Bucharest’s sewers are home to unfathomable secrets that come in the form of its drug addicted and disease-riddled homeless population-an alarming number of them children.

Almost 30 years ago, Romania’s ruler/dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, was forced from power and executed. One of the constant reminders of his Communist legacy is thanks to policies he implemented in his efforts to increase the sheer size of the Romania’s workforce, which involved the banning of contraception and making abortion illegal. If that weren’t enough, childless couples also faced extra taxation. These steps resulted in a flood of children from unwanted pregnancies during a time was poverty was rampant. Orphanages with prison-like living conditions were overflowing, and as a result thousands of children fled to Bucharest where life beneath the city’s streets is the only life they know.

Did you know?

  1. Starting in the early 1990s children began migrating to Bucharest from across Romania as orphanages closed, seeking safety in the city’s underground railways and sewer system.
  2. Leading up to this point, nearly 800 had died in Romanian foster homes over the years
  3. The underground network was originally put in place during a failed attempt to centrally heat the city.
  4. In first few years after Ceausescu’s death some estimates put the average age of the child sewer dwellers at only seven years old.
  5. Many of those original orphans never left the sewers and continue living there today.
  6. Life in the sewers is dangerous-many residents are drug users addicted to heroin and mephedrone.
  7. Signs or the rampant drug use is evident by the sewer dwellers’ track marks on their arms, needle marks in their jugulars and collapsed veins on their feet.
  8. HIV afflicts nearly all the residents. One-quarter of them have been diagnosed with tuberculosis.
  9. A popular distraction for the sewers’ younger population is Aurolac, a metallic paint they inhale from plastic bags.
  10. Residents usually venture up to the streets in the late afternoon and evening to search for supplies and food, either rummaging through the garbage or by begging.