Olga came to register for the foster care course organised by Hope and Homes for Children. The first thought that came to Claudia’s mind, the trainer whom Olga spoke to, was to tell her “My dear, being a foster carer is something very special. I think it would be wise to wait a bit longer for it”, because Olga was very young.
However, Claudia didn’t give in to her first impulse. She took a sip of coffee instead and asked Olga: “Why do you want to become a foster carer?” And Olga looked into her eyes and began to tell her about her life. All of a sudden she didn’t seem that young anymore. They realised they had known each other for 15 years, they might have even played together when Olga was a child in the institution and Claudia was a new employee with Hope and Homes for Children.
Olga was abandoned at birth. She spent 7 weeks in the pediatric ward, then she was transferred to the “Leagăn” Institution in Sighetu Marmației. Olga has a few memories from when she was in “Leagăn”: scenes that took place at night, the milk bottle she received, which she held on to all night, but especially the crying of a baby younger than she was. Ironically, crying in an orphanage is an exception. Abandoned babies learn quickly that no one comes when they need it, they lose confidence and their lives sink into silence. The long-term effects are devastating.
Olga remembers how she would crawl over several cots to reach the crying baby and then she would sleep next to him. She has a single picture left from “Leagăn”. It is torn. She recently took it to a photo store to have it redone. The adult Olga can easily be recognized in that picture. When she was about 3-4 years old, Olga was moved to the “Preșcolari”, another orphanage in Baia Mare. Here the memories change: more children, adults who were yelling, feeling fear hiding under the bed or behind the closet, days of hunger and sleepless nights. Olga has a picture from this stage of her life also. She is in an uncomfortable position and her facial expression is that of a child caught running.
At the age of 6, Olga once again packed up her life. It was just a small bundle, including the two photos, a significant load of mistrust and doubt, an equal amount of need for protection and love, a few wounds to the head—she had been struck because she wouldn’t behave during bath time—and some invisible wounds in her heart. This time she didn’t carry her luggage, a foster carer did it for her.
For a while, Olga called her “ma’am”. Later, after having slept in her arms for many nights and having searched through all the cupboards and drawers in the house, after dirtying everything, breaking a few things and being fussy about her food, she ended up calling her “mother”. And so it has been for the past 15 years.
Olga has a full life, which includes a lot of the day-to-day normal things one would expect from a young person. Her mother is now much older, Olga is an adult and she wants to raise a child who is not lucky enough to have a family. If you ask her about the photos, she tells you with a big smile that now she has many, probably too many, and that they’re all printed on paper, because she needs to be able to feel them.