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 two 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 one who 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.
Ramona Dudas is the daughter of our ministry director, Corina Caba. Her story inspired Corina to a life of ministry among abandoned children, and hundreds more have been saved. To support our ongoing work to place abandoned children in families, click here.
This article originally appeared in our newsletter, Tidings of Hope. To subscribe, click here.
Anyone who reads fairy tales know how they typically end: the villain is defeated, and the hero and heroine ride off into the sunset . . . never to be heard from again. The narrative ends where everyday life begins.
At Romania Reborn, our accounts of kids’ lives often follow a similar story arc. A child is born into an impoverished or neglectful family and abandoned at birth. After months (or years) of waiting and suffering, he or she is rescued and finally placed into an adoptive family. And that’s where the story ends: with our own version of “happily ever after.”
So it was a rare treat for me this month to talk via Skype with one of our former Hope House kids, “Stephen” (now 11), and his adoptive dad, Sorin. Despite the inherent awkwardness of a conversation across language barriers, time zones, and internet-quality audio, I nonetheless loved getting a glimpse into the miracle of Stephen’s normal, happy, everyday life.
I had met Stephen on a visit to Romania in 2005, when he was three years old and still living at Hope House. He easily stands out in memory, his curly hair framing his small face, and an expression of shy intelligence shining from his one good eye. The other eye had been lost in the incident of domestic violence that had initially landed him in state care. Finally safe at Hope House, he was at peace, but not entirely happy. Something was missing.
“Families would come and go from the orphanage, and most of his friends started getting adopted,” Hope House director Corina Caba remembers. “He began to pray every night: ‘Please God, send me a mother and a father.’”
When he was nearly four, Stephen had the opportunity to receive a top-quality artificial eye in England. Christopher Calow, a Christian eye doctor visiting Romania from the UK, met Corina and told her that an English surgeon could give him a much better eye than anything available in Romania. Dr. Calow and his wife, Patricia, subsequently arranged for a pro bono surgery, transportion, and housing for Corina and Stephen in England.
But God wasn’t done answering prayers. When Stephen was five, Sorin and his wife, Adriana, visited Hope House for the first time. Initially, they were interested in adopting a baby. “We were unable to have children of our own,” Sorin told me. But as soon as they met Stephen, their plans changed. “We felt a connection with Stephen from the very first visit.”
“Stephen was shy. He wasn’t the kind to run right into someone’s arms,” Corina remembers of that moment. “But I remember Sorin going over to him, getting down on his level, and talking to him quietly. You could just see the connection.”
Today, that instant connection has deepened into an obvious fatherly love, joy, and pride in his son. Sorin speaks glowingly of his adoption experience. The obstacles, if any, were minor compared to the blessings Stephen has brought to the family. “The process of adoption is very natural,” Sorin told me, “And the changes in our life have all been positive ones.”
Similarly, the loss of an eye hasn’t proved to be a barrier to a normal and full childhood for Stephen. His many interests include karate, soccer, riding his BMX bike, swimming, and skiing. At school, he just completed the fourth grade, where he has many friends and excels in mathematics and drawing. His current aspiration is to become an architect when he grows up.
Stephen (far right) with school friends.
Stephen’s family recently moved to a new home on the outskirts of the city, next door to his aunt, uncle, and two cousins. They travel to the mountains every winter for a family skiing trip.
But more than all these material things, Stephen has finally found that “something” he had been missing: love. “We love Stephen, and Stephen loves us. And this is very important,” Sorin emphasized. “We give him a lot of love, and he gives us a lot of love. We can’t imagine life without him now.”
Sometimes God uses one simple, faith-filled action as the seed from which to grow a miracle. A young boy gives up his modest lunch, and five thousand are fed. A widow drops two tiny coins into the offering box, and untold generations are challenged toward faith and generosity.
In the case of little “Gina,” an entirely new life came through a very simple act of faith indeed. We just heard her sweet story this week from our orphanage director, Corina.
God grows miracles from small seeds of faith.
Abandoned as a newborn, Gina spent her first year of life primarily in institutions. In the region of Romania where we work, private charities often send workers into hospitals to help care for abandoned children, rendering their living conditions (while still less than ideal) far better than they once were. Thanks to these volunteers, it’s rare today to find the hollow-eyed, utterly emaciated children we saw so often in the 1990s.
But sadly for Gina, she was shuffled from one place to another during her year of abandonment, missing out on the volunteer caregivers. By the time she came to our attention, she looked like an abandoned child we might have met twenty years ago. Weak, malnourished, and barely able to take food or lift her head, no visitor would have guessed she was nearing her first birthday.
When a young couple approached Corina a short time later, seeking a newborn to join their family, her thoughts immediately turned to this frail baby still waiting in the hospital. Gina wasn’t quite the newborn they had requested . . . and her health was clearly fragile. But the couple agreed to come and visit her.
The day of the visit came. The prospective parents, not knowing what to expect, tentatively followed Corina through the hallway of the hospital, passing windows of crib-filled rooms. Finally, they pushed open Gina’s door and entered softly. The weak, neglected little baby stirred, looked up into the gentle, eager faces . . . and reached toward them, beckoning to be held.
