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Ruckel attends Romanian premiere of ‘The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman’ – and heads back to the U.S.

Ruckel ends two years' service with successful event

On January 10th, Izidor Ruckel attended the Romanian premiere of The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman in Bucharest. The event, held in Cinema Pro’s largest theater, drew over 400 people, including journalists, social workers, NGO representatives, and Romanian adoptive parents.

Attendees flocked to watch the mini-series’ third episode, called “The Power of Love.”  Subtitled in Romanian, the show featured Morgan Freeman interviewing Ruckel about his life as a Romanian orphan and his subsequent adoption by an American family. Freeman also interviewed Ruckel’s parents, Danny and Marlys Ruckel, who shared about trying to reach into Izidor’s broken heart.

Alexandra Cadar-Lumei traveled all the way from Sighetu Marmației, the northern city where Ruckel’s orphanage was located, to attend the premiere. Cadar-Lumei is the superior councilor at the Department of Social Services and said the evening was “beautiful.”

Ruckel and Cadar-Lumei
Ruckel and Cadar-Lumei

“I once again had the certainty that the power of love would never make you feel small… incapable... Ugly.... weak.... worthless,” Cadar-Lumei posted on Facebook.

Ruckel conducted a press conference after the viewing. Many Journalists and other audience members asked about Romania’s current state of orphan care. Ruckel invited several child welfare specialists onto the stage to assist in answering questions.

The panel noted that although Romania is closing large orphanages, smaller orphanages are replacing them where children are still cared for by a rotating staff.

“This approach misses the point as it fails to provide families for these children,” said Liviu Mihăileanu, president of Romania Without Orphans Alliance.

Mihăileanu discussed ongoing legislative initiatives that could help speed up the in-country adoption process: lowering the number of relatives sought from the 4th degree, which includes great-great-grandparents, introducing sanctions for not respecting the deadlines in declaring a child adoptable, lowering the number of migrations within the system, and allowing accredited private organizations be more involved.

Ruckel was pleased at the audience’s engagement.

“They seemed to truly be interested in improving the current child welfare system,” Ruckel said. “They were asking what they could do to help. That was encouraging because stepping out and getting involved it what makes the changes happen.”

Photo by Mihai Popa
Photo by Mihai Popa

Several media outlets attended the premiere, including Antenna 3, DIGI 24 and A7 TV. In addition, staff from the La Măruță show came to show their support to Ruckel. Ruckel worked with the La Măruță show for two years, facilitating adoptee reunions with their birth families. The next day, Ruckel made a final appearance on the La Măruță show.

Ruckel now heads home to Denver, Colorado, after spending twenty-two months serving in Romania at Love Light Romania, a non-profit dedicated to providing support services to children, teenagers & families affected by HIV/AIDS. Ruckel worked as a teen mentor.

“I’m grateful for the two years I got to spend in my home country. Serving the last two years in Romania changed me. My Romanian language skills are now much better, and I am more motivated than ever to help orphans get the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Ruckel said he will now focus on getting his autobiography turned into a mini-series. Through the project, called Izidor, Ruckel said he hopes to educate and inspire the world about the power of taking a risk on behalf of others.

“To whom much is given, much is expected,” Ruckel said. “We all have something to give.”

Morgan Freeman interviews Izidor Ruckel for new mini series


Morgan Freeman interviews Izidor Ruckel for new mini series
The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman highlights the power of love with Ruckel’s story

LOS ANGELES, Calif., October 2, 2017 – Morgan Freeman interviewed Izidor Ruckel for the six-part docuseries The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman, premiering on National Geographic in the U.S. on October 11 at 9/8c, and globally in 171 countries and 45 languages in early 2018. An episode entitled “The Power of Love” includes Ruckel’s life story and will air as the third installment in the series on October 25, 2017.

Los Angeles - Host Morgan Freeman meets with Izidor Ruckel who discusses his horrific experience living in a Romanian orphanage as a child. (National Geographic/Justin Lubin)

The series follows Freeman as he travels the world investigating ideas that unite mankind. In June, Freeman met with Ruckel at a park in Los Angeles to explore how the lack of familial love during early childhood shaped him. Ruckel spent the first eleven years of his life in a cruel Romanian orphanage for the “unsalvageables,” where lack of food and routine beatings stunted his growth physically and emotionally.

Freeman also interviewed Ruckel’s American adoptive parents, Danny and Marlys Ruckel, on their attempts to reach such a broken boy with the meaning of love.

“Morgan Freeman was truly curious to see how love has impacted someone who was locked away for so many years,” Ruckel said. “During the interview, I could sense that the stories he heard about the orphanage were truly shocking and eye opening for him.”

