This set of photographs show the grim reality of life for the Romanian orphans forgotten by society.
These young people are the generation of children who survived the brutal Romanian orphanages of the former communist regime. They now live underground as homeless drug addicts.
Photographs show their lives now, as young adults dependent on drugs, living in sewers in cramped conditions.
One leader of the group, who goes by Bruce Lee, has painted his head in aurolac, a lacquer used to paint metal which causes a high if breathed in.
Visual artist Dani Gherca, 27, spent three years getting to know the hundreds of inhabitants of a sewer next to Central Station in Bucharest – their ages range between eight and 45-years-old.
Dani described the moment he first visited the sewers:
One night I had a walk around the Central Station and saw ‘Bruce Lee’ standing over the
Access hole to the sewers. Initially he intrigued me because he had very interesting clothes. We became friends and I started to visit him very frequently at the sewer.
Initially I was stupefied at the living conditions in the sewers and of the bodies of the people living down there. Almost all of them were very skinny and they all had an infection caused by the synthetic drugs. I tried to understand them not from my life perspective, but from their own. It’s not a better or worse life, it’s simply a different one and it’s the only one they know.
Nicolae Ceausescu was Romanian Head of State from 1967 to 1989. His regime came to an end in 1989 during a revolution which saw the violent removal of the communist government.
Ceausescu was captured attempting to flee the country with his wife. The pair were tried and convicted of genocide and sabotage of the Romanian economy, and were sentenced to death by firing squad.
Dani talked about what happened to the orphans after the fall of communism:
Most of them were abandoned at the hospital by their parents at birth. Theoretically the state must take care of the children until they turn 18 years old, accommodating them in orphanages.
In practice they choose to live poor on the streets, because they prefer to have freedom instead of very strict rules to follow.
Ceausescu had banned contraception and abortion in an attempt to increase Romania’s population, but the crippling poverty in the country meant people couldn’t afford to look after their children, and many were abandoned.
“In the nineties these people were addicted to ‘Aurolac’, a gold lacquer used to paint metallic elements,” said Dani.
In 2000s they used heroin and in the last maybe five or six years they started to use synthetic drugs like ‘Spice’ or ‘Magic’.
These drugs were for many years, considered legal by the authorities. It is said that these synthetic drugs are the most damaging.
During these years of the people that I met and photographed, six of them that lost their life.