“The world is quickly bored by the recital of misfortunes, and willingly avoids the sight of distress.”

Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, 1919

The next day, we discovered that the doctor who had overall responsibility for the orphanage was on duty. Bogdan and I found our way to her office and discovered a young woman who had all the appearance of a clinician that Ursuliano lacked. In particular, it was pretty clear that she was distinctly unhappy about the condition of the children under her care, and just as frustrated by her inability to do very much for them.

However, Bogdan was able to show her the translated BAAF medical form, and she completed it immediately, enabling us to take it over to Lily for translation. When that task had been completed, I judged that it was time to meet Kirsty Rowe once more, so I telephoned and made an appointment. 

When I arrived, her whole demeanour suggested that I was not welcome. 

I set out my stall as plainly as I could. “I’ve found a child and, believe me, he is in a pretty poor state, given the surroundings in which he is living. The orphanage has identified him as free for adoption, and the mother has already been approached and has indicated that she consents. As you know, I have attempted to avoid further delay by ensuring that instead of undergoing a home study examination after visiting the orphanage, I ensured that that was done to the satisfaction of my local authority and the adoption panel before I first came out. Can I assume, therefore, since the department already has that report, that it won’t in fact be necessary for me to return to England, since there is nothing I can do there?”

“I’m afraid that you will have to follow the procedure. That means returning to England.”

“But what on earth for? All the documents which have to be prepared in England have been prepared already. I’ve obtained the necessary medical report on the BAAF form. As I understand it, the embassy sends that back to London, and all then that London has to do is to confirm to its own satisfaction that the necessary formalities have fallen into place, so that the Home Office can be assured that an entry clearance can be given.”

“That makes no difference to the procedure. You cannot take the child from the orphanage, let alone from Romania, until entry clearance has been given, and that clearance is given not by us but by London.”

“I know that, but what is the point of my being there for that purpose?”

“It is procedure.”

“Look,” I said, “I doubt you have been inside any of these orphanages, but I can assure you that they are perfectly dreadful. To endure that lack of care for one day longer, let alone a week or, by the sound of it, even more than that, is positively harmful to all the children and in particular to the child whom I have identified. Don’t you see how important it is to me to get him out?”

“I’m sorry to say that individual cases cannot be considered. You have to return to England and await Home Office permission before the child can be removed.”

I asked if I could see the Consul.

“He will give you exactly the same answer,” she said, but when I pressed her again, she agreed to have a word with him. 

I waited outside her office, sitting on a settee in a grand hallway, furnished in a style which seemed closer to the British Raj than to Eastern Europe. The Consul, who I knew to be one Bob Howe, emerged from a side door with the vice consul.

“Miss Rowe has told me about your discussion. I’m afraid that she is right. There is a protocol which we have to observe, and there can be no exceptions. The fact that you obtained a home study report before you travelled to Romania makes no difference. You have to return to England.”

There was the faintest suspicion of a smirk on the Vice Consul’s face as I accepted defeat. I left the medical report and a copy of the birth certificate with them both and asked them to send them to the Department of Health in London, before leaving the embassy feeling utterly frustrated.

I hadn’t told them of my discovery that the law had either changed or that, somehow, it had gone up in smoke – they would know that sooner rather than later in any event. For the moment, I had to sort out with Bogdan exactly what our next steps would have to be. 


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