I was condemned to a hellish orphanage at age two. Today I’m a musician, wife, and mother. This is my story.
by Ramona Dudas
I was born in the dark age when Communism was at large in Romania. By unfortunate circumstances, the lady who delivered me left the hospital without revealing her identity. I do not know what were her reasons to leave me. All I know is that as the years passed, I learned to forgive her. I tried to imagine that her reasons were serious ones, and also I decided to respect her choice of keeping me alive.
Unfortunately, there is missing information in regards to my first three years of life. I found out that they moved me from one hospital to another until I was over 2 years old. I had no legal identity, meaning I had no rights. But even if I had had a name or identity during the black age when I was born, the abandoned children did not have rights at all and they were placed in children’s homes and subjected to all kinds of abuses. Maybe for the reason that I had no identity or because of somebody’s decision, I was diagnosed as ”IRRECOVERABLE” and sent to Cighid children’s home in Bihor County. It was more like a concentration camp or green mile, where according to my recent research, a strong child would live up to six months or a year, and after that, the child was buried in the nearby cemetery. I will won’t speak about the details or what it meant to survive there, but anyone interested can search on the internet (see video below).
Even though I was sentenced to an early death, there was a God who had a different plan for me. Now the question is, why did He choose me, when others died without being mourned and known by anyone? Still, I thank God for the gift of life.
Glimmers of Hope
Right after I turned three years old, in 1990, the horrors from Cighid were discovered. The place was shut down, and the children who survived the green mile were brought to hospitals, especially the Infant Neuro Psychiatry hospital in Oradea. This was how I got settled in the department of Dr. Monica Platon, a neuropsychiatrist. The most important thing that brought the change of my destiny was that Dr. Platon gave permission to volunteers to come work with the children she was responsible for.
At a little over 3 years old, I weighed around 10-12 pounds and refused to swallow any food. I would only lay on my back and fix my eyes on the ceiling without any ability to move. That was when I was found by Corina, the lady through whom God changed my destiny. In those times, Corina was a young girl, 19 years old, who came to volunteer with the children in the hospital. Corina stood by me, talking to me and comforting me by stroking my head with her hand.
So, the long and difficult journey to my recovery started from here. Slowly, with some mashed biscuits on my tongue, I started accepting food from Corina’s hand. She brought me secret, home-cooked food because the hospital food was lacking vitamins and was never enough. Little by little, I gained strength and was able to rise, sit up, then stand on my feet to the surprise and joy of Corina. She was daily caring and practicing with me for hours. Dr. Platon was also overjoyed at my progress. She finally yielded to Corina’s pleading, and decided to give me special permission to visit Corina’s home.
In that time, Corina was living with her parents and her eight brothers and sisters, the youngest being two years older than me. After the two days I spent at Corina’s home where everything was new, clean, different, and nice, Corina had to take me back to the hospital. I started desperately to cry. The next weekend I again went home with Corina, with the signed permission slip. This time, Corina decided to risk herself and not to take me back to the hospital again.
In those times, foster care was something new, and nobody had any idea how to do it. Finally, after one year of countless signed permission slips, with the willingness of Dr. Monica Platon and through a delegation from the child protection department, I was sucessfully placed in foster care in the Caba family. This family, Corina’s family, gave me a new identity, a birth certificate, and a brand new life.
The Chains Begin to Break
At the age of 5 years, after one year in the Caba family surrounded with love, safety, everybody’s attention, and a lot of good and healthy food, my progress was huge. Mom and Papa Caba, Corina’s parents, loving accepted me in their family and treated me as if I was their own child. Simona, Manuela, Lidia, Benjamin, Sami, Dani, Alin and Andrew, all surrounded me with a lot of affection, just as their youngest sister, and I learned to trust and feel protected and secure. When Corina took me to Dr. Platon for checkups, she was always amazed by my obvious progress.
I have to re-emphasize that at three years and three months, when the hard work started with me, my stage was like a newborn baby. The only achievements I had were the trauma and the wounds that required healing. At almost five years, I was walking very well, I had no more need of diapers, and I was eating by myself. I was trying to speak, but I could not pronounce clear words. However, I understood everything I was told and when Corina used to read me bedtime stories, I already knew what the next page was about. I had a special attraction to music. I loved listening to it and I used to sing in my language. When night came, I wouldn’t fall asleep without Corina, because she had to put her hand on my cheek until I would fall into a deep sleep. There were often times during the night when I woke up so scared, screaming as I watched an unseen terror. I would only calm down when Corina woke me up, comforted me, and put her hand on my cheek again so I could fall into a deep sleep.
