While most of us go about our socially acceptable lives, whole societies exist below the streets, full of people living an unconventional and oftentimes hazardous lifestyle. Some are down there by choice, while others have none. Some have cleared out, but others still reside. The only thing they share is that at some point, they adopted a home beneath the Earth’s surface, and society remains largely unaware of the people right below their feet.
10. Bucharest, Romania
Below the streets of Romania’s capital of Bucharest is a network of tunnels providing shelter for a group of drug-addicted, HIV-infected, and chain-wearing kids and teenagers. Their leader—or rather, father figure—refers to himself as “Bruce Lee” and takes in the lowest of the low. He’s dedicated his life to keeping his self-sufficient family safe and as warm as possible, even if that means giving them a safe space to do drugs. The teens can often be seen huffing metallic paint out of black bags called Aurolac.
The front door to this underground community is a hole in the pavement on a traffic island, and no one can enter without permission from Bruce Lee himself. Those who have been invited describe it as a type of parallel universe, a world of abandoned children and addicted teenagers, rescued dogs and cats, full electricity, a stereo system that plays nonstop club music, televisions, and even artificial grass.
Citizens of Bucharest are not only aware of what’s going on beneath their feet, many praise Bruce Lee’s actions. After the 1966 ban on contraception and abortion by former communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu in an effort to increase the workforce, unwanted and orphaned children began flooding the streets. Bruce Lee has not only moved these tragic youths off the streets, he’s provided a safe haven for those who would otherwise freeze in the brutal temperatures or fall victim to sexual predators. He even pays protection money to a local gang to ensure his children’s safety. While the homeless children of Bucharest remain hidden from the public eye, Bruce Lee hopes for them to be recognized as the self-sustaining family that they strive to be.