Communism Left So Many Scarred Lives Behind

On Christmas 1989, twenty-five years ago, the brutal communist dictatorship of Romania ended with the execution of the tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena in front of a firing squad at Tirgoviste, following a brief trial. His reign of terror lasted 24 years (1965-1989).
The first communist despot, Gheorghe Georghiu-Dej (1945-1964) was so ruthless, the citizens felt like “hunted” animals during his regime.
Almost forty-four years of brutal communism left a deep and festering wound that would be hard to heal and would scar a few generations. In 1990 the world found out about the dreadful orphanages where hundreds of thousands of “orphans” were institutionalized under the benevolent “care of the state.”
These children were abandoned by their parents out of desperation because they already had too many children to support at home and it was impossible to feed them in an economy in which everything was rationed and the grocery stores were empty. It was a choice between death by starvation or accepting the magnanimous “care of the state” who promised them gentle care, food, and education.
Other children were abandoned because they were born imperfect or became sick, and the state refused to treat them medically in the substandard hospitals and polyclinics. Rationing medical care in the utopian paradise of communism dictated that the weakest in society, the elderly and the very young, be neglected and institutionalized to a miserable existence in unimaginable hell holes.
Izidor Ruckel spent 11 years of his life in such an institution, a “Camin/Spital pentru Copii Deficienti.” His parents abandoned him there when he contracted polio at an early age and the hospital institutionalized him.
Vaccines, just like drugs and medical care, were scarce, and doses often ran out before all children were immunized. Many villagers were too uneducated to understand the importance of vaccinating their children against polio and other childhood diseases.
After ABC’s “20/20” aired a special on the plight of these terribly neglected children, Izidor was adopted by a California family and brought to San Diego. He describes the trepidation and excitement when the family promised to come back and get him, the dreams to come to America of the show “Dallas,” his let-down when he thought he had been stood up, and the elation when they came back for him.
In a Washington Post video, Janice Tomlin, former “20/20” producer, talks about the megalomaniac Ceausescu who controlled Romania with an iron fist. “He basically destroyed the country. He outlawed abortion, he outlawed contraception, and every woman was required to have five children. In order to have a strong country, he needed to populate the country,” she said.
While she is correct that he destroyed the country, it was not because he outlawed contraception and abortion. He condemned 20 million people to a life of total control, from cradle to grave, when sometimes death was a relief from the pain and misery of exploitative egalitarian life for the masses, while the communist elites lived in the lap of luxury in fancy homes, took expensive vacations, shopped in their own stores, and were treated in their own hospitals by western-trained doctors.
Contraceptives were not known well or easily available in socialist/communist Romania; women used abortion as a form of contraception. If they could find contraceptives on the black market, they were expensive, and women did not take them daily.
Women were certainly encouraged by law to have children to replenish the dying population but were not dictated to have five. The more children a woman had, the more welfare she received from the communist state. Country folks in general had lots of kids in order to have enough hands tending the co-operative farms and a place to stay in the old age in the absence of nursing homes.
Sighetul Marmatiei where Izidor was born is certainly a very impoverished area, and was so particularly during the communist regime.
Tom Jarriel’s report from ABC showed the cruel treatment of children in these orphanages. People were full of outrage yet nobody in this country bats an eye knowing that more than 40 million babies were aborted in this country since Roe v. Wade – it is considered a “choice” to murder a baby in the womb.
“Izidor was not abandoned into another family, he was abandoned into a hell hole,” said Janice Tomlin.
Dr. Jane Aronson, adoption specialist, described the children, “They were emaciated, skeletal… I’ve never seen that anywhere except in Romania.” I wonder if she had equal access to orphanages in communist North Korea, Cuba, Soviet Union, or China of that time.
Watching these children, most of whom have never been touched by human hands, hugged, loved, kissed, spoken to, read to, rocking themselves endlessly with a blank stare was heartbreaking.
Dr. Charles Nelson, professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience at Harvard University, explained how the adopting families in this country were not prepared to intervene in the development of their children who still remembered what had happened to them while raised in an institution that neglected them during their most important formative years.
He also explained that institutionalized children have “lower IQs, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorders, anxiety, attachment problems, difficulties in interpersonal relationships,” and show on scans smaller brains and less electrical activity. “Interventions may not yield the expected outcomes” even in cases when the children were not raised in institutions but were severely mistreated early in life.
Izidor is now in his early thirties and wants to rebuild his life, to help others. He said, “Sighetul Marmatiei is always going to be my hometown. My life is awareness, speaking for those orphans who did not get out.”
Yearning for his real identity, for his biological roots, Izidor concluded with sadness and determination in his voice, “I’ve been known more as an orphan for 22 years now, that is my identity, and I would like to close that chapter and not be known as an orphan.”
The scars left on the soul and minds of so many surviving victims of communism are hard to heal.

2 thoughts on “Communism Left So Many Scarred Lives Behind

  1. Thank you for writing this very pointed piece. Perhaps it will to bring recognition to the fact that this Administration has just commenced diplomatic relations with one of the most brutal regimes in the world, Castro’s Cuba. I will be sending you an email that addresses this heinous act with our illustrious members of Congress, who by the way have become largely irrelevant. Thanking you for holding forth reason, common sense, in this time of suppression of the rights of the common man.

  2. Thanks for keeping the light of truth focused on the horrors of Communism. The sick & the children & elderly are the first to suffer the punishment of government control. There is no place for the weak in Communist governments.

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