A couple hold a sign saying, in Romanian, “They all knew, but they weren’t human”, during a demonstration against the coalition of ruling parties, in front of the Romanian government headquarters, in Bucharest, on July 13, 2023. DANIEL MIHAILESCU / AFP
Etienne-le-Grand Street 38, Voluntari, northeast of Bucharest. Seen from the outside, the house looks like the other villas in this residential area, popular with the new rich in the Romanian capital. But behind this peaceful facade unfolded a real horror film, under high political protection. The twenty-seven residents of this private retirement home for the elderly and disabled have lived through hell. Starved, mistreated, beaten, they were used as a pretext to raise generous social allowances. “I didn’t know anything about it, defends the mayor of Voluntari, Florentin Pandele. If I had known, I would have acted. »
Silviu Munteanu, the lawyer hired by the neighbors of the retirement home, sees things differently. The nauseating smell emanating from the waste dumped in the street prompted them to file a lawsuit against this center, which operated without a sanitation system. “Since 2021, we have filed around thirty complaints with the town hall and the other institutions concerned,” he said. Everyone was aware of what was going on in this house. Reports from doctors who examined the unfortunate residents reveal that, driven by hunger, they chewed the blankets and swallowed the buttons of their pajamas. Nicknamed “the house of horror”, this establishment was one of the most lucrative businesses of the Saint-Gabriel-le-Brave association, which manages three reception centers for retirees.
This saint does not appear in the Roman religious calendar, but a certain Gabriela appears in this affair. Appointed Minister of Family, Youth and Equal Opportunities in November 2021, Gabriela Firea is a former journalist who entered politics in 2012, joining the ranks of the Social Democratic Party (PSD). In 2016, she won the town hall of Bucharest, where she practices nepotism on a large scale and pursues with her wrath all journalists who dare to criticize her.
Married to the mayor of Voluntari, renowned for his dubious practices, she resides in a villa located only a few streets from the retirement home whose horrors have shaken public opinion. But there is more than geographic proximity that binds Ms. Firea to this retreat center. His adviser, Ligia Gheorghe, was vice-president of the Saint-Gabriel-le-Brave association. His sister, Nela Vica Andries, ran the Voluntari Welfare Center, responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the retirement home. Finally, the president of the association, Stefan Godei, a young man with an imposing physique, was Gabriela Firea’s driver throughout her political career.
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