Going public in Bulgaria

April 9th, 2012

The clean sweep we’ve been praying for…coming soon

The director of the Bulgarian Child Protection Agency recently met with the new Minister of Health who is directly responsible for the baby orphanages in Bulgaria.  She is a young and very determined lady and started acting immediately. The CPA’s director himself is an orphan and spent most of the first part of his life in orphanages and institutions, so he cares a lot.  They organized a sudden check up in Pleven.  Groups from both the MOH and the CPA went to Pleven last Friday.

They went through all the floors and visited every corner of the building.

Then they came out in all prime time news, on all national TV channels and radio stations.

The Minister of Health said that she witnessed conditions that shouldn’t exist in any 21st century European country.   “The situation is appalling.  This is inhumane,” she commented.

At the end of her report it was announced that an investigation was starting immediately and would most probably be finished by the end of April.

The response of the orphanage management was to disagree that the children were malnourished or that the building did not meet hygiene standards.  They stated that the disabilities of the children, and not malnutrition, were to blame for their small stature and low weight.

But Katie, as the first malnourished child from Pleven to come into a family and be loved and fed properly, is telling the truth without saying a word.


The following are hastily-edited translations of some of the news articles in major newspapers in Bulgaria.  After reading it, please click here to visit Shelley Bedford’s blog and find out how you can help bring about the exciting boots-on-the-ground changes that are coming to the children in Katie’s former orphanage.  All the efforts to help Pleven will require a WIDE base of support, so PLEASE pass the word along!  Thank you so much!


Excerpts from yesterday’s newspaper article


(on the photo at the left bottom, unidentified child from the sixth floor; on the photo at the top right, Veronica now; on the photo at the bottom right, Veronica before)

18 children died over a year and a half

Babies and young children are being left hungry for days, lie in urine without having their diapers changed for twenty-four hours, due to which most of them are severely ill.  Over a year and a half, 18 children have died, as evidenced by a Report of the CPA. This provoked an inspection by the Minister of Health Dessislava Atanassova.  Yesterday she commented that she left there crying.
At the moment, 154 children live in the institution. After the inspection, Ms. Atanassova found out that, obviously, the personnel had known about her visit, as the children were all dressed up nicely, the sheets were changed and the toys were new.  The stench of urine, however, made a huge impression.

“While I walked through the rooms and watched the children, I cried. After that, I got mad and was greatly upset that they were doing wrong things,” the health minister said. She made a hint that probably serious financial misuses had been done in the institution, as any accountability was lacking.


4 kilograms and 850 grams. That’s how much the 9 year old Veronica weighed on November 14, 2011. That was her last day in Home For Medical and Social Care for Children in Pleven which terrified the health minister and CPA. She couldn’t pull up to a sitting or standing position and only was lying down. Today, 5 months later, in the USA, in Pennsylvania, she is already weighing 12 kilograms and has a chance for life.

This can clearly be seen from two photographs. The first was taken in the home for medical and social care last year, and the second is in the home of her new American family.

“I think that the photos speak for themselves enough and the words are not needed. The difference is striking and clearly shows what it means for a child to be raised in an institution,” declared Antonia Vladimirova, Director of Dreams Foundation, which facilitates international adoptions. She personally was helping the family Joe and Susanna Musser to adopt the Bulgarian orphan who has Down syndrome.

The Chance

The chance for a new life for Veronica came last November. After [three] months of adoption procedure, Susanna arrived in Pleven to pick her up.  [Three months before,] the American was in shock at the look of the child in real life and by the sight of the other children sharing the same ward with her future daughter on the sixth floor, where the orphans with the severest diseases are placed. Veronica was taken to Tokuda Hospital to be stabilized for two days…they took off by a plane to the USA…from the airport…she was placed in the Children’s [Hospital] in Philadelphia.

Thorough tests were done and they established that the child was with severe anemia due to the malnutrition, as well as advanced osteoporosis, and bones that had been broken in the past, together with lack of Vitamin D.  All this together with severe mental and physical lagging behind.

After only 4 months Veronica is already different.

So that you can imagine the difference, I will tell you that in Bulgaria she couldn’t sit up [properly]. She didn’t talk, only cried or, more correctly, was moaning. Now you can see her at the picture that she sits up. Soon she will be up besides a walker. She is still with a feeding tube but she eats normal food and very recently she said her first word “mamma.” All this after only 4 months, Vladimirova tells further. Now the child lives in Pennsylvania. Her adoptive parents have ten more children, the last of whom is with Down syndrome…she inspired them to adopt such a child. The mother is a homemaker and has entirely devoted herself to care for her children.


After the admittance of Veronica in Tokuda, from the hospital they were so shocked that they decided to visit the orphanage in Pleven. The specialists chose another 8 children to be admitted in the hospital.

“We found out that the children need attention and decided that we would go and see them. We coordinated the idea with the CPA and went,” Prof. Marusia Lilova, Chief of the Pediatric Clinic at Tokuda Hospital, said for the Telegraph. Then several children were taken for treatment to Tokuda. To a question whether it was established that the children were malnourished, Prof. Lilova stated that she didn’t want to comment.

