A documentary of this title, by Kate Blewett, was aired by BBC4 Channel on Sept. 13. It featured one of our numerous infamous institutions for disabled children. Bulgaria has more institutionalised mentally and physically disabled children than anywhere else in Europe (http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/bulgarias-children.shtml). They are either abandoned because of their disabilities or become disabled as a result of institutionalization. I wanted to write a serious post about this, but I simply cannot, so I put together citations of strong words said by concerned people.
Gererd O'Donovan wrote in Telegraph, "Kate Blewett’s Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children (BBC4) contained another 90 minutes of undiluted horror. Anyone familiar with the Romanian orphanage scandals of the early Nineties will have stared in shocked disbelief that nearly 20 years on precisely the same pattern of appalling cruelty and neglect is being repeated in another former Communist state. The chief difference is that Bulgaria is already a member of the European Union... It is no exaggeration to say that most domestic animals are treated better than these unfortunate boys and girls, who get little treatment and no education or stimulation, and are condemned to rock silently and slowly waste away in body and mind. At times it was impossible to believe the cynicism of the staff. At others, it was impossible not to turn away from the pain and suffering on display. Nothing on television this year has brought me closer to tears" (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/09/14/nosplit/bvtv14last.xml).
The "social care home" shown is located in the small village of Mogilino. Our authorities prefer to hide such institutions in far-away corners, so that to be as invisible as possible and also, as sometimes is openly said, to provide jobs for local people (!). The BBC team mentioned that the home is "the main employer" in the village. As an autistic American commented, "The jobs for local people is a big issue to politicians when the institution is in a small community, and, thus, a major employer in the area... The employment of people who don't live in institutions ranks higher than the human rights and dignity of those inside them, at least in many politician's minds."
Personally shocked by what she saw, Kate Blewett sent a letter to the Bulgarian ambassador. You can read it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/bulgaria-prod-letter.shtml. It says, "...We observed severe physical neglect. In one case a child's leg was broken, and carers seemed oblivious to the great distress they were causing the child by manhandling it with a broken leg. In other cases children became visibly thinner and weaker over the months of filming. Three children died during the period of filming (i.e. 3 children out of 75 died over a 9-month period - M.M.). The Director of the Institute said she chose the children's diets and that they were adequate. Yet the nurse said the children were suffering from malnutrition as a result of inadequate diets... As well as observing the physical abuse of children by workers, we were also made aware of allegations of sexual abuse...".
Ambassador Matev in his reply (http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/bulgaria-embassy-letter.shtml) paints such a rosy picture as if he is describing a different planet. The end of his letter will tell you all you need to know about the arrogance of Bulgaria's ruling oligarchy: "Not a single Institution has received a bad or unsatisfactory assessment for the health services they provide... It is my sincere hope that the position of the Bulgarian government will be reflected in your documentary."
I haven't seen the film but here are random quotes from people who have, commenting the same Telegraph article:
"Unbelievable! Is Europe still in the dark ages. How dare a member state be guilty of such grotesque abuse! The unremitting physical pain some of these children were obviously in was unimaginable, the circumstances of their environment would not be permitted in the worst prisons in the world, some international outcry would have limited such atrocities. I would hope this documentary is broadcast again and again, and Again!! gut wrenching as it is, so that the public becomes aware of the disgraceful attitudes and ignorance of a country that has been allowed to join the EU."
"There are a lot of places with similar conditions all over Bulgaria. I hope EU will do something - because our goverment is blind for this problem. In every home for physically and mentally disabled persons in Bulgaria you can see the same situation. Posted by Man from Bg." (Note that he hasn't written his name. There is a growing tendency for Bulgarians who criticize to remain anonymous - M.M.)
"That director needs to be jailed! how can people get away with such atrocity? Lame excuses such as 'its just their disease,' and 'i've done everything i'm supposed to do' just doesn't cut, it's absolute evil and self-interest. Some of those images were as terrible as those we've seen at concentration camps. Those poor babies, something must be done! What can we do?"
"Since watching Bulgaria's unwanted children last night my heart has ached, the worst thing was that the people running the home think that they are doing a fantastic job! I saw how they force fed them so fast these poor children barely had time to swallow, then how the big boy (Milan) was beaten by the male care worker, the poor boy worked so hard to please and you could see his terror trying to get his chores done perfectly."
"I'm sure there was a lot more abuse physical and sexual. God, blokes were showering young vunerable women, and children were being battered and starved to death. God knows to what extent things were really bad, because they were putting on a good show for the cameras."
"I saw the prgramme two days ago. I couldn't believe my eyes. It just looked like Auschwitz. They were naked, emaciated and led to the showers. Moreover, the fact that the 'carers' were fat made me sick. The people running these 'care homes' must be brought befiore a tribunal for crimes against humanity."
"I have visited several of these orphanages over the last decade, and know that the story at Mogilino is common elsewhere. The responsibility for perpetuation of the problem lies with the central and local governments, and the orphanage directors, many of whom don't know how to change the situation, and some of whom don't want to."
"People who are thinking about going on holiday to Bulgaria should cancel holidays in protest and write to the government and explain that the apalling conditions in this care home along with the whole social care system must be addressed with extreme urgency. As Bulgaria has a thriving tourist economy and enjoy profits, the Bulgarian Government must realise that people will not enjoy their holiday if they know that children with special needs are left in cruel concentration camps."
"Take Action Now! why don't we all "BOYCOTT BULGARIA"? Just refuse to holiday, or buy property there, and then you will see Bulgaria 's Goverment get themselves together and spring to action. At the moment they DON'T CARE."
"Stop Saying "If only there was something I can do ...". There is! WRITE TO YOU Mep TODAY AND DEMAND THAT THIS IS ADDRESSED IMMEDIATELY .. I have already done so via e-mail ... it costs nothing and if enough people do it they could act ... they are definitely the people who can make a change ... if you do have money DONATE IT TO THE CHARITIES LINKED ABOVE." (There are links to charities both at the Telegraph page and at the BBC page - M.M.)
"Please Please Help these People, the young and the old who are being abused and tortured. We all need to send out a strong message to Bulgaria whose Goverment does not care,and is rotten and corrupt. 1.Do Not Holiday there, 2.Do not buy Property there 3.Write a letter (a short one will do) if possible to the Bulgarian Goverment. Tell them you, and all your mates are Boycotting them unless all the instituitions for the vunerable are greatly improved and monitored by the E.U . including money, food and clothes from charities, because that too is stolen, from the vunerable."
"Shame - and indeed guilt - on us if we do nothing."
UPDATE: The film is available online. A commenter kindly sent me the link: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9176914173325307126. I don't know whether the copy is legal, but even if it isn't, I think this case is worth some copyright violation. Go and watch the video, if your nerves are strong enough to endure.