A collage of images from the former hospital-home for children with mental and physical disabilities in Nicorești, Romania, by photographer Andrei Becheru. This album accompanies a series of articles published by the Decree Chronicles examining the catastrophic consequences of the Communist-era policies aimed at forcefully increasing birth rates.
The building in which the hospital-home in Nicorești operated for over four decades is now in ruins.
The layout of the rooms reminds visitors that children with severe disabilities who had been abandoned by their parents in the care of the Romanian state were accommodated here before and after 1989. “Ours was an extermination hospital,” admits a former nurse.
The first foreign volunteers who came to the hospital-home in Nicorești after the Revolution found conditions similar to those in concentration camps.
No one hugged the children. No one spoke to them. No one taught them any lessons. They were feral. They didn’t even know how to smile.
In October 2021, photographer Andrei Becheru joined the reporters from the Decree Chronicles, who gained access to the building of the former child protection centre in Nicorești.
Inside, time had stood still. The year is 2021, but the beds in which the children from Nicorești lived their short lives are laid out just as they were a quarter of a century ago.
There are still objects in the half-open drawers: buttons, makeshift cutlery and icons.
Before 1989, the cold was all-present in hospital-homes. Because of this, the mortality rate was high: children froze to death. Foreign volunteers who came to Nicorești after the Revolution installed radiators in the rooms.
Before that, the high ceiling rooms of the hospital-home were heated only by stove. One in each room.
Although they were supposed to be care institutions, hospital-homes offered no therapy whatsoever. With the arrival of volunteers in Nicorești, many of the children began to walk for the first time. The locals thought they were witnessing a miracle.
In the hospital-home in Nicorești, the mattresses were filthy and the blankets were scarce.
Record-keeping was strict: at the end of every shift, the blankets were counted and handed in.
Two marble plaques in the cemetery in Nicorești record, though only in part, the tragedy of the children from the hospital-home. There are 92 names mentioned on these plaques; 78 of them belong to children under 10 years old.
After the Revolution, when foreign volunteers arrived, the survivors in the hospital-homes played games for the first time.
They also received comfort for the first time.
The hospital-home closed in 2002. Today, a charitable association (fully funded from external sources) operates in Nicorești, offering accommodation and care to the former beneficiaries of the protection of the Romanian state.
In the absence of The Good Samaritan Association, it is uncertain whether anyone else would lend them a helping hand.
Nature and oblivion have taken over the ruined hospital-home. The care centre in Nicorești is just one of 700 locations in which more than 125,000 people were abandoned in 1990. It is one of the ignored legacies of the totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu, and its policy that banned on-demand abortions and drastically limited access to contraceptives.
We have published in the Decree Chronicles a three-part series about the consequences of Decree 770 of 1966.
It happened once upon a time, but could it happen again?