Girls eating lunch at a Romanian Orphanage. Photo courtesy of Tom Szalay.
Girls eating lunch at a Romanian Orphanage. Photo courtesy of Tom Szalay.
@TheEconomist has visited @HopeandHomes projects in Romania to create a film examining how we’re finding families for the 7,000 children who remain in ‘Romania’s Last Orphanages’ https://buff.ly/2nn16YQ #FamiliesNotOrphanages
Available here. ‘The End of Orphanages?’ focuses on the transformation that’s taken place in Romania’s child protection system in recent decades.
Viewers are reminded of the horror of the Ceausescu-era orphanages that were discovered after the fall of the dictator in 1989 and goes on to explain how the majority of the county’s orphanages have now been closed by ensuring that children can grow up in family-based care instead.
Hope and Homes for Children has played a fundamental part in driving the process of child protection reform in Romania over the last 20 years. When we began work there in 1998, over 100,000 children were confined to institutions. Today that figure has fallen by more than 90% to less than 7,200.
The Economist film tells the story of Claudia, a woman in her late 30s who was born with one arm and abandoned to the orphanage system as a baby. She shares painful memories of the abuse and neglect she suffered as a child. She struggles to remain composed as she describes one incident where she was stripped and beaten with a rope as a punishment for playing in the wrong place.
“Effectively we belonged to no one. You were basically treated like an animal” she says.
Today Claudia works in the Ion Holban institution in Iasi County – one of the remaining orphanages that Hope and Homes for Children is working to close in Romania. The film shows some of the children who have already been supported to leave the institution and join families.
The Manole sisters spent five years in Ion Holban after their remaining parent died. Our team gave their extended family the extra support they needed to make it possible for all four girls to leave the orphanage and begin a new life together with their Aunt and Uncle.
Stefan Darabus, our Regional Director for Central and Southern Europe, contributes to the new film, explaining “Any institution like Ion Holban should be closed. They do not offer family love. They do not offer what a child needs most which is to belong to a family, to have a mother and a father, to feel special.”
The film gives a balanced view of the process of deinstitutionalisation, pointing out the risks to children if the process is not properly supported but gives the last word on the future of the children in the Ion Holban to Claudia. “What they need is such a simple thing,” she says. “Parental love in the bosom of the family, rather than in the bosom of the State. But mainly they need to be accepted.”
MILWAUKEE —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.
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.
Izidor Ruckel sa născut în 1980. La vârsta de șase luni, el a devenit bolnav și părinții lui l-au dus la un spital, unde a contractat poliomielita de la o seringă infectată. Ulterior, medicii spitalului a încurajat părinții lui să-l las la un orfelinat. Din 1983 până în 1991, Izidor a trăit în orfelinat Sighetu Marmației.
Nimeni nu știe cum au fost mulți copii în orfelinate din România la sfârșitul comunismului. Numărul este estimat a fi fost undeva între 100.000 și 200.000. Ceea ce știm este că abandonul copiilor a fost de fapt încurajat de guvernul român ca un mijloc de creștere a populației prin aruncarea înapoi în mare de copii care nu au putut fi muncitori productivi pentru stat.
Sighetu Marmatiei este situat la Sighet, un oraș mic din nordul România. Este orașul natal al supraviețuitor al Holocaustului și laureat al Premiului Nobel, Elie Wiesel.
Instituția Sighetu Marmației este situat la marginea de vest a orașului în spatele unui perete de 6 picioare. Semnul de mai sus mențiunea citește „Pentru Minori Camin Spital deficienti“, care se traduce la „domiciliu spital pentru copii deficient.“
În 1990, la scurt timp după căderea comunismului, ABC News’ 20/20 producatorul Janice Tomlin a vizitat Sighet si a produs seria de atribuire «Rușine unei națiuni.» Fotografii și clipuri video Tomlin a adus atenția lumii practicilor de protecție a copilului oribile din România.
Dan și Marlys Ruckel din San Diego urmărit 20/20 difuzat și a mers în România cu intenția de a adopta un copil. La 29 octombrie 1991, Dan și Marlys adoptat Izidor. El a fost unul dintre mulți orfani de la Sighet pentru a face din San Diego, noua lor casă.
În 2016, Izidor sa mutat înapoi în România, unde și-a dedicat viața copiilor fără familii și găsească mijloacele pentru a sprijini 60.000 de orfani ai generației sale, care nu au fost niciodată adoptate.
