It began as the story of a family that never was.
One by one, over a decade, four children were born to a single woman in Odessa, Ukraine. They each entered the orphanage system directly from the hospital they were born in. I was privileged to have known two of them.
One was internationally adopted into a family. It was an adjustment. Life in a western-cultured family is very different from an Eastern European orphanage.
For two years, nightmares terrified him. He never wanted to see an orphanage again. It was hard to even coax him into any large building — one look and you could see his fear.
The other had been a part of the system for sixteen years. She had finished high school and was on her way to trade school. She was ready to experience life on her own terms.
She didn’t want anyone telling her what to do anymore. She didn’t want to be adopted and said “No, thank you” to the offer. But, she wanted to meet her younger brother. I was there when they first met.
The young boy began to change, almost as soon as he entered his new family. His hair grew thicker. His paper-like nails grew strong. He started to grow so fast, he often complained of leg pain “in his bones.” His quick grasp of his third language in his first four years of life surprised all. He overcame his fear of crowds, the small family dog, and meeting new people.
The teenager, the young boy’s older half-sister, moved into her first apartment with a friend from the orphanage. She dreamed of becoming a cook and an accountant, so she might open her own “small but good” cafe one day. She took lots of photos. She kept in touch with her younger brother via Skype. Her life held promise.
The young boy had health concerns, some more serious than others. He received months of treatment and surgery in the U.S. His chances for a healthy life restored.
The young woman became ill and by the time it was discovered, the Tuberculous (TB) had developed pustules in her right lung. She started a rigid treatment plan in the government run TB treatment center in Odessa, Ukraine. It wasn’t long before her left lung became infected also.
The boy’s family was very concerned for the young woman. They flew to Ukraine to encourage her to receive treatment. They made sure she had medication and food. They urged her to enter into a hospital for proper dosing and care.
The boy is now in fifth grade and thriving. He loves mathematics, Legos, and Marvel Super Heros.
The young woman would have been 26 this year. However, she died on June 22, 2014. Her U.S. family held a service for her in America. They remain broken-hearted.
The boy is our son. I am convinced he was spared a similar fate due to his adoption. His life is one of love, family and continued promise.
Lena, the Ukrainian daughter of our hearts, had her life cut short by a cruel disease. She was a victim of faulty reasoning:
• One that believes a government can raise children;
• One that believes remaining in a birth country is more important than joining a waiting family, regardless of where they live; and
• One that believes children are merely headcounts of the country in which they were born, and have no human right to a family.
I know people who are avid adoption supporters, as I am one of them. I often hear from people who are anti-adoption. From personal experience, I can tell you they are equally passionate about their beliefs.
My pro-adoption beliefs aren’t formed from a successful or non-successful adoption experience.
My pro-adoption stance doesn’t stem from any extensive research or doctoral degree.
I am pro-adoption because of our son and his sister.
I am pro-adoption because love doesn’t recognize man-drawn boundaries.
I advocate for adoption because I believe the right to family is a basic human right.
I fight for (domestic and international) adoption because adoption saves lives. Our son is living proof.
Dear Lena. You will remain forever young and beautiful to the family who loved you and considered you their own. May you rest in peace, knowing you were loved.
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