Two months ago, tiny Lacramioara spent her days and nights in a crowded orphanage in Galati, a city on the Danube River in southeastern Romania.
Though 21 months old, she hadn't yet learned to walk, and she babbled in her own language, only remotely similar to what should have been her native Romanian. If she was lucky, she got her diaper changed three times a day by one of six employees scrambling to care for 150 other abandoned children.In a way, she was luckier than most of the other kids. She received a monthly visit from her natural mother. The mother, who at 16 was a child herself, lived with five other people in a 100-square-foot apartment and couldn't afford to care for Lacramioara.
And nobody, it seemed, wanted to adopt the toddler because of a small blemish above one of her eyes.
To say that Lacramioara - an orphan in a land torn by political turmoil and economic chaos - faced an uncertain future would be an understatement.
But Kim Randle didn't notice the blemish when Lacramioara crawled to him and threw her arms around his neck, singing a song she invented in her hours of loneliness. More importantly, Randle didn't care. Someone or something told him that this living doll with dark eyes and brown hair was going to be his little girl.
Today, Lacramioara runs all over in her new home in Kaysville, the home of Kim and Kris Randle. She is now known on the record books as Kallie Randle, and her future appears to hold what every child deserves: loving parents, education, freedom and opportunity.
Accompanying Kim Randle to Romania were Mike and Belinda Wilde, who, upon entering another orphanage in Galati, were nearly overcome by the pungent smell of urine, among other odors. But they were determined to find a child to whom they could offer some hope.
"(Belinda) has always wanted to adopt an older child that didn't have a home or anyone to love him," Mike Wilde says. They found him in Jorge, who had never quite adjusted to his 3 years of life within the walls of an orphanage.
To "comfort" himself at night, Jorge would go through a ritual in which he sang, rocked himself vigorously back and forth, and backhanded himself on the cheek until he was literally exhausted enough to sleep over the noise of 30 other fussing children in his room.
Jorge is now known as Daniel Jorge "D.J." Wilde, and sleeps comfortably in his own bed in his new home in Kaysville. He's weaning himself from his nightly ritual and is discovering the world for the first time.
"From the time he's up (in the morning) to the time he goes down at night, he wants to explore and touch everything he can get his hands on," said Mike Wilde.
Jorge and Lacramioara were "Ceausescu's kids," a cheerless term applied to the thousands of unwanted children born during the tyrannous reign of Nicolae Ceausescu, who, after a 23-year rule, was deposed and put to death by a firing squad on Christmas Day 1989 along with his wife.
With a vision to make Romania strong by virtue of a large population, Ceausescu outlawed birth control and abortion and required every woman under 45 to have at least four children, a number he later raised to five. The result was an overwhelming population of children whose parents couldn't afford to feed them.
As news reports of the children's plight began filtering out of the country, people like the Randles and the Wildes began embarking on rescue missions to Romania, where they faced numerous obstacles, not the least of which was a constantly changing bureaucracy. Their stories are being repeated all over Western Europe and the United States.
In Utah, at least a dozen couples have adopted Romanian children or are in the process of doing so. Among them:
- Natalie and Alan Jenkins, of Roy, adopted two Romanian orphan boys, ages 4 years and 2 months, in November.
- Layne and Shanna McClure, West Valley City, adopted a 2-month-old girl who had been given up at birth by a teenage girl who earned only $8 a month.
- Jim and Alisha Quigley, Kaysville, who have five children of their own, are leaving in March to try to adopt a set of twins.
- Garry and Sheila Wilmore, Kaysville, are planning to go to Romania not only to adopt a child but to help others wishing to adopt. Garry, an attorney with a knack for linguistics, is teaching himself Romanian.
- Bill and Marilyn Blakley, Henefer, Summit County, adopted an 18-month-old girl abandoned by her mother.
- James and Lucy Sonntag, Bountiful, have adopted a 21-month-old girl and James is leaving New Year's Eve for Romania to adopt a 3-month-old boy.
- Richard and Carrie Singleton of Providence, had 4 children until last October, when they adopted 1-year-old Lindie of Romania.
- Derek and Cheri Maude, American Fork, have traveled once to Romania but ran into a legal/bureaucratic problem. Cheri is also leaving Monday in hopes of adopting a boy and a girl, both 3 months old, from an orphanage in a city 175 miles north of Bucharest.
Kim Randle says his reasons for going to Romania were "selfish" as well as humanitarian.
"We thought, `Here's a chance for us to get a child and at the same time, here's a way for us to help someone.'
"But (Kallie) has added more to our life than we'll be able to add to hers, the little stinker."