“In the village, they called me the one from the hospital,” says Z.I., a teenager institutionalized in a hospital-home in Romania, during an interview conducted twenty years ago.
His testimony, as well as those of other young people who were heavily traumatized by the child protection system inherited from communism, are recorded in a 2002 study, ‘Child Abuse in Social Protection Institutions in Romania’, conducted by the Institute for the Protection of Mother and Child (IOMC).
Z.I.’s life, briefly recorded in several papers included in his medical record, began with him being abandoned in the special ward of a hospital for children suffering malnutrition, (known as Dystrophic Ward), of in the summer of 1983, and continued with a series of random transfers to various “child protection” institutions belonging to the communist state.
In the 1980s, the President of Romania Nicolae Ceausescu claimed Romania was living through a ‘Golden Age’, but this was – also the era of Decree 770, which had banned on-demand abortions since 1966. Against the background of the Decree, a new system of child protection developed. But the protection was just a façade. The system needed the abandoned children to be alive at birth to fulfill a quota. Afterwards, their life mattered to no one.
From the hospital, Z.I. was moved to an orphanage on 22 November 1983. He was less than five months old.
All that remained of the first three years of his life in that orphanage is medical information: the vaccines he received, a measurement of his body size, the childhood diseases he suffered from. No one recorded anything about his relationship with his parents or the child’s behaviour. There isn’t one line about the psychological development of this child under the care of Ceausescu’s Romania.
Z.I. was just a body that had to be kept alive in order to tick the birth indicators desired by the regime. More than 100,000 minors housed in appalling conditions in the orphanages, homes and hospitals of the state found themselves in this situation in 1989.
At the dawn of democracy, Romania didn’t know what to do with them, so it continued to hold them captive in the same penitentiary-style system.