Come with me through my memories. Come in the taxi Nikoli drives. Hold on for your life, because he really hits the gas…especially if there’s a good song on the radio. The brown water cascades around us as the wheels hit the huge puddles filling the rutted March road. The short ride takes us through garbage-strewn streets. Stray dogs scamper away at the sight of the car. We stop next to a drab, unsuspicious building. You would never think that there were children inside. Soon we will walk through the muck to a stair rail with peeling green paint. Mount the few steps to the tall wooden door. It’s hard and firm. It locks the world out and Yuri and Viktor in.
If you’re lucky, someone will open it with a pasted-on smile. But, then again, you’re lucky if they just let you in.
Come with me down the short hallway. Hang your coat in the tiny room where the files are kept that I only saw once. The files that told me I could find families for Yuri and Viktor.
Now follow me into the room with the old slanting floor and the couches with the red coverings. I spent countless hours here. On the right there is a white door. Behind that door are two boys who have relatives that still hold rights and left their kin in this awful place; Davit with empty, hopeless eyes and Meroslav with his angel smile. Vanya used to be there. But he came home to America to be loved. In the corner there is crib with a fifteen pound, six-year-old girl with huge blue eyes. She stares off into space. She’s blind. Here, hold her hand, my friend. Her fingers are all clenched in a fist. She cannot uncurl her own hand. She cannot move at all. Yes, in this place you meet weakness face-to-face, hand-to-hand, tears-to-tears. Yet you meet amazing strength, too—children who survive because of sheer will.
Come, let’s get the other boy out of the cribs. His name is Viktor. Sometimes he will throw himself against his crib and cry and cry, begging for someone to come. No one does. Each day Viktor distances himself from the uncaring world a little more. I wonder how he would be if a family came and brought him home. Feel his ankles. I know he has stockings on and socks upon socks over them, but don’t his ankles feel stiff? Unbendable? Yes, I know, it’s hard to tell through the layers of clothing. Sometimes the kids have six shirts on.
Here, do you want to hold Viktor? Careful—he likes to pull hair. Hard! He’s really strong for his size. He’s a bit rough—no one has taught him how to receive affection properly. Attention overwhelms him a bit. How would you feel if you were a little boy that was being gently held for the first time in years? Tell him the words he never hears—tell him he’s a beautiful child. Tell him you love him.
I’m being called back to reality. I’m not at the orphanage holding and loving these kids. I’m home in Pennsylvania sitting in a rocking chair writing this
A man just contacted me saying that if a family was found for Viktor he would donate a few thousand dollars towards the boy’s adoption. I have no family for him, either.
They wait. And wait. I came back from Ukraine in 2011.
Now it’s 2013.
They remain in cribs, no longer five, but almost seven.
I was able to find a family for the fifteen-pound-six year old girl that I met in Ukraine. Her name is Katia. Three and a half months after coming the US, she doubled her weight. Her blind eyes are slowly gaining sight. She has come so far from the terrible condition she was in.
Yuri and Viktor need homes, too. They need parents who can make a lifelong commitment of caring for children with special needs. That commitment is not easy. If you adopt a child like Yuri or Viktor, “learning delayed” will suddenly no longer mean your stubborn nine-year-old who will not read. No, it will mean a nine-year-old who is taking first steps and forming first words. Adopting a child with special needs is not easy. Your nest will never be empty. You will have a teenager who isn’t embarrassed to hold Mom’s hand. When your hair is gray, you may still cuddle a grown man with a mind like a child. Walks will be slower. Beauty will be more recognized. Praise will be given for small things. Laughter will happen often, but tears will be there, too. Healing will come for Yuri and Viktor if they are adopted. They will no longer be starving little boys. Their minds will brighten as they experience the world beyond bars. But bringing a child home to America isn’t a “magic pill”. The affects of disability and neglect will never leave these two boys. They need a family that will accept them for who they are; who will love them for who they are. Perhaps when you read this you know that your family does not have the ability to care for children with such severe needs. That’s okay. You CAN pass their story on, though, because, somewhere, there IS a person who will say, “Yes, I can do this.” That’s what kept me going when I was finding a family for Katia. Every time that I thought that no one would adopt a child with such disabilities I would tell myself, “No! It’s not impossible. I just have to keep spreading the word; someone will love her. ” And someone does love her. The Russells.
Time is almost out for Yuri. He’s being transferred to the institution. If we can get a family for him fast enough, there is a chance they will keep him at the orphanage.
But I have tried to get him a home. And I have failed.
Now it’s your turn to try, because I can’t do it alone.
Pass it on: Time is out and two little boys still need hope and a home.
How to help:
Advocate! Blog, make a post on Facebook, contact your friends or send an email out to everyone on your contact list.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a pledge of an amount that you would be willing to donate towards their adoptions if Yuri or Viktor received a family. (Every dollar counts to adoptive parents who are struggling to bring a child home.)
Pray for these two children. They suffer so much every day.
Please don’t forget Yuri and Viktor.
--McKennaugh, age 17
CASTS for Katia!!!