“The only happy time we had at the orphanage was when we slept,” remembers Visinel Balan, now an adult. Visinel grew up in one of the many state-run orphan institutions during Nicholas Ceausescu’s dictatorship in Romania.
Considered the most repressive government in the Eastern Bloc at the time, Ceausescu rose to power in 1965 and was overthrown in 1989.
In an interview with France 24, Balan reported being beaten for failure to learn to count or memorize the alphabet.
“It was the worst nightmare you could imagine,” he said, his taut facial muscles unable to hide the leftover fear and trauma.
Alina, another now-grown orphan interned in a Ceausescu era Romanian institution, remembers, “Sometimes to punish me, they would stop feeding me.”
Another orphan put it this way, “Those places were the slaughterhouses of souls.”
Alin, now in his 30s, who also grew up in state-run, secular Romanian children’s institutions, has been on the street since he was 18. After the orphanage, he wasn’t ready for acclimation to the outside world. After life in an orphanage, drug and alcohol addictions are common.
After Ceausescu was overthrown, around 100,000 orphans were discovered “emaciated and living in appalling conditions.”
Their bones protruding, some without a thread of clothing, covered with sores and moving with almost animal-like movements on the floor. Most of those children had been abandoned by impoverished parents driven to their knees by a vile, unjust and corrupt system.
The plight of orphans in Romania didn’t improve much in the years between Ceausescu’s fall and the turn of the millennium.
Today, thirty years after the totalitarian reign of terror ended, Romania still has the largest number of abandoned children in Europe. Though it is now rare for orphanages to use rope to tie children up, they have switched to tranquilizing drugs, reports Romanian senator, Vlad Alexandrescu, “it’s more efficient and less visible,” he explains.
In 2015, a correspondent from the GlobalPost reported visiting an orphanage in Romania, and wrote that the children “talked about beatings and thefts from their food as routine.”
As a result, many are pushing for the closure of institutions, pushing to replace them with foster care and smaller group homes, like ITMI’s Casa Dorca Children’s Home. If they are successful, Casa Dorca’s ministry will be more crucial than ever.
Quietly tucked away in a tiny town called Prilipet in impoverished rural Romania, Casa Dorca Children’s Home stands in stark contrast to these heartbreaking and disturbing testimonies.
An elderly couple passes by Casa Dorca Children's Home in Prilipet, Romania.
Established in 1926 as the first Baptist Orphanage in Romania, it was confiscated and turned to a bakery by the Communist government sometime after WWII.
Through the work of ITMI founder Bill Bathman, Harriet Bathman and Dr. Nick Gheorgita, the father of long-time ITMI partner, Ema Ban, ITMI supporters had the opportunity to help reopen the home in 1996, seven years after the fall of Ceausescu.
Casa Dorca has been providing a loving, Christian home and family atmosphere for children since then.
The soft, colorful warmth of this Casa Dorca bedroom is so different from the colorless, cold rooms in state-run institutions.
Many of the current 18 children at Casa Dorca come from the toughest backgrounds, and have been through things no child should have to experience.
One Casa Dorca alumni observed,“This place feels more like a family than an orphanage.” As a child at Casa Dorca, he was surprised when the older children helped and cared for him. He was accustomed to being bullied by the bigger, stronger children at the previous orphanage.
The children at Casa Dorca are well-clothed in appropriate, seasonal garments. The facility is clean and cared for. They eat vegetables regularly. They attend church and are encouraged to pursue their gifts, such as joining the church orchestra.
They attend school and receive help with their homework from older children, helpers or volunteers.
Casa Dorca’s current leadership is highly dedicated. Though they could obtain higher-paying jobs and better lives for their own families, they faithfully serve because they care deeply about the children and love the Lord Jesus.
“I came here because the Lord gave me this opportunity to work for Him...it’s a chance for us to show the Lord our gratitude. I would do anything for my kids,” said Ionel Lovescu, the Director at Casa Dorca, “Now I can make a difference for these kids here.”
In addition to seeing the Gospel in action through the love and care of the believing volunteers and staff, they are presented with the Good News throughout their time at the home.
“We cannot force them to trust in Christ,” writes Ionel, “but everything we do is to plant the seeds of the Gospel and show them the love of God every day. Through your prayers, along with ours, we hope that they will cling to the Gospel in their lives, as many have throughout Casa Dorca’s history.”
Many don’t leave as soon as they turn 18. When they do, they are capable of leading normal, productive lives. Some even return to help out!
The smiles emanating from healthy faces say it all. They declare the depth of the impact that can be made in the lives of these young people.
“None of this is possible without people who are willing to be used by God to be sponsors of our work at Casa Dorca,” Ionel acknowledges.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Casa Dorca has lost up to $3500USD a month in regular sponsorship. If the Lord has blessed you with financial stability during this time, we need people like you to get involved with this important work!
Right now, you have the opportunity to stand with Casa Dorca Children’s Home to provide a loving, Christian home for Romanian children in need at a crucial time. Imagine the feeling of knowing you responded to the Lord in obedience to care for the orphans and be a faithful witness in Romania.
Imagine the joy of knowing a child who otherwise might be neglected and abused is now loved and cared for because of your obedience! That joy will be stored away “where moth and rust do not destroy.”
The Economist. “Romania’s Last Orphanages.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEzTFmiCeks
Morris, et al. “Romania: 30 Years after Ceausescu, Orphans Remain Traumatised.” France 24. Focus France 24, 1 June 2020, https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20200106-focus-romania-30-years-after-ceausescu-former-orphans-remain-traumatised-adoption-mass-orphanage-network
Odobesu, Vlad. “Half a million kids survived Romania's 'slaughterhouses of souls.’ Now they want justice.” The World, The Global Post, 28 December 2105, https://www.pri.org/stories/2015-12-28/half-million-kids-survived-romanias-slaughterhouses-souls-now-they-want-justice
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.
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