Friday, May 18, 2012

Liza and Nikita

Nikita and Liza

Love, our Russian coordinator, was on the other end of the phone, imploring me for my opinion of Liza and Nikita, siblings she’d taken a shine to the first time she’d seen them.  She was giddy as she waited for me to know and love them, and then find them their family.

But nine-year-old Liza was coughing with a vengeance, miserable when we met. After a lengthy nap the first afternoon she awoke with a fever, so chaperone Svetlana was delighted to find I’d brought a suitcase crammed with acetaminophen bottles to donate to the orphanages. Though Liza declared swimming her favorite pastime, she was subdued even in the pool, and the rest of the week Svetlana kept her out. 

Nikita, 7, was a thankful little boy, lisping heartfelt spaciba’s whenever I gave him anything, the only child who never needed reminders. The first evening, when I played Bingo with the kids, he stood watching beside me until I lifted him onto my lap to play my card. As he found the numbers, I praised him; he reciprocated with a tight hug, kiss, and proclamation of his love.

Liza plays checkers while humming a song.
The next morning, as Liza played checkers alone on the floor, she hummed a little song, something Svetlana explained she did frequently during activities. After a music teacher evaluated her abilities, her musical talent was recognized. But aside from the humming and hacking, Liza remained silent on the trip, making herself a challenging interviewee, which I attributed to her illness. Despite asking many questions, I gleaned only that she liked school, reading, and painting; that she saw Nikita often, enjoyed playing with him, and thought him “naughty”; and that she dreamed of having a cat. 

Nikita was less hesitant to speak, confiding that while they sometimes fought, he knew Liza loved him, and he appreciated her kindness and frequent visits. He liked soccer, puzzles, cartoons, and kittens, and said he aspired to be a pilot someday. But he hadn’t forgotten the hard times, foraging at a garden for corn when the cupboards were empty at home. Having endured substantial neglect, a year ago the kids arrived at the orphanage, where the caretakers had devoted much time to teaching them skills they hadn’t learned.  

Nikita enjoying his glow "bracelets"
Click to Tweet below, and be a part of finding Liza and Nikita's mom and dad.

For her part, Liza liked her new home and its kind caretakers. As the caretaker for Liza’s group, Svetlana knew her well, describing her as shy but affectionate, and a “very good girl” esteemed for her tenderness. At New Year’s, children penned letters to Father Frost, a Russian Santa figure. While some children disbelieved and refused to write, with Svetlana’s encouragement Liza petitioned him for a beautiful dress. Through the generosity of orphanage sponsors, her wish was granted, and she swelled with pride in her new finery. Svetlana smiled as she savored the memory.

Nikita was also well-liked at the orphanage for his thoughtfulness, Svetlana added. He was a typical boy, “emotional, playful, energetic, and curious.” While still managing to listen and obey, on group nature walks he’d make time for everything, caring for a dog or noticing a car entering the grounds in between the required observations of sundry bugs or leaves.

As the week closed, Nikita showed glimpses of that winsome personality, but poor Liza never felt well enough. And after all of Love's hope, I was left with little beyond a recollection of Liza's misery, and a lament they hadn't had a real chance to shine.

Click to Tweet here, and help Liza and Nikita find their family.

Don't miss your chance to meet Liza and Nikita and other older Russian orphans as our welcoming group of American families travels together to their region of Russia July 9-16.  This trip could change your life, and theirs!  Call (616) 245-3216.


  1. It blows my mind that these kids seem so happy despite all of the dissapointments the face everyday. I am in awe of their glorious spirits.

  2. Chelsea, I think this often when I am traveling with the group!


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