest, Bihor, Timiş, Dâmboviţa, Constanţa.

Figure: Evolution of deaths in the Siret HCCNC (1980-1991)

“Following the analysis of death documents and death certificates, carried out by IICCMER experts and by a team of forensic pathologists, we have found that, on the one hand, there were increased mortality rates in the case of easily preventable or early diagnosable and properly treatable pathologies, and, on the other hand, there were deaths that support, by their very nature, our conclusions regarding the existence of a regime characterized by inhumane treatments applied to minors in the hospital.”

309 employees at the hospital-orphanage in 1989

The HCCNC was operating under the Ministry of Health and was headed by a doctor/manager appointed by order of the minister. Since its inception in 1956 until 1991, the hospital has been administered by nine doctors, and the last of them has been running the hospital-orphanage for 24 years.

At the end of the 1980s, the orphanage included 14 specialist doctors, 109 nurses, 115 auxiliary staff, 12 administrative staff, 12 staff runing the school and 47 workers.

There is a legend that hundreds of children were left to die in a field.

Since the establishment of the hospital-orphanage in 1956 until 2001, 1,500 children have died of the total of 8,886 children who have been placed in the Siret institution.

After the death of 81 children in 1981, the number of deaths fell in 1982 and 1983 following the management’s decision to transfer out a very large number of children.

Figure: Main causes of death in the Siret HCCNC (1980-1991)
– Pulmonary affections 68%
– Epilepsy 13%
– Others 8%
– Heart conditions 3%
– Kidney problems 7%
– Liver problems 1%
SOURCE: IICCMER

Among the staff who worked at Siret HCCNC during the communist era there is a legend of an order coming from the Communist Party leadership regarding the fast release from hospital of a large number of patients, an order which was quickly executed at the end of November 1983. The hospital register has recorded the transfer of 750 children over just a few days at the end of November 1983. According to former employees, a large number of these children, especially those with unknown parents, have never reached their transfer destinations, being instead isolated on a field and left to die without being registered.

IICMER states that it could not confirm the information, but it continues the checks.

Criminal complaints to follow for the period 1956-1980

IICCMER said it would file criminal complaints for inhumane treatments for the period 1956-1980, but “given the high volume of work, we can not predict when the actions will materialize,” the Institute’s spokeswoman added.

Last summer, IICCMER has filed another criminal complaint with the Attorney General’s Office for the inhumane treatment of children hospitalized in the Cighid, Păstrăveni and Sighetu Marmaţiei home-hospitals. 771 children have died there from 1973 to 1990. In that case, the prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office have started in criminal investigations.

Tragedia Bebelusilor Abandonati In Spitalele Din Romania

 Adevarul: https://adevarul.ro/.../tragedia-copiilor.../index.html

Conform datelor publicate pe site-ul Autorității Naționale pentru Protecția Drepturilor Copilului și Adopției (ANPDCA), 245 de copii au fost lăsați în maternități și în alte unități de îngrijire a sănătății în primul trimestru al anului 2017. Conform acelorași date, anul trecut aproximativ 1.000 de copii au fost abandonați în spitale.

Dintre cei 245 de copii rămași în unități medicale, 164 au fost abandonați în maternități, 71 în secții pediatrice și 10 în alte spitale.

De asemenea, dintre cei 231 de copii eliberați din unități medicale în perioada ianuarie-martie 2017, 100 s-au reîntors la familiile lor, unul a fost plasat în familia extinsă, 7 au fost plasați împreună cu alte familii / persoane și 102 au fost plasați în îngrijire.

În același timp, 6 copii au fost plasați în centre de plasament, 4 copii au fost plasați în centre de primire de urgență, iar 11 copii sunt în alte situații, potrivit ANPDCA, citat de Agerpres.

Aproape 1000 de copii (977 de exacți) au fost abandonați anul trecut în spitalele din România. Mai mult de jumătate dintre aceștia au fost lăsați în maternități. Acest lucru rezultă din datele centralizate de Autoritatea Națională pentru Protecția Drepturilor Copilului și Adopție (ANPDCA).

EPIC; Tackling Child Poverty and Social Exclusion in Romania

EPIC publishes policy memo on using EU funding sources to tackle child poverty

08/05/2018

The European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC) has published a policy memo on the use of EU funding mechanisms to tackle child poverty and social exclusion in the EU. This memo is the first in a series of short policy memos aimed at policymakers, researchers and practitioners and focusing on topics relevant to child welfare.

