Why my Romanian heritage made me want to help refugees from Ukraine
“When I first heard about the war in Ukraine I could not stop thinking about children in foster homes, children without parents or children who may lose their families in the war.
But when I saw refugees were crossing into Romania, I knew they were crossing into a friendly country. I was born in Romania in the late nineteen eighties and when I was five months old my father was killed in the revolution. This began a chain of events that changed my life.
My mother grew up in the Romanian countryside and at that time if you could not afford to go to school the only option was to work on farms, she could not even spell her own name. I lived at home until the age of seven, but my mother was an alcoholic so when my older sisters got married and left home, they decided to put me in foster care. This was a really difficult time for me, I shared a room with twenty-four other children and had to learn how to look after myself.
My foster home was partly funded by a Norwegian charity and this organisation arranged for some of the children to visit ‘holiday families’ in Norway twice a year. By a lucky coincidence, aged nine I was chosen for a holiday and got along very well with the family. This is how I met my adoptive mother.
The adoption process took many years, but I feel lucky, as I am one of the only children from the foster home who was adopted. My experience living in a foster home is a big part of my identify and one of the reasons why I choose to work for Save the Children.
Before working for Save the Children I worked as a volunteer for eight years supporting child refugees from Afghanistan. I found it really rewarding to support children who had lost their homes as I felt in a small way that I could share an understanding of some of the difficulties they were facing moving to a new country. I understand the loneliness, the frustration, the feeling that you do not belong to someone or somewhere and the difficulties of going through things alone as a kid. It can be really tough.
Growing up in foster care meant I had to face many obstacles but because of my life experience I always find a solution to survive. I am more resilient because of what I have been through. I started to work for Save the Children Norway last year as a regional advisor and I have been deployed and working on the Romania Response for six weeks now. I left Norway as soon as the war started because I wanted to use my Romanian language skills and cultural understanding to help children fleeing conflict in Ukraine arriving in Romania.
Three weeks ago, I was working at our distribution tent on the Siret border, where Save the Children provide families with emergency support, when a very young mother crossed the border with a small child. I recently became a father and I found this affected me quite a lot. It is hard to imagine crossing into a new country with a new baby.
I feel very sad that this war is dividing families. It is very ugly what is it doing to people’s lives. But I have hope as I know that families from Ukraine are very welcome here in Romania and I know that Save the Children will keep doing everything we can to support families.”
*Marian Cobzaru has worked for Save the Children Norway (Redd Barna) as a Regional Advisor for over a year and is currently deployed to the Romania refugee response. Marian was born in Romania and grew up in a foster home until he was adopted by a Danish family aged sixteen. Despite recently becoming a father, when the war broke out in Ukraine, Marian wanted to use his Romanian language skills to help children who have been forced to flee their homes. His heritage is a reason he returned to Romania to work on the emergency response team.