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.


Izidor Ruckel reveals new film on live radio show

Izidor Ruckel and his manager, Sarah Padbury, participated in a two-hour radio interview on the Stacy Petty Show on Friday, Aug. 7. The live broadcast is a daily show on 1310 KFKA, a news talk AM radio station, based in Greeley, Colo., within reach of one million listeners across northern Colorado.

Sarah Padbury, Stacy Petty and Izidor Ruckel in studio at 1310 KFKA talk radio.
Sarah Padbury, Stacy Petty and Izidor Ruckel in studio at 1310 KFKA talk radio.

Petty interviewed the duo about several issues surrounding adoption. Ruckel described his experience growing up in a horrific Romanian orphanage before he was adopted by an American family at age 11. Padbury, an adoption advocate, talked about her life as the mother of six adopted children. Together they are working on turning Ruckel's life story into a feature film, called Izidor.

Izidor Ruckel on Stacy Petty ShowThe film follows Ruckel and eight of his orphanage friends when they are discovered in 1990 by American media after the fall of Communism in Romania. It also portrays several adults, both Romanian and American, who chose to risk their own lives on behalf of the orphans, convinced that their lives were worth saving.

Ruckel concluded the interview by revealing he hopes the movie will not only inspire audiences to get involved in orphan care, but hopes it will change history for today's orphans still imprisoned in institutions.

"If I were to die, I'd like to finish one legacy," Ruckel said. "Let me make history with this movie... to ensure that this history does not happen again - not only in Romania, but all across the world."

Listen to the radio interview (2 links):

Stacy Petty Show — part 1

Stacy Petty Show — part 2


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Izidor Ruckel concludes 2-month tour of Romania

Izidor Ruckel returned to the United States in early May after a two-month stay in Romania, his birth country. Due to major press coverage around the country and across Europe throughout his trip, citizens began approaching Ruckel in every city he toured, including Bucharest, Cluj, Brasov, and Oreada.

Izidor on Radio TransilvaniaSeveral national and international media outlets interviewed Ruckel, including national television broadcasters ProTV and Sirile TVR. Major newspapers also featured Ruckel: Ziare Live,, and Buna Ziua Brasov. In addition, he participated in a lengthy interview by Radio Transilvania with two other international adoptees that was aired across Europe.

“Everywhere I went, people recognized me,” Ruckel said. “Many stopped me on the spot to talk to me, saying that my story had inspired them to re-think about how they treat orphans and disabled people. I was so surprised and moved by this new generations’ openness to my message. Times have changed in Romania.”

Ruckel held three speaking engagements during his tour. In Brasov, Faget, and Cluj he spoke through a translator to hundreds of people, raising awareness of orphan issues and inspiring local communities to help the needy in their midst. Ruckel shared his story of what life was like as an institutionalized, disabled orphan at the end of Communist rule in the 1990s. He emphasized the God-given value of each person, regardless of disability, and the right of every child to a family. Because adoption radically changed his life, Ruckel said his heart’s deepest desire is to see the same opportunity available for other orphans.

speaking engagment 1Izidor Ruckel Branov speaking engagement

Alex Kuch, Veronica Clark and Izidor Ruckel speak in Branov. Engagement hosted by Azota Popescu (right) of the Catharsis Association.

“I’m an adamant supporter of reopening Romania’s doors to international adoption, particularly for special needs children who cannot find a new family within Romania,” Ruckel said. “There are many people who would welcome a disabled child, if the government would change the current laws to make it possible. All children deserve the opportunity for a family, be they from Romania or from another country or from the moon.”

Ruckel succeeded in meeting with several politicians regarding the current condition of the country’s state-run social welfare system. Parliamentarian Florica Chereches is well known across Romania for her advocacy on behalf of orphans. She met with Ruckel on several occasions and invited guests to hear him speak.

Calin Puia, Izidor Ruckel and Florica Chereches
Calin Puia, Izidor Ruckel and Florica Chereches

Chereches also introduced Ruckel to Calin Puia, director of the County Child Protection Department for Bihor County. Puia met with Ruckel in Oradea, the county’s capital city, and patiently answered Ruckel’s questions regarding the systems in place today for displaced children. Ruckel also toured an orphanage in the city and reported a vast contrast in conditions compared to when he lived in an institution 25 years ago.

“I was impressed with the orphanage conditions,” Ruckel said. “The children were not zombies and they were actually attending school. The conditions were clean and each child had his own bed and a dresser – much different than when we slept four-to-a-bed on urine-soaked mattresses. The staff is also training them how to cook and clean.”

In July, Ruckel will release a full report on his trip. The report will present Ruckel’s findings on the current state of Romania’s orphans, the improvements he hopes to see in the future, and what organizations are currently doing good work in-country. He will also reveal how the journey affected him personally, including visiting his old orphanage and meeting more of his biological family for the first time ever. We’ll keep you posted!

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Izidor Ruckel a hit on live Romanian TV

Ruckel’s Facebook page explodes during six nights of live interviews on ProTV’s “La Măruță”

Izidor and Marlys visit Tasnad, Romania
Izidor and Marlys visit Tasnad, Romania

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA 3/17/15: Izidor Ruckel’s scheduled 2-day interview on ProTV’s “La Măruță” was extended to 6 days on the live broadcast as the show’s ratings skyrocketed last week. Izidor surprised the audience by revealing his adoptive mother, Marlys Ruckel, had returned to Romania with him.