Making use of structural funds and other funding sources to support investment in children

This EPIC policy memo, Tackling child poverty and social exclusion in the EU: How EU funding mechanisms can help, provides an overview of the various funding mechanisms available at EU level and how they can be used by Member States and NGOs to fund initiatives to help all children reach their potential.

Child poverty still remains a challenge across many EU countries. The latest Eurostat figures show that 26.4% of children in the EU were at risk of or experiencing poverty or social exclusion, ranging from 13.8% of young people aged 17 years or younger in Denmark, to 49.2 % of the same age group in Romania.

The European Commission Recommendation of February 2013 on ‘Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’ sets out expectations for the provision of services to children and recommends that Member States ‘mobilise relevant EU financial instruments’ in order to maximise available funding for child-centred initiatives.

Nonetheless, in 2015 the European Parliament noted that ‘the majority of Member States so far have given little attention to using EU structural funds to fight the alarming and still growing rates of poverty among children in the EU and promote their social inclusion and general well-being’, and recommended greater emphasis on the use of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to support implementation of the Recommendation.

In addition to providing an overview of the main funding sources, the memo also provides examples of the use of funding streams in different Member States and links to the managing authorities for Member States.

EPIC supports Member States to invest in children

EPIC also provides a wide range of content focused on tackling childhood disadvantage, including a collection of Evidence-Based Practices from across Member States.

EPIC’s Country Profiles, available in English, French and German, also provide an overview of measures taken in each Member State to support investment in children, including key data on childhood poverty and disadvantage and innovative policy initiatives.

Future policy memos in this series will cover the provision of education for migrant and refugee children in Europe, and the current provision of paternal and parental leave in EU Member State

The Journey Home Made Me Complete; John Gauthier

 

A Milwaukee-area man who was adopted from an orphanage in Romania when he was 5 years old found some answers this summer in a journey that, for him, proved you can go home again.

http://www.wisn.com/article/the-journey-home-made-me-complete-says-wisconsin-man-adopted-from-romania/12449085

John Gauthier, 32, grew up outside Milwaukee, but he always wondered about his birth family and the life he missed.

When he left for Romania in July, he went back to the land where he was born.

“I’ve been waiting for so long I just couldn’t wait any longer,” John Gauthier said.

Like thousands of other Romanian children, John Gauthier spent time in an orphanage. He was saved when a couple from the town of Lisbon saw their plight televised on 20/20.

They traveled to Romania in 1991 to adopt John and another boy and brought them to Wisconsin.

But John was always curious about home.

“It was something I knew was going to come along with time,” John’s father, David Gauthier, said.

Sensing his son’s curiosity, two years ago, David Gauthier gave John a letter.

“I open it, and it’s all in Romanian. I don’t know what it says. I remember that night I translated just the first sentence on the top of the letter and it said, ‘My dear son,'” John Gauthier said.

The letter said: “My dear son, when you read these lines that I am writing you right now, you will be an adult and maybe you are going to ask yourself, who are you? Where do you come from? Please do not judge me because I let you go. I just wanted you to have a better life than mine.”

The letter let John know who his mother was. With her name, through Facebook, he quickly discovered he had siblings in Romania.

“I just needed to go over there and see them,” John Gauthier said.

So this summer, he did.

He met his older brother, and for the first time, two younger sisters.

“They changed me in just seeing the beauty in everyone, just even more than what I saw before,” John Gauthier said.

He set foot in the village where he was born, Ramnicu Valcea, and met extended family he didn’t know he had.

“I thought about how much I could’ve experienced with my siblings, but I’ll take what I can get now. I’m just thankful for that,” he said.

Before he left, he went with his siblings to their mother’s grave. There, he showed them the letter that led him to them.

“The whole trip made me complete. The whole journey made me complete. I felt like I found my voice. I found myself and meeting them changed me forever,” John Gauthier said.

He hopes to travel to Romania again, and his father, David Gauthier, plans to take his other son, David, to Romania soon, so he can have the same kind of experience and discover his roots.

Shame of a Nation

Shame of a Nation

Izidor Ruckel was born in 1980. When he was six months old, he became ill and his parents took him to a hospital where he contracted polio from an infected syringe. Later, the hospital doctors encouraged his parents to drop him off at an orphanage. From 1983 until 1991, Izidor lived in the Sighetu Marmatiei orphanage.

