With the collapse of communist Romania in 1989, hundreds of children from large, impoverished families ended up in state institutions with deplorable conditions or on the streets. In Bucharest, many of these children took to the city's disused sewer tunnels, where excess heat from nearby steam pipes kept them warm through bitter winters.

Today, improved adoption policies give many children born in the sewers the chance to escape to foster homes and grow up in healthy environments, but first-generation "sewer children", now adults, have neither the opportunity nor capability to escape the only lives they have ever known.

This project exposes the hidden reality of Mihaela Jordan, 31. She is part of the first wave of sewer children—a discarded generation that still lives in a candlelit underworld, among rats and fleas and in the stench of feces, garbage, and rainwater.

Produced by Jen Tse. Silver medal winner of College Photographer of the Year 2013, Solo Journalist Multimedia division.

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