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Romania’s Hardships: Orphanages of Oradea

We are all products of our own imagination. I knew this was true when I looked into the dingy window of the Oradea orphanage. The cool mist surrounding the farm fields had dissipated and what lay before me was a hard reality, the problematic situation of a poor country trying to enter the European Union on faulty statistics.

Oradea was a city drained of opportunity. Along with many building projects, The Smiles Foundation sent workers to infiltrate the sterilized hospital rooms of the orphanage, bringing extra food, toys and, most importantly, a human touch.  It was imperative that the locals working for the organization stayed covert, and when I went as a volunteer I had to pretend I didn’t know them. They were spies behind stone walls where children were kept, youngsters who never felt the chilled summer breezes through closed windows.

Sean and Mittie | Romania's Hardships: Orphanages of Oradea 9

Prior to their work, the babies were developing mental and physical issues from not being held, turned over, or receiving any contact. When the food ran out, some went hungry. I had a few weeks to interact with them, engage them in the typical activities like games and songs, language barrier aside. I was alone in their closed quarters, with a woman I had to pretend that I’d never met and the stories they couldn’t tell me. Some had never left the orphanage, while others left and returned every month when their families couldn’t feed them.

What I found most interesting was that many had been cast away, but weren’t put up for adoption until they’d been there for two years. Statistically, they were labeled as patients in the hospital, with no opportunity to leave, while wealthy Romanians fought over the two or three little ones available. In order to enter the EU, the Romanian government reduced the number of abandoned children in an attempt to show a decrease in economic hardship in the country. The ones who suffered were the youth left behind, growing up with various forms of autism, speech impediments, malnutrition, and a lost connection with humanity.

  • Lara Delton
    Posted at 01:59h, 14 July

    I like your blog, it’s very interesting. Good job man.

  • Jacinto Wuerth
    Posted at 09:23h, 14 June

    Whats tough now is how the laid out appearance to life is not fixed. Do you know what I’m saying? It is almost as if we blitz through life with blinders on, not accepting the true fate of our own lives.

  • Jan
    Posted at 12:30h, 26 September

    Hi Mittie –
    Was googling things surrounding Romanian orphanages and saw your blog. It says posted in July – was this 2016, or in the past?
    I’m asking because I was hoping to find out the current situation of the orphanage in Oradea and the children currently.. I adopted 2 children from there in 1991. And as you mentioned in your blog, the longer the child is left in an instiutional situation, the more mental & physical issues they have.
    My husband and I had 2 biological children, so we had experienced the joy of babies, so we were willing to take an older child. (We also had a childcare business and cared for many children several of who had special needs.) That being said, if we knew ahead of how much they would have to deal with……😏.
    They we both 3 when we got them from the orphanage in Oradea. He was not walking (his feet were like little balls!) & could say only a few words in Romanian. Every time you would walk away from him he would begin rocking his head & fall asleep.
    She was deaf (but who knew?), was said to be ‘a little bit retarded’ and would duck her head if we reached over her anytime (like she had been smacked). Her other giant issue was that she had emotionally issues that would make her throw fits 10 times a day.
    As time has gone on she (Sarah) had a parasite she brought with her (were assured she didn’t), had 7 surgeries to rebuild her eardrums, lots of help from the wonderful special Ed services from pre-school to graduation.
    He (Kevin) had a few surgeries of his own, one was leg-lengthing procedure because one leg was an inch shorter than the other! (This was a ‘duh moment’ putting on his socks at 5!!!). Gruesome process. He also was in the special Ed system’s help, but graduated with a tech diploma, not like Sarahs ‘special’ diploma. He also has Tourette’s syndrome. (Not a verbal acting one thank goodness.)
    2016 – they have come light-years from what I could have ever imagined! She drives (tho had to have an assist in passing the test because she does not read or write well) and works at Chik-Fil-A. Still struggles emotionally, and the past 3 yrs has battled alcoholism and is clean and sober a yr 1/2.
    Works out like a maniac! And loves it.
    He has a landscaping business and is becoming quite successful. And he’s getting married in April to a girl who loves his sweet heart. 🤗
    Seems like a long way to come… has been, I guess. But even in the hard times it has been a joy. My 4 kids are very close, we laugh and love a lot. God has blessed us emensly with the two of them and I can’t imagine our lives if we had not done this adoption.
    Just would like to know how the children there are doing. I have heard that there are almost as many children in the orphanages now as in the 90’s post communism mass exodus.
    Happy travels!

  • Mittie.Roger
    Posted at 13:11h, 26 September

    Wow! What an amazing story, Jan. I commend you for the compassion and goodness you bring to the world! My brother recently adopted a family of 3 from Latvia and they are very happy as well. The post is actually an old one – I visited the Oradea orphanage in 2005 – so things may be different there now. I sure hope they are making strides to improvement. At least we know that there are caring charitable organizations involved and doing all that they can to help. Thanks for writing! Your story is an inspiring one!

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