National Geographic/Justin Lubin

Watch The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman: The Power of Love on October 25th to see the impact of just one person showing love to Ruckel in the midst of his horrifying childhood. To find the National Geographic Channel in your country, visit:

Izidor Ruckel is an orphan advocate who seeks to bring hope and dignity to children still suffering all over the world. Learn more at


Media Contact: Sarah Padbury

Izidor Ruckel intervievat de Morgan Freeman pentru un serial de televiziune


Izidor Ruckel intervievat de Morgan Freeman pentru un serial de televiziune
"Povestea noastră" cu Morgan Freeman evidențiază puterea dragostei prin povestea lui Izidor Ruckel.

LOS ANGELES, Calif., 2 Octombrie, 2017 – Morgan Freeman la intervievat pe Ruckel pentru un documentar ce face parte dintr-un serial, ce are șase părți, intitulat "Povestea noastră", ce va avea premiera in USA, pe canalul National Geographic, pe 11 Octombrie la 9:00pm, coasta de est, sau 8:00pm, zona centrală. Documentarul va fi difuzat internațional în 171 de țări și 45 de limbi, la începutul lui 2018. Unul din episoade, care discută importanța dragostei, și include povestea de viață a lui Ruckel, va fi difuzat pe 25 octombrie 2017.

Los Angeles - Host Morgan Freeman meets with Izidor Ruckel who discusses his horrific experience living in a Romanian orphanage as a child. (National Geographic/Justin Lubin)

Serialul îl însoțește pe Freeman într-o călătorie prin lume, investigând idei care unesc umanitatea.

În iunie, Freeman s-a întâlnit cu Ruckel în Los Angeles pentru a afla cum acea lipsă din copilărie, a dragostei de familie, l-a format odată ajuns la maturitate. Ruckel și-a petrecut primii unsprezece ani din viață într-un orfelinat din România, cu condiții extrem de dure, destinat copiilor irecuperabili, unde lipsa de mâncare și bătăile frecvente i-au împiedicat dezvoltarea fizică și emoțională.

Freeman a stat de vorbă și cu părinții adoptivi,  Danny și Marlys Ruckel, despre încercarea lor de a recupera un asemenea copil prin puterea dragostei.

“Morgan Freeman a fost cu adevărat  curios să vadă cum a putut dragostea să aibe un impact asupra cuiva care a fost închis atâția ani" spune Ruckel. "Am putut vedea, în timpul interviului, cum povestea mea, despre orfelinat, pe care o asculta, l-a șocat și i-a deschis ochii."

(National Geographic/Justin Lubin)

Urmăriți "Povestea noastră" pe 25 octombrie pentru  pentru a vedea impactul unei singure persoane care i-a arătat dragoste lui Izidor în mijlocul unei copilării terifiante. Pentru a găsi Canalul National Geographic în țara voastră, vizitați

Izidor Ruckel este acum o voce pentru orfani, care încearcă să aducă speranță și demnitate copiilor care încă suferă, oriunde în lume.  Pentru a afla mai multe detalii vizitați


Izidor’s first 10 months in Romania – and counting!

In April 2016, as Izidor was packing up to head back to the United States after a one-month visit to Romania, he received a one-year job offer from Love Light Romania (LLR). Izidor decided to stay and work with the nonprofit whose mission it is to serve orphans and the poor around Medias. Ten months later, his stay has made a difference in the lives of many children in the community – and he’s decided to stay longer.


Izidor’s main responsibility at LLR is to mentor two live-in teenagers, Persida (15) and Cristi (14). Izidor has spent hundreds of hours with the siblings hoping to teach them life and relationship skills, as well taking them into town for fun getaways. “They’ve taught me a thing or two, as well,” Izidor reported.

“Izidor has provided Persida and Cristi with a lot of encouragement and support,” said Jo Jewett, Director and Co-Founder of Love Light Romania. “It was important they rely on a person they trust, who they can look to for advice and guidance. He’s not just their mentor, they look at him as an older brother.”

Summer Camp

Izidor assisted LLR with running several rounds of summer camp for children from the surrounding villages. In all, over 100 children attended camp for a week at time, enjoying activities like living in tents, rock climbing, soccer, archery, and wheel barrel races. Most of the children had never been away from their families before and especially appreciated the evening ritual of music around a large campfire.

“Within three days I was already seeing big changes in the children,” Izidor said. “They changed from angry kids to having fun and laughing; from stealing to being honest; from being rude to respectful and helpful. In the end, they didn’t want to leave because they had so much fun and made new friends.”