No one knows how many children were in Romanian orphanages at end of communism. The number is estimated to have been somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000. What we do know is that child abandonment was actually encouraged by the Romanian government as a means of population growth by discarding children who could not be productive workers for the state.

Sighetu Marmatiei is located in Sighet, a small city in northern Romania. It is the hometown of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

The Sighetu Marmatiei institution is located on the western edge of town behind a 6-foot wall. The sign above the entry reads “Camin Spital Pentru Minori Deficient,” which translates to the “Hospital Home for Deficient Children.”

In 1990, shortly after communism fell, ABC News’ 20/20 producer Janice Tomlin visited Sighet and produced the awarding series “Shame of a Nation.” Tomlin’s photos and videos brought the world’s attention to Romania’s horrific child welfare practices.

Communist newspaper encourages Mothers to leave their children in State Care

Dan and Marlys Ruckel of San Diego watched the 20/20 broadcast and went to Romania with the intention of adopting a child. On October 29, 1991, Dan and Marlys adopted Izidor. He was one of many Sighet orphans to make San Diego their new home.

In 2016, Izidor moved back to Romania, where he has committed his life to children without families and finding the means to support the 60,000 orphans of his generation who were never adopted.

Izidor meets his new mother
1990 – Izidor behind orphanage bars
Izidor’s family
I recently met Izidor at the Cluj train station to talk about his life, why he moved back to Romania, and the current state of child welfare.

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND

From 3 until 11, I was in a hospital for children, not an orphanage. But back then, and still today, there is no difference between how a kid is treated in a children’s hospital or a state orphanage. They are both institutions.

Two years after arriving in the US, I started to miss the institution in Sighet. Nobody in the US had the answers that I was looking for, and I took out my anger on the people that loved me most, my adopted family. I was a child from hell.

Then a Romanian family came to San Diego for Easter and I heard about Christ. I wrote down tons of questions and began to find the answers I was searching for. People ask me how I overcame this. It isn’t because of my parents or anything I did, it was because I allowed Christ to tell me who I really was.

As my anger subsided and family life improved, I was asked to write a book to help families who adopt abandoned children. The book, Abandoned for Life, was published in 2003 and sold over 30,000 copies.

Izidor in the US with his father

For 17 years, since 2001, my primary life goal has been to tell people what happened in my institution and make sure it stops happening to other children in Romania. I have spoken hundreds of times, including on the BBC, in the Washington Post and recently in an interview with Morgan Freeman that will be aired this October in 176 countries on National Geographic.

DESCRIBE LIFE IN THE ORPHANAGE

We woke up at 5, stripped naked, since most kids wet themselves in bed, and went to another room for new clothes while the floor was cleaned. We ate breakfast, washed up and were put into a clean room where we just sat there rocking back and forth, hitting each other, sleeping or watching someone cry until they were drugged. After lunchtime, we went back into the clean room, repeating the same things as the morning. Then we were fed, bathed again, put into clean clothes and into bed for the night.

WHAT DO YOU WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE?

First, that the children suffered more than anyone knows. No reporter can capture the suffering. The abuse was worse than anything reported. If you were handicapped like me, you were hidden and never allowed outside the institution.

Secondly, despite all trauma and emotional wounds, no life is ever lost. If we give these kids, now adults, some opportunity, with love, nourishment and development, they can function in the world and develop independence. I stay in touch with the kids I grew up with and they can be helped. They still have dreams.

WHY DO YOU KEEP RETURNING TO SIGHET ?

There are many reasons. First off, it was my home for 11 years and believe it or not, there are memories I cherish. The few times I was allowed out of the institution, I was in awe of the natural beauty of Sighet. Romania to me was the beautiful land outside the institution, not the evil inside the institution.

I like to visit some of the nurses. I call them my seven angels. Their love and compassion was the only source of hope I had.

There is also a specific memory that reminds me that God was with me even though I did not know who He was. On one of my trips outside the institution, I saw a dead man hanging on a cross. The nurse said it was Jesus Christ, but without any explanation. I actually thought he was some poor guy from Sighet.

I kept feeling sorry for him when I got back to the institution. Now I take a picture of that cross every time I am back in Sighet.

I go back to reconnect with the kids I grew up with. In 2014, four of us went back to the institution. Dolls, furniture and clothes were lying around like it just closed. Crows were everywhere like in a haunted house. But it was remarkable that each of us remembered things that the others had forgotten. It felt really good for us to share our common experience. When I asked them if they missed this place, we all said ‘yes’. It was our only childhood home.

