Didi Ananda Devapriya: Yoga and Meditation Teacher in Romania

Invited to a talkshow on health “Atelier de Sanatate” to talk about meditation

I had a special opportunity to participate on the live talkshow “Atelier de Sanatate” (Health Workshop) with Dr. Smarada Vornicu, a very well-informed doctor that leads discussions on topics for improving health. She also told me off-camera how she also practices meditation and feels the benefits in her own life directly. Ten minutes was a bit short to give both some explanation and a practical demonstration, but I did my best.

Newspaper article about AMURTEL’s work with Ukrainian refugees

Since March 2022, with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, and hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring into Romanian through the border at Siret, AMURTEL Romania has had a team on the ground.

Melinda Endrefy, our professional emergency psychologist, with her big friendly stuffed monkey, Oscar made the rounds daily of all of the tents looking for refugees that needed a quick or sometimes complex intervention.  They have become well-loved by all present at the border.

My friend, Maria Andries from the Libertate national newspaper came with Dumitru Angelescu, the photographer, and made this wonderful article about our work there.

Here is a short excerpt, the full article can be found here, and includes a video in english at the start:

Siret Customs volunteers are preparing for new waves of refugees from Ukraine

“Oscar is a big stuffed monkey who makes the children passing through Siret Customs laugh these days. “Adults cry when they see him. I didn’t understand why, so I asked a Ukrainian mother. He replied that he was impressed that we were doing our best to make their children smile again. He hugged me “, says Melinda Endrefy, emergency psychologist at AMURTEL Romania.

When he is not amusing the children, Oscar sits in the office container where all the work of the Siret Customs volunteers is coordinated. After the first chaotic days, NGOs, volunteers, firefighters, and police began to work as an organised team. Access to customs has been restricted and police have formed filters on the roads so that only those with special badges are allowed to enter. “This was needed because refugees are vulnerable to human trafficking,” said Didi Deshaies, president of AMURTEL Romania.

Melinda is Romanian, Didi is American. In times of peace, AMURTEL Romania cares for disadvantaged children. “But I have volunteered in other countries in crisis situations. In Haiti and Lebanon, for example, “said Didi. “I told a Danish friend what was going on in Siret. The day after we spoke, he was on a plane and arrived here.”


As it turned out, Karl Johan Andersson, an IT professional by profession and a yogic monk by vocation, decided that a website was needed for ensuring good communication between the stakeholders present. “We looked at him, with his white beard, like a gentle Santa Claus. He told us that he needed a few hours to make the site,” recalls an ISU employee at Siret Customs. “We told him: maybe a few days, not a few hours! In the evening, the siret.help website was ready. ”
The siret.help site has six versions, in Romanian, Italian, Russian, Ukrainian, English, and Polish. It contains a map of customs, useful telephone numbers for various situations, a list of services that refugees can benefit from, instructions for volunteers, and other necessary information for both those who help and those who are helped.

TVR1 : On the talk show “Referendum” (Referendum: Feţele războiului din Ucraina)

I was invited to appear on this show “Referendum” on TVR1 , together with a political analyst, an Orthodox priest, an anthropologist, a psychologist and a Moldovian woman with relatives in the Ukraine. The piece was designed to focus not just on the politics of what is happening, but on the human impact. My role was to represent the federation of child protection organisations and talk about my AMURTEL experiences with refugee children. I also shared about conversations I had had that day with my brothers and sisters both in the Ukraine and in Russia. There is such a heavy, painful impact this is having on everyone. As always happens in these scenarios many innocent lives are paying for the decisions of a few, who try to drag the rest of us in by fueling powerful divisive sentiments.

Appearance on “La Maruta” talk show

This is a really nice piece,”A Yoga teacher that left America for Romania” that aired as part of one of the popular talk shows in Romania “La Maruta”.  The interview starts out about meditation and yoga and the first clips were when I was doing some sadhana and guru mantra to prepare my mind to talk (I didn’t realise they were filming already).  That day they followed me as I harvested some vegetables from my garden at the yoga center here in Bucharest, and made a meal for my older “graduated” kids from AMURTEL Family who they also interviewed and talked beautifully about growing up with us. You will see Florin talking about all the experiences he had and how he is now successful as a hairdresser.    The film crew were not planning to stay to eat with us, but they liked the food so much that they ate everything  – no leftovers which made me very happy to see that they enjoyed it.  So they also included me talking about vegetarianism a bit, and our organic farm project.


Collaboration with the Alunis Art Center near to Panatau

This article  “A specialist in communication opens an art center in Buzau County” was written by Marie Andries, with photos from Eli Drui, our friends from the Libertate newspaper, one of the main national newspapers and it includes a section about  AMURTEL Family (see about half way down).

I invited Marie, one of the journalists I have become friends with to come and make a piece about the Alunis Art Center” which is a newly opened arts center very close to us, run by Iulia Sirbu.  AMURTEL has entered into a partnership project with the Alunis Arts Center to make a pottery school for disadvantaged children in the surrounding villages, including the children from AMURTEL Family and Fountain of Hope. I find it quite bold and inspiring that Iulia opened such a creative and progressive project in such a forgotten tiny rural village. Already, during this summer she has organized several concerts, films, fairs and artistic events that really are stimulating the cultural life of the area in an unprecedented way.

alunis-buzau-s-65The journalists came to the children’s home first, and then we went together to the arts center, where a special workshop on traditional mask making, was followed by a performance of traditional dancing. The performers were 3 hours late and took some time to get organized once they arrived…but this gave a lot of time to just spend time chatting with the journalists and getting to know them more, which was really nice.  The children meanwhile enjoyed a picnic and then making masks.

I found out that Maria was working in the team with Tolontan – one of the star journalists of Romania who appears in the film “Collective” that one a lot of Academy awards and Oscars this year. That is a really chilling documentary about corruption in the Romanian healthcare system, but quite well done. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it!

Talk show with Mugur Mihaescu on Metropol TV

I was honored to be invited to a talk show with Mugur Mihaescu on Metropol TV that features ordinary people doing things that can offer inspiration to others. A big surprise at the end, was that the children from AMURTEL Family have visited his house a few times and that he was one of the people that took them to the seaside for the very first time a few years ago. In fact, he found out I was the guest through our private sponsor group when I shared the news about it with them. Such a small world, and such a heartwarming connection.

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