Our mission at ARCHWAY ROMANIA is simple:
to improve the quality of life of children living in the streets and sewers of Bucharest, Romania.

Our mission at ARCHWAY ROMANIA is simple:
to improve the quality of life of children living in the streets and sewers of Bucharest, Romania.

ARCHWAY Romania Who We Help

This is a tribute for Radu Grafian Nicu, one of the children helped by Archway Romania. I remember, on one of my first visits to Bucharest, sitting in a small park watching this scrawny little kid jumping in and out of a fountain to escape the heat. At first I thought he was just having fun but then I realized he was trying to get clean from all the dirt and grime of living in the streets. He did not have other clothes or a bar of soap or a towel but he was intent on getting a little cleaner and cooling off. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two security guards running toward him so I jumped up and motioned to him to get out of the fountain (which he did) and run away. That was my first introduction to Radu Nicu Grafian – one of the abandoned children who lived in the streets and tunnels of the capital city.

A woman and a young man posing for the camera.

I had seen a program on TV and decided to go to Romania to further investigate the children who had been put into state institutions by their parents when the Berlin Wall fell (in 1989) and the stark reality that occurred to an already impoverished citizenry that they could no longer feed the children they had because the government subsidies had ended and birth control was still illegal. Of course, no one in Romania was about to reveal the government’s dirty little secrets so I was never given any information about the kids I kept tripping over on the stairs going down to the subway or hunkering down in the parks. When I finally, in desperation, went to the American Embassy to find out who they were, where they lived, and to whom they belonged, I was told by an embassy guard that I shouldn’t worry about them because they would be dead soon anyway. My Radu, the scrawny little kid I watched playing in the fountain, was one of those kids. He never knew his father but he lived with his mother until she got a new boyfriend who did not want Radu around so she put him out to fend for himself. It took us years to learn his name and for the longest time we just assumed he didn’t know what his last name was. That was until he surprised Gica and me years later by writing in perfect cursive Radu Nicu Grafian.

A man and woman standing next to each other.

Radu became an important part of every visit I made to Bucharest. I used to get on the subway at night and walk around on the streets of downtown looking for him. Or Gica and I would get into the van and go searching for him. One day we were searching for him and he was being harassed by three thugs who were following him down the street making fun of him. I jumped out of the van and got between Radu and the three thugs and started screaming and carrying-on like a crazy woman. I don’t know if these three creeps thought I was crazy or whether they were afraid of getting into trouble for harassing an American but, either way, they turned around and ran in the opposite direction.

Two people sitting on a couch with one holding a cell phone.

 Radu never asked for anything. He was very proud of the fact that he did not beg and he never stole anything. The only thing he ever wanted that we could tell was a little transistor radio that anyone could buy in any store in the area. He liked to listen to the music when he was falling asleep at night. I must have bought dozens of those things over the years because they would break or he would lose them or give them to anyone who would ask him for them. He also liked to go to McDonald’s for the Happy Meal. He liked the little toys that came with the meals. When we couldn’t find him I used to go and sit in the McDonald’s Restaurant at Universitate because that was one of the first places we found him after a long absence. On several occasions I didn’t see him at all because he would stow away on a train and go to the Black Sea where he said he was vacationing. At Christmas time we would press Radu into service as an elf (which was a role he cherished). Gica who would supply him with toys and food for children Archway had not discovered yet and POOF, Radu became Santa’s Little emissary.  Everything we gave him to deliver went directly to the children for whom they were meant. He never took anything that was not intended for him and he was adamant that every child got something for Christmas. We had lean years but somehow, Gica and Radu made sure every child got something soft and warm Christmas morning.

A man and woman sitting next to each other.

Several years ago I got an e-mail from Gica telling me that Radu had died. He had fallen asleep outside on the street by himself and when his friend went looking for him he was gone. I don’t know the reason (it was cold and I don’t know if he froze – or his heart simply gave out). Gica claimed his ashes and he found him a little plot in a nearby cemetery. Of course, me being a garish American had to get him a headstone  like none of the rest of the markers in the part of the cemetery for the homeless. But we go there every time I go to Romania and we pay our respects and leave our love. I am so grateful to Gica and all our Archway friends for the kindness and compassion shown to Radu Nicu Grafian. The inscription on Radu’s headstone reads:

Two women standing in front of a grave.

Life is merely froth and bubble,

Two things stand like stone,

Kindness in another’s trouble,

Courage in your own.

Adam Lindsay Gordon

Rest in peace, my child and never forget you were loved.

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