I was travelling across Romanian town Arad several days ago. By train. I was thinking about street children who I met there six years ago. Young homeless people were serious problem in Romania that time. Sad inheritance after dictator Ceaucescu who prohibited contracecpcion and abortion and exact four – five children from families to have enough of labour force for his country. Many parents didn´t have enough money to take care about children. Orphanages were full. Young people had to leave them at the age of 18 without any provision. Some children rather run away and live in the streets. They were sniffing shell-silver. It was their most important activity – except of smoking, sleeping, begging, stealing and having sex.
There was an eleven months old baby in street gang. Her mother, Irina, was 23 years old. She wasn´t on drugs, tried to wear clean clothing and was sleeping in very narrow garbage shaft near the railway station main building. Her mother died when she was sixteen and her brother kicked her out from her home. She had a friend working in hospital who let her to take a shower there several times a week.
There was pregnant Zoranka, sleeping in old car, smoking cigarettes, sniffing and didn´t think about future with her child.
And there was only two weeks old baby there. Roberto. He had less than three kilos and in shabby buggy sleeps in park with his seventeen – old parents.
Sixteen young homelessness were living in surrounding of Arad railway station. Mostly in sewage canals. They were holding packets with shell-silver. Their faces and hands were coloured by silver. Half liter of it cost two euro.
Any reliance in this despair? There was an American doctor living in Arad who invited street children to his house every Saturday. They were praying, singign and got some food.
But people, even young, must decide for better life. Nobody can do it instead of them. There was somebody speaking about future plans in community of Arad homelessness. 24 – years old Dorel with perfect English. He changed an old booth near the rails for his home. He closed its poor door with several door locks and although he was speaking with others young homelessness he didn´t allow them to go inside. His clothes were clean, he used after – shave cosmetics and hair-gel. „Rich people can make big steps. I am poor so I can do just small steps,“ he told me. He lived in orphanage but had to go away as 18 years old. He found other style of life than steal and take drugs. „I was working in one factory but I study in secondary school.“ He proudly showed schoolbooks. His „home“ was equipped by bed, table, stool and bucket for washing. There were three clean and ironed shirts. „My classmates don´t know about my life here.“ Dorel also worked, he was making construction works for earning some money.
There are no street children in Arad railway station anymore. I don´t know their entire stories. I would like to find out if Dorel´s dream to have a normal life once was fulfilled. And if Roberto lives under a normal roof and looks forward his first school day.
Two of my friends, Czech and Slovak photographers, documented life of street children in Bucharest twelve years ago. We came back on January 2009 to find out what happened with former children homellessness and sniffers. There was eight years old boy, Ady, living in sewage canal in 1998. And very young, drug addicted and pregnant girl Lili. Boss of the gang from Gara de Nord railway station was Florian. Other kids respected him.
In January 2009 we found Florian easily. Nothing changed in his life. He was shmashed so much that he was hardly able to walk. But he was speaking with us and spent two days walking along streets of Bucharest with us. „I tried to quit, started to play football, but I returned to my shell-silver,“ smiled Florian often. He is not boss anymore. Just homeless with destroyed body and mind. Several years older than me – but absolutely old person. „I don´t live in sewage canal anymore. I live in a flat!“ he said proudly. He agreed to take us there. The place was in an old dowdy block of flats. „If they knew I sniff they would kick me out,“ laugh Florian and harbours the shell-silver deep into his underwear. „They think I am mentally handicapped,“ Florian adds and guides us to the flat. We gave him a name – Inspector Colombo, because he is wearing a long coat and hobbles a little bit.
When we entered a flat there were maybe twenty half – naked and tattooed men looking as already released from jail. All the eyes moved up towards us and men started to yawl: „What do you want here?“ Unsure, we stepped back outside.
There were charitable organisation trying to help to the streetchildren in Bucharest. But anyway, there was no future for Florian. Or for Lily – people from streets told us that she lives in the street till now, with her boyfriend. Little Ady and others grew out. They hang aroung Gara de Nord, steal, bug people and are very noisy after drugs. From poor children are criminals now.
On photo – Florian Turcu, Bucharest January 2009