Meet Bruce Lee, king of Romania’s tunnel underworld


You can travel to the heart of the EU
from the station in Bucharest but our journey is just a few meters.
O n the surface the newest member of the club has worked hard to redefine itself but
there’s another Romania underground. This is the entrance to Bucharest’s underworld. By late afternoon outside the station
they start to wake up clambering up out of the ground, disorientated. Among them a little boy, Nico.
He agrees to send word down that we’d like to meet the boss. This world underground we’re told has an overlord and you only go down by invitation. A couple of hours later and we’re told he’ll see us now. – Paraic? Yeah? – You OK? What? – You OK? Yeah On our hands and knees we pothole
into a parallel universe It’s the heat that hits you first. The
camera lens steams up. Then the music kicks in. If they had a club night in hell it
would feel like this. When your eyes adjust you’re in the
first chamber. They call it the office. These are the lost ones. The children
spewed out by the old communist orphanages have had kids of their own When Ceausescu fell there were
nearly 50,000 of them in state institutions Almost everyone here is HIV positive, a quarter have TB. They’re all making their way to the
count. The man on the other side is called
Bruce Lee after his street fighting days He supplies the drugs. He calls the shots. Yes please. I would love one. On the cabinet where he keeps the drugs,
a photo of the little boy we met outside, Nico. It’s not just coffee and cat food
on the counter for the equivalent of 50 pence, he sells bags of a metallic paint called oral. A synthetic drug similar to
methadone is also on offer and injected. So I think Bruce Lee has asked us to go
to see some of the other rooms and they’re actually cleaning the corridor
ahead of our imminent arrival. Bruce Lee is warming to us time for
the tour and farther in. The tunnels were part of
Ceausescu’s grand design to centrally heat the city now a sweltering drug den. I’ve never seen anything like that to be
honest as this network of tunnels and this is quite an honor I gather. I’ve
been invited into Bruce Lee’s room There is bizarrely a twisted order to Bruce Lee’s fiefdom. Social workers told us he tries
to protect the young ones from sexual predators and that addicts are less
likely to die down here because he offers them a sort of safety and a warm
place to sleep. So we’ve just been told that we’re
been brought to another section of this strange community it’s called the hotel
and it’s basically like a hostel underground. We go through room after
room. During the winter months this place is full. This afternoon just a few couples, lying on the artificial grass. Holding onto each other. Bruce Lee talks a lot but the unspoken lines
of another story are carved out on his arms. Self-harming from the orphanages
and the prisons. He wants to talk about Nico again the boy we met above-ground. He’s not from the old orphanages he’s the new generation. He says we should meet the woman who
looks after Nico with him for that For that though he says we have to go upstairs and out of the top. Oh God fresh air And thus begins the last bizarre leg of
the journey. Bruce Lee, his minder and about 15 dogs tramping across Bucharest. Oh above-ground he seems nervous
the auralac bag pumping hard. We’re going to meet a woman called Raluca. A volunteer running a shelter for the people of the tunnels. As we wait, Nico arrives.
It turns out, little Nico is actually 17. His development stunted by
the drugs and abuse he has full-blown AIDS. Bruce Lee won’t let him inject any
more but the silver streaks of aurillac mark him out. We move inside to wait for
Raluca in the meantime Nikko talks about his time in hospital last year. Raluca eventually arrives.
For her Bruce Lee is a drug dealer with a heart but he’s still a drug dealer. Do you disapprove of what he’s doing? This strange partnership has worked for least one boy. These are after all the
only two adults left in Nico’s life. We are a big family and the happiness was
many problems but we have a family It’s almost night. Time for a last dappled
family portrait,full of darkness and light.

About the Author: Michael Flood

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