|Translation from Romanian into English|
Pater Don Demidoff, the philanthropist of Iacobeni
The Priest of Thorns
„For us, Pater Don Demidoff is both our mother and father. It is with him that we discuss the problems we have, he helps us grow”, Alexandru says about the priest who ever since 1991 has been fighting against mentalities, institutions and individuals in order to help the Romanian homeless children. Alexandru eats in silence, at peace with himself, near the several other tens of children who grow up around Don Demidoff, the priest of abandoned children.
More than 30 years ago, Pater Don Demidoff left the Roman-Catholic Church. During the following ten years he was, in turn, packager, sales instructor, teacher at a private school, journalist, theatre plays organizer, gastronomic manager, hotel manager or timber seller. He realized that his destiny was to be a priest and since he had been rejected by the Roman-Catholics he considered that joining the Independent Catholic Church better suited his philanthropic destiny.
Don Demidoff is now 62 years old. On Sundays he holds services for the gypsy children that live nearby. People listen to his advice and everybody knows about him for a long time now- he is the priest whom all abandoned children come to. „After my mother died, my father did not want to care for me anymore. I am from Dumbraveni and I came to Pater Don Demidoff, who received me. He is like a father to me. But when we do something wrong he can be severe - he scolds and punishes us. He punishes us by not allowing us to go to the chapel before writing 500 times in our notebooks the mistake we made. In here we do not lie, we do not steal and we do not beat one another”, Alexandru, who is now 13, tells while going towards Pater Don Demidoff’s room. Don Demidoff receives all his guests with a smile on his face. „Yes, I have invested a lot in these children, and when I say this I don’t refer only to the material aspect of it. The faith, the teachings I try to offer them are much more important”. Don Demidoff tells his story by gesticulating a lot. He is surrounded by children, who live in very hospitable rooms, filled with a warm atmosphere. More than 300 orphans or abandoned children have been raised by Don Demidoff. His life story is very unfortunate. And the obstacles he has to overcome seem to be more numerous every day.
Although he came to Romania with humanitarian intentions, Don Demidoff found deep rooted mentalities that instead of clearing the way of its actions only created obstacles. Thank God for his rude health similar to that of a „German oak”. When he arrived in Romania he was looked upon as a stranger, which was not comfortable at all in the post-revolutionary Romania. He was caught up in the middle of the plots created by the local people, who were not used to Catholic priests. He was beaten, arrested, often accused with lies and schemes, and at one point his health was seriously damaged. Pater Don Demidoff overcame all injustices and he currently continues to fight for the good as enthusiastically and as confidently as he did the first day. „This is not a perverted indoctrination, which is an almost indestructible evil. That is why I am sure that this indoctrination will disappear only after many generations will have passed. The human structure has been turned upside down and I have to deal with it day after day. And because I am always busy doing ‘the right thing’, I have to be punished daily”, Pater Don Demidoff explains. He has decided to keep fighting for the abandoned Romanian children.
Don Demidoff’s Family
What we can see in Don Demidoff’s house would impress any visitor. In a world that seems to be separated from the evil and restlessness of the daily life Romanians learned to accept, in Don Demidoff’s house, the abandoned children are offered a home and a future. Nevertheless, everybody talks freely, complying with the strict house rules. Before starting to eat, they all say a prayer together and during the meal everybody makes conversation. Alin, who was taken by Don Demidoff when he was six months old, tells us what he wants to become when he grows up: “I want to become a priest”, Alin says with an innocent look upon his face. Alexandu and Sorin burst into laughter. „Why are you laughing? Is the desire to become a priest something shameful, something laughable? Please explain to me why you laughed”, Don Demidoff asks Alexandru and Sorin in a reprimanding voice. They both look down; they know they did something wrong. They say, in turn, why they busted into an uncalled-for laughter. They talk to Pater Don Demidoff every day, as he has become their confidant, the confidant of all children. They tell Don Demidoff about their existential problems, he helps them get over their teenage “exaggerations”, they joke and laugh with him, they learn and they grow.
The Decimator of Ministers
The obstacles put in Don Demidoff’s way came from all directions. They were fierce and hard to overcome but Don Demifoff did not give up - he did not hesitate to resort to a Court of Law in order to be granted his legal rights and he fought until the end. For example, since Don Demidoff had not received the approval required in order to extend the visa for temporary residence in Romania, issued by a Committee of the Ministry of Health, he had to leave the country for 14 days every month. He resorted to a Court of Law in order to request his right and he won the trial, requesting moral damages in the amount of 500 million ROL. He won the trial but the Ministry refused to pay the amount. Things went as far as seizing the Ministry’s car driven by Ovidiu Branzan, the Minister of Health at that time. Don Demidoff recuperated the due money. Don Demidoff also claimed his rights from the Ministry of Administration and Internal Affairs. He won the trial with them as well. Don Demidoff hopes that no forced execution will be necessary in order for him to recuperate the damages.
