Inhumane Conditions For Romania's Lost Generation

ByABC News
June 8, 2001, 6:27 PM

June 8 -- Young children in straightjackets, groups of mentally disturbed adolescents spending their days in bleak rooms sitting in eerie silence, babies nearly starving to death.

Though there have been improvements, such conditions are still a reality in many of the Romania's orphanages 10 years after the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

ABCNEWS 20/20 first reported on Romanian orphans in 1990 after a revolution overthrew the communist ruler and uncovered his bizarre plan to force women to have at least five children for the state.

The result was a proliferation of babies in overcrowded inhumane institutions. In one orphanage 20/20 visited in 1990, babies were stacked on the shelves of a cart like loaves of bread.

Significant Improvements

Bucharest today is a bustling, modern city a stark contrast to the smoldering ruins of the 1989 revolution.

In the 10 years since 20/20's 1990 report, the world donated millions of dollars in aid to Romania's children and thousands of families have rushed to adopt.

Recently, 20/20 returned to Romania and discovered that the conditions of many of the orphanages had improved dramatically since the first report.

20/20 visited an orphanage in the northern town of Sighetu, accompanied by former resident of the facility named Izador Ruckels. Ruckels, 21, now lives with an American family in southern California and was returning to the institution where he lived for the first ten years of his life for the first time.

The same children whom he had lived with in squalor, without clothes or proper healthcare, were now decked out in suits and skirts. They had even prepared a musical performance for their old friend a far different picture from the concentration camp like conditions 20/20 reported on in 1990.

Disturbing Conditions Persist

While conditions for many of the state run orphanages have clearly improved, there are still a troubling number of children living in squalid environments without adequate attention.