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One Day at a Time: The Story of Cristina Dumbraveanu

Cristina
© UNICEF Romania/ Raluca Manta
Taking a break from the repair works

by Iana Bejaniyska, UNICEF Consultant

As one approaches the squat house, a teenage girl can be seen playing in the yard with two cute puppies. Peals of laughter and yelps fill the air, and through the noise, one can just make out the names of the dogs: Taz and Ufi. When Cristina rises to her feet to greet the UNICEF mobile team, the sixteen-year-old appears slender and tall. Her blue eyes are striking but behind the sparks of laughter, there is sadness.

Cristina was given up by her natural parents as a baby. Aged one, she was lucky to be adopted by a kind and loving woman. Domestic bliss was short-lived as Cristina’s adoptive mother died when the girl was only three. At that difficult point in her life, Cristina’s grandparents became her carers. Her granddad died first and last year so did her granny. Technically, Cristina is an orphan although she is in the custody of an aunt from a village twenty kilometres outside Dorohoi.
Things went from bad to worse when, last June, the flash floods hit the one storey house which her grandparents had left her. The water had reached the windowsills before Cristina managed to flee. The only item she took with her was her identity card. The water severely damaged the floors and the walls. Fixing them would cost a lot of money; money that the teenager does not have.

Since her granny’s death, Cristina has been surviving on a minimal income made up of her child benefit and her late grandparents’ pensions. That was barely enough to buy food and what she needed for school in the past year. There is no way she can afford the repairs but she has been fortunate that UNICEF and Habitat for Humanity added her name to the list of fifty Dorohoi families whose homes they are helping rehabilitate. Cristina’s classmates have been volunteering to do a lot of the labour, fulfilling an important aspect of the project which aims to involve the community in the work as much as possible.

Cristina is a pupil at Grigore Gica National College. She is very committed to her studies and would like to become a medical doctor. Her favourite subject is chemistry but she likes reading all kinds of books in order to develop her mind and broaden her horizons. The flood took all her belongings: objects of sentimental value, left by her grandparents, as well as her school things. While the former are irreplaceable, UNICEF has provided her with a new set of the latter so she could return to college in September well equipped.

When her old dog drowned in the flood, Cristina felt very lonely. But as soon as the weather improved, her aunt brought her the two puppies. They are tremendous company. Cristina is forming new attachments. And yet, life has taught the girl that everyone and everything you hold dear can be snatched away from you. She wisely lives life one day at a time without any great expectations.

Right now, the really important thing is to make her house fit for living again. Cristina works tirelessly alongside the volunteers. Her bathroom and kitchen are in the greatest need of repair. All her rooms are getting repainted. She has chosen a bright palette of colours as if to defy the doom and gloom of the past. Taking a short break, Cristina sits on a stool in the yard, looking confident and undaunted. ‘Life has tested me many times before. I will work with the volunteers until I have a decent roof over my head.’ She then bends down to stroke the puppies. A girl who has been short-changed by life on so many occasions has so much capacity for affection. One cannot help admiring the strength and wisdom of this adolescent.

 

 
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