The Man who set himself on fire-to have his son returned from Spain-has died.

By Diana Rucinschi- Rumanian Jurnalul National- 20 July 2005
21 July 2005

Vasilica Iulian Grosu, 36, the Romanian citizen who set himself on fire in front of the Government building a fortnight ago, died of his injuries.

Grosu was protesting against a ruling of the Spanish courts which took away Andrei, his six year old son, while the two of them were traveling in Spain, and handed the boy to his mother, living there. Romanian courts ruled before that the father was the child’s legal guardian.

Grosu protested for weeks in front of the Romanian Government building before setting himself on fire. He was stating at the time that he felt “too small for such a big war, but that he could not give up on his son.” Grosu’s parents and sister are determined to continue the legal battle started by the boy’s father. They do not hope to achieve getting their grandson and nephew back home, but hope to be allowed to at least talk to him over the phone. “There are no legal grounds to prevent us from doing this,” explains Grosu’s sister. “The Spanish authorities could claim before that my brother breached the law; now he is dead and none of us was ever in breach of the law,” explains she.

Grosu’s ordeal started on 25 April 2004, when he left for Spain, accompanied by his son. They were to visit the country and also meet Daniela Badea, Grosu’s former partner and also the boy’s mother. On 7 May 2004 they left for Belgium, where Grosu had friends, after unsuccessfully trying to contact Badea. Grosu did not manage to get to Belgium, however.

While riding the highway in Spain, the man was arrested by Guarda Civil and imprisoned in the Picassent penitentiary in Valencia, while his son was taken in the care of social services. “The Spanish authorities told me that I was under a general arrest warrant in Spain since 2 April. That was impossible: at the time I was still in Romania. It was all her (Badea’s) doing and scheming, because by taking the child with her, she could get Spanish citizenship, which was her aim all along”. (Translator’s note: The “scheming” helped the mother avoid the prison sentence she would have received under Romanian criminal law, if she had kept the boy without the consent of his father.)

Grosu was released from prison after two weeks, but the child was taken away from him by way of a Spanish court ruling, though he carried with him the translated civil ruling issued by Romanian courts which granted him the legal parental custody rights in relation to his child. The grounds for the Spanish court to reverse the ruling of the Romanian one was that “Grosu stated his intention to leave for Belgium.” After months of legal wrangling in Spain and a short time spent in The Netherlands, Grosu was returned to Romania. Romanian authorities did not help him either. The National Authority for the Child Protection declined responsibility, stating that it dealt only with children which found themselves in distress while traveling abroad unaccompanied.

Eventually Grosu was directed to the Department for International Law and Judicial Cooperation in the Ministry of Justice, also in charge with the enforcement of the Hague Convention regulating the abduction of children by their own relatives. The Romanian Ministry of Justice filed on 9 February 2005 a request with the Spanish courts for the boy to be returned to his father in Romania. But the Spanish Ministry of Justice decided that the Spanish courts ruling had precedence over the one of the Romanian courts, and that was final.

Even the Romanian Consul in Madrid was not allowed to visit the boy. Spanish authorities stated that the child “stayed with his mother and was well taken care of.” And the director of the shelter where Badea was housed filed a complaint with the police against the Consul when the latter insisted to visit the child.

Grosu wrote tens of letters to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the NACP, and for the past two months protested in front the Government building, starting a hunger strike. He even sued the three institutions for their lack of action, and ended his protest with setting himself on fire. “He did not want to die. He just protested against the lack of progress in his case,” said his mother, crying.

Harry van Bommel, a socialist parliamentarian in the Dutch Parliament, said to Jurnalul National that Grosu’s story was presented on Dutch radio and television and that a lawyer will help his family in Romania to find Andrei and talk with him over the phone. Grosu had friends in The Netherlands who were ready to help him reunite with his son. Dubbed by the Dutch media as “the Romanian terrorist,” Grosu got full coverage of his plight in Algemeen Dagblad daily. “I believe Dutch readers will be shocked to find out that the Romanian who kept the Dutch police on its toes was now dead”, said Peter Lagerweij, editor with Algemeen Dagblad.

Grosu was admitted to a specialized clinic on 11 July, at noon, and died on 20 July, at 9:30 a.m. According to Teodor Panazan, the doctor treating him, Grosu had profound burns on 55% of his body, which gave him a slim chance for survival, because infections occur in spite of drugs and surgical treatment.

July 12, 2005

Desperate because he cannot get his child back
Man sets himself on fire in front of Gov’t building

BUCHAREST – A Bucharester was severely burnt after he set himself on fire yesterday at noon in Victoria Square, in a desperate move to recover his child. He said the child had been entrusted to him by the court, but was kidnapped by his mother, who lives in Spain.

Grosu Vasilica Iulian said that he has filed over 60 memorandums with the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Ministry of Administration and Home Affairs, and the National Authority for the protection of children’s rights, but nobody wanted to help him. The man was carrying a board through which he requested President Traian Basescu to intervene and support “a Romanian child, a desperate father, a destroyed family.”

By 11.45 h., the protester voiced his hope that he will be able to hug his child at the cost of the burns that he will suffer.

The man, who was in the middle of Victoria Square, has poured an inflammable liquid on his body, and set fire to himself. The flames were extinguished by police officers. Then the man was taken to hospital by ambulance. Ileana Carmen Boiangiu, director of the Plastic Surgery and Burnt Hospital of Bucharest, where the man was taken, declared that almost half of the surface of his body is burnt “creating a major risk of death.”

Iulian Grosu, the father of a boy aged seven, has already protested on May 3, for several hours, before the National Authority for child protection, requesting the authorities to expedite the attempts made for the repatriation of the child. At that time, Vasilica Iulian Grosu had declared that the Court of District 5 Bucharest had granted the child to him through a final ruling, in September 2003, by which the mother is obliged to pay alimony. In February the next year, the mother went to Spain, to work picking strawberries, the man and the child going there too later on. Grosu said that the child’s mother – with whom he had not been legally married – had complained to the Spanish police about a supposed aggression, further to which he was arrested. In the meantime, the Spanish Justice assigned the child to the mother, against the ruling of the Romanian court, Grosu said.

The man began the moves to obtain the child, as determined by the Romanian court, appealing to the diplomatic mission in Spain. Then, other steps with the Romanian authorities followed, as well as an attempt to go to the Hague Court. In September last year, the protest launched by Grosu had blocked traffic in the Hague railway station for two hours. He sat down in front of a shop and threatened to set fire to himself, being immobilised by the police.

On the occasion of the protest of May, Grosu chained himself and placed placards around himself stating his case. He demanded that the boy be brought to Romania, invoking in his support the legislation regarding the repatriation of the Romanian children and the Convention of the Hague. Grosu states that he has received contradictory answers and that so far the child and the mother are in Spain, obtaining an exceptional residence permit, which is granted to victims and protected witnesses.

by Ana Cosma