I AM LULI – 3 representations, 400 people – disability justice and art

Bucharest, 4 May 2023 – Odeon Theater

“I am Luli and this is my voice” – actress Anda Saltelechi has repeated many times. The ending of this play still haunts me. She tried to shout for every person now locked up in a social or psychiatric institution. There is a need for many more halls and performances because there are tens of thousands of people locked up in social care centres and psychiatric hospitals for the chronically ill.

Nearly 100,000 people with disabilities have a court order of prohibition. For several thousand people, the guardian is an employee of the rehabilitation centre or even the head of the institution under the DGASPC. Their voice is even harder to hear and actresses Alina Berzunțeanu and Ioana Marcoiu showed on stage many of the behaviours and feelings of some of the employees of the social assistance system. I say some because I also met some employees who asked for help when residents were beaten, starved, tied up or simply defenseless.

For all these abuses reported by the Legal Resource Centre- to the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Protection, the Minister of Labour and Social Protection – Mr. Marius Constantin Budai – chose silence – restricting the access of CLR experts in unannounced monitoring visits. Probably on the principle that by the time another conviction comes – we will not be in charge but we will certainly make sure to talk about people with disabilities in the election year.

Judges have been given 3 years to review the injunctions. But they have not been given help to broker communication and facilitate understanding so that access to justice is effective, real. CNAS – National Health Insurance House, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health – Romania have left the budget for psychological and psychiatric assessments – sometimes even the equivalent of 1000 Euro – to chance. Specialists in the field of providing decision support have not been recruited and trained.

If access to people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities – confined to residential social care centres – is made much more difficult by central and local authorities – we hope that Luli’s voice will be heard in all Romanian counties. Crista Bilciu, director, a man who believed in the cause of these people – thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Georgiana Pascu, programme manager of Pledoarie pentru Demnitate

Sibiu, 16 May 2023 – Gong Theater

“I, until this show, didn’t know that there were these problems here next to me.” – spectator

“What can we actually do? How can we help?” – spectator

Pitești, 25 May 2023 – „Alexandru Davila” Theater

Nothing passes through that doctor’s stamp. What do we do when the courts only judge documents, not people? – Psychosocial specialist
Support person implies support, warmth, takes me to another area.
A law can only create a framework. Without professionals it remains to form without substance. -Lawyer

The “I am Luli” series of performances ended yesterday evening at the “Alexandru Davila” Theatre in Pitesti.

After the 3 performances, 417 people were one step closer to what life is like for tens of thousands of people with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities. 417 people decided Luli’s life, and Luli didn’t have a word to say: as it still happens in many cases. But from the public we often heard: “It can’t be, it doesn’t happen now, in Romania…”. We remind you that it can, but the authorities often choose silence.

Vrancea, 2023 – “several vulnerable people with mental disabilities, interned in the Centres for the recovery and rehabilitation of people with disabilities, located in Vrancea county, were recruited by misleading, taking advantage of their obvious vulnerability, and then transported for labour exploitation in hostels, households and farms in Maramureș county”, DIICOT press release of May.

Ilfov, 2022 – seizure, deprivation of liberty, trans-institutionalisation, unsanitary premises, smell of urine, bedbugs, residents have no specific activities (colouring, listening to lullabies) and are not allowed to go out in the community, no one visits them, they have no phone, they do not know their rights, they cannot complain, CRJ monitoring report.

Sighetu Marmației, 2019 – 8 persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities were confined in five cages; cages are about 2.5 m high, with metal frame and transparent Plexiglas; 3 persons were tied with shirts and strips of cloths; sewage was draining behind the building, on the ground – pestilential smell of faeces in the courtyard where beneficiaries should spend their time, exclusively drug therapy, CRJ monitoring report.

That’s just 3 examples and 3 spaces. Like Luli there are still many, hidden from our eyes, shut away. Luli has cried out for thousands. Luli’s voice is the voice of all those still living from abuse to abuse, institution to institution, a voice that “we don’t hear” because such stories often stop at our little bubble, of “disability”.

Hence the idea of this show, an opportunity to put before those who have never had contact with disability some scenes of life documented on the basis of several real facts. Because we need you: we need civil society not to turn a blind eye to abuses, to complain to the authorities, to hold those responsible to account, to tell stories like Luli’s, to give a voice to those who are no longer or cannot speak out about what is happening to them.

Thank you to the audience who participated in such a large number to the performances and to the discussions afterwards, thank you to the director Crista Bilciu and to the actresses Alina Berzunțeanu, Ioana Marcoiu and Anda Saltelechi for believing in our cause.