De la 3 până la 11, am fost într-un spital pentru copii, nu un orfelinat. Dar atunci, și încă astăzi, nu există nici o diferență între modul în care un copil este tratat într-un spital de copii sau un orfelinat de stat. Acestea sunt cele două instituții.
La doi ani după sosirea în SUA, am început să dor de instituția de la Sighet. Nimeni din Statele Unite au avut răspunsurile pe care le căutam, și am scos furia mea pe cei care ma iubit cel mai mult, familia mea a adoptat. Am fost un copil din iad.
Apoi, o familie românească a venit la San Diego, pentru Paște și am auzit despre Hristos. Am scris tone de întrebări și a început să găsească răspunsurile pe care le căutam. Oamenii mă întreabă cum am depășit acest lucru. Nu este din cauza părinților mei sau orice am făcut, a fost pentru că am lăsat pe Hristos să-mi spună cine sunt cu adevărat.
După cum furia mea potolit și viața de familie îmbunătățit, am fost rugat să scrie o carte pentru a ajuta familiile care adoptă copii abandonați. Cartea, a abandonat pentru viață, a fost publicată în 2003 și a vândut peste 30.000 de exemplare.
Timp de 17 ani, din 2001, scopul meu de viață principal a fost de a spune oamenilor ce sa întâmplat în instituția mea și asigurați-vă că nu mai întâmplă cu alți copii din România. Am vorbit de sute de ori, inclusiv la BBC, în Washington Post și recent într-un interviu cu Morgan Freeman, care va fi difuzat în luna octombrie, în 176 de țări de pe National Geographic.
Am trezit la 5, dezbrăcat, din moment ce majoritatea copiilor se ude în pat, și sa dus la o altă cameră pentru haine noi, în timp ce podeaua a fost curățat. Am mâncat micul dejun, se spală și au fost puse într-o cameră curată în cazul în care ne-am așezat acolo balansoar înainte și înapoi, lovind unul pe altul, de dormit sau vizionarea cineva plânge până când au fost drogați. După prânz, ne-am dus înapoi în camera curată, repetând aceleași lucruri ca și dimineața. Apoi, am fost hrăniți, scăldate din nou, pus în haine curate și în pat pentru noapte.
În primul rând, faptul că copiii au suferit mai mult decât știe nimeni. Nici reporter poate captura suferința. Abuzul a fost mai rău decât orice raportat. Dacă ai fi handicapat ca mine, ai fost ascuns și nu a permis în afara instituției.
În al doilea rând, în ciuda tuturor Rănile traumatice și emoționale, nu se pierde viața vreodată. Dacă vom da acesti copii, acum adulți, unele oportunitate, cu dragoste, alimentație și dezvoltare, acestea pot funcționa în lume și să dezvolte independența. Am rămâne în contact cu copiii cu care am crescut și ele pot fi ajutat. Ei încă mai au vise.
Sunt multe motive. În primul rând, a fost casa mea timp de 11 ani și crezi sau nu, există amintiri Prețuiesc. De câteva ori am fost scoasă în afara instituției, am fost în venerație de frumusețea naturală a Sighet. România mi-a fost frumosul ținut în afara instituției, nu răul din interiorul instituției.
Îmi place să viziteze unele dintre asistente medicale. Eu le numesc celor șapte îngeri. iubirea și compasiunea lor a fost singura sursă de speranță am avut.
Există, de asemenea, o memorie specifică, care îmi amintește că Dumnezeu a fost cu mine, chiar dacă nu știam cine era El. Într-una din călătoriile mele în afara instituției, am văzut un om mort agățat pe o cruce. Asistenta a spus că a fost Isus Hristos, dar fără nici o explicație. de fapt, am crezut că era un tip sărac de la Sighet.
Am păstrat simt rău pentru el, când m-am întors instituției. Acum, eu iau o imagine de cruce de fiecare dată când m-am întors la Sighet.
Mă duc înapoi să se reconecteze cu copiii cu care am crescut. În 2014, patru dintre noi a revenit instituției. Păpuși, mobilier și haine au fost culcat în jurul ca doar închis. Crows erau peste tot ca într-o casă bântuită. Dar a fost remarcabil faptul că fiecare dintre noi a amintit lucruri pe care ceilalți au uitat. M-am simțit foarte bine pentru a ne împărtăși experiența noastră comună. Când le-am întrebat dacă au ratat acest loc, noi toți au spus „da“. A fost singura noastră acasă din copilărie.
