One of the most depressing videos you will ever see
March 16, 2008 4:49 PM   Subscribe

Bulgaria's abandoned children. This heartrending BBC documentary visits a home for abandoned children in Bulgaria; they are left there by parents who can't - or won't - take care of "defective" children. But poor nutrition and uncaring workers have turned it into a hell on earth for the poor kids as they waste away; some are never taken off their toilets, some are left in bed until their limbs atrophy. Many cannot speak. Only one can write. Most just sit and rock for hours because of the lack of stimulus. Very hard to watch.
posted by TochterAusElysium (20 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Related BBC link

On a tangent: BBC rules.
posted by elpapacito at 5:49 PM on March 16, 2008

Thanks for posting this; but I can't watch it. I'm finding myself breaking down in tears too often in front of this machine these days, and I think it's more "them" than "me". For example, Children of Iraq had me sobbing a second time a few days ago. How can we do these things to ourselves?!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:12 PM on March 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Made me think how some things we just take for granted in the US. For instance, that people who are blind will have education and live normal lives.
posted by hazyspring at 6:13 PM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Follow-up: sub-standard orphanages will be shut down or restructured, partly as a response to the BBC documentary.
posted by halogen at 6:25 PM on March 16, 2008

It's obvious there's no billionaires on MetaFilter, as they could just cut a check and help all these kids. I wish I could be a billionaire and be concerned with nothing except what yacht to buy next year.
posted by mr. creosote at 6:28 PM on March 16, 2008

first skid row, now this. my sunday is now dedicated to the crys of children around the globe.
posted by Afreemind2007 at 7:38 PM on March 16, 2008

In between checking my e-mail and shopping on, I like to drop in on metafilter, maybe because I'll see something funny or amusing or ligt-hearted. But then I saw this, and I went ahead and clicked on the link. I'm watching it right now.

It's not easy to watch. Life in (certain parts of) Bulgaria is hard enough for the non-disabled. For these children, well, I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes as I watch this.

That girl there, with cerebral palsy, they say she's 18, but she has the body of a six-year-old. And the blind children, who came to the home as normal blind children, well, after years of no education, no stimulation, no interaction, well, they're just hollow shells of humanity now.

I think it's going to get worse; I'm only eight minutes in.

Oh no. They're stealing food from each other.


Oh, the babies are the hardest to watch.

Oh man.

Oh man.


This kind of problem can't be solved by a BBC documentary, I know. And I've seen worse, or maybe just different, in other documentaries and photo essays. At least these children are being fed, and bathed, and clothed, and housed.

But that's all they get.

I don't think I'm donating enough to my favorite charities. I better go write another check now. I'm not a billionaire, or a millionaire, and in fact I'm barely a thousandaire. What else can we do?
posted by math at 7:50 PM on March 16, 2008

Thanks for this; we need to see the gritty, terrifying realities that far too many of the world's orphaned kids face all the time, versus the happy smiling faces of rich American couples adopting the chosen few from those hovels (yes, I have an axe to grind about foreign adoptions and the attachment trauma those children face, but I'll save it).

posted by moonbird at 8:24 PM on March 16, 2008

This video sparked an argument between myself and several friends who refused to click on a video with "Bulgarian orphans" in the search string. It's absolutely human to resist witnessing terrible realities, but we're also shirking our responsibility as people in the free world who enjoy a modicum of financial and political power if we don't deign to see suffering elsewhere. The children who are rotting in their cribs can't do much to change their circumstances, but most of us have an extra 10 bucks lying around, right?

Sweet Jesus, this video will slay you. No sleep tonight.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:42 PM on March 16, 2008

I haven't watched this and I'm not going to (I already know and yet I don't need to know), but I do want to highlight the what is happening to these children now link that elpapacito posted above. This documentary was first shown in November 2007 and it does seem like that there was some pretty immediate action, including this The Campaign for Bulgaria's Abandoned Children website, where, if you poke around, you will find this update (dated 2/24/08)

A paediatrician, brought in by UNICEF, assessed the children in early November and judged one third of them to be malnourished and dehydrated and as a result some of the children were hospitalized. Nutritional supplements were introduced and continue to be given to the children. The new local major has agreed to provide an additional 4,000 lev to the food budget. Some local companies have also made food donations. Menu plans have been developed and it is now felt the children are receiving enough food including fresh fruit and their general diet has improved.

The paediatrician visits Mogilino every month to monitor the diet and nutrition and even the children in the most severe condition have gained 3 to 5 kilograms. They are fed 5 times a day and receive additional vitamins and special milk.

There are now 3 social workers, 2 kinesitherapists, 1 physiotherapist, 2 supervisors and 1 child development specialist working in Mogilino permanently.

Also, more here, including information about UNICEF involvement and the general international effort, as well as an announcement of the closure of this facility, along with six others, dated 2/26/08. If this film was painful for you to watch, know that there is now hope and action both.

I'm going to go hug my sleeping baby now. For a while.
posted by anastasiav at 8:55 PM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

The real icing on the shit-cake is when the orphanage's director claims that the most valuable things in the home are the TVs. Unbelievable.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:16 PM on March 16, 2008

Children of Iraq

What does a child do when he has nothing else to play with than the burnt out hulls of cars. When there are tanks parked outside his driveway and soldiers roaming the streets, ready to break into his house at any minute, and shoot or rape who ever they want to? What do these kids have going for them? What do they make of this? Hell, I'm an adult and I can't wrap my head around the kind of emotions one must go through to have lived through what these children have been living through for the past 5 years. And yet, there he sits, with that stupid, smug smile on his face, as if he has no care in the world. Not a shred of humanity present anywhere in that filthy soul of his. A War Criminal by any definition of the word who thinks he is the "chosen one".

