Sewers home to Romania's forgotten orphans
July 23, 1997
Web posted at: 4:07 a.m. EDT (0807 GMT)
From Correspondent Bill Delaney
BUCHAREST, Romania (CNN) -- Just outside the bustling railway North
Station, a sewer entrance serves as the home to a shifting population of 50
or 60 lost souls.
These aging orphans are the result of the brutal regime of Romanian
Dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. Though executed Christmas Day, 1989,
Ceaucescu's cruel legacy lingers in the face of hardened children.
Mariana says she's called the sewer under the station home since she was
13. Now in her early 20s, Mariana lives with hundreds of young men and
women who, for one reason or another, were warehoused in state
institutions under the socialist dictator and then loosed to the streets when
Now, years later, most of these young street urchins sniff glue to pass the
time. Outside of the occasional visit from the police and a brave handful of
social workers, they're forgotten.
In Romania, as throughout much of Eastern Europe, millions are still
struggling for a foothold in the everyman-for-himself-market. The most
marginalized come last, and with so little money to go around for anyone
in need of assistance, there's precious little left for the forgotten orphans.
New generation of orphans
But the plight of the street children is reaching a new level.
Inside North Station, not under it, other orphans -- hundreds of children as
young as 8 -- have become the new castoffs of the revolution. Social
workers say their plight is not due to Ceaucescu's socialism but because of
families breaking apart under the financial strains of the new Eastern
Corrina Atanasiu, who works with Save the Children, a group dedicated to
making positive differences in the lives of disadvantaged children, is
herself feeling the economic pressures. Working sometimes late into the
night at North Station, she earns just $50 a month.
"This kind of problem is the source for other kinds of problems," Atanasiu
says. "They create disabilities in the families, and this is I think the first
step to losing the children in the street."
So in Romania, which is in so many ways a new country just getting on its
own feet, many of the young are already old beyond their years.
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