Dar cel mai important motiv este de a afla ce sa întâmplat cu adevărat acolo. Chiar dacă locul a fost închis timp de 11 ani, este încă plină de înregistrări și provizii. Când aveam șapte ani, un copil pe nume Duma a fost bătut atât de tare încât m-am ascuns sub foi, temându-se că s-ar putea fi următoarea. Dimineața, am văzut trupul învinețită gol Duma și masa de prânz el era mort. Anul trecut am găsit dosarul lui medical. Cauza oficială a morții a fost „incetat sa mai respire.“
Nu a fost un alt copil pe nume Marian, care a fost hiperactiv si a fost dat de multe ori medicament. Tatăl său l-au vizitat în fiecare week-end și mi-ar uita cu gelozie pe fereastră așa cum au așezat pe o bancă. În timp, Marius încetat să mai mănânce și a pierdut voința de a trăi. Îmi amintesc în căutarea pe fereastră pe duminică, când a murit în brațele tatălui său. Tata lui plângea și se ruga la cer.
În 1995, a existat o poveste media care orfanii români s-au dat otravă de șobolani. Acum trei ani, o asistentă medicală de la instituția a confirmat că Marius și mulți alți copii s-au dat otravă de șobolani.
Mulți foști orfani se întorc în România pentru răspunsuri. Pentru mine, este totul despre iertare și asigurându-vă că România nu mai măturat problema bunăstării copilului sub covor. drepturile și interesele copiilor sunt încă ignorate.
Pe 1 iunie, 2017, cercetarea finanțată de stat a Crimelor Comunismului (ICCMER) a depus o plângere penală la Ministerul Justiției pentru moartea a 771 copii din Sighetu Marmatei, Cighid și orfelinate Pastraveni între 1966 și 1990. Anchetatorii spun acest lucru este doar vârful aisbergului pentru o investigație mult mai amplă care este nevoie în 26 de orfelinate din România.
anchetatorii ICCMER și arhiviștii spun lista de înregistrări oficiale, pneumonie și boli cerebrale ca principalele cauze ale deceselor, dar martorii spun cauzele au fost expunerea la frig igiena, săraci, foametea, lipsa de asistență medicală, otravă de șobolani, și abuzul fizic violent.
Anchetatorii spun înregistrările comuniste clasificate copii în 3 categorii: reversibile, parțial reversibile și non-reversibile. Copiii din ultimele două categorii au fost aruncate în centre de a muri.
Radu Preda, director al ICCMER spune „Îndemnul meu ca tată este să se asigure că aceste lucruri nu se întâmplă din nou. Să facem ceva la nivel de mass-media și la nivel instituțional pentru a se asigura că nici un copil în această țară, care are un handicap, sau de boală, sau a fost abandonată va fi vreodată palmuit, au murit de foame, legat sau lăsat să moară în lor fecale proprii.
Trebuie să recunoaștem societatea cu totul necivilizat din trecutul nostru comunist și scăpa toate urmele de această boală din sistemul nostru de protecție a copilului.“
Am fost de acord pentru a ajuta atrage atenția asupra unei anchete penale conduse de Institutul de Investigare a Crimelor Comunismului (ICCMER). Această investigație se concentrează asupra decesele copiilor de la Sighet Marmației și a două instituții.
Am întrebat anchetatorii, dacă acestea mergeau după asistente medicale și au spus: „Nu, doar persoanele care inlaturata medicină și gestionate facilitățile.“ Odată ce am știut că, era în regulă cu mine.
Dar sunt mai puțin interesat în a pune oamenii în închisoare decât Sunt interesat în obținerea de resurse financiare din partea statului pentru a sprijini 60.000 de orfani din generația mea, care nu au fost niciodată adoptate. Cele mai multe dintre ele nu au nici un mijloc de a se sprijini ca adulți și sunt fără adăpost. Speranța mea este că această investigație va conduce la un costum de acțiune de clasă mult mai mare, în numele acestor 60.000 de cetățeni. Trebuie să existe un cost pentru neglijență gravă sau de lucruri nu se va schimba.
