The organized community and its priest have so far accepted 97 children
“They used to come here to find love”
Representatives of the civil society organizations, members of the Balkan Network for Civil Society Development, visited the organization Pro Vita as one of the Romanian positive examples of mobilizing resources.
On the day of St. Peter and Paul, it was very solemn in the small church in the village of Vala Populi in Romania. The service took place in the churchyard, which was full of people. What those who know very little about the village could notice was the big number of children in comparison to the adults. They do not look as if they are brothers and sisters, they are about the same age, physically very different…But, you say to yourselves, maybe I am just imagining. And then again, you find yourself analyzing the Vala Populi inhabitants, dressed in Sunday clothes, following the service attentively.
Father Nikola Tanase’s mission
Father Nikolas Tanase is strictly against abortion. His mission is to convince the future mothers to give birth to their children, instead of “getting rid of them”. If there are no conditions elsewhere, they can deliver the babies there, at Vala Populi. Will they stay with them or not – it is up to them to decide. If they decided to leave the children, that community will look after them.
Sounds really amazing. Like a shelter.
“In the beginning we were only speaking against the abortion”, says Father Tanase. “We did not plan to bring children here, but then the women started abandoning their children”, says the priest. “At that time, the pregnant women used to come here not for material help, but to find love”, he adds, slowly moving his hand along his long beard
The impressive figure of Father Tanase will surely attract your attention. Large tables for lunch were placed in the churchyard, which joined with the next-door yard with only one move of the wooden fence. He invited us to join the other guests. While the housewives were offering what their skillful hands had done that day, and children were running around trying to help, father Tanase told us how he brought the first child to Vala Populi.
Lucian Cizmaru was only twelve days old when his mother gave it to the village priest, who then contacted Father Tanase and asked him to find home for the baby. Father Tanase had traveled several hundreds kilometers with the baby in a cardboard box, lying at the back of his old car. The next day, he brought the child into the church, put him in a warm basket before starting the liturgy.
“As we were singing that morning, we heard a baby’s cry”, says Maria Cizmaru, inhabitant of Vala Populi. “Several people, including me, run to the window, thinking that the cry was coming from the snow outside. Then we saw the baby in the box”! Maria asked the priest if she could take the baby at home. Maria, mother of four children and farmer’s wife, was not sure how her husband Jon would react to another mouth to feed. Seven years later, Lucian is still her child.
At first, the neighbors in that traditional village did not approve what Maria had done. “The men used to ask my husband how he could raise somebody else’s child”, says Maria. They used to gossip us a lot”. But for Maria, Lucian is a gift from God. “When I was young, I had an abortion. I used to feel so much guilt about that”, confesses Maria. “I would pray and make confessions for month, but I was not feeling any better. When Lucian arrived, Father Tanase told me: “God is sending you this child as a sign of forgiveness. Today, Lucian is our son. I could never give him back. I love him so much. We all love him very much”.
Accepting Lucian by the Cizmaru family was the spark of transformation of Vala Populi. Today, most of the families in village look after 97 abandoned children, providing moral support to the single mothers who come and stay in the village. They get a small amount of money from Father Tanase, money that he provides from the business sector and other donors. However, they say that the money itself is not their motivation.
Vala Populi has changed since its inhabitants started working with Father Tanase. “We are united with the same goal – to help this children and the pregnant mothers who seek shelter in our village”, they say.
“Ask 100 people and they will tell you that the abortion or the unwanted children are economic problem. It is not true. The doctors perform the abortions because they do not have faith in God. Men beat their women because they fear not God in their souls. The roots of the reason are in the lack of faith”, says Father Tanase.
Father Tanase and the people around him have organized the civil society association Pro Vita. The organization mobilizes human and material resources, thus helping the children. The priest’s goal has become the goal of everybody in the community. Father Tanase aroused the civic activism, motivated the people, took out the humanity from them so that he could give it to the children who need it so much.
Not far from the village, several two-floor houses have been built, where some of the children live.
We met the thirteen-year-old Gorge at the churchyard. He kept us company on the way to their small settlement. Although he was not in the mood to talk with the newcomers, he told us that he had been there for eight years. He goes to primary school and wants to continue into high school to become a policeman. His older sisters, the twins Alina and Florentine, live in the same settlement. They go to the high school of theology. They have been there since their father died. Their mother decided to put the three of them at Vale Populi because she could not look after her seven children alone. The children visit their mother and the family for the holidays. They say that they are happy in the village.
“At the moment, the village provides home for 50 children”, says the Pro Vita director. “We have 4 employees, and a number of volunteers look after the children as well”, she added.
The life mission of Father Tanase attracts many students who come to Vale Populi and volunteer. They spend several months looking after the children. That is not the case only with the people from that region. Pro Vita and what has been going on in Vala Populi is known in whole Romania, so there are people coming from everywhere.
We visited Pro Vita and Vala Populi as a successful and positive example for mobilizing resources, and, that is what they really are. The poor community, guided by Father Nikolas Tanase managed to mobilize itself and accept those in need, to give such people what is necessary for them – even more – a home they will feel as their own and love that was taken away from them.
How Chausesku increased the number of Romanians
From 1966 to 1991, a restrictive Law was into force in Romania, forbidding the use of modern contraception, except for strictly limited medical or social reasons. The goal was to increase the population in Romania rapidly and to increase the labor force in the country.
In the communist times, women who would choose to fight for an adequate protection of their numerous families, were encouraged to give their children to state orphanages. Thousands of unwanted and abandoned children were placed in the insufficiently equipped institutions.
The abortion was only allowed after the fourth child. In order to stop the illegal abortions, women were under constant surveillance. However, illegal abortions existed, and they were usually performed by unqualified practitioners in very bad conditions. From 1979 to 1989, the death rate among mothers in Romania was ten times higher than in any other European country, the main cause being the illegal abortions.
Although the contraception was made legal in 1991, the Romanian women still had doubts and were very little informed on the alternative methods, so they continued to use abortion as a method of family planning. In 1993, Romania reported the highest rate of legally performed abortions in the world - almost 200 of 1000 women aged 15 to 44, a rate which is seven times higher than that in the USA.
According to Father Tanase, since the fall of Chausesku, that in the period of 16 years, about 16 million abortions have been registered.