But the biggest reason is to find out what really happened there. Even though the place had been closed for 11 years, it is still filled with records and supplies. When I was seven, a kid named Duma was beaten so badly that I hid under the sheets, fearful that I might be next. In the morning, I saw Duma’s naked bruised body and by lunch he was dead. Last year I found his medical records. His official cause of death was “stopped breathing.”

There was another kid named Marian who was hyperactive and was often given medicine. His father visited him every weekend and I would jealously look out the window as they sat on a bench. In time, Marius stopped eating and lost the will to live. I remember looking out the window on the Sunday when he died in his Dad’s arms. His Dad was crying and praying to heaven.

In 1995, there was a media story that Romanian orphans were given rat poison. Three years ago, a nurse from institution confirmed that Marius and many other kids were given rat poison.

Many former orphans are returning to Romania for answers. For me, it is all about forgiveness and making sure Romania stops sweeping the child welfare issue under the carpet. Children’s rights and interests are still being ignored.

From left to right: historian Mia Jinga, Izidor Ruckel and the director of IICCMER, Radu Preda. Photo: Lucian Muntean

On June 1, 2017, the state-funded Investigation of Communist Crimes (ICCMER) submitted a criminal complaint to the Ministry of Justice for the deaths of 771 children in the Sighetu Marmatei, Cighid and Pastraveni orphanages between 1966 and 1990. Investigators say this is just the tip of the iceberg for a much wider investigation that is needed into Romania’s 26 orphanages.

ICCMER investigators and archivists say official records list pneumonia and brain disease as the main causes of deaths, but witnesses say the causes were exposure to the cold, poor hygiene, starvation, lack of healthcare, rat poison, and violent physical abuse.

Investigators say Communist records classified children into 3 categories: reversible, partially reversible and non- reversible. Children in the latter two categories were thrown into centers to die.

Radu Preda, director of ICCMER says “My plea as a father is to ensure that these things never happen again. Let us do something on the media level and at the institutional level in order to ensure that no child in this country who has a handicap, or illness, or has been abandoned will ever be slapped, starved, tied down or left to die in their own feces.

We need to acknowledge the utterly uncivilized society of our communist past and rid all traces of this sickness from our child protection system.”

TELL ME ABOUT THE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION YOU ARE A PART OF?

I agreed to help bring attention to a criminal investigation led by the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes (ICCMER). This investigation focuses on the deaths of children in Sighet Marmatiei and two other institutions.

I asked the investigators if they were going after nurses and they said “No, only the people who dispensed medicine and managed the facilities.” Once I knew that, it was okay with me.

But I am less interested in putting people in jail than I am interested in getting financial resources from the State to support the 60,000 orphans of my generation that were never adopted. Most of them have no means to support themselves as adults and are homeless. My hope is that this investigation will lead to a much larger class action suit on behalf of these 60,000 citizens. There needs to be a cost for gross neglect or things will not change.

TELL ME ABOUT HOW THE ROMANIAN MEDIA COVERS CHILD ABUSE AND WELFARE

I could not believe all the Romanian media at the June 1st press conference announcing the criminal investigation. This was history! Romanians finally fighting for something that we failed to do all these years. I always challenge the Romanian media since all of the stories on orphans and child abuse come from international news organizations. Even today, all the footage of child neglect comes from international organizations.

For years people were embarrassed and scared about this issue. But now it seems young people are waking up to the fact that this is still going on.

IS THERE STILL ABUSE IN ROMANIA INSTITUTIONS

Yes there is. I do not know from firsthand experience, but I have heard so from people I know and trust. I am trying to get access to more institutions to help kids and social workers. I am not living in Romania to embarrass or destroy people. But the government officials in Parliament seem to have no clue what is really happening in their institutions.

DO YOU THINK ROMANIA SHOULD OPEN INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION?

I am fighting for international adoption for children with special needs or those that have no chance of being adopted in Romania. Most of the people in the government reject this idea on the basis that children will be damaged by losing their culture and identity if they get adopted outside of Romania.

That’s a horrible excuse. From the moment these children enter the institution they are stripped of everything. Their dignity, freedom and their brains become mush. Tell me, what culture are they losing by being adopted abroad?

The issue in Romania today is all about money and jobs for political patronage. The State pays institutions, residential homes and foster care a stipend for each child. If the State found adoptive families for 20,000 of the 60,000 children in State custody, they would lose 33% of their funding and the jobs they often give to family and friends.