La Maruta

In addition to working with LLR, Izidor continued facilitating adoptee reunions with the help of ProTV’s La Maruta show. His nine-day run on the live talk show in 2015 with his birth mom and adoptive mom launched him into becoming a household name in Romania. The relationship he built with the production team led to a part-time position with the network. In all, Izidor helped eight adoptees meet their birth families on the show. He also privately facilitated two other reunions.

“Although I enjoyed helping families reunite, I won’t be continuing to offer this service,” Izidor said. “I hope the best for everyone involved, especially that it brings peace for the adoptees to know their roots.”


Over the past ten months, Izidor has also continued his advocacy work for those still entrapped in state institutions. In October, he was a featured speaker at the Romania Without Orphans Gala held in Bucharest. The event offered traumatized parenting training by bringing together several international adoption specialists with Romanians who had adopted, or wanted to adopt.

Izidor was also invited to a government meeting in December for the Ministry of Social Protection for Families. He participated in talks about how to stop orphans from “aging out” into the streets through changing the system to include transitional housing with job and life skills training.

“We have to be willing to work with the government if we really want to make lasting change. I’m careful not to focus on blame, but on solutions.”

A Special Guest

In September, Izidor’s dad, Danny Ruckel, visited from the United States. It was his first visit to Romania.

“Having my dad here was amazing. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to share with him my history of Romania,” Izidor said. “My dad is an excellent guitar player and he even took the time to teach Cristi some guitar lessons.”

Future Plans

“I recently made the choice to stay another year in Romania,” Izidor said. “I have high hopes that I can continue making a difference at Love Light Romania and will also keep advocating to change the social welfare system here. I do believe in working together with government officials and plan to develop ongoing relationships with like-minded parliament leaders and local advocates.”

Izidor will remain in Romania until Spring 2018.

Final Note: Supporting Love Light Romania

Over the last several months, many of Izidor’s international supporters have mailed goods and supplies to Love Light Romania to support its mission.He is very grateful for their aid. But due to high shipping costs, and the fact that the Romanian mail system is not dependable, Izidor requests sponsors consider making a financial donation instead so that supplies can be bought locally. To support Love Light Romania, click here.

Breaking News: Izidor Ruckel moves to Romania

Izidor joins the staff at Love Light Romania
Izidor joins the staff at Love Light Romania

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA>> In a Bucharest apartment last week, Izidor Ruckel was packing to return to the United States when his phone buzzed.

“Hi Izidor, sorry do not want to disturb you, I know you are busy,” said the text message. “But I really would like to talk with you about something…”

The next sentence stunned him: “We are in the position to offer you a job…”

Ruckel, who resides in Denver, Colorado, spent the last month in Romania. The first part of the trip he facilitated a reunion between a former orphan (adopted by an American family in 1999) and his birth family. Adoptee Michael Slein, his adoptive family, and his biological family were featured together on the La Maruta show on March 28th in a meeting that brought healing and hope.

Ruckel then met up with Sarah Padbury and Serena Orrego, colleagues from The States, who joined Ruckel for a visit to his hometown of Sighetu Marmatiei. Ruckel became the face of institutionalized orphans worldwide when the press discovered him in a horrific orphanage in 1990, soon followed by his adoption into an American family. The trio visited the orphanage (now an abandoned building) and interviewed several former workers and residents. The research trip was organized to confirm the facts of Ruckel’s journey to America in order to turn his life story into a feature film.

“We were astounded at how well Izidor’s childhood memories lined up with the recollections of the adults who were there,” Padbury said. “We found evidence of every person Izidor remembered and confirmation of the events he experienced.”

For more information on the upcoming movie, visit

During his travels, Ruckel also visited an NGO called Love Light Romania (LLR) located in Medias, a town of about 50,000 in Sibiu County. LLR was founded by Ron and Jo Jowett in 2000. The British couple first began visiting Romania to help its orphans in the mid-1990s and soon found they needed to be available full-time to be truly effective in their work. They sold all they had and moved permanently to Romania. Today LLR operates several programs to help Romania’s orphans, including a home and resources for HIV/AIDS infected children and an education program to help families escape poverty.

Helping the orphan is a part of Ruckel’s heartbeat. So when the Jowetts offered him a one-year contract to work at LLR as a mentor to teenagers, he was thrilled.

“I never thought that the time would come when I would be able to live in Romania and be employed,” Ruckel said. “Life is full of surprises and I'm truly honored that the opportunity has knocked.”

Ruckel has dreamed of working in Romania for many years and is starting his new position immediately. Instead of traveling back to Colorado, he took a train to Medias and is currently settling in.