Sigh. I hope someday he dies a horribly slow and painful death and goes straight to hell (if there is one) to suffer the most humiliatingly torturous punishment possible for the rest of eternity, Insha'Allah!
posted by hadjiboy at 10:38 PM on March 16, 2008

It's obvious there's no billionaires on MetaFilter, as they could just cut a check and help all these kids. I wish I could be a billionaire and be concerned with nothing except what yacht to buy next year.

What an idiotic statement. Just because there are people in the world that aren't being helped right now indicates that people with money are doing nothing besides deciding what yacht to buy next?
posted by milnak at 11:35 PM on March 16, 2008

@ hadjiboy - who's the person you're referring to in "there he sits, with that stupid, smug smile on his face"? It's not clear from your post.

While it is true that, in many of these cases, American soldiers were to blame, I would suggest that the root cause is still the blanket indifference with which the vast majority of the world's population has towards the plight of other people. This isn't just confined to the West; people everywhere, from First World to Third World, North or South, of any religion, pretty much don't care about the unfortunate circumstances of someone a thousand miles away whom they'll never meet. Many are capable of tut-tutting at those horrific images on Children of Iraq, but they won't do anything.

It's this indifference, coupled with the ease of manipulating nationalistic fervour with a well-placed war or two, that allows hawkish politicians of all stripes (George Bush is only one example - a prominent one, true, but only one) to launch wars which result in atrocities like these.\

That aside, the jihadists fighting off the so-called "Great Satan" in Iraq are themselves as heedless of civilian deaths; blaming the American soldiers alone is quite unfair. Jihadists and soldiers aside, one might blame indifferent public, Machiavellian politicians, or rabble-rousing clerics. Blame isn't the most important thing; rather, we should ask, what can we do to stop it?

That's a hard question to answer, but the answer - if there is one - is well worth seeking out.
posted by WalterMitty at 3:49 AM on March 17, 2008

Institutionalized living is bad. But that sort of institution, incredibly, doesn't just exist in third world countries; there are institutions for disabled people here in the US that are not that different. Most disabled people in the US manage to avoid winding up in one of those places - but it would be a mistake to say that those situations Can't Happen Here, because they absolutely do.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 3:57 AM on March 17, 2008

blanket indifference with which the vast majority of the world's population has towards the plight of other people

That's a broad brush you have there! Are you refering to city-dwellers?
posted by asok at 5:41 AM on March 17, 2008

I can't watch it now, but it sounds a lot like Willowbrook in the 1970s. Yes, we used to do this too.
posted by fungible at 6:35 AM on March 17, 2008

Thank you, elpapacito and halogen, for posting the update links. They help, a bit, in dealing with this. But I truly hope that we're not just seeing "pretty it up for the tourists" in the homes we know about while similar places are left to operate. It's hard to trust after seeing that, you know?
posted by TochterAusElysium at 7:38 AM on March 17, 2008

“I wish I could be a billionaire and be concerned with nothing except what yacht to buy next year.”

Given your desire to cut them a check, I doubt you’d be a yacht guy.

“I don't think I'm donating enough to my favorite charities. I better go write another check now. I'm not a billionaire, or a millionaire, and in fact I'm barely a thousandaire. What else can we do?”

anastasiav is right about UNICEF. And Bill Gates is a billionaire doing at least something.

“Oh, and I know I'm not supposed to say this but, I Fucking Hate American Soldiers sometimes.”

You can say that. There are guys in ranks who should be convicted and locked up. It’s not - all - of them tho.’ There are also guys who do the best they can to help.

Allow me to say, as a very violent man myself, my first reaction to this kind of pain and suffering is “who’s to blame and how can I stop it?” while loading my sr25. So very often this otherwise generous impulse is coupled with the same kind of murderous rage you express.
But while WalterMitty is right about asking what we can and should do to stop it he’s also right about the existence of the indifference folks have. I would characterize it as more institutional and conceptual in form, rather than personal. I think most people want to help, but feel helpless. It’s far away, they don’t have a lot of money themselves, etc. etc.
And there are also systemic realities (that in some respects Gates, are addressing) that have an interest in the status quo in these matters and people who benefit from that.
Again, I myself want to kill those people.
But that would not change the systemic reality any more than killing thousands of soldiers or VIPs would have ended, say, the Roman empire, much less any of the modern ones.
Hate is self-defeating in that respect. Having acted on it in my life, I know this from experience. I can empathize with the fury, but you cannot hate or kill your way to beneficial change.
I think that, WalterMitty, is what makes nationalist fervour so easy to manipulate. Folks get angry, want something done, and violence seems to be the most direct approach. And indeed, it is viscerally satisfying.
Doesn’t accomplish a whole lot tho unless it’s absolutely bound and constrained to protect the accomplishment of a goal. It’s extremely rare, that it serves any goal directly.
So what’s lacking is the intellctual vigor to construct and pursue a plan - but strong emotion often erodes reason and leads to mental fatigue and dispair. Which I think is in part why there is so much indifference, or the appearance of it.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:26 AM on March 17, 2008

Please understand the documentary is about them, not you. Just give some money to the charity the film makers set up.
posted by A189Nut at 3:43 PM on March 17, 2008

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