The rest

154 children totally are being raised in the orphanage in Pleven. 98 of them are with severe disabilities and most of them don’t move from their cribs. For now, only [18] of the children will have Veronica’s chance.  At the moment, adoption procedures for them are pending.

Excerpts from today’s article

(Photos: Top: at 11 years old Vesselina looks like a 3 month old baby; the teenager Plamenka looks like an infant
Bottom:  Veronica 6 months ago and now as Katie Musser)

“Holocaust”  That is how the chief of Dreams Foundation, Antonia Vladimirova, summarizes the care for the abandoned sick children in Bulgaria. And “Auschwitz” is the name she has given to the Home for Medical and Social Care for Children (HMSCC) in Pleven. On Friday, the institution entered the media with a label “Mogilino-2” after the health minister Dessisslava Atanassova visited it suddenly and 16 year old children weighing 9 kilograms and eating from bottles met her.

Boriss Veltchev starts dealing with the child skeletons in Pleven

Prosecutors in Mogilino-2

Malnutrition, osteoporosis and broken bones shock the Tokuda doctors

For Antonia Vladimirova, the Pleven Auschwitz turned into her cause on August 15, 2011. Then the head of the Dreams Foundation went into the orphanage as a lawful representative of the Americans Joseph and Susanna Musser, who wanted to adopt the 9 year old Veronica. The little girl was on the 6th floor, where actually the severest cases are placed. From the very door, the stench that hit us was unbearable, Vladimirova recalls.

Stink of faeces, urine, acetone and pus

In the rooms of the children, the windows are not opened. The little ones [cribs] are stuffed 8 in a [room] 4 meters by 3 meters. They are not showered, the diapers are soaked and they lie in their vomit. The children are prisoners in their cribs. They move only when their diapers are changed once each 24 hours, Antonia adds. From the orphanage they explained to her that this happens once a day as the diapers are expensive and they can’t afford to change the children more often. They pick up the child under the armpit, lift him/her in the air, and throw him/her on the board for change of the diapers. Several lightning, rough movements follow, without any cleaning or treatment of the rashes and the wounds from the soaked diapers. The child again is lifted in the same way and thrown in the crib, Antonia continues her terrifying story.

Antonia, however, is shocked with something else–the feeding of the children. The little ones receive

a beer bottle with a nipple on the top,

with an opening of 1 cm.  And as they are in lying position, without being set upright at least a little, they receive the nipple and start choking and the liquid pours down, explains Vladimirova. The children who can feed themselves, receive a mess-tin of soup with crumbled bread mixed with a spoon of [broth?] without meat.  The children are fed [in a matter of seconds] and then everything is taken away, goes on Antonia.

Thanks to the Musser family, Veronica is saved from Auschwitz. Today she lives in Pennsylvania and her name is Katerina Hope Musser. After being picked up from the orphanage, the 9 year old miss went to the capital hospital Tokuda, and the doctors there slipped into a shock at the little one’s weight of 4,850 kg.  5 months later Veronica, already Katerina Hope, is 12 kg.

From August till now, 18 more children from the ill-famous orphanage in Pleven are at different stages of adoption procedure by families from the USA. Two of them are the 11 year old Vesselina (weight at the moment 5,650 kg and height 76 cm), and almost 16 year old Plamenka (weight 8,600 kg and height 88 cm) who eats from a bottle. Both of them, as well as 6 other children from the orphanage, were treated in Tokuda. In all eight children, besides malnutrition and osteoporosis, old, already healed broken bones, were established. Vesselina even has displacements of vertebrae, recalls Antonia. And continues on to say that after only 10 days in the hospital the little patients gained 2 kilograms each.

The doors are closed for new little ones

174 people take care of 165 children; sanctions are at hand

The Agency for Social Support stops the placement of children from the whole country in the orphanage in Pleven. Only in extreme cases babies from Pleven and Lovetch will be admitted.

This is the biggest orphanage in Bulgaria and, at the moment, 165 children are placed there.   [The healthiest, mobile children over the age of 3 years old have already been transferred to other institutions.]  The personnel are 174 people, but only 1/3 of them remain on each shift. All of the children should be no older than 3 years of age. However, for a long time, no one has taken measures for the older children to be moved to other specialized institutions.  Among them are children with disabilities who have not been requested for adoption or foster care.

External specialists in nutrition and intensive interaction shall be appointed in the orphanage. For each child a specific plan shall be developed, according to his/her own needs, explained Kalin Kamenov. They will train the personnel how to take care of the children. Experts will work with the children with disabilities in the orphanage, so that they receive individual care and medical help.

For the end of April, a competition for appointment of a new director of the orphanage has been planned. Four months ago, the long-standing director Irzhina Kostova was fired after the signal of CPA.  By this moment, the orphanage has been under a temporarily appointed director. Most probably there will be more disciplinary sanctions, stipulates Kamenov. We hope that the new management shall implement quality reorganization in the operation of the orphanage, he declared.

