Romanian Orphanages

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Communism’s Heartless Impact on Families

After World War II, Romania was ‘liberated’ by the Russians who imposed Communist rule under the notorious dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. Ceausescu, in an effort to build a labor force, instituted laws that required families to have at least five children to avoid being taxed. Not able to care or feed their large families, many parents left their children on church or orphanage doorsteps.

The Romanian orphanages were more like prisons than children’s homes.  Shaven-headed toddlers were tied to urine-soaked beds; supervisors patrolled the corridors and often abused their charges. At feeding time, babies were not picked up; their bottles were pushed through the bars of their cots.

Crying children were cruelly left to cry. The consequences were profound: total emotional withdrawal in a loveless silence.

An American charity worker described a visit to one of the worst orphanages in the country, a place where children were half clothed and sleeping 3-4 in one bed.

“On entering the nursery area we did what any loving person would do, we picked the children out of the cots and hugged them. Except they didn’t hug back. They didn’t know how to. The children were so void of love and affection that they didn’t know how to react.”

The McCandlesses and the capable staff members at Home of Hope and Bethel Home have established a family structure of care for nearly fifty children. However, it took more than hugs and love: professional counseling, medical care and spiritual healing were often necessary to reverse the damage caused by the Ceausescu-era orphanages.