“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Mark Twain, 1835–1910

I rang the number that Graham had given me. The voice that answered was so full of exhaustion that, initially, I was lost for words. Eventually, however, I established that I was speaking to Mary Gibson and I told her that I had been given her name by a relief worker, and I knew that she was a key figure in the establishment of the Romanian Orphanage Trust.

“I’m planning a trip to Romania, and I want to know if I can be of any help by taking particular supplies. Provided, of course, I can carry them.”

“Well,” she answered, “we do have nurses working in Bucharest and they have told us that they simply don’t have enough supplies of Hibiscrub, E45 cream and Pholcodine linctus.”

I confessed that I had only ever heard of the cream and certainly not the other two. 

“The Hibiscrub is an antibacterial wash, and the linctus is desperately needed, because virtually all the children have got upper respiratory tract infections.”

“And there’s another thing,” she continued. “Many of the children, if any of them, have never seen a paddling pool. If you can take over a portable swimming pool, that would be marvellous.”

That sounded a bit industrial to me, and I wondered how I could possibly carry a swimming pool.

“Don’t worry. You’ll be able to find just the job at Argos, and, believe me, these tiny children really could do with a splash about.”

“OK, I’ll do all that, but I need you to identify the nurses for me so that I can take the stuff to them.”

“The ones I’m particularly thinking of are being put up at a hotel in the centre of Bucharest called the Hotel Lido. The government pays for their board and lodging, and they give their time free in exchange.”

“I’ll deliver the things you’ve listed for me, but in exchange, I would very much appreciate some information.”

I sensed a change on the other end of the line, but I ploughed on.

“My wife and I are planning to rescue one or even two children, and that’s the purpose of my visit. I gather that you do have a contact over there, a Romanian official, who has adopted two children of his own and I really would appreciate it if you would give me his name and address.”

She was not as reluctant as I had feared, possibly out of tiredness, and she gave me the name of a Doctor Sadovici. Yes, she said, he was not only a paediatrician, but was, as I had been told, a clinician in some sort of government post with responsibility for three orphanages in the Bacau region. And if I was to travel to Bacau she also gave me the name of the English nurse who was acting in some form of liaison capacity and was herself being accommodated in a hotel apartment there.

I thanked her, and promised, again, that I would ensure that the needed supplies, as much as I could carry, would be delivered to the nurses in Bucharest.

As I put the phone down, I felt a surge of optimism. I could not think of a better contact, and I imagined that the path ahead of me was straightening out.

I could not have been more wrong.


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