Nu am putut crede toate mass-media românească la conferința de presă de 1 iunie care anunță urmărirea penală. Acest lucru a fost istorie! Românii în cele din urmă lupta pentru ceva ce nu am reușit să facem toți acești ani. Am provocare întotdeauna mass-media românească, deoarece toate poveștile pe orfani și a abuzului față de copii provin de la organizații internaționale de știri. Chiar și astăzi, toate imaginile de neglijare a copilului vine de la organizațiile internaționale.
De ani de zile oamenii au fost jenat și speriat cu privire la această problemă. Dar acum se pare că tinerii se trezesc la faptul că acest lucru se întâmplă în continuare.
Da este. Nu știu din proprie experiență, dar am auzit atât de la oameni pe care le cunosc și de încredere. Sunt încercarea de a obține acces la mai multe instituții pentru a ajuta copiii și asistenți sociali. Eu nu trăiesc în România, pentru a stânjeni sau distruge oameni. Dar oficialii guvernului în Parlament par să aibă nici o idee despre ceea ce se întâmplă cu adevărat în instituțiile lor.
Lupt pentru adopția internațională a copiilor cu nevoi speciale sau cei care nu au nici o șansă de a fi adoptate în România. Cele mai multe dintre oamenii din guvern resping această idee pe baza faptului că copiii vor fi afectate de pierderea cultura și identitatea lor, în cazul în care se adoptă în afara România.
E o scuză oribilă. Din momentul în care acești copii intră în instituția în care sunt deposedați de tot. demnitatea, libertatea și creierele lor devin terci. Spune-mi, ce cultura sunt ele pierd prin a fi adoptate în străinătate?
Problema în România de astăzi este vorba de bani și locuri de muncă pentru patronajul politic. Statul plătește instituții, case rezidențiale și centre de plasament, o bursa pentru fiecare copil. În cazul în care statul a găsit familii adoptive pentru 20.000 de 60.000 de copii aflați în custodia statului, ei ar pierde 33% din finanțarea lor și locurile de muncă de multe ori da familiei și prietenilor.
În generația mea, guvernul a dorit să dispună de copii. Astăzi, ei vor să profite de pe urma ei.
Sunt de fapt, impresionat de cât de mulți lucrători sociali buni doresc să schimbe sistemul. Am obține o mulțime de e-mailuri de la asistenți sociali și a fost șocat pentru a vedea cât de mulți lucrători sociali au prezentat la România fără Orfanii conferința noiembrie anul trecut. Este o mare bucurie pentru a vedea toate familiile românești care au adoptat și doresc să adopte.
Știm cu toții că instituțiile nu sunt răspunsul. Dar eu nu sunt în favoarea doar închiderea instituțiilor. Pur și simplu pune copiii pe străzi este chiar mai rău. Cel puțin instituții oferă un pat, hrană, îmbrăcăminte și adăpost. Stațiile noastre de tren sunt pline de persoane fără adăpost.
Cea mai mare problemă pe care o avem astăzi este că muncitorii care au lucrat în instituțiile în anii 1980, prin mijlocul anilor 1990, încă mai lucrează în sistem. Nu vă puteți aștepta schimbarea prin renovarea clădirilor atunci când aveți aceleași persoane și aceeași cultură.
Am vizitat 6 orfelinate acum 2 ani. Cele mai multe dintre copii au văzut povestea mea la televizor și au fost confortabil vorbind cu mine. Am întrebat fiecare copil, „Îți place care trăiesc aici?“ Ei au spus „Vezi că doamna de acolo? Ea încă ne bate.“Am întrebat«cât timp ea a lucrat aici?»Ei au spus«din prima zi, din moment ce acest loc a fost deschisă.»
Acesta este în mod constant același răspuns. Și m-am gândit: „Wow, există o problemă.“ Acești oameni trebuie să fie înlocuite.
Vreau să lucrez cu sistemul. Vreau să rămână în România. Pot să văd că oamenii sunt într-adevăr caută răspunsuri. Primesc un răspuns puternic atunci când vorbesc cu noua generație de români. Eu cred că este momentul potrivit să se confrunte cu trecutul nostru și de a crea un sistem care funcționează în interesul copiilor.
Am fost mișcat de Izidor. El călătorește în jurul valorii de România în trenuri murdare. El poartă valiza fără plângere, în ciuda unui picior paralizat parțial. El nu are mulți bani și nu este motivată de faima sau atenția publicului. Ceea ce el are o pasiune și scop.