Corina wanted to take me to kindergarten, but she was very worried about my inability to speak. Every night after I’d fall asleep, Corina used to pray for my healing with her hand laid on my head. One night, after she prayed for about an hour, she had a vision. She saw my brain trapped by a black hand with big sharp nails that was keeping it in the darkness. This picture persisted as Corina was praying, and she kept saying: “Oh, Lord, I will not stand up from my knees until you take aside this black hand!” After a few minutes, as she continued to pray, she saw a hand full of bright, shining light descend and remove every finger, one by one, of the hand that kept my brain captive. The next day when I woke up, I spoke clearly for the first time, not only a word, but a whole sentence: “Mom, I want to eat.” After that, my progress tripled. I remember even now what the prayers of Pastor Caba, Corina’s father, did for me. He was always there to pray for me and encourage me.
At the age of six years, when the time came for the school entry test, Mama Caba and Corina decided that I would not be a student at just any school, but at the Arts High School with a focus on piano. I got a good grade for the musical skills test, because as Mama Caba discovered, I had perfect musical hearing. However, the psychology test was not as good as expected, which means that my IQ resulted in a 65, a coefficient of intelligence that indicates serious mental retardation. So, the doctor and the psychologist said that there was never going to be a chance for me to succeed at learning in a normal school, let alone as a piano student in the Arts High School. But Corina and Mama Caba said, “No way, Ramona will study piano at the High School of Arts, because she is very talented and loves music.”
When I started school, four years of hard work were awaiting me. After a long day at school, I had another 4 hours of homework and piano exercises with Mama Caba. Every other day, I had to do my physical exercises to recover my mobility. I also had swimming lessons. This whole journey was pretty difficult, but when I was tested again at the end of the 4th grade, my IQ was around 100.
Adoption, Forgiveness, and Miracles
The time passed, and little by little I discovered the story of my life. Because I was dark-skinned, I had to face a lot of prejudice, whether in school or the community. When I turned 10 years old, my adoption was finally legalized, and my official name became RAMONA CABA, a name I proudly received. Corina Caba became my legal mother.
To adopt a child in those times was something new in our Romanian society, but to have adopted a dark-skinned child was inconceivable for the many people. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of prejudice toward dark-skinned children in Romania, especially the Roma children. But I want to tell these children that we all are equal in God’s eyes, we are His creation, and not even the color, not even the intelligence or the outfit will make someone more special, valuable, or important. The wise king Solomon said in the book of Proverbs: “What is desirable in a man is his kindness”, and this kindness is not inherited by us, but learned from those who display it to us. Show the child goodness so he learns to be good.
I am saying all these things because I had to face all the bullying and the challenges from other people, just because I was dark-skinned. Still, I have learned to forgive and answer kindly to these challenges because I have always been surrounded with love and kindness at home. I was accepted, loved, and protected, and this helped me pass over it all.
When I started 5th grade, I had no need of help with my homework. In the 7th grade, I received an award for a national music competition for piano. I graduated High School with almost an A, and I did excellent at the graduation exams. I say none of these things to praise myself or anybody else. All the glory, honor and praise belongs to our God, the King of Kings who not only plucked me out of the darkness and spared me from death, but also healed my brain, my mind, heart and soul.
From the children who were brought to Oradea from Cighid in 1990, a large number could not be saved; they died. Those who lived have serious mental and physical damages. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors have told me, “From a scientific point of view, your evolution is something unbelievable and contradicts all that medicine says. Humanly speaking: IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.” As Dr. Monica Platon concluded, “You are a true miracle, my dear Ramona!”
What else can I say about me? After I graduated high school, I went to the university, continued my piano studies, and married Emil Dudas in 2009. In 2013, April 26th, the Lord gave me the greatest privilege to become a mother when He blessed us with our beloved and precious son, Simeon. He is a brilliant child, healthy and perfect from all points of view, just like every good and perfect gift that comes from above. I pray that God helps me be a good wife and mommy, and that my life glorifies Him so that I may spread His goodness and light with which He healed me and touched my life.
When I look behind, I see no sad story because of the trauma or suffering which has marked me. What has really molded my life and my character was the way God saved me from it all. His victory over all of this and the miracles He performed has put its mark on me. These have made me what I am—and what I will be when He accomplishes all He started in me. I see the way God has saved me and has given me a new meaning of life, a brand new identity and a hope and light-filled future.
I will end my testimony with a special verse from the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11. It says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” I pray this will encourage everyone who needs to be redeemed, healed, and restored. For I am a living witness that there is no man or child that is irrecoverable, and there is no man that cannot be restored by God. He works through His people who are ready to become His outstretched hands, so they can uplift those in need.
