Review for “Romania for Export Only”
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Nicolae Viorel Burcea

I am a Romanian orphan; later I became a Romanian adoptee to the United States at the age of almost 9. I had seen a lot of Romanian orphanages- I had been through six, mostly centered in Bucharest, but some in the countryside. When I left the country, I hadn’t many words to describe what I saw or what I felt about the whole event. Sometimes, in my young tweens, I often wondered if it had just been a bad nightmare, situated somewhere in morpheus-like dreamland. Any chance I got to read about Romania, I did. Any chance I got to connect with Romanian adoptees, I did. But there were hardly any to know and fewer still who wanted to speak to me about the orphanages. Most came as babies, and a few came when they were a few years older. The ones who had been in longer- people, perhaps, like myself- had already carved out careers as activists. Most of them, unfortunately, didn’t want to talk to me.

Later on, I began to do my own research about Romanian orphans and international adoptions. A common name often would appear here and there, a woman by the name of Roelie Post, someone who had written a book about adoptions, almost like a final say, an authoritive text of sort. I would pass by her book every now and then, look at its dull cover, and think that the book was probably going to be boring and laden with statistical facts which I could care less to understand. I wasn’t really looking for statistics- I did not envision orphanages by statistics. Some things are commonly understood: most orphans were Roma. Most orphans had physical problems. Most orphans had mental problems. I didn’t care about the effects of abandonment or deprivement of food and resources. Every orphan who ever lives, whether here or there, knows this to be obvious. I didn’t need statistics to tell me that by not eating a certain food, us orphans will lack certain vitamins.

But in time, I had to read Post’s book “Romania for Export Only” simply because it became a road-block. Many people were quoting her, many orphans were mentioning her, and when I often asked for more authoritive and conclusive books, everyone would say to me, “Oh yes, have you heard of ‘Romania for Export Only’? Yes, well, she actually wrote about this issue you’re wondering about”. So, not to do the same work, and now that my curiosity was roused, I decided to take a look at the book and give it a go.

It is an utter shame I didn’t read it sooner. It is one of those books you come to cherish for the authenticity of the writer, the way you come to love Springora for her honesty and poetry in Consent. There is no way I can describe how closely matched I felt with Post’s work. Having lived the life of the orphan as she describes it, in the time as she’s actually there, doing work and research, I was there, in her world, living the world she talks about. I remember having to stop on every page I read to take a note, to bring out my adoption papers. She went to St. Ecaternia. Well, I lived there. She writes about how much money international parents paid to adopt a kid. Well, my adopted parents never hesitated to remind me how much they had to pay for everything to get things rolling. There was an adoption agency that correlated my adoption. I checked it; it was there, as she mentioned in the book. The way things hit and sized up was exactly as I envisioned them in Romania. I could not believe the accuracy of her assessment. And yet, I was left a little horrified by what I came to know: the way western governments took advantage of a country who desperately wanted to be part of Europe. Romania’s accession to the EU came at a cost. And amazingly, most Romanians have no idea.

It’s bewildering to think that when I wrote my memoirs of my time in the Romanian orphanages, I thought I knew something few were willing to tell. I thought I had understood something. But reading Post’s work, it filled a massive gap- a whole side I never knew existed behind my back. She had done it simply, too, the way good poetry is meant to be read, and I had somehow met her right in the middle. She describes the situation with great clarity, and involves a large number of people whom I know simply from living there, from the Romanian presidents, ministers, and international figures, like the wonderful Lady Nicholson of the United Kingdom. The book made clear many things and answered further questions. We kids, the thousands all over the world, were sold out. We walked away thinking we got the best bargain, going elsewhere, living a dream life. Romanians think this. Orphans think this. We think this. But behind our back, a system brewed. Parents all over the world who wanted to adopt kids spent millions to western charities that basically bred us kids to the highest bidder. It’s disturbing to think that so much money was involved and so many people. At the end of the line, us kids and adopted parents were left believing a false lie.

Since my adoption, I joined many networks of kids who wanted to return back to Romania. Many had to learn a hard truth; most of their parents were alive. Many of them were taken from their families. Many of them were smuggled out. Some were reassigned names, sent to specific places, even had the possibility to be sent to multiple countries. It is bewildering to me to think that in the 2 years that my adopted parents were working to adopt me, I had a profile of more than 5 families looking, and competing, to adopt me, all from different countries. It’s incredible, perhaps not in an amazing way as in just the awe that my life was limbering between countries like Sweden, France, the US, or Israel. Cultures miles apart.

Part of me is disappointed in Romania, part of me is more horrified by western countries’ excuses and inability to stop the mass robbing of the kids. The country was given over 100 million euros to fix its broken system, and all the money poured into the very charities that kept the system alive. Western countries became wealthier, and Romania was left with thousands of children less. Most were not orphans- I, for example, am not an orphan per se. Both of my parents are alive. Most kids have discovered this to be true about themselves too. And most of us kids are fine; mental problems are a reality, but our social skills are apt, and we are intelligent, being writers, engineers, performers, professors, and so forth.

I can’t believe how unaware so many people ended up becoming from this. I can’t believe I myself didn’t see it. Which makes the book that much more awe-inspiring, that someone had the guts to expose such a vile system and make us aware how broken many things are. Shame on Romania. Shame on Romani people for not fighting for their children. Shame on Europe. Shame on these charities who intend only to profit from children. It is my opinion, really, having read countless papers on Romanian orphans, that “Romania for Export Only” can be, in itself, final. For an orphan, it explains the interior, and for a student, it explains the exterior. It is a shame it took so long for me to read it, but I’m glad that I did manage to get to it before it was too late.

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