Maria came to Harja when she was ten days old. The anniversary of her christening was celebrated with a big party. All the children, the carers and their husbands, her godparents and other friends of Betty and Puiu came to it. A small lock of her hair was cut off and wrapped in hot wax to bring her good luck in the future. Everyone danced until early in the morning. Lidia and Diana sang a song and Marcel was a star dancer and producer.
Ionut and Mariuca came to Harja in November 2013. When Ionut was fourteen months old and Mariuca four months, neighbours reported their lack of care to the Department of Child Protection. They were immediately put into hospital – Ionut weighed only six kilos and had frozen toes. They stayed there for six months and were then fostered. But the foster mother was unstable, sometimes violent; they were transferred to another foster mother who had little time for them. When they came to Harja they would sit on chairs with their arms crossed, just staring ahead of them.
They love playing outside – it seems that this was a new experience for them – and Mariuca is always busy. Ionut has very few words; he seems to understand everything that is said to him but cannot concentrate for more than ten minutes, even on the one-to-one daily times he spends with Ancuta or our very experienced carer, Geni. His hyperactivity makes it impossible for him to go to nursery school at the moment.
Mariuca is a happy child, relaxed and for the moment showing no scars from her difficult first years. She goes to nursery school with Stefan, Lala and Gabi.
Stefan has spent all his life in an orphanage when he came to Harja aged two. He had many fears: of the bathroom, from which he fled; of any small group of men, at the sight of whom he called ‘Polizia, Polizia’; of being returned to the orphanage, so that he asked Betty to lock him in the car when she took the children to the nursery school.
But he settled very quickly, sleeping well, and , like all the children, eating well. He is very much at home now in Harja, energetic, very funny, and loving – particularly to Puiu, Betty’s husband, and to Luci, with whom he doesn’t quite know how to behave.
Deni had been taken to an emergency care centre, following reports by the neighbours and an NGO operating near her village that she was not being properly cared for. Her mother had left to work in Italy – left, too, two children from her marriage to another man. After two weeks in the care home Deni came to Harja, her head shaved and without any possessions.
Now she is very happy playing with Mariuca and Maria; she loves the kindergarten and being told stories which she tells to the little girls, and she laughs a lot.
She talks, too, to her dolls and promises them a holiday at the seaside if they are good.
She is a pretty girl. Her insecurity shows if she is taken to a place she does not know.