România în 2017 îmi amintește de creștere în Germania în anii 1970. Îmi amintesc să vorbesc cu prietenii mei germani adolescente despre nazism și Holocaust. Ei au avut nici un răspuns, nici capacitatea de a înțelege groaza, doar o pasiune profundă pentru a lupta orice moștenire a nazismului. Mă simt același sentiment în rândul tinerilor români de azi ca se simt furie profundă față de orice abuz sau nedreptate față de copii.
Este un clișeu să spunem că viitorul nostru este în copiii noștri. Dar, în România cifrele vorbesc de la sine.
Orice decizie luată în casele noastre, comunități și guvern, trebuie să fie făcută în contextul „Este un loc bun pentru a ridica copiii sănătoși și facem tot posibilul pentru a găsi fiecare copil o familie iubitoare?“
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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!”
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:
According to IICCMER for Gândul online daily, a total of 771 children died in there during 1966-1990, most of them due to medical causes that could have been prevented or treated. The IICCMER experts and legists say the cases revealed that children were submitted to inhuman treatments and aggressions. Overall, there were over 10,000 such victims in the communist foster homes.
These children used to be considered irrecoverable from the medical point of view, suffering severe handicaps, but many of them were orphans or abandoned by their parents and reached those centers without having serious diseases, IICCMER says.
One of these children abandoned in the foster home in Sighetu Marmatiei was Izidor Ruckel, now aged 37. He escaped the center after he has been adopted by an American family, right after 1990. He told his tragic story to the IICCMER experts.
“They used to beat me and another boy with a broomstick so badly that I thought I was going to die. They used to sedate us, they kept us isolated,” Izidor recounted, as quoted by Gândul.
Romania’s institutions have a history of neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse which still continues to this day and causes emotional, physical, and mental scars.
Institutionalized care, according to Dr. Victor Groza, the Grace F. Brody Professor of Parent-Child Studies at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, causes problems with developmental, physical, psychological, social and brain health. Dr. Groza stated, “The regimentation and ritualization of institutional life do not provide children with the quality of life, or the experiences they need to be healthy, happy, fully functioning adults.” They are also unable to form strong and lasting relationships with adults, leading to severe problems with socialization, primarily building trust and lasting relationships amongst adults and children alike.
This article, kindly provided by Dr. Victor Groza, is an easy to follow guide to the risks inherent to children institutionalised at an early age. Dr. Groza has been developing social work education and promoting best practices in child welfare and domestic adoptions in Romania, since 1991.
Victor Groza; PhD,LISW-S Grace F. Brody Professor of Parent-Child Studies, Director; Child Welfare Fellows Program Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.http://msass.case.edu/faculty/vgroza/ – Faculty website for further reading.
https://www.facebook.com/adoptionpartners/?fref=ts – Website about Professor Groza’s post-adoption practice.
The 2-hour Revolution in a small Romanian town
The 1989 Revolution that marked the fall of Communism in Romania, seen through the eyes of a couple living in Zalau, the smallest county capital.
On the morning of December 22, 1989, Zalau was covered in silence and in an inappropriate spring. Zalau is a small city in northwestern Romania, where Viorica Mesesan and Ilie Mesesan met, got married, received an apartment from the State, gave birth to a child and then experienced a Revolution.
Ceausescu had held his last speech on December 21, 1989, in front of millions of burning heads, deaf to his words (or maybe for the first time actually listening), and on December 22, at noon, he and his wife climbed in the helicopter and ran away. Viorica and Ilie went to work that day like on any other normal day .
Viorica, 35 back then, was working for the municipality in a building right next to the central square. She and her colleagues were gathered in the main hall that day, in front of a TV, watching mesmerised what was going on there. She remembers Ceausescu’s last speech, promising to raise children’s allowance by 100 lei and Dinescu, announcing that Ceausescu and his wife ran away. Two of her colleagues took Ceausescu’s portrait, threw it on the ground, stamped on it and then ran out of the building to the central square, trying to convince other people to join them. It was the portrait of a person no one had even dared to make a joke about before, which now turned into little glass pieces. Her husband Ilie, 34, remembers too such an image: different portraits of Ceausescu, flying out of the windows and breaking down on the alleys of the factory where he was working.
