Iana Matei

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Iana Matei (born April 30, 1960 (her German language publisher states 1964)) is a Romanian activist who founded Reaching Out Romania, an organization to find and rehabilitate victims of forced prostitution. Reaching Out Romania operates the House of Treasure, a shelter for former victims of human trafficking.

On January 20, 2010, Matei was named "European of the Year" by Reader's Digest for this work.[1][2][3][4]

Iana Matei's book was first published in 2010 by OH ! Editions, in France under the title "A vendre, Mariana, 15 ans".

Early life[edit]

Matei was born in Orăștie. Her mother was a talented pentathlete, father was a football coach. When Iana was three, her family moved to Bucharest due to her father's work, and later, to an industrial city Pitești.

Matei has a talent for languages and speaks at least four — her native Romanian, Serbian, English and French, and thus can be considered a polyglot. She studied wall painting and met her husband Dmitri while renewing Ghica Tei palace, whom she married and had her firstborn son Ștefan with. Later Matei divorced Dmitri due to him abusing alcohol and being violent.

Matei lived during the period of Soviet occupation, and in 1989, when Romanian Revolution started, participated in riots and protests against the Communist government. After Matei lost her handbag with her documents in University Square during the protests, she believed that it was no longer safe to stay in the country and had to leave. She left her son with her mother and illegally traveled to Serbia, was captured and sentenced for twenty days imprisonment. Matei went on a hunger strike insisting that a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visit her and acknowledge her presence. After her sentence, Iana was taken to a Serbian refugee camp, where she was hired as a translator for UNHCP, with her son brought to her from Romania and moved to Australia, where she lived up until she became involved with humanitarian work.

Humanitarian work[edit]

Matei was studying psychology and, in order to get a diploma, had to write scholarly work. She chose stray children as her topic, found some in the streets and talked to them. At first, out of pity, she gave them a few sandwiches, but the next Saturday, she came back with pasta and fed about fifteen people. This kept going on for few months and extended to much more than just a social experiment. In 1994, Matei found "Reaching Out", an organisation that helps street kids in Australia.

When Matei went to Romania to visit her ill mother, she faced the same problem as she did in Australia. She spent some time in Europe and went back to Australia, still thinking about forgotten children of Romania. In 1998, Iana and her son returned to Pitești and got involved with homeless children.

In 1999, Matei faced the horror of human trafficking for the first time, when local policemen contacted her, asking to bring some clothes for prostitutes they arrested. Matei brought food and clothes for the girls, only to realise they were all underage, sold like animals and forced to be prostitutes. Matei started raging because of the ignorance of policemen, who refused to acknowledge the fact that three girls were underage victims of human trafficking. Matei registered her new, non-governmental organisation "Reaching Out", opened her shelter "The House of Treasure" and has been fighting sex slavery since.


  1. ^ Marunteanu, Denisa; Alexe, Dan (January 2010). "The Romanian who helps rebuild the lives of abused women". EU Observer.
  2. ^ "Iana Matei, against human trafficking". Adevarul: Presseurop. 3 February 2010.
  3. ^ "Iana Matei est l'Européenne de l'année" (in French). Selection, Reader's Digest. Archived from the original on 2012-11-20.
  4. ^ Leung, Rebecca (22 July 2005). "Rescued from sex slavery, 48 Hours goes undercover into the international sex slave trade". CBS News 48 Hours.