So far my little blog here has been about me experiencing new, pleasant, and amusing (I hope) things. As I was wondering what I would write about this week, I thought back to a documentary film I watched on Monday. It is called “Children Underground” and was directed by Edet Belzberg. The story follows five homeless children living in a subway station in Bucharest, Romania. Thinking about this film I realized that I may not have done something I’ve never ever done before (I’ve seen documentaries), but I learned something I did not know. I had no idea about this devastating, true story and I’m betting you don’t know about it either.
Romania’s former communist leader, Nicolae Ceaucescu, banned all forms of contraception and abortion in an attempt to increase the country’s workforce. As a result, 20,000 children were born into homes that did not want them or could not care for them. They were born into impoverished families, broken homes, and abusive situations. Many of these children ran away from home and ended up living on the streets either alone, or in groups.
“Children Underground” closely follows the stories of five of these children.
Christina- She is a teenage girl who has decided that only boys can survive in this world because of the way she was treated in the orphanage as a young girl. She shaves her head, dresses as a boy, and has adopted a very tough, mean, street exterior. She is the leader of the group of kids living in the subway and in the private moments that she is interviewed by the documentary crew, she shows glimpses of a young girl who has been wronged in many ways and just wants someone she can rely on to love her.
Ana- She is 10 years old. She ran away from home, the first time, alone. She then went back, broke in at night, and took her little brother with her. He is 8 years old. She will not say why she ran away from home, but when her Stepfather is interviewed it is plain to see that, although he was not unkind or harmful to Ana and her brother, he was fed up with his wife’s children and did not hide it. It was sad to see Ana start using the vulgar speech of the other street children towards the end of the documentary. Clearly, she was trying to be what she thought she needed to be to live in that environment.
Marian- Marian is the 8 year old brother of Ana. He does not want to live on the street, but is willing to do anything his sister wants just to be with her. Ana and Marian are extremely close, always together, even when Christina makes Ana beg for money all night to pay a shopkeeper back for a bottle she broke. Marian begs too until his little body can take the exhaustion no more and he walks, crying, back to the subway.
Macarena- She is called Macarena because she likes to dance so much while she was in the orphanage. She is probably the saddest case in this documentary because she is 14 and completely hooked on inhaling paint. All the kids do it throughout the entire documentary, even little Marian, because they say it makes them not hungry anymore. But Macarena is always high, mumbling incoherently, crying, and accusing people of not treating her the right way. A man in the subway beats her as she is high for no apparent reason. She struggles, screaming and crying, until Christina breaks it up and takes her away. She says, “People give me money for food but I buy paint, because if I get one bottle I’m no longer hungry. It’s like paradise! You dream that you eat, and I can’t give it up.”
Mihai- While watching the documentary I fell in love with this obviously intelligent, little boy. He is 12 and has been living on the street since he was 8. He does what he needs to do with a calm, seemingly grownup exterior. He says he likes living on the street because it allows him to “live freely”. His one complaint of street life is that there is no one there to educate him. He wants to go to school and “have a skill in life”. Mihai ran away from home because his father drinks and beats him, which his father denied when being interviewed, and is clearly afraid to go back. A social worker arranged for Mihai to go home and get his papers, because without them he cannot enroll in school, and at the last minute little Mihai freezes up and refuses to go into his house. Two of the adults go for him while two stay with him, but his mother will not give up his papers.
There is so much more to these children, I could write a book trying to explain them to you. I encourage you to see the documentary. It is saddening, enlightening, enraging, and compelling. Who will help these children? Who will love them, hold them and tell them it will be ok? It might not be ok for them. They are living in a hopeless world while desperately trying to wipe the mud from their eyes that is being slung at them every day, just so they can catch a glimpse of light. And most of them are failing miserably.
In my good natured search for knowledge and experiences I’ve never had before I came across this film. When I initially sat down to watch it I didn’t think about the fact that the stories in it would be real. The people in it are real. The situations they are living in are worse than a two hour glimpse can convey. From this weeks “new thing” I am taking away the fresh realization that I need to do more things I’ve never done before and learn more things I didn’t know before, about things that matter.