The morning silence which was covering the city was only a deceiving one. There was a great tension hiding behind that silence which exploded when the announcement was made that Ceausescu ran away. Those in factories stopped their work and formed a march to the center of the city. Around 3,000 women and men, taking advantage of the almost spring-like winter that year, singing and shouting among radio announcements, walked to the central square (in picture). Ilie was among them and he perfectly remembers the enthusiasm he was feeling then. An enthusiasm his wife doesn’t recall. She only names fear and confusion among the feelings. “I cannot say that we were very enthusiastic. We didn’t really know what was happening and what kind of consequences this would have on us,” remembers Viorica.
The people gathered in the central square waiting to see what will happen. Who – and what – will come next. The secretary of the county, a woman called Maria Stefan, tried to talk to the people, but they refused to listen to her. They were only receptive to the speech of the Army Commander, who assured them that no fire was shot or would be shot, that he gave orders to the Army not to interfere with the population. In the end, indeed there was no gun shot. At least Ilie remembers it that way and his wife too.
But Ilie’s cousin, Nelu, a communication engineer, remembers the story differently. He was called in those days by the secret police (Securitate) to do some interceptions and he recalls perfectly the gun shots, which stayed in his mind for some months after everything ended. But memories are vague and history is just a collection of these memories.
Ilie remembers that they were gathered in the central square when they heard the news at some loud speakers. “The Ceausescus were caught in Targoviste. They are being held at the Military Section number…from Targoviste. Please stay calm, there will be a law suit”. He tells it exactly how he heard it that day, using the present tense, like it would happen now. Those were words with such a great impact, words he has never forgotten and have stayed with him for 25 years. The heroes of the day in the small city of Zalau were the figures talking to the people gathered in the central square. They were different factory managers, professors, mostly people who had the power to influence, to capture trust, to assure their place in the new order. Patriotic songs, flags with the communist symbol cut out showed everywhere, loud speakers bringing news, this was the 2-hour gathering in the central square and the short Revolution in Romania’s smallest county residence, Zalau. Then people returned to their houses and followed the Revolution on TV.
The TV is the central character in the memories of those days. Ilie remembers that he couldn’t move away from the TV, being mesmerised, incapable of reacting to any other stimulus. „What was happening there was hugely important. We could not afford to skip any information, any image,” recalls Ilie. Viorica was constantly moving between the TV, the kitchen and their 2-year old baby. It was only two days before Christmas and she had to prepare ‘sarmale’, the traditional Romanian food. “Our little girl was crying all the time, maybe she felt in some way the tension and pressure, my husband was effectively stuck in front of the TV, I asked him many times to help me, but he didn’t react, he did not move from there”.
The news, the rumours, the figures were pouring from TV amidst the preparations for the Christmas, the cooking, the cleaning, and taking care of the child The rumours were the most tormenting thing, because nobody could tell what was true and what was false. „They were telling us not to drink water because it may be poisoned, that there were terrorists shooting everybody, we were so afraid a civil war would break out,” recounts Viorica.
And then on December 25, the things finally settled down. It was the Christmas day and after a short lawsuit, which was broadcasted on TV, Ceausescu and his wife were shot to death by a military squad.
Both Viorica and Ilie still remember the noise of the guns shooting at the Ceausescus, and still recall some images of Ceausescu and his wife lying on the ground and then in their coffins, dressed in their winters coats.
„Kids, kids, please behave, people, please” and „I refuse to talk to anybody else except for the Great National Assembly” were the words of Elena and Nicoale Ceausescu during the trial. Words that Ilie still recalls at the present tense. He thinks it was very wrong to kill them.
„First of all it was the Christmas day and you don’t do something like this on Christmas day. Secondly they were not alone, there were so many people beside them that should have been also judged and only afterwards a sentence to be passed,” comments Ilie.
”It was suddenly all silence. I am being honest to you, I felt relief, I too was afraid a civil war would break out. I may be wrong, but I guess the majority wanted them killed. We felt they were bad people. Or maybe they made us believe that way through the images they were showing us on TV,” recounts Viorica.
New heroes were proclaimed or maybe proclaimed themselves that way. Ilie and Viorica were watching on TV how a new world was settling in. The Ceausescu trial, the foundation of the new party, the new leaders. Some of them were familiar. Most of the things that confused them and brought about fear in those days were never resolved. „Nothing could be proven. Everything remains a mistery,” comments Ilie. Nobody has discovered any single terrorist. A few Army Commanders were prosecuted but almost everybody escaped. The people that talked in the central square of the small city Zalau did find a place in the new order. And the TV got and more important with every day more.
By Diana Mesesan, features writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
(the two main characters of this feature are the writer’s parents