Website visits by country
Website visits by country

The exposure sent Izidor’s public Facebook page stats soaring with new page “likes,” up 159,163.2% in just four days. Today, the page continues to gain momentum hourly with over 43,000 “likes.” In addition, his website experienced a flood of traffic as thousands of visitors from Romania, the United States, and across the globe checked out the site.

The initial broadcast on Mar. 9 revealed video of the mother and son traveling back to the orphanage in Sighetu Marmatiei where Marlys first met Izidor as a 10-year-old boy in 1991. The footage showed Izidor, sometimes on the verge of tears, walking through the rooms of the now abandoned institution and telling stories of his difficult life there, including pointing out where countless babies and several friends had died of abuse or neglect. Marlys stated it was difficult to revisit the orphanage, but she was grateful it was closed and there were no longer children housed there.

TV host Cătălin Măruță asked Izidor what it was like to be adopted after living in such horrible conditions for so long.

“It’s like I was reborn,” Izidor said, sitting comfortably next to his mom on a floral couch on the brightly lit set. “I just wanted someone to love me and accept me for who I am. And she did.”

When asked what he thinks of when he hears the word “mother,” Izidor had a one word reply: Marlys. Izidor endured six surgeries to save his legs after coming to America, which were withered due to contracting polio as a baby. Marlys described how she never left his side during his hospital stays, except for the last surgery, where his father, Danny Ruckel, remained with him. Izidor noted Marlys even remained faithful during his rebellious years.

“She is my mother,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

TV Host Catalin Maruta and Izidor Ruckel on the set of "La Maruta"
TV Host Catalin Maruta and Izidor Ruckel on the set of "La Maruta"

Măruță surprised the two with an unexpected guest, Anca Maxim. Twenty-four years ago, Marlys spent seven weeks in Romania attempting to finalize the paperwork to adopt Izidor. Anca was Marlys’ translator and assistant. When Marlys had to return home to take care of her other three children, Anca helped finish up the court requirements in Romania, and then escorted Izidor to America. The women were delighted to be reunited.

Catalin Maruta and Marlys, Romania's favorite adoptive mother
Catalin Maruta and Marlys, Romania's favorite adoptive mother

On Mar. 11, the show brought on another surprise guest, Izidor’s biological mother, Maria. Izidor and Marlys had traveled to Tasnad the week before where Marlys and Maria met for the first time. Maria presented conflicting stories of the circumstances surrounding Izidor’s adoption, leading to tension on the set. Maria offered to take a polygraph test, which she failed. The 3-night controversy sent the show’s ratings through the roof, and led to much public criticism of Maria.

But Izidor attempted to put an end to the attacks by telling Maria that he was not angry with her, believed she did what she thought was best for him at the time, and forgave her for abandoning him.

“Eveyone is picking on her because she abandoned me,” he told Măruță. “But what about the other 160,000 abandoned children? Where are their parents?”

In a Facebook posted dated Mar. 15, Izidor made another public plea.

“If you believe in God then you know that God has already asked you not to judge others unless you want to be judged as well,” he wrote. “So what I am asking [is] this – do not be harsh to my birth mother and do not judge her for how she responded and how she was on TV.

Izidor and Marlys with his biological parents, Izidor Sr. and Maria Izidor and Marlys with his biological parents, Izidor Sr. and Maria
Izidor and Marlys with his biological parents, Izidor Sr. and Maria

“… She may not understand a lot of things and that is OK for me. If she did not do what she did by putting me into an orphanage, I would not be here today and I would have not had the opportunity that I had. Please remember this God allowed this to happen for a purpose.”

Izidor pointed to his faith in Christ as the source of his ability to forgive and be emotionally healed from his past trauma. In addition, he credited the compassion and guidance of his adoptive parents and siblings: “It is through their example that I have become an advocate for orphans’ rights.”

Izidor now travels to Brasov, where he will hold a speaking engagement on Saturday, Mar. 21, with two other former Romanian orphans, Alex Kuch (adopted by a German family) and Veronica Clark (adopted by an American family). The trio will be advocating for the right of every child to a family, including re-opening Romania’s doors to international adoption for those who cannot be placed with families within the country. The event is open to the public and will be held at the 5-star Aro Palace hotel in the Europa Conference Center, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.


ProTV’s La Măruţă: Bucharest, Romania

la maruta title

On March 9, 2015, Izidor Ruckel was interviewed on live TV by Cătălin Măruţă on ProTV's "La Măruţă" in Bucharest, Romania. His appearance on the show was extended to six days (Mar 9-13 and 16) due to skyrocketing ratings when his adoptive mom, birth mom, and several other surprise guests were brought onto the show.

La Maruta editions listWatch the shows here:

Edition 127 : 3 videos

Edition 128: 3 videos

Edition 129: 5 videos

Edition 130: 4 videos

Edition 131: 3 videos


*NOTE: Shows not available in North America