Romanian child abandoned for months while parents search for work

“The most difficult periods of time are when my mom and dad are away and my brother and I need to go to school. I have to cook and do the laundry for us. But the most difficult thing is being without my mom’s guidance and warmth,” says Deea.

Like most poor families in Romania, the Mocans were confronted with serious economic problems when the country began transitioning to a market economy after the communist era.

Vasile has struggled for 30 years to make a living from painting in Romania, where artists are neither taken seriously as professionals nor paid well. When Vasile is not painting churches, he is looking for other jobs painting walls, refurbishing houses and farming. Daniela began working abroad to supplement the family’s income a couple years ago.

The most difficult periods of time are when my mom and dad are away and my brother and I need to go to school. I have to cook and do the laundry for us. But the most difficult thing is being without my mom’s guidance and warmth


Vasile also suffers from allergies and asthma, which have disabled him from painting for up to several years at a time. His condition has compounded the family’s financial stress. As much as half of the family’s income goes towards Vasile’s medication, leaving hardly enough money to pay for food, electricity and heat for their small two bedroom apartment. Daniela had but one option: to leave her family and search for work abroad.

“I don’t think I’ll become a painter in the future because I can’t earn a living painting. Since I love mathematics too, I guess I would like to become an architect someday,” says Deea pondering her options in life.

“Mathematics is about numbers and symmetry and I believe everything in God’s creation is based on numbers. Ever since the moment I discovered that, mathematics has been a hobby for me. I love solving problems and equations. It seems like all of life is like a big equation,” says Deea philosophically.

Deea, who begins 8th grade in September, has been the best pupil in her class every year. Last semester she graduated with a score of 10, on a scale of 1 to 10.

It is now August, and Deea has not seen her father for almost three weeks. Vasile has been alone in the village church painting the walls with beautiful faces of saints and angels. When he finally sees his daughter again, he studies her face with a long, scrutinizing look and holds her in his arms. Then he walks her around the church to show her his work in progress.

Afterwards, Deea shows her Dad the drawings and paintings she recently created. She lays her masterpieces on the church floor: the face of Saint George, a house, and a woman standing desperately by a tree bent by the strong force of wind.

Vasile takes a deep breath in and asks his little girl, “Who’s here, Deea, who’s this woman? Where have you seen someone in so much despair?”

For a moment he feared his daughter was reflected in the picture – that she had endured a traumatic experience. “Is this you, Deea?” he asks carefully.

Deea senses her father’s distress and smiles. “No, its just the human form of the distressed tree – the woman is like the spirit or soul of the tree caught in the way of the strong wind.”

The answer eases Vasile’s tension but leaves him concerned about his daughter’s childhood, or lack thereof.

I can’t help but ask myself if all the hardships we have suffered have pushed my kids to grow up too fast, says Deea\'s father

“I don’t know, sometimes I wonder how mature these kids can be. Yesterday she was just a little girl and now she speaks like a mature young adult. I can’t help but ask myself if all the hardships we have suffered have pushed my kids to grow up too fast,” says Vasile.

Indeed, Deea’s comments on life reveal she is wise beyond her years. “I believe God’s creation has a soul of its own. Everything around us is alive. I like to think that each and every thing in this world has a soul or spirit, or at least some kind of consciousness, and I would like to see people more aware of that. I would like them to treat nature with respect, to stop cutting trees down and polluting the air.”

“I do hope that Deea will be a better painter than I am. She is really gifted and was born with oils and varnish in her blood. I always kept a big piece of white paper or cardboard for the children to colour on when they were little. Deea started to draw people very early. She was hardly past the age of two when she created her first human figure!” says Vasile, proud of his daughter’s talent.

“Even so, I don’t think it would be wise for Deea to pursue a career in painting. A hobby, yes, one that can fulfill her. But not a profession. Life has been a constant struggle for survival for me as a painter and for my family,” says Vasile.

Since childhood, Vasile’s heart’s desire was to become a church painter. There’s something holy and beautiful beyond words in church paintings, Vasile would say.

“I painted 17 churches all over the country and I am very pleased with my work. These paintings will remain for future generations, too. My work can last for several hundred years,” says Vasile, conscious that his work has to be done with responsibility.

“I choose ways of rendering scenes from Jesus’ life, portraits of saints, and quotes from their writings in a way that can influence the minds and souls of those who enter the church. Very often I guide the children and teenagers around the church and show them the paintings, talking about the meaningful lives of the characters displayed on the walls. I am really happy that my work is so deeply rooted in spirituality. And I love involving my kids in my work. I feel this is the best way I can educate them.”

Deea is eager to learn everything she can from her dad. They talk regularly about the history of Byzantine tradition, painting techniques, the Renaissance and renowned artists

Deea is eager to learn everything she can from her dad. They talk regularly about the history of Byzantine tradition, painting techniques, the Renaissance and renowned artists. She loves learning about her faith and culture when she helps him with his work, too.

Vasile is a warm-hearted man. He volunteered for three years to teach a local painting club that World Vision has supported with painting materials for seven years. The painting club has been very successful, with a number of children under Vasile’s tutelage winning prizes for their artwork.

“I deeply enjoyed working with children. They brought me a sense of joy in a time of great poverty. I taught them how to paint portraits, landscapes, and icons on wood and glass. They made me very proud by earning first prizes in national painting competitions. Children are so receptive and inventive. I confess that there were times when I learned from them,” says Vasile.

Deea and Alexandru have both been involved in the painting club, and use a computer lab and sports hall that World Vision supports with modern equipment. World Vision has also provided them with school supplies, clothes and footwear.

Alexander is part of the Vodafone scholarship program, developed through World Vision, for gifted children who live in Romania’s countryside. The program financially supports 30 students from Cluj County and 155 at a national level, covering their transportation or accommodation fees to attend high school in the city. The program also offers school supplies, schoolbooks, monitoring of school results, tutoring and social activities.

Deea and Alexandru are but two of thousands of children suffering from poverty in Romania. Poverty leads to child abandonment, which is a national issue in Romania.

By the end of 2006, the parents of approximately 59,959 Romanian children were working abroad, according to a study conducted by the National Authority for Protecting Children Rights and released in May 2007. Some children are left with extended family or friends, while others end up in the child protection system. The migration and abandonment phenomenon is especially prevalent in rural Romania.

By the end of 2006, the parents of approximately 59,959 Romanian children were working abroad. While the income gained by working abroad supports the families, children are ‘abandoned’ to be raised by grandparents and other relatives and suffer serious psychological consequences. Families are torn apart.

While the income gained by working abroad supports the families, children are ‘abandoned’ to be raised by grandparents and other relatives and suffer serious psychological consequences. Families are torn apart.

Regardless of age, children are acutely aware of their parent’s absence and lack of emotional support. The May 2007 study reveals that children would rather stay with their parents and face life’s hardships than have their parents leave. Thus, children are most keen to have their emotional needs met above their material needs; children yearn for their parents’ love and attention.