Love, loss, and healing in Romania: how 20 years of friendship, 25 years of recovery after communism, and healing after loss are leading these two friends – Aurora and Kari – to find loving sponsors for 500 Romanian children.
I met Aurora Popp in 1997 in Bucharest, Romania. It was my second overseas trip for World Vision and I was traveling to cover stories about World Vision’s incredible work in the orphanages and with young, unmarried mothers who had decided to keep their babies.
I’d seen Aurora’s name on emails from the field and it always made me think of Mary Poppins. When I met Aurora, I liked her immediately. She had thick black hair—which she told me she washed by heating water on her kitchen stove—alabaster white skin, and pink cheeks.
And, like Mary Poppins, she was a whirlwind of activity, all focused on children.
Aurora had grown up in Romania under communist rule. Life was extremely challenging. At night, she would put her shopping bag in a long line of other bags to make sure she could get milk and yogurt for the next morning.
“The quantity they delivered was never enough for everyone,” she says. “We took turns watching a huge line of bags. It was a long line. Maybe a mile or two.”
Romania was a dark place. “There were no books, no movies, no music, no correspondence or visits from friends in the West,” she says.
And worst of all she says, there was no religion. “Under communist rule,” she says, “if you were Christian and proclaimed your faith in public, you could wind up in jail. And many Christians did end up in prisons.”
In 1989, at Christmas, everything changed. A revolution toppled the government.
“In an outburst of joy and happiness, Romanians, especially young people, went into the streets, tore down communist emblems and flags, fought and died for their freedom,” says Aurora. “Freedom was the Christmas gift for which the Romanian people had been waiting for 45 years.”
When the revolution raised the clouds that had enveloped Romania in secrecy, people in the country found that they had one of the highest rates of child abandonment in the world—more than 100,000 children were in orphanages, but only 10 percent of those children, says Aurora, were true orphans. (Read last summer's article about World Vision in Romania in the World Vision Magazine.)
Aurora went to work, taking business training from World Vision. She became a door-to-door milk salesperson with her newfound knowledge. When a position opened at World Vision, Aurora jumped at the chance. Nearly 20 years later, she is Country Program Manager for Romania.
Last week, I was reunited with Aurora, here in the United States. We are working on a historical project together and I got to ask her about Romania’s challenging past. She was the same Aurora with thick black hair, alabaster skin, and energy that literally pops from within. We wrapped our arms around one another.
The next morning I found a blue paper bag at my desk. Inside, a CD with Romanian Christmas carols, a little Romanian doll, and an angel. “How appropriate,” I thought.
My trip so many years before to Romania had brought me the joy of knowing Aurora, but a sadness, too. Returning home from that trip, I had a miscarriage on the airplane. I have always associated Romania with the sorrow I have carried with me since.
The little doll was the child who never had life—the child who became an angel. The beautiful music, the songs of Christmas sung by a choir from Cluj where I’d visited the Romanian orphanages, represented my healing. When you suffer a loss, you look for beauty on earth and reach into the heavens, seeking assurance and peace.
“I have a dream,” Aurora told me when we parted. “Before I leave this country, I want Americans to sponsor 500 children in Romania.” Aurora will be speaking to several churches and meeting donors, but I knew she needed more. To make this dream come true—she needs you.
I would like to help make Aurora Popp’s big dream come true. She is my friend. We are bonded for life. Her faith, expertise, and passion for children assure me that those 500 children will be cared for with love. They will have the opportunity to attain a fullness of life that we pray will happen for all children on earth.
It’s Aurora Popp’s dream. Let’s make it so.
Be the answer to a child’s dream of a better life. Sponsor a child in Romania today!