Sally Richards

Abandoned: Mogolinio Children’s Institute, Bulgaria


barren landscape

grating wail

of rusted round-a-bout

tiny wooden crosses

row upon row

white markers for graves

of former residents


metal beds,

rejected children


Grey walls, bare floors, blank faces.

No stimulation, interaction,


Iskra has never been outside,

never seen the sun:

abandoned at birth,

shunned by a draconic culture

for mild disability.

‘New girl’ Didi – all smiles,

doe-eyed teen: hopeful

in a pool of lost and unloved,

talks to Tedor –

“you are handsome, I like your eyes.

Mummy is coming for me

September 27th.”

In a bed close by

blind Vasky is moaning,

quietly protesting

while the carer brusquely

dresses the child

with matter-of-fact coldness.

Weeks later they discover

Vasky has a broken leg.

Sensory room, swimming pool, garden –

never used: no qualified staff.

Didi protests

“they are all mad!

I’m not going to go insane!”

Her eyes smile desperation.

Ivanka, head nurse, insists:

“Didi’s mother will not come!

She does not want to see the girl, ever.”

Didi’s crime? – mild autism.

the director:

‘finally available for comment’ insists

“The children are cared for

their deterioration: lack of vitamins

and disease.”

Didi neatly folds

another lovingly decorated letter,

puts it safe with the others

in her weathered bag.

Carer Snezhana feeds Iskra

from a bowl

shoveling in huge mouthfuls

of indescribable stodge.

Ivanka: obese, manly,

puts Vasky in the bath:

thin white flesh and bones;

chicken carcass, submerged remnant,

of a young woman,

just bones.

Ilia and Atanas exist in a mute world,

eyes lit with dread, noses bloodied;

the captive abused of Yanko

the laundry man.

Their eyes speak volumes

of pain.

some months later:

Vasky’s now bedridden,

thirteen years of Mogolinio

shrinking her

to foetal position …

Didi’s eyes tell her story –

she’s losing her determined grip

on reality,

her vibrant will

to be visible.

She joins the others

rocking, silently.

I cannot forget, will never forget


We must remember

so that Didi can exist

outside of the cold hell

of Mogolinio.

*This poem is factually accurate and based on a BBC2 documentary filmed in sections at the institute over the course of approx. a year to 18months. The children are sent to the institute, once deserted by their parents, at varying ages, often due to the most minor & borderline conditions and disabilities. The Bulgarian government insists that their Institutes meet the required standards.  Meanwhile the children continue to be kept in inhumane conditions not suited to their individual and diverse needs. They are often abused, and most become crippled and mentally ill.  Many tragically die of malnutrition and neglect.

Sally Richards © 2008