Newly updated for 2020, This revised and updated book documents Adele’s experiences with her daughter since the book was first published in 2013, and Adele’s ongoing involvement in highlighting the plight of Orphans in Romania.
Photo of an abandoned child in a cot in the Institute for the Unsalvageables located in Sighetu Marmatiei, a town in Transylvania at Romania’s Northern border with Ukraine. 1992. Copyright, Thomas B. Szalay photography.
On the first of October, 1966, Nicolae Ceausescu enacted Decree 770, which caused untold suffering for the women and children of Romania.
Decree 770 declared abortion and contraception illegal, except for women over forty-five, women who had already borne four children ( later raised to five), women whose lives would be in danger if their pregnancy were to go full-term, and women who had conceived through rape or incest.
In 1966, the population of Romania was approximately nineteen million. With decree 770, Ceausescu’s aim was to increase the population to thirty million by the year 2,000, in the belief that population growth would lead to economic growth. By 1976, the population had increased to approximately twenty-one million. An increase of about two million or twelve percent.
Women of child-bearing age were subjected to monthly gynaecological examinations to monitor a pregnancy or ensure that an illegal abortion was not carried out.
There was a monthly tax on childless people twenty-five years and over, married or not.
Any doctor convicted of performing an illegal abortion faced a jail term of between ten to twenty years. Despite this, illegal backyard abortions took place, sometimes resulting in sterility, infections and even death.
During these dark days of Communism, thousands of babies were abandoned by their impoverished parents into State-run institutions. After Ceausescu and his wife, Elena were executed by firing squad on Christmas Day, 1989, journalists from around the world descended on Romania and discovered the horror of these institutions. Approximately one-hundred thousand children had been abandoned in these institutions, where children were malnourished, neglected and physically and sexually abused.
Children born during this time were called ”Decretei”, children of the Decree. Decretei comes from the Romanian word ”Decree” meaning ”Decree”.
Empty shop shelves and queues for food were common during Communist era Romania. Lack of food meant malnourished mothers gave birth to premature and underweight babies. Hospitals fed these babies intravenously with unscreened blood. Hypodermic needles were in short supply and used over and over again without proper sterilisation. As a result of which more than ten thousand babies were infected with H.I.V causing an epidemic of A.I.D.S.
Once a baby or child had been abandoned into a hospital or institution, it was uncommon for biological parents to visit on a regular basis or to take their child back home.
This memoir, by photojournalist, Thomas B. Szalay, reflects on his journey into the lives of Izidor Ruckel and other abandoned Romanian children.
”Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young-
a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Teo Chariessa, Conop, Romania wrote;
”A very powerful book, meaningful, speaking straight to the soul, heart-touching. Vivid descriptions bring the reader at the core of events and situations. A lot of suffering that generated so much ambition, determination, so much courage in a person weakened and vulnerable due to so many trials and tribulations. Love and self-sacrifice coming from a broken heart. A wounded soul has so much power and nothing can stop it when it’s started on it’s way. A huge ambition compensates all the frustrations and by saving another soul, you have saved yourself. A very good book, a thrilling read, a wonderful writer.
“You wake up one morning to the sound of history knocking loudly, impatiently, persistently at your door.
To answer it is to take a leap of faith into your future.” Adele Rickerby
Jonquil Graham wrote: “A must read book for those of us who adopted from Romania, or anywhere. It’s about a mother’s perseverance and how she found conditions and the baby she adopted. It’s about hope and what happened in Romania post-Ceausescu. It is haunting and if you were in the same position, would you be brave enough to just go with your gut and do what is right for the sake of a child? ”
Costin Hewitt, a Romanian Adoptee, wrote; “This is an amazing book. Thank you so much.”
Tony Tingle, Editor, Memoirs Publishing in the U.K wrote: “The Promise I Kept is a powerfully and vividly written story.”
Colby Pearce, Principal Clinical Psychologist at Secure Start and author wrote:
I recently finished, The Promise I Kept, Adele Rickerby’s memoir about the personal journey that led her to adopting a child from a Romanian orphanage in the aftermath of the downfall of the Ceausescu regime. It is a well-crafted story that is accessible to most readers and can be read cover to cover in two-three hours. People will take out of the story different things, depending on their own life journey and interests. I found the insight into the inner world of the mother and evocative descriptions of the characters and places she experienced along the way most satisfying. I am happy to recommend it to the many who are fascinated by personal memoirs and accounts concerning adoption.