During the first week of November, most of the leadership and staff of Romania Reborn will be on the ground in Romania. Executive director Christian Feavel (who has been in the country since August) will be joined by five of Romania Reborn’s board members, in our first-ever board trip to Romania.
While many of us have traveled to Romania separately, we have never been there as a group—and a re-connection between our American and Romanian leadership is long overdue. We plan to visit foster and adoptive families, get to know Romanian staff, hold meetings with the new Romanian board of directors, and attend the Romania Without Orphans conference.
We’d value your prayers for us:
1. For safety and health in travel
2. For effectiveness in ministry
3. For unity and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit among the Romanian and American leadership
4. For God’s continued guidance of our ministry as we make decisions
As always, we’re grateful to you, our supporters, who make all of this work on behalf of abandoned children possible. We’ll strive to represent you well in Romania!
Early this year, we told you about our four-step plan to make a lasting impact on Romania by building an “orphan care culture.”
But before we can build something new, we have to shore up the foundation—literally. Back in 1998, our first project as an organization was constructing an orphanage building in Oradea, Romania. This building (called Hope House) was completed in 2000, and it’s been the headquarters of our Romanian ministry ever since. But that ministry looks different today than it did 15 years ago—and so does the building.
Hope House in the early days, full of kids!
In the early days, we had 16 children living at Hope House at any given time, while we worked to find them families. Today, we’re working on more children’s cases than ever before (36 as of this writing). But rather than living at Hope House itself, our children all live with their soon-to-be families. This arrangement became necessary due to changes in Romanian law, but it’s also an overall better environment for the children. Although Hope House was a beautiful and well-run children’s home, a loving family is always superior to an institution.
So what happened to the Hope House building? Well, it’s still in use as an office for our staff. But to be perfectly blunt, it’s seen better days. After years of hard wear as a home for abandoned children, Hope House is in dire need of both renovation and refurbishing as a real headquarters for our expanding ministry.
Hope House today is showing its wear and needs to be refurbished for a new purpose.
For years, we’ve been praying that God would supply the funds needed to renovate Hope House. A refurbished headquarters would allow us to hold counseling sessions on-site; host training workshops for parents (like the recent one featured here on our Facebook); and supply office space and equipment for additional staff as the ministry grows.
Recently, God answered our prayers in a clear and humbling way. On June 18, our board was scheduled to meet by phone conference to discuss the increasingly-urgent renovation need. Just as the meeting was set to begin, an unexpected text message came through to a board member’s phone from an anonymous donor, pledging a $35,000 matching gift for our annual July fundraiser. This generous donor promised to match every dollar we raise in regular giving during July, up to $35,000. If the entire goal is reached, the matching gift will be just the amount needed to fully fund the renovation. (Needless to say, our scheduled board meeting became a time of prayer and praise instead!)
This pledge means that our July Giving Challenge has added significance this year. Every dollar you give this July will serve a double purpose: first funding our regular work, and second securing a gift to renovate our ministry headquarters. You could think of it as a way to impact Romania both now (through the life of a child) and in the future (through the building from which we hope to launch an orphan care movement.)
But we’ll need some help to get there. In past years, our July goal has always been $20,000. We’ve occasionally overshot that goal by a little, but $35,000 is by far our highest July goal to date. This is a big goal, but we serve a big God—a God who sees the sparrows and certainly cares for the many Romanian children still waiting for families.
So if God is leading you to help this July, there are quite a few ways you could get involved:
1. Our “Summer Sales” effort is a fun way to get your family and community in on fundraising.
2. If you live in the greater DC area, our benefit concert on July 17 is another great opportunity.
3. Of course, the simplest way is just to give a donation of any amount. Remember, every gift this month will be doubled by a matching gift donor—and, we trust, multiplied even further by our gracious and mighty God. To Him be the glory!
Editor’s Note: In recent years, Americans have become increasingly aware of the heinous reality of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. What many do not know is that this important issue is often linked to the plight of orphaned and abandoned children, who are significantly more vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.
The following article was written by Caleb Loomis, a Government major at Patrick Henry College with a concentration in International Politics and Policy. Last summer, Caleb served as an intern at Romania Reborn. We’re grateful for the many hours he invested in our ministry, including researching the connection between child abandonment and human trafficking. For more in-depth reading, source documents are linked.
Romanian children are surfacing throughout Europe as beggars, thieves, and prostitutes. The Romanian mafia (and other international criminal groups) recruit these children from the streets and proceed to exploit them for maximum profit.
The Roma ethnic population—often referred to as “gypsies”—are among Romania’s most vulnerable. Living on the streets, Romani children are an easy target for criminal networks. Uncared for by their birth parents, these children are left to protect themselves.
