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Last Updated: Friday, 8 July, 2005, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Voices from Romania's institutions
The BBC News website talked to some of the tens of thousands of young people who grew up in the large state-run institutions of Ceausescu's Romania.

Click on the links below to read their stories.

Cornel


Lucian


Nicolae


Mariana


Mihaela


Mihai


Cornel, 27, Bucharest

Cornel with one of his paintings
Cornel now sells paintings for a living, and helps others like himself

I was sent to an orphanage when I was five. My mother had died and my father was an alcoholic.

There was a strong communist philosophy there. Every morning we had to sing national songs with a picture of Ceausescu at the front of the room. If you didn't stand up straight, you were beaten.

As a child I grew up with a lot of emotional problems. I had a lot of anger inside me. I used to think: 'Why me? What had I done?' I tried to find someone to blame.

I used to get beaten a lot as a child. When I was about 10 or 11 I started wetting the bed, and they used to hit me a lot for that.

Finally I couldn't contain it, and I exploded. I started stealing things and when I was 15 I tried to kill someone. He was in a coma for a week, and I was very lucky he didn't press charges.

After that I was labelled a criminal. Everyone said I was bad, and I believed them. I thought I was just garbage.

In 1996, I left the institution, and came to Bucharest. I didn't want to be a street child, but I still became one.

I wanted love and a stable identity. But I couldn't find it. On the outside I was strong, but in the inside I was crying. It was like I wore a mask every day.

In 1999 I met a social worker. He spent time with me, step by step. I found in him the father I never had.

Mariana, 23, Baia Mare

Mariana
Mariana discovered a girl at her institution was actually her sister

I grew up in an orphanage called Gardani. Our bedrooms were infested with fleas, and rain would come through the roof.

When I was young, there was also no running water.

I feel brilliant now I've left. No one orders me around any more and I can do what I want.

My parents live fairly near here, in a town called Arad, but I don't want to see them really. After all, they abandoned me, and I don't need them now.

I also discovered I had 11 brothers and sisters - and a while ago, someone went through our files and I found out that one of the girls I had grown up with at the institution was one of my sisters.

I wouldn't believe it until they phoned my mother and asked her if it was true.

I left the institution after I'd finished high school, and went to Italy to pick fruit for three months. That's the maximum time Romanians are allowed in Italy, so I had to come back after that.

I hope to be able to go back to Italy in the future. I'd like to live there permanently - it wouldn't really bother me to leave Romania. There's not much here for me.

Lucian, 19, Baia Mare

Vadim (l) and Lucian (r) at home
Lucian (r) and his brother really enjoy being back with their father

Me and my brother Vadim [pictured here on the left] were both sent to an institution called Valei Borcutului when we were very young.

Our mother left home one day, and we never saw her again. My father worked, and there was no one to look after us.

The institution was OK. We were bullied a bit when we first got there, and the food was terrible, but by the end we had a lot of friends.

We always knew where our father lived, though, and wanted to go home. One day last year - when we were about to leave the institution anyway - we were told it would be possible.

My father had bought an apartment where we could all live, and a charity helped with the paperwork.

We finally moved home in January, and it was really exciting. It's fantastic that we're all together as a family, and we want it to stay that way.

Mihaela, 30, Siret

Mihaela and her family
Mihaela treats her children differently from how she was treated

I escaped from an institution in Siret more than 10 years ago, and soon after that I married my husband, who had also been there.

We had to sleep rough to start with, but now we have jobs and a flat - as well as our children.

I'm very happy. This was the dream of our lives - to have a family of our own. We don't need anyone else any more - we have our children.

We still live in Siret, and it's a bit difficult because I don't want my children to know where we grew up. It's not our fault we were at the institution, and we don't want them to suffer for it either.

I keep buying clothes for the children. I think it's because there were often not enough clothes at the institution, and we had to go naked sometimes.

One good thing about the institution was that it taught me to look after children. But we love our children, and we're trying to raise them in a very different way than we experienced ourselves.

The carers there used to hit us for pleasure, but we would never do that to our children.

Nicolae, 28, Bucharest

Nicolae lying where he usually spends the night
Nicolae spends his nights sleeping under a slab of concrete

My father died when I was very young, and the rest of my relatives decided to put me and my brother in an orphanage.

They put us in the car and said they were taking us to a hospital to see a doctor, but they lied.

Life at the orphanage was really terrible. We were often beaten by the older boys. I liked studying, but the older boys would hit us if we showed them up so I never really did much work.

I had to leave when I had completed school [aged 18]. When I left the orphanage, I had nothing but the clothes I was wearing, and I didn't really have a choice about what to do next. I've been living on the streets ever since.

I work one day here, one day there, to earn my living. At the beginning it was difficult, but I made a lot of friends and I've got used to this kind of life.

I like playing football. Maybe if things were different I could have been a famous football player.

Mihai, 28, Siret

Mihai in his new flat
Mihai decided to leave his father's home and buy a flat in Siret

My life [in the institution] was just eating and sleeping - just existing.

We were hit by the staff, and when I was younger I was abused by some of the older boys.

After the institution closed, the authorities found my family and I stayed with them for three years.

But we just couldn't understand each other. My father has a problem with alcohol, and I had to hide my money from him. We're not in contact any more.

I decided to come back to Siret as I have friends here. I've got a job, and I've bought a flat. I love being able to do what I want. I'm free now.

In the future, I dream of having my own family. I had a girlfriend from the town a bit ago, but I think she used me a bit to get money, as she didn't work, so she's not my girlfriend any more.





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