Sandra Flett wrote: “I love memoirs, especially of ordinary women doing remarkable things to help others in desperate situations and this book was right down my alley. Growing up as a child and teenager in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I would hear bits and pieces about the ” Romanian Orphans”. And so to read a true story about a woman who rescues a little baby Romanian girl captivated me. I only wish it was much longer. I read it in about 2.5 hours one summer afternoon and was sad that I didn’t know the rest of the story. More please Adele Rickerby!”
|1.||Kelly Proctor reviewed The Promise I Kept: A mother’s journey to save a child from the poverty and squalor of post-Cold… A Burning Desire June 1, 2014Adele Rickerby’s, The Promise I Kept, is a superb story of what the can be accomplished when one sets a goal and has the burning desire to carry one through the innumerable obstacles. Due to certain health issues, she is not able again to conceive another child. But her desire to be mother again does not die and she decides to pursue the adoption process.|
Adele’s story of wanting to be mother again, despite all the immediate roadblocks that were presented to her in Australia, should had been enough to discouraged anybody from trying, but the burning desire inside her, carried her far away from the borders of this country to a land that just having been freed of a despotic ruler and was trying to find itself. Among all this chaos Adele is there, going through every and other hurdle that comes along in this journey, from mindless and corrupt bureaucracies, inhumane proposals, and much more, she is finally able to come back home with her new daughter.
This is just another great example of what the mind can conceive, it can achieve.View on Amazon.com Add a comment View this book’s reviews on Amazon.com
|2.||Kaiden reviewed The Promise I Kept Good story! January 5, 2014An interesting story about a courageous women who singlehandedly travel on the other side of the world and struggle through a bureaucratic maze to finally achieve her dream to adopt a child. A must read for anybody who contemplate adopting a child oversea!View on Amazon.com Add a comment View this book’s reviews on Amazon.com|
|3.||mark johnston reviewed The Promise I Kept You read this from cover to cover November 27, 2013A very interesting wee read about a young woman on a mission to the eastern block, to adopt a child. If we cast our mind back to that era it was certainly was a troubled time both politically and socially in the ‘block’. Between being thrown off trains because of her New Zealand citizenship, and not able to speak the language, she faced and conquered many problems and challenges with patience and doggedness . The corrupt ‘officialdoms’ backstreets and dangers are compensated by the sheer generosity of strangers. All these faced by a smallish woman with the burning desire for another child, despite a failing marriage at home. A very compelling read.Mark Johnston.|
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.
”Courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.”
They were the pictures that, for many across the world, were the defining image of the aftermath of Romania’s 1989 revolution: emaciated children clothed in rags, looking into the camera with desperate eyes amid the squalid decay of the country’s orphanages.
Christmas Day will mark 30 years since Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania’s megalomaniac, isolationist dictator, was convicted in an impromptu trial and shot dead together with his wife. His execution ended more than two decades of rule that brought poverty and misery to the majority of the country’s population.
In the three decades since his fall, only a handful of people have faced legal punishment for their roles in Ceaușescu’s repressive regime, and there have been no criminal cases over the tens of thousands of children mistreated by the regime’s inhumane network of juvenile internment institutions.
The country’s orphanages began to fill up from the late 1960’s when the State decided to battle a demographic crisis by banning abortion and removing contraception from sale.
Many of the children in the orphanages were abandoned by parents too poor to look after them.
The most horrific abuses took place in orphanages for disabled children, who were taken away from their families and institutionalised. At the age of three, disabled children would be sorted into three categories; curable, partially curable and incurable. Across the country, there were twenty-six institutions for category three disabled children. Investigators from the Institute picked three to investigate and found shocking mortality levels amongst the children. Seventy percent of the registered deaths were from pneumonia. There is testimony of children suffering from frostbite, of children literally being eaten by rats, being kept in cages or being smeared in their own faeces.
The list of those being prosecuted for the deaths is classified.
Siret is a town situated in Suceava County, North-Eastern Romania, only two kilometres from the border with Ukraine. 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)
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%
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.