Ceausescu’s children

 

 

romanian orphans

 

The Romanian dictator had plans to increase Romanian population drastically to support its grandiose, Stalinist idea in making the country strong in both industrial and manpower finesse. After the 1989 revolution and the subsequent execution, however, the dream was in tatters. Hundreds of thousands of Romanian children were left poor, starving, physically disabled, and in limbo.

After 25 years, some of them start to tell their stories of what happens afterwards. Read the full article in The Guardian.

 

Excerpt:

 

When he came to power in 1966, Ceaușescu had grand plans for Romania. The country had industrialised late, after the second world war, and its birthrate was low. Ceaușescu borrowed the 1930s Stalinist dogma that population growth would fuel economic growth and fused this idea with the conservatism of his rural childhood. In the first year of his rule, his government issued Decree 770, which outlawed abortion for women under 40 with fewer than four children. “The foetus is the property of the entire society,” Ceaușescu announced. “Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity.”

The birth rate soon doubled, but then the rate of increase slowed as Romanian women resorted to homemade illegal abortions, often with catastrophic results. In 1977 all childless persons, regardless of sex or martial status, were made to pay an additional monthly tax. In the 1980s condoms and the pill, although prohibitively expensive, began to become available in Romania – so they were banned altogether. Motherhood became a state duty. The system was ruthlessly enforced by the secret police, the securitate. Doctors who performed abortions were imprisoned, women were examined every three months in their workplaces for signs of pregnancy. If they were found to be pregnant and didn’t subsequently give birth, they could face prosecution. Fertility had become an instrument of state control.

This policy, coupled with Romania’s poverty, meant that more and more unwanted children were abandoned to state care. No one knows how many. Estimates for the number of children in orphanages in 1989 start at 100,000 and go up from there. Since the second world war, there had been a system of state institutions for children. But after 1982, when Ceaușescu redirected most of the budget to paying off the national debt, the economy tanked and conditions in the orphanages suffered. Electricity and heat were often intermittent, there were not enough staff, there was not enough food. Physical needs were assessed, emotional needs were ignored. Doctors and professionals were denied access to foreign periodicals and research, nurses were woefully undertrained (many orphans contracted HIV because hypodermic needles were seldom sterilised) and developmental delays were routinely diagnosed as mental disability. Institutional abuse flourished unchecked. While some caretakers did their best, others stole food from the orphanage kitchens and drugged their charges into docility.

Violence – A Family Tradition: Robbyn Peters Bennett at TEDxBellingham

 

One major problem parents always face everywhere is spanking.

As a repressive, and oftentimes ‘last resort’ method, to constrain children from committing their misdeeds, spanking, or other forms of physical punishment, have often been utilized to ‘straighten up’ them. Nevertheless, as scientific research has advanced, new reports have suggested that despite the benefits these violent methods bring to solve children’s problems, so are the drawbacks: these children become more aggressive, more emotionally provoked, and develop higher tendencies to solve problems primarily through violence, all as by-products of such upbringing.

Robbyn Peters Bennett, a psychotherapist, educator, and child advocate, shares her thoughts on TEDxBellingham on what it takes to develop a wise upbringing to children, all without the necessity to always resort to violence.

Her solutions are radical, but at the same time, uneasy. Listen to her talk to know more why.

Katanga’s forgotten children

democratic-republic-of-congo-political-map

 

 

In the 1970s, Japanese companies, in a quest to secure natural resources in Democratic Republic of the Congo, then-named Zaire, invested heavily in the province of Katanga (as seen from the map above). With all the investment flowing in, so was the influx of over 1,000 Japanese workers.

Virtually, all of these employees left their spouses and children behind back in their home country, often for years. Nevertheless, this was also, at a heavy cost, what triggered them to do something beyond their families’ knowledge: many of them ended up impregnating local women, and unexpectedly fathered the so-called ‘Katanga Afro-Japanese’ children. To ‘clean up’ their sins, often, in collaboration with several Japanese physicians brought in as well, they, unbeknownst of the women’s families, poisoned bulk of the babies to death. Every ‘unusual’ baby brought in by their mothers to these Japanese-run clinics would most likely end up passing out. Realizing such abnormality, some of the families decided to keep the babies themselves.

And now they label themselves as ‘Survivors’, having escaped the infanticides. They are seeking truth from both Congolese and Japanese governments, and to this day, their fate remains deeply unknown.

This video, released in March 2010, provides more insight about those Katanga ‘survivors’. Watch it on France 24.