He Fights for the Defeated
Pater Don Demidoff continues to fight. After 14 years he drew up a list of “paradoxical commandments” which he called his business regulations. „People are illogical, unreasonable and selfish. If you do good people will accuse you of ‘ulterior motives’. Do good nonetheless. If you are successful you will gain false friends and true enemies. Try hard to be successful nonetheless. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good nonetheless! Being sincere and open make you vulnerable. Be open and sincere nonetheless. People with great ideas are thrown down by people with the pettiest ideas. Think great thoughts nonetheless. People have mercy for the defeated but follow only the winner. Fight for the defeated nonetheless. What you have built for years in a row can be destroyed in one night. Build nevertheless. If you give to the world the best you have you will be stricken for it. Give to the world the best you have nonetheless”; these are Don Demidoff’s business regulations.
„Romanians have not recovered the dignity they were stolen during the Ceausescu period yet. When they resort to a public institution, Romanians seem to lose all their dignity. The conversation is not carried on on an equal footing and I was surprised to see that people lick the boots of those they consider superior”, Pater Don Demidoff.
„Children are always a society’s weakest members. They are entitled to special care and support”, Pater Don Demidoff
The Book of Thorns
After all the years spent in Romania, Pater Don Demidoff published, in German for the time being, a book titled „The Priest of Thorns”. The book will also be published in Romanian at the end of February. „It is only a description of the 14 years of sufferance spent among these people. It is a very subjective, very emotional and also very sincere description. There is no message attached to it. I only want to underline the fact that it is worth dedicating your LIFE to Jesus, in the name of Heaven”, Don Demidoff mentions.
The Meeting with God, in Children Language
Following a diabetic coma which lasted five days, Pater Don Demidoff was assailed by his children who were asking him to tell them what he had seen during the five days. He told them about his meeting God, about the philosophy of life and death, but the children were not satisfied with the answer. That is why Don Demidoff wrote a poem for them:
„Even if this is my last moment
everything will be all right.
I will mark the path
for the children.
I will sprinkle cocoa
on the Milky Way,
and I will wrap the Moon
in candy paper.
I will transform the stars
into ever burning candles,
and I will finally and magically put
the vitamins of spinach
A fairy from Venus
will sprinkle sweet confetti
and I will wait
for my children in Heaven”.
The children were satisfied by the poem-answer.
In 1990, Pater Don Demidoff was a street preacher of the Independent Catholic Church of the Netherlands. He worked with homeless children and with the “homeless youths” of the Netherlands. He saw a piece on the homeless Romanian children and he could not believe his eyes. „I talked on the phone with the producer of that documentary because I could not believe that something like that could exist. The journalist told me to come to Romania and see for myself”; this is the moment when Pater Don Demidoff decided to come to Romania. What he found here in the post-revolutionary years were children looking in garbage cans, children who took shelter in manholes or in luggage safes, children chained in orphanages. In comparison with these children, the homeless children of Amsterdam lived “in luxury”. Touched by the fate of these children, who had no blame for having been born gypsies or poor, Pater Don Demidoff decided to get involved in saving the wandering souls of Romania. With no support whatsoever, Don Demidoff set up a private charity company. The starting point was Cincu; here he gathered a few unfortunate children for the benefit of whom he rented spaces and built houses which he furnished and equipped at a standard of comfort that was hard to imagine at that time. Other charity works followed in Bucharest, Veseud and Iacobeni. Children from all over the country found their lost homes in Don Demidoff’s home and their lost families in the priest’s arms.
Description through His Accomplishments
Pater Don Demidoff was born on November 28th 1944, in Germany. He attended the commercial school, major in retail commerce – textiles, subsequent specialization –Bad Driburg Seminar. He performed the monastic novitiate with the Passionists, in the Netherlands. He attended Theology courses in Echt, the Netherlands, Frankfurt and Resenburg. He carried out the practice period with the Youths’ Curate for and the Jail’s Curate. After the first aid Catholic activity– Kolping, he was ordained by a missionary catholic episcopacy. He left the monastery with five pfennigs in his pocket and a bag full of prayer books. After leaving the Roman-Catholic Church, he was ordained in the Independent Catholic Church of the Netherlands. He was a street priest for the homeless children of Amsterdam and afterwards he came to Romania and set up Saint Don Bosco Foundation for the homeless children in Cincu, Iacobeni, Veseud and Bucharest. He is a freeman of the locality of Cincu. He set up the Independent Catholic Church in Romania by taking over the 14th century Church of Iacobeni. He inaugurated the Community Church, the first ecumenical church of Romania and he is the founder of the „The League for the Renaissance of Romania’s Moral Standing”.