In 2001 Romania suspended international adoption, eventually banning it in 2004. Romani children are adversely impacted, because most Romanian families will not consider adopting a child of Romani background. The Roma are subject to acute discrimination, although the majority of abandoned children are Romani.
Child abandonment is so common that 70,000 Romania children are growing up in an institution, rather than a home. The lucky ones are abandoned at hospitals, where they may be adopted as infants. Once institutionalized, their chances of finding a family quickly fade.
Corina Caba, founder of Hope House Family Center in Oradea, believes that there is no substitute for a functional family. Children need the love and safety of a home. Romanian youth who have been denied a family—whether due to bereavement or abandonment—deserve to have a home. Caba is passionate about finding a permanent, caring family for every displaced child within her influence.
When interviewed, Caba expressed her concern over the sale and purchase of children. Some parents “rent” their babies to the Romanian mafia. The infants are drugged into passivity and used by professional beggars to conjure greater sympathy and donations. Caba also purports that Romanian children are smuggled abroad to beg for money.
Caba concedes that she is overwhelmed. The task of finding a home for Romanian youth is more than social services can handle, let alone one non-governmental organization (NGO). She pleads for Christians everywhere to pray. If only two families from every Romanian church extended their home to a child, the Romanian orphan crisis would subside.
Most of these children are not technically orphans, however. They have parents. In order to be eligible for adoption, social workers must find all of a child’s living relatives, and all must express a desire to have no relationship with the child. In the case of an abandoned child, this is no simple task. Consequently, less than 3% of children in Romania’s care are eligible for adoption.
Once the children turn two years old, they are transferred to state residence where children are seldom adopted. At age 18, they graduate from state residences and are afforded no national assistance. Poorly equipped to enter a competitive workforce, graduates will be forced to take unusual risks to survive. They are ripe for criminal exploitation.
Due to its geographical position between the East and the West, Romania acts as a gateway to Europe. The European Commission purports that Romanian children are smuggled into Italy, Spain, and Germany—where they are forced by their handlers to steal, beg, and prostitute themselves.
The US identifies Romania as a major supplier of forced labor in the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report. The report not only highlights Romania’s failure to assist exploited children, but notes a distressing trend: “The prevalence of children in the victim population increased from 319 [in 2011] to 370 in 2012.” The report also includes this chilling finding: “Traffickers who recruit and exploit Romanian citizens are overwhelmingly Romanian themselves, typically seeking victims from the same ethnic group or within their own families.” (Emphasis added.)
The U.S. Embassy in Romania notes similar trends. Officials report that criminal groups have become increasingly sophisticated. Law enforcement is encountering new patterns, as Romanian children are being moved in greater numbers to more locations.
Since Romania’s admission to the EU in 2007, smuggling minors internationally has become easier. Border regulations have been reduced, making the illicit transport of human cargo possible. Bribery and the use of fake ID’s at the border is not uncommon or unsuccessful. Moreover, specialized law enforcement has all but vanished. As of 2009, the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons was defunded. Consequently, Romania’s children are being exploited in growing numbers.
David Batstone, co-founder of Not for Sale (an international anti-slavery group), reported to CNN that: “By and large, local police turn a blind eye to these crimes and social services for the victims are practically nonexistent.” While Romania officially prohibits the transportation of individuals for purposes of forced labor (Law No. 678/2001), it has poorly enforced this standard.
Aftercare programs, designed to re-integrate victims into society, are also underfunded. No government grants are allocated to NGOs. Privately-funded NGOs are still able to effectively serve victim populations, however. Not for Sale runs an extensive rehabilitation program without government grants. Similarly, Hope House is able to shelter abandoned children—while trying to place them in a permanent family—because of magnanimous donors through the U.S. nonprofit Romania Reborn. But NGOs like Not for Sale and Hope House are the anomaly.
Batstone concludes, “Whenever the poor and vulnerable do not have access to legal justice, they will be exploited.” Until Romania expedites its adoption laws and facilitates strong aftercare programs, Romanian youth will be exposed to unnecessary risks.
On Friday, January 31st, Christian musicians Jenny & Tyler will play a benefit show for us in Purcellville, VA. Here’s why you should buy tickets right now for this show:
1. It helps abandoned kids.
Your ticket purchase will help our ministry save kids from abandonment and place them where they belong: in families. Watch our Romanian director tell one child’s story below. Don’t you want to help write more stories like this?
2. It’s affordable.
Seriously, $12 for a concert ticket (and even less for your kids) is a great deal. Most big-name Christian concerts will cost you around $50 a head. This will be smaller, yes . . . but isn’t that good? You can sit closer.
3. It’s freezing outside.
And we know you’ve got cabin fever after two weeks of this: