Friday, February 1, 2013

Romania: Always in my Heart

Last night I attended a screening of the documentary Hand Held.  It is the story of photographer Mike Carrol's journey in Romania which led him to create Romanian Children's Relief.

It has been over eight years since I traveled to Romania.  Last night I was brought right back. . . the documentary is amazing and at times so hard to watch.  It is absolutely awesome to see how much this country has changed in the twenty plus years since communism ended.

I thought I would share some pictures from my time spent in Romania and tell you more about this country and the people.  Enjoy!

During the summer of 2004, I had the opportunity to travel to Romania as part of a grad school class.  We literally waited hours to cross over from Hungary into Romania.  While Hungary joined the EU in 2004, Romania didn't until 2007 which is why crossing the border was such a long process.

Romania was ruled by communist dictator, Ceausescu, until December 25, 1989 when a revolution led to he and his wife being assassinated.  The Romanian people were finally free.

During the communist years, Ceausescu moved all the Romanian people out of their villages into the cities.  He had block housing built for the people to live in.  When I was there I saw many of these buildings which are still in use and let me tell you they are not pretty. 

Ceausescu required that the women all have at least five children so he could grow the population and build his army.  As you can imagine this led to many problems including the creation of numerous orphanages filled with abandoned children that families couldn't afford to feed or take care of.

Fortunately, by the time I visited Romania the country had see many positive changes.  Although life was still quite simple and seeing a farmer walk his cows to pasture was not uncommon, the people were enjoying a happier life.

The orphanages from the communist days had long been closed and Romania designed a system modeled after the United States including the use of foster parents in order to get the children into home situations.  

For the grad school class we had the opportunity to travel all over Romania and study many parts of their social welfare system.  Absorbing the people and their culture was such an amazing experience.  This country was so different from anyplace I had ever visited.

Romania is a country rich in culture and we had the opportunity to not only watch the children folk dance but also learn a few steps!  I loved all the bright colors in their dance costumes.

Religion is also very important to the Romanian people and we had the opportunity to visit several churches while there.  

We had the opportunity to visit a baby orphanage in one of the towns.  This was not like the orphanages of the old days.  This was a beautiful facility funded by Americans with babies and toddlers who were well cared for.  Although these children are called "abandoned" they are not legally free for adoption.  During the communist years parents were allowed to leave their children in orphanages if they couldn't afford to care for them.  Unfortunately this mentality continued despite efforts to stop it.

International adoptions closed in 2004 due to corruption and remain closed today.  

We also had the opportunity to volunteer at a hospital program run by Romania Children's Relief.  This program was similar to what we refer to as "Child Life" here in the US.  It was so much fun to hold the babies and play games with the kids.  The language barrier didn't even matter!

We also had the opportunity to visit a "Roma" village.  The Romas are gypsies.  Romania has the larger population of gypsies in the world and they are very discriminated against.  They are the poorest people and typically live in villages outside of towns.  They are under educated and can't afford birth control which leads to very large families.  

The children in this village were so excited when we went to visit.  They acted like we were movie stars!  We had such a fun time playing with the kids.  I'm sad to say that I don't think things have improved much for the Romas since I was there although there are more programs to help them now.  

Romania is a beautiful country.  On our long bus rides I saw some of the most gorgeous landscapes ever.  My pictures bring back so many wonderful memories of a very unique opportunity I was fortunate enough to experience.  If you ever have the chance to travel to Romania do it!

Romania will always hold a little piece of my heart. . .

Have you been to Romania?

Have you seen the documentary Hand Held?


  1. Sounds incredible!! I went to Ukraine in 2003, and I saw a lot of the same sights-- the housing, the orphanages, etc. It's so great to see these countries growing after being oppressed for so long, although they still have so far to go. I didn't realize that international adoption is closed-- that's so sad. Especially now that Russia has closed their adoptions from Americans too. Those kids need families, and it sucks that politics gets in the way of that. :(

  2. I've never been to Romania, but these pictures are amazing. I'm not well versed on the country and had no idea that communism lasted that long! Wow. Thank you for sharing!

  3. What a great post! I definitely want to visit. Cool experience! I didn't know international adoptions were closed. I have friends that have two children from Romania. I'm gonna check out that movie.

  4. What an awesome experience! I didn't know adoptions weren't allowed anymore. A friend of mine has two kids from Romania.

  5. Thank you for a peak into that country. It's interesting that families gave their children up for adoption when they were required to have five children. Also, I have never heard of requirement so high in number. I would love to hear more of your experience.

  6. Romanian here. I have found your blog while searching at random on Google. Glad to find out that you had a great experience and went back home with positive thoughts about my country. It's 2018, a lot of things changed / it took me exactly 7 mins and 40 seconds to change my Romanian driving license to a German one. We travel only with our ID in the European Union and about 3,5 million Romanians are working all over Europe. Back home, Romanians are struggling every day to bring a real change to the society, but our efforts are crushed by ghosts of the recent past who just won't let go. Thanks for reading my comment.