A recent article on the BBC website called “Romania’s Orphans: Young adults leave horror behind ” caught my eye. The fact that a BBC article sounded so upbeat whilst talking about Romania made me to read on.
Although Romania has come a long way since the country was liberated from the shackles of communism the terrible conditions in which many children lived in orphanages is still at the forefront of many people in the UK’s minds.
The consequences of that period are many — and affect all Romanians — but this is one of those that is sad and difficult to leave behind.
However, this article by a British journalist talks about the improvements in the conditions of orphanages in Siret over the last 20 years since their last visit.
This improvement wasn’t down to membership of the EU or the end of Communism but the determination of one man — Tibi Rotaru.
A local lad of just 17 when the first wave of foreigners came 23 years ago, Tibi was roped in as a translator.
He went on to Bucharest then Germany and Holland to study psychology, before eventually moving back to Siret and taking over responsibility for the orphans.
It is this unassuming man who has turned a small community once scarred by a legacy of child abuse into an oasis of tolerance.
The young adults now wander freely about the town, they sweep the church steps, cadge cigarettes and laugh with the locals.
You can spot the ones from the hospital, they are smaller than everyone else, even the able-bodied are hunched – despite their tender years they have haggard faces and their stumbling gait gives away the horror story that was their childhood.
Tibi shakes his head. “Their lives were stolen from them, and still they don’t have what they need,” he says.
His young adults, and make no mistake they are his – to watch him with them is to watch a father with an unruly loving brood – now have a bright shiny new home to move into.
The undignified rows of beds will at last be history.
“Of course,” Tibi reminds us, “this building has been ready for over a year, sitting empty”.
He knowingly points to the crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes.
“I have travelled fortnightly to Bucharest in the hope of meeting a minister.
“A lot of funds have been spent on this project, but they couldn’t find the money for a boiler.”
He laughs: “How can I move the young people with no heating?”
But Tibi has the patience of a man born into a system he knows he must work with, not against.
Siret’s young adults have now been told their new house will finally have heating and hot water.
It’s a good thing there are people like Tibi Rotaru. People that that don’t stop their fight against a system that tries to sweep the horrors of the past under the carpet.
Tibi, we salute you as a true Romanian hero.
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