Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"In The Orphanage You Have None"

Kristina loved to pose, and even
saw the potential in this bedspread
she wrapped around herself.
Kristina, 9, collapsed onto her bed in my room, crossed her arms, and pouted like a pro.  Because kids far outnumbered adults on our trip, I’d invited two girls to stay with me.  As our translator Irina explained this to them, Kristina made her disappointment manifest, having hoped to room with Yuliana, not the delayed girl now smiling sheepishly next to her.  But Yuliana already had a family, and sharing a room with waiting kids offered me an opportunity to get to know them better. 

Kristina forgot her grievance as she set to work unpacking the meager contents of her bag. As she held up each item ceremoniously before refolding it and lowering it meticulously into her drawer, I was struck anew at the inverse relationship between number of possessions and the care bestowed on each demonstrated  so commonly by orphans.

This picture of my children helped to break the ice
between the girls and me.

When she was finished, Kristina noticed my computer.  “Note-boohk!” she exclaimed as she charged toward it, caressing its worn patina longingly.  The first day’s meeting is the most awkward part of any trip, but the computer broke the ice splendidly as I showed the girls my screen saver photo of my kids.  As I slowly intoned their names and birth countries, each girl echoed the information in her cute accent.  The unwanted child even gushed over Julia’s beauty when she heard she was Russian.  

Kristina wakes up slowly after laughing late last night.
The first night, the girls kept me awake with incessant giggling and whispering.  Breaking out the glow bracelets the second night, I promised two each when they were lying down and quiet.  Kristina dove for her bed in her clothes, silent.  Once she had bracelets in hand, she slipped under her covers and began to chatter.  I got up, confiscating the bracelets with a weary “Shhh.”  Surprised, Kristina hushed immediately, whereupon I returned the treasures; I did not need to impound them again.

Kristina longs for something the
orphanage can't provide.
Smart and self-confident, Kristina was an actress, posing effortlessly whenever I pointed my camera her direction. She laughed readily, but whined equally easily if she perceived even a minor slight.  So little about her aura seemed orphanesque that the day I interviewed her, I expected her to shine.   Instead, I found her confidence masked a profound yearning.    Shifting uncomfortably as I introduced her, she gazed at Irina for reassurance.  With doleful eyes and a little voice, Kristina confessed she disliked her orphanage, adding she’d been there so long she could not even remember how many years it’d been.  Calling its children “naughty,” she named a boy who was particularly mean.  Her best friend was her classmate Ksusha, a kind and beautiful home child who would frequent the orphanage, though Kristina had visited Ksusha’s home.

Help Kristina find her family by clicking to Tweet below.

I loved the creativity and resourcefulness Kristina
demonstrated in constucting this tent in our room.

Often during the week Kristina counted and chanted the names of various animals in English, as if to announce she could.  But during the interview, the only English she mustered was “pig” and “cat.” She smiled when she admitted she wanted to be President of Russia, but had a nearly impossible time stating why, finally telling me the President had lots of money.  When I asked what she would do with such a sum, she wanted to share it with her friends, her papa, and the girls at school.  I asked if her papa ever visited her.  “Nyet,” came the reply in a voice so melancholy I felt ashamed at having asked.  She wanted a family, explaining, “In the family you have a mother and a father, and maybe siblings, and in the orphanage you have none.”  I hoped she could have a family. “Da,” she agreed soulfully.

Playing Bingo by herself, Kristina is sure to win.
At trip's end, we stopped at McDonald’s, a treat the kids had been anticipating because of reports returned by previous Lighthouse Project participants.  Everyone was still eating when Kristina's orphanage caretaker phoned Irina, saying she would get the kids in an hour.  Five minutes later she stood beside my table, playing the martyr’s role as her orphans tried feverishly to finish their ice cream.  A minute passed, and annoyed by the wait, she decided to take the children then. 

Kristina, second from left, on the way back to the orphanage
So with barely a goodbye, Kristina and the others from her orphanage were whisked away.  As they crossed the busy street outside the restaurant, it disgusted me that the caretaker did not even hold the hands of the littlest ones.  They’d all walk to the trolleybus, then ride back to their orphanage home.  And at the end of their journey, no mother or father or siblings would meet them, or mark their homecoming with a welcoming hug or kiss or a question about their trip, because in the orphanage, they had none. Watching them disappear, my heart hoped that somewhere in America, a mom and dad were longing for Kristina as much as she was longing for them.

Click here to Tweet, and help Kristina find the mom and dad waiting for her.

Meet Kristina and other older Russian orphans as our welcoming group of American families travels together to her region of Russia July 9-16, 2012. This trip could change your life, and you shouldn't miss it!

1 comment:

  1. Wow. That is so eye opening. I would love to go and meet some of these children someday.


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