In my generation, the government wanted to dispose of the children. Today, they want to profit from them.

WHAT BOTHERS YOU THE MOST ABOUT THE CHILDCARE SYSTEM TODAY?

I am actually impressed with how many good social workers want to change the system. I get lots of emails from social workers and was shocked to see how many social workers showed up at the Romania Without Orphans conference last November. It is a great joy to see all of the Romanian families that have adopted and want to adopt.

We all know that institutions are not the answer. But I am not in favor of just shutting down the institutions. Simply putting kids on the streets is even worse. At least institutions provide a bed, food, clothing and shelter. Our train stations are filled with homeless.

The biggest problem we have today is that the workers who worked in the institutions in the 1980’s through the mid-1990’s still work in the system. You can’t expect change by renovating buildings when you have the same people and same culture.

I visited 6 orphanages 2 years ago. Most of the kids saw my story on television and were comfortable talking to me. I asked each child, “Do you like living here?” They said “See that lady over there? She still beats us.” I asked “how long she has been working here?” They said “from day one, since this place opened.”

It is constantly the same response. And I thought “Wow, there is the problem.” These people need to be replaced.

I want to work with the system. I want to stay in Romania. I can see that people are really looking for answers. I am getting a powerful response when I speak to the new generation of Romanians. I believe the time is right to confront our past and create a system that works in the interests of children.

AUTHOR’S CONCLUSION

I was moved by Izidor. He travels around Romania on filthy trains. He carries his suitcase without complaint, despite a partially paralyzed leg. He does not have much money and is not motivated by fame or public attention. What he has is a passion and purpose.

Romania in 2017 reminds me of growing up in Germany in the 1970’s. I remember talking to my German teenage friends about Nazism and the Holocaust. They had no answers, no ability to comprehend the horror, just a deep passion to fight any legacy of Nazism. I feel the same sentiment among young Romanians today as they feel deep anger towards any abuse or injustice towards children.

It is cliché to say that our future is in our children. But in Romania the numbers speak for themselves.

Every decision made in our homes, communities and government, needs to be made in the context of “Is this a good place to raise healthy children and are we doing our best to find every child a loving family?”

 Izidor is in desperate need of a new leg-brace for his polio damaged leg. Please see the link and share or donate if you can.
Thank you for your support

The Romanian Federation of Non-governmental Organisations; 51% of Romania’s Children Lives in Poverty

Romania: Children’s Ombudsman institution must be established

Photography: Silviu Ghetie

Source: The Romanian Federation of Non-governmental Organizations (FONPC)

The Romanian Federation of Non-governmental Organizations writes an open letter to draw attention to the importance of the Children’s Ombudsman in Romania, an institution that would guarantee effective protection for the rights of the child.

Dear Mr. President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis,

Dear Mr. President of the Senate, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu,

Dear Mr. President of the Juristic Commission on appointmens, discipline, immunity and validations from the Senate of Romania, Cătălin Boboc

Dear Mrs. President of the Commission for human rights and minorities,

The number of children in Romania is drastically decreasing: on the 1st of January, 2016, the number of children was 3976,5, 23,4 thousand lower compared to the previous year. Amongst these children 51% live in poverty and only one in 3 disadvantaged children finish middle school, 57.279 children in the social protection system, over 44 thousand of primary school age and over 48 thousand children or middle school are found outside the education system, over 2.700 children with severe disabilities aged between 7 and 10 do not go to school, 2 children on average are victims of some form of abuse every hour by over 20.000 children, amongst who 15.000 have been condemned.

The Federation of Child Protection NGOs FONPC, a common voice of 87 active organisations in the domain of welfare and protection of children draws attention to the importance of the Children’s Ombudsman in Romania as an institution that would guarantee effective protection for the rights of the child.

The UN Convention for the Rights of the Child, an international convention signed and ratified by Romania back in 1990 which set the foundation for the country’s child protection reform starting in 1997 mentions in its Article 3, Al. 1: “The interests of the child will prevail in all actions that affect children, undertaken by the public or private social work institutions, by the judiciary bodies, administrative authorities or legislative organs”. Given the fact that we are referring to the future of our country and the rights of a vulnerable category of individuals, the rights of children must be prioritized in Romania.

In this context, we ask you to support the establishment of a Children’s Ombudsman institution in Romania, guaranteeing verification and monitoring mechanisms for the implementation of the UNCRC requirements regarding the rights of the child and that would protect the superior interest of the child, even from state abuse at times.

