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

The Romanian Town’s Revolution

 

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, diana@romania-insider.com

(the two  main characters of this feature are the writer’s parents