That was all it took. The couple knew their daughter when they saw her. There was no doubt: “She’s ours.”
Gina went home just before Christmas. Today, just a few weeks later, she has already made tremendous strides, growing healthy, gaining weight, and already learning to crawl. She couldn’t be more loved.
And it all began with that first, impulsive, needy act of faith, as a baby who had never known love summoned all her meager strength to reach out her arms to her unknown visitors.
Do we have the eyes to see our own need, and the faith to respond as this child did? There is One who has quietly entered our lives and stands waiting to heal and restore us. May we daily reach for Him.
“‘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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.'” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
We praise God for your prayers on behalf of Romania Reborn, Hope House, and Living Hope Center. You will find the latest praise and prayer needs below. Join us in praying for these needs and praising God for His answers. God bless you all!
Corina Caba (at right), director of Hope House, returned safely from her month-long visit with her sister, a missionary in Mozambique. She had the opportunity to minister to young children and adults in poverty stricken villages, where she saw God working mightily in their lives. We praise God for giving her this opportunity and bringing her home safely.
Recently, the Romanian government made some changes to its adoption laws. The law has opened the opportunity for Romanian citizens residing in foreign countries to adopt, for which we are truly thankful. However, it has also created more regulations and other difficulties for organizations helping abandoned children. Please pray for Hope House as they seek to file for a new accreditation before June 7, and as they work to comply with the new laws.
Irene’s first ten years were spent in a foster family provided by another foundation in Oradea, Romania. Due to difficulties in the family and the closing of the foundation, Irene has been left in a tenuous situation, and Hope House has stepped in to help. Irene is in need of a foster or adoptive family by June 15. Please pray that God will provide a loving family—one who can deal with her emotional and behavioral issues stemming from her displacement, and who can help her heal.
LIVING HOPE CENTER
A recent accident on the LHC playground left Robby (at right with a friend) with a crushed elbow and in need of surgery. When we sent out an emergency request, you responded: over $5,000 was donated for his needs! Even though we didn’t believe all this money would be needed, we trusted that God knew best and sent the money to Living Hope Center. After Robby’s first surgery, it quickly became apparent that something was wrong. An examination by a specialist revealed that the surgery had been horribly faulty, and Robby would require immediate corrective surgery if he were ever to have use of his arm again. With the extra funds already in the bank, Robby was able to immediately get the help he needed and is recovering nicely. We praise God for His miraculous provision for Robby and his family. Please continue to pray for Robby as he heals and enters physical therapy.
A special thank you to all who gave a gift for Robby. His parents have been amazed by the generosity of strangers, and it has opened a door for the LHC staff to share the love of Christ with them.
This new year, we’re so thankful to have faithful friends like you praying for us and the children in our care. We truly believe that the Lord “hears the prayers of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29). Please join us in praying for the needs below. We know God will answer!
Our number-one prayer request is that God would raise up more Christian families to adopt the children in our foster program. While we’re incredibly thankful for our excellent foster parents, our desire is to see every Hope House child find a true forever family. We praise God that half of the 50 children in our care are on the road to adoption—an unprecedented number! Please join us in praying that the hearts of Romanian Christian families will be open to meet the needs of the precious children who are still waiting.
One of our Hope House foster children is 16-year-old “Sarah,” who grew up in an extremely abusive family. Rescued and removed from her family at the age of 9, she came to Hope House with numerous physical and emotional problems. God has been faithful to slowly heal her scarred heart, but she continues to deal with the painful memories of the past. Please pray that God will give the Hope House staff and her foster mother wisdom as they counsel Sarah. Pray for Sarah to know that Christ is the answer to her painful past.
Living Hope Center
In a few months, two of the students in the Living Hope Center tutoring program will participate in the Romanian National Olympics in Math. The training is tough, but this is an exciting opportunity for these children. Pray for these students to have strength as they study for the competition. Please pray that God will bring encouragement to the students and their families through this amazing opportunity.
LHC students study diligently
“Danny”, 4 years old, is a student at the kindergarten in partnership with LHC. He suffers from speech problems, which leaves him unhappy and agitated. Finding it difficult to fit in with the other children, Danny often plays alone. Please pray that “Danny” will find confidence to learn and progress in his speech and other studies. Pray that his parents and teachers will know how to encourage him. Continue to pray for all the students in the kindergarten and tutoring program to learn, grow, and know Christ.
On January 31, Christian Feavel (director of Romania Reborn) will be traveling to Romania, where she will be visiting Hope House and the Living Hope Center. On February 2, she will also be meeting with pastors and other organizational leaders to share about ACCEDE, a coalition of Romanian Christians working with abandoned children. It is our prayer to see Romanian Christians catch the vision for helping orphans and children at risk. Please pray that God will bring the people to the meeting He wishes to be there, and that their hearts will hear the need and respond as the Lord leads them. Pray for Christian to be able to encourage the Hope House and Living Hope Center staff during her visit. Please also pray for safe travel and good health throughout her trip.