Spital: The Romanian Orphanage
Immediately after the revolution of 1989 and the execution of Nicolae Ceauşescu, all the failings of the communist regime were highlighted. One of these major failings concerned the children.
Ceauşescu, in the seventies, unexpectedly and without any social preparation abolished abortion. Many families, without having received any sex education and without knowing any contraceptive method (these were taboo during the communist regime) were left to cope with the birth of unwanted children. In many cases they relied on homemade abortion methods. The consequences of these were disastrous: the birth of disabled children and a myriad of infants abandoned.
In this context arose “the spital” (orphanages) often hidden in the most remote parts of Romania (as Nicoresti) thus hiding the wounds of a regime that was no longer working. In these institutions the lack of ethical values, the lack of qualified staff and the lack of funds led to disastrous results. A lot of residents fled the institutions searching refuge in the big cities (see the boys of sewers of Bucharest) and the ones most in need were kept in a state of abandonment and abuse in the spitals.
The Nicoresti Spital housed 150 abandoned children with various disabilities, grouped in huge rooms, often tied to beds with chains, completely abandoned in nauseating dirt, without any medical care and often subjected to various types of violence.
Despite improvements to the social care system and a huge amount of EU funding, there are still 100,000’s of children living in institutions or in the foster care system.
Nicoresti is a small village situated in the east of Romania, in the county of Galati, near the border with the Republic of Moldova. It’s about 15 km from the town of Tecuci and 220 km from Buchurest. Located in a flat area near the Carpathian range, it is a village spread out in several small communities with a population of a total 5,000 people.
Most of the families in Nicoresti are subsistence farmers. Unlike the cities that are experiencing some development under the pressure of the European community, Nicoresti has remained underdeveloped (like many villages in the rural areas of Eastern Romania). There are still many households without electricity and it is normal for people to go to the well to draw water, to have an outside toilet and to use a horse and cart as a means of transport. There is very little employment in the village and a more recent problem is the number of parents leaving the country to work abroad. This has resulted in a huge amount of children being raised by elderly grandparents or neighbours or left in placement centres.
The repercussions of this abandonment is huge and these children are affected in many different ways: attention disorders, low self esteem, delinquant behaviours, a degree of increased vulnerability to abuse and expolitation, depression, and impaired learning and social skills. These children are also more likely to become involved in prostitution, something that we have sadly seen an increase of lately in the village.