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Photographer's Note

Although Romania was admitted to the European Union at the beginning of this year, it is still considered a developing country (in the middle ‘emerging markets’ category) with a GDP per capita slightly below Malaysia and slightly above Thailand.

Therefore it is not surprising to see beggars and homeless children on the streets of Romania’s cities, but what did surprise me was how well dressed this young beggar girl was. She didn’t look homeless, but she followed me around the old town of Bucharest for ages, and wouldn’t give up until I gave her some money. At one stage she saw some policemen walking towards us, and she quickly disappeared into an alley, only to return when the policemen were out of sight. She seemed very ‘experienced’ at begging for such a young age.

I gave her two 50 bani coins which she seemed happy with. I had been given some 50 bani coins by the money changer at the airport, who told me that they were equivalent to 5 lei (Romanian currency is the leu, plural lei, about 3 to the euro) but it wasn’t until I tried to spend them I realised that I had been cheated, because they were in fact only worth half a leu.

Although this child looked well dressed and well fed, many are not so fortunate.

The website of the Romanian Children’s Relief Network (www.romanianchildren.org) says this about the children for which it has been established to help: “Known as the ‘land of the orphans’, Romania has this reputation largely due to the legacy of its former ruthless dictator, Ceausescu and his wife and their pro-natalist policies. In his desire to build a large nation, Ceausescu wanted women to have at least five children. At the same time he robbed the people economically as he built his luxurious palace. Women gave birth to children they couldn't care for. Many women died in childbirth as a result of severe malnutrition and lack of medical care. Mothers abandoned babies, giving them up to government orphanages. Today, as a result of this legacy, there are thousands of abandoned and orphaned children trying desperately to survive on the streets. Many of these street children die from starvation, disease and exposure to the brutal Romanian winters”.

The background perspective distortion is due to the 12mm lens.

(Postscript: I’ve left the second last paragraph in so that you will understand the exchanges below between Dora and Flory, but as Dora rightly points out, children on the streets of Romania today can’t be directly linked to the policies of Ceausescu’s era because that ended in 1989)

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1237 W: 108 N: 2568] (7789)
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