Yesterday, for the Standard, the health minister Dessislava Atanassova revealed that, since documents for donations and reports for food products are lacking, the investigators had sealed the storage premises.





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65 Responses to “Going public in Bulgaria”

  1. Sadie says:

    PRAISE the LORD!  I am so glad to hear that it has went public and SOMETHING has to be done!  My prayers are with the kids and your family.  I have been reading for a while now, but have yet to comment.  I couldn’t help but comment with this news!  You are such a blessing!

  2. Kristin says:

    Praise God!  So amazing that He’s used you not only to rescue Katie but all those others.  Still praying and watching what He’s doing.  So happy that those children will finally get real care and that they’re being open about the evil that went on…..hopefully that changes not only Pleven but the attitudes of people toward the children there.

  3. Wendy Shupe says:

    Hello from Bulgaria.  My husband Jeff and I are adopting “Lina” and “Mario”.
     We are in Bulgaria right now on our first trip.  We have been following your story…we are just so amazed and heart broken for the children.  I have been following your blog since you brought your sweet girl home.  Praise God for the progress she has made….you all are amazing! 
     We have the actual newspaper that came out today…I wan’t sure if you have one or will be receiving one, but I would love to send it to you if you would like to have it.  Thank you for your inspirational story!


  4. Ann says:

    Dearest Susanna…. To read these words is more than I could ever imagine! I pray the Holocaust is over for these children. My entire family prays for the children of Pleven every day…. We are so relieved that help has finally come.
    I am the Mother of 12, two of my children are waiting in Bulgaria for their family to bring them home. Our son is healthy but our tiny little girl is very sick, I am so Thankful that she is in a place that cares for her and they, at the least trying to care for her….
    Thank You Susanna for ALL of your work to make this happen, you are a Guardian Angel to these Children and Their Future Families!

  5. Erin says:

    Here in America if I treated dogs the way they have treated those children, I would be sent to jail, and rightfully so.  It has been wonderful to see this story unfold, and see her little light shine brighter and brighter. 

  6. Joe says:

    Wendy, we would love to have it! It must be one we haven’t seen yet! Thank you so much for thinking of us!

    Susanna who is writing from Joe’s account :)

  7. Jill says:

    My heart breaks every time I read about the treatment of these children. It makes me sick. I am a social worker and I hear about abuse and neglect all the time- it never gets easy- but this is something I can’t even wrap my brain around.  Our pastor gave a sermon about doing for one what you wish you could do for all. You did for one- Katie- but that wasn’t enough…and now you are doing for all. God bless you and the work you have done to change things. What one person can do.    

  8. mary says:

    Praise God, His justice will be done. Thank you for your perseverance and patience

    Are you still needing funds for Katie’s and veritys on going health needs???

  9. I have amazing news, but Momys is down… please pray for an important decision being made tomorrow that impacts a lot of prospective adoptive parents! As always, we are praying for all of you here! :)

  10. Susanna says:

    I hope it’s what I think it is, Colleen! Emailed you, but if we don’t hear back in time, we’re going to pray about what we think it is, anyway!

  11. Carissa says:

    Thank GOD for using Katie and for using you to open the world’s eyes to Pleven’s atrocities!   

  12. Susanna says:

    Mary, gifts to Katie’s care fund are an enormous blessing and provision for her needs that Samaritan doesn’t share in, BUT if you have to choose, please give to help another little one come home. God WILL provide for Katie’s needs as He has so marvelously done up until now!

  13. julie says:

    I am not a religious person but I have volunteered in the orphanage and seen the conditions. I want to say how pleased I am that your efforts have produced this result and children will be taken more care of, well done, you are very courageous.

  14. Karen Perl Fox says:

    My daughter was an orphan in Pleven and lived in the Pleven Baby Orphanage until she was about 3 and 1/2 years old. She weighed about 19 pounds at age 3 according to the medical information we received. She was transferred to a neighborhood orphanage (she had crossed eyes so I don’t know for sure but that may have been why she was transferred) and quickly began to thrive there. I was given a referral to her from my agency when she was about 4 and 1/4 years old, travelled twice to Bulgaria and then was allowed to adopt her when she was almost 5 years old (the long wait between trips was also very traumatizing for her). She weighed 29 pounds and was still very tiny in height and no muscle mass and still somewhat thinned out hair like malnurished children have. Since she has been home she had had eye surgery twice, has grown 4 inches every year and and now is as tall as her average peers. After a rough start at home the first six months, she is now age 10 and 1/2 a delightful, kind and caring girl who is deeply loved by her family and beloved by her many friends. She loves music and is very talented in many types of sports and loves to dance. We are so luck to have this miracle child in our lives. Karen

  15. peter says:

    in Pleven at the moment and would like to visit the orphanage
    who is the person I contact here to visit

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