City of dreaming spires … Cornel is now studying philosophy and theology at Oxford
WHEN the horror of Romania’s decrepit orphanages was first exposed, Brits rallied to the cause.
They arrived with lorry-loads of toys and clothes in the early Nineties.
And some showed even more compassion by adopting these poor kids.
The children left to rot in these horrendous institutions have evil Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu — who was overthrown and executed, along with wife Elena, on Christmas Day in 1989 — to blame for their suffering. His ban on birth control and abortion resulted in thousands of healthy but unwanted children being handed over to state care.
Despite closure of the horrific orphanages being a condition of Romania’s EU entry in 2007, The Sun has learned that around 40,000 children are still being kept in such establishments.
Former Great Ormond Street nurse Jane Nicholson, 65, has devoted her life to helping Romanian kids. In 1991 she set up charity Fara, which means “without” in Romanian, to help the cause.
She says: “In 2007 institutions had to close, but they haven’t. A few of the worst ones were shut but many of the children were just moved around.”
Between 600 and 700 Romanian kids found homes in Britain in the Nineties. But in October 2001 a suspension on international adoption was introduced.
A Romanian government spokesman said that the focus now is on reuniting children in orphanages with their birth parents or arranging adoption within Romania. International adoption is seen as a last resort.
But the two young Romanians featured on these pages have adoption to thank for saving them from the aftermath of Ceausescu’s regime.
Here are their inspiring stories.
CORNEL HRISCA-MUNN, now reading philosophy & theology
WHEN Cornel was born in 1991 with no forearms and a severely deformed right leg, his horrified mother had a nervous breakdown.
No birth certificate was ever issued and a life that had barely begun was almost written off. A doctor gave Cornel just days to live.
The infant was taken to an institution in the Romanian countryside. There, he was left to die in a filthy room crammed full of other unwanted or disabled babies.
But Cornel was destined to defy the odds.
Doreen Munn, a mum to four daughters, was so moved by the horrific footage of Romanian orphans that she amazed friends by driving an aid lorry to the country.
The 69-year-old says: “It was like going back 50 years. Everything there was rusting and broken down and there was no fresh food in the shops.
“Stepping into an orphanage for the first time was unbelievable — 150 children were running about with no clothes on, screaming, and their only toilet was a single hole in the ground.”
Doreen’s husband Ken, a surveyor, of Whittington, Worcs, then joined his wife on a series of aid missions.
Ken, now 73, says: “In 1992 we were on a trip in northern Romania to see how the aid we had pledged was being used. We asked to see the orphanage and a doctor told us about a little seven-month-old boy, Cornel, who badly needed surgery.
“In front of us was this angelic child. We wanted to scoop him up there and then but all we could do was go home and pray for him.”
Back in the UK, Doreen spoke out about Cornel’s plight and soon received a call from a private hospital pledging free treatment for him.
Doreen says: “The rest is history. We gained permission from Cornel’s parents and the Romanian authorities and in 1993 we embarked on the momentous plane journey from Bucharest to the UK.”
Doctors decided that amputation was the only option for Cornel’s twisted right leg. The decision meant a prolonged stay in the UK.
Ken says: “The surgery meant that we would have to adopt Cornel, but by now we had truly bonded with him. Everyone who saw him loved him. He was incredibly perceptive and intuitive, not to mention clever.”