When young Nicolae Ceausescu moved to Bucharest in the 1930’s, ostensibly to seek work during the Depression, his bother-in-law asked him what he intended to do if he failed to learn a trade. “I’m going to be Romania’s Stalin” Nicolae replied. It was one of the few promises he ever kept in his life.
In an effort to boost the population, Romania’s Stalin banned all forms of contraception, abortions for any reason, and increased taxes on the childless. Under Nicolae’s rule, women were required to bear at least five children. As a result, many destitute parents, faced with the country’s chronic shortages of food and fuel, dumped their “extra” children into state-run institutions, where overwhelmed or indifferent staffers neglected the children’s most basic needs. Children who did not end up in these state orphanages were left to fend for themselves on the streets.
The world watched in fascination as Romania’s nine-day revolution culminated on Christmas Day 1989 with the execution of Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, abruptly ending 45 years of communism.
Estimates range from 100,000 to potentially 250,000 or more children living in government institutions in 1989. This does not include the street children or children in private orphanages throughout Romania.
Today, the number of institutionalized children exceeds that of pre-revolution Romania. While basic conditions in these centers have greatly improved thanks to the continued investment of personnel and resources of western organizations, orphanage care is no substitute for a family. Tens of thousands of children still live in government or private institutions, in foster homes, and on the street.