• Image 1 of 37

Even The Sparrow Has Found a Home

Thomas Szalay | Romania

Organization: Documentary photographer. Retired teacher & photojournalist. circle7arts.com

Izidor Ruckel stares out the train window while traveling from Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania. He was one of the fortunate orphans who found a home and loving family in San Diego. He has returned often to Romania to visit his friends who now live in old folks’ homes and to assist adopted orphans from Romania worldwide, ind their birth parents.

The title of my book, Even the Sparrow Has Found a Home is from Psalm 84:3, Izidor was one of the sparrows from Sighetu Marmatiei.
© 2015 Thomas B Szalay

Even The Sparrow Has Found a Home is Thomas Szalay's memoir of Izidor Ruckel and other Romanian orphans that were freed from a life in hell. In 1990, the world became aware of the tens of thousands of babies that were warehoused in hidden institutions scattered throughout Romania. These children were the product of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's megalomaniac policies.

These photographs span three decades. They begin in 1991 with the adoption of Izidor to the Ruckel family of San Diego, Ca. A photo essay was published in the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper. In 1992, Szalay returned to Sighet with John Upton, who made it his mission to rescue more abandoned children. Several of them were adopted by families from California to Virginia. Some had to return to their home country when medical visas expired. ABC’s 20/20 news team film the story. It aired in 1993 under the title, Take Me to America.

In 2015, Szalay returned to Sighet with Izidor. Together they walked through that haunted place, known has the Institute for the Unsalvageables and reunited with old childhood friends. 

Even the Sparrow Has Found a Home.

Izidor Ruckel and the others I photographed in Sighet, Romania were children of Decree 770, Ceausescu's mid-20th-century policy that created a generation of damaged children that were abandoned in orphanages and institutions throughout Romania. They were innocent victims - hidden away from the world with little hope of ever having a meaningful life. 

Until love found them.

Why was I drawn to this story? When I realized Izidor found a father at the same age I lost mine. I started to ask questions. What does the word  home actually mean? How do we create a life of purpose?  Who will remember us?

I was seeking answers, just like Izidor was. It did not matter that I was much older. Time and age seem irrelevant when a story touches hearts. 


Even The Sparrow Has Found A Home.

book by Thomas B Szalay about his experience documenting the lives of Romanian Orphans from 1991-2016

Content loading...

Make Comment/View Comments