The legislative proposal to establish the Children’s Ombudsman institution as an autonomous public authority, independent from any other public authority, which governs the respect for children’s rights as defined in the Romanian Constitution, the UNCRC and other legal provisions, can be found in Romania’s Senate.

According to ENOC standards, the Children’s Ombudsman institution has attributions and missions that exceed the sphere of competence of the current People’s Ombudsman, which is why  Romania lacks other adequate structures that fully correspond to the function of monitoring the rights and protection of children against violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation, as well as against social exclusion and discrimination.

In support for this proceeding for the establishment of a Romanian Children’s Ombudsman we recall the recommendations of the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child addressed to Romania back in 2009, from which we quote the following:

13. […] The Committee expresses its concern regarding the fact that the People’s Lawyer does not meet the criteria established in the Paris Principles and notes that the existence of this institution is not very well known. Consequently, this receives a reduced number of complaints with regards to children, a number that has been declining compared to the total number of complaints made. The Committee notes with concern that the Parliament’s rejection of a normative act project through which the desire to establish the Children’s Lawyer institution was expressed.”

14. The Committee recommends that, keeping its general commentary nr.2 (2002) with regards to the role of independent national institutions for the protection of human rights from the domain of promoting and protecting children’s rights, but also its previous recommendations, the state party ought to revise the statute and efficiency of the People’s Lawyer institution in the domain of the promotion and protection of children’s rights, equally taking into consideration  the criteria retrieved in the Paris Principles. This body has to benefit from all human and financial resources necessary for fulfilling its mandate in an effective and significant manner, especially in terms of capacity to receive and examine complaints from/on behalf of children related to the violation of their rights.

The Committee recommends that, in accordance with the previous recommendations, the state party continues to invest effort into the creation of an independent Children’s Lawyer institution”.

In the report finalized following Romania’s visit back in 2015, UN Rapporteur Philip Alston claimed that there is a need for a Children’s Commissary-type institution, a body that would have a clear mandate and the power to protect the rights of children, whilst also benefiting from adequate resources to promote and protect the rights of the child, as well as independence. At the European level the Child’s Ombudsman or the Commissioner for the Rights of the Child are identical institutions, with names varying from country to country.

The Federation of Non-governmental Child Organizations has been advocating for the establishment of the Children’s Ombudsman institution in Romania for more than 10 years.

We strongly believe that you will support the Children’s Ombudsman and the creation of an independent mechanism for the monitoring of child’s rights which will guarantee respect for all children’s rights and will protect them from abuse of all kinds.

With kindest regards,

Bogdan Simion

FONPC President

Daniela Gheorghe

FONPC Executive Director

Romania Reborn; Hands of Hope

Romania Reborn’s Director, Corina Caba, with a young man adopted through the Romania Reborn Ministry years ago.

She  grew up during the darkest days of Communism, the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher. She remembers being mocked for her faith every day at school. She remembers peeking under her bedroom door at night, watching the boots of the soldiers who had come to take her father away for interrogation. She remembers what it was like when Communism finally fell, and she learned that the government had hidden hundreds of thousands of children away in terrible orphanages. And that was when Corina Caba knew what God wanted her to do with her life.

She founded her orphanage in a tiny apartment in 1996, taking abandoned babies from the hospital and caring for them until she could find adoptive families. Gradually, she added to her staff, paying their salaries however she could. After Romania Reborn was founded to support the work, she built a bigger facility, hired more workers, and took in more babies. As the years passed, Romania’s laws and child welfare system evolved, but God always made a way for Corina to help abandoned children.

 

Today, Corina is the adoptive mother of four children and a mother figure to hundreds more, whose lives she has forever changed. She is also an emerging national leader in the field of orphan care, traveling to speak at conferences, helping advise the government on policy, and (reluctantly) speaking to national media. And she’s still fighting for individual children every day. “When the pain is too much, God taught me to trust in Him,” she says. “One day, He will restore all that seems lost, redeem all that seems hopeless, repair all that seems destroyed. Our God owns the last reply!”

Give the Gift of Commitment

Your gift will help our committed staff keep passionately fighting for the children in our care, advocating for better government practices, and using our ministry headquarters as a training and counseling center for families. You can give toward the following staff and ministry needs:

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$250: ONE MONTH OF ELECTRIC EXPENSES (FOR HEADQUARTERS)

$600: ONE MONTH SALARY FOR A SOCIAL WORKER