Schizoid week-end(s)

I found out Mielu(Lamb) is in Spain. He is tiny for his 10 years old. Did not go much to school until this year when he became addicted to the football on Saturdays. Parents in prison for a different type of addiction : drugs. His uncles are linked to some of the strongest criminal gangs in Ferentari. They took him abroad. In the best case scenario he is begging there. He used to go to school and came regularly to the football on Saturdays. The scary part is that I can’t be sure if it is better or worse for him being there than living in the ghetto here. The picture down here is from this week-end. Garbage Bogdan’s mother was taken to prison – trafficking drugs from Spain to Romania is the word in the ghetto. His father is dying and his brother is on his way to prison too. He is a great kid. Football is the main reason why he is fine. He plays for a football club. Discipline and hard work that comes with being in a team helps him a lot.

I went to see Siminica- Toto’s mother. Sile- Toto’s uncle was fixing some broken headphones. Crammed in Siminica’s room of a flat (20 squares meters that include a bathroom , a kitchen) live now 5 people including a baby. The baby is seriously sick as she used drugs while pregnant. She charges money from people that come and shoot safely drugs in her flat. There is not state facility  in Ferentari for the swelling number of drug addicted anywhere despite the huge health risk. The stairways of the apartment buildings are always full of drugs. Here an example from this week-end.Drugsonthestairs Ilie, the other uncle is back from prison and works wherever he can. He is trying to find money to buy a bus ticket for Spain. He is off drugs but his health is not good. Ion, the last of Siminca’s brothers is in prison. Drug trafficking.

Ionut was back to the training and is back to school. He is almost 15 .The jacket for 10 years old fitted him well. He promised he will bring Silviu back to training on Saturdays. In this way  we can make sure he is ok and get for him the most basic things he needs like we did in the past.

At the “Adapost”( the center for partially abandoned children) the numbers shoot up due to the cold weather. Some of the last winter children are back. A 12 years old that never went to school is new there. Hopefully from February he will go for the first time to school. It is very unlikely he will stay in school but it is worth to try. Nobody gave Mitica or Toto a chance and they are doing great.

At the “Adapost” things are ten times better than in the center for abandoned children next by. Extreme violence, abuse and over-medication are some things that do not happen here. Still the children have little chances to make it. There are too many reasons why their chances to be successful are significantly lower to fit in here. We did homework with some of them. Nobody seemed to bother to do homework with Bianca – she is deaf and nobody is trained to work with here. She was very happy to do homework. Denisa is taking care of her. She is a child herself but she is amazingly gentle with Bianca.

Then there are the people that help. That know how hellish some of the lives of these children are. Know that some and sometimes many have lice. That their clothes smell bad and their feet might stink. That real help takes years and results might not be that great. That some if not most are Roma. That I am also Roma. And they still come.  It feels great to see them every week-end. I asked for help and we received enough money to cover the needs for shoes for this winter and probably the entire year need for sport shoes is covered. It was enough even to buy some of the much needed winter jackets.

We have now a washing machine in the ghetto which might make socks and clothes last a lot longer than before. Monica face when I brought it up was the best reward one could get for a gift. Monica has nothing, is seriously sick but she never shies away of helping. As are some of the other people in the ghetto that do amazing acts of kindness despite living in what many of us will think is a hell. I know a policeman that arrests youth on bogus charges. He does it because he cares. Prison is the only chance most of those arrested will survive the winter or their spiraling addiction.

I hope what I write helps. I failed enough times to think that the situation of ghettoes in Europe could change fast to the better. But it is possible to change some lives. And it feels great to be among some of you, those that are trying to do it.

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