My family recently returned from our visit to our children’s Roma birth family in Bucharest, Romania.
This was our second trip to Bucharest and Romania. The first trip was in 1997 when Heather and I came over to meet and take home our children: Iuliana and Marius. The kids were a little over a year old and living in Orphanage #1. For Romanian orphanages, this was the creme de la creme. The children were looked after and even had daily infant stimulation from a World Vision worker, Elana.
Our children are now 9 yrs old, boy and girl twins, and very happy and healthy. We adopted them when they were about one year old from an orphanage in Bucharest with the help of Adopt International.
We have been open about the details of the adoption with our children since they were babies. The kids have been increasingly curious about their birth family (especially their birth Mother) over the last few years. Their birth Father died when they were infants (which led to the orphanage and adoption).
We’ve been modestly supporting the birth family for several years now and have had photos sent back and forth. This has been difficult and frustrating at times. However, I recently acquired an ATM card from Xoom.com that will enable me to give them an ATM account that works with most banks in Romania — I can control the funds in the account via PayPal.
We’ve always wondered what age made sense for a visit and have been waiting for the children to show interest. We decided last year that we would go this summer. I think the timing was perfect.
So, we were lucky enough to meet Vali Nas and his wife Mariana. Vali and Mariana were kind enough to help us with the logistics and the meeting. Vali is an engineer amd Mariana is a retired medical doctor. Both Vali and Mariana have been helping adopted families reunite with birth families in Romania. They are both fun, enlightened, and thoughtful people that are simply trying to do good. Vali is the moderator of an email group on Yahoo! Groups (RO-maniacs).
The birth family is extremely poor and lives in a very small “house” in Bucharest. We let them know ahead of time (thanks to Mariana) that we were coming. We arrived on a Saturday and were quite stunned to find a large number of people waiting in the tiny “courtyard” of their house. I remember quite clearly how serious and solemn everyone looked as we entered. However, our daughter had the courage and instinct to immediately run to her birth Mother and jump into her arms. Everyone began sobbing and crying, especially their birth Mother. It was a heart-wrenching experience. Everyone felt the deep pain that this poor woman has endured since putting the children in the orphanage. There was always a question in mind about this and the answer was as deep any emotion that I have ever experienced–it was a strange blend between deep joy and profound sadness.
Our son followed our daughter, with a little more caution, but was immediately embraced by his birth Mother, brothers, and sisters. I was surprised how quickly he became comfortable and close. He’s a fairly typical boy and does not enjoy public attention or showing too much emotion. He really surprised me with how natural and affectionate he was with everyone.
The boys immediately started joking around and having fun, and the girls continued hugging, kissing, crying, and laughing. Everyone there suddenly became a lot more relaxed and comforable, and the initial tension that I felt disappeared.
With the tireless help of Mariana, we spent the afternoon with the entire family (~20 people). The children appeared to have no problems playing and communicating, regardless of the fact that they did not speak the same language. This was truly remarkable.
We spent several hours the next day with the family and had an equally wonderful time. We gathered a lot of information about the family and their condition, and began some planning on our part to help out.
We then took a short trip through Romania (Sighisoara, Sibiu, and Brasov), but felt a strong desire to get back to Bucharest and spend more time with the family. So, we came back a day early and spent another long day with the family, including a shopping trip and a McDonald’s lunch. 🙂
On the last day, we said our goodbyes and promised that this was only the beginning. We plan to visit as frequently as we can afford. Our children are deeply concerned about helping the family and continue to talk about the trip and their new family on a daily basis.
Of course, not everyone will have this kind of experience. And obviously, good judgement and planning are essential. But, I have little doubt that meeting birth parents, in most cases, will be an important moment in any adopted child’s life. If you have any desire or instinct to reunite, my unprofessional advice is to do this before the children get into their teens. But, late is better than not at all.
You can see all the photos of our trip at my Romania Reunion photo set.