When I was there for three months in the fall and winter, I think I acclimated enough to the environment that I honestly didn't feel very sad when I visited the orphanage. In fact, I felt elated! I was so happy to be there and I didn't think twice about what was to come...I just enjoyed the moment. Well, six months away has had its effect. I was painfully aware what little difference the 450 lbs of goods we brought were going to make. Yes, they loved what we brought...LOVED. And yes, these things will make their lives more bearable in a way, but what they need I cannot give them without tremendous help from God and many people.
They need families.
It felt a little more 'Lord of the Flies' this visit, because school was out and caretakers seemed to be scarce. The kids were spending much more time outside (good) but with little or no supervision (bad.) The 15 children in the little group have a very loving caretaker who gives them much love and attention, but the older kids....they are all alone.
Of course there were moments of pure jubilation...watching Bridget get her hair done by a bevy of little ones in the grass outside, amidst giggles and great concentration. There was Vanya and his little sister Polina digging what appeared to be the proverbial hole to China. Two sticks, one in each hand, and a slow, persistent pecking at the dirt. They were riveted, and so consumed with the task at hand , they barely notice all the activity going on around them. There was Kirill, ultra-concerned about my hydration for some reason...constantly asking me if I wanted more from the water bottle I had given him. There was Galya and Genya clinging to Kim, and Valya clinging to me. There was the spontaneous card game at the little outdoor table. There was the constant request for photos...'Kitty! Photo! Photo pazhousta!' And just the leisurely lying in the grass with a dozen -odd children, looking up at the sky, laughing, talking.
I want to live there. I want to live there so badly I felt nauseous thinking about them today. The distance made me feel sick. I found out I can purchase a fairly sturdy house in the village for under $2,000. Do you know how badly I want to fly back and just buy the first thing available, only so I can feel that part of my heart is really, truly, there for good?
These kids are dying. I don't mean to be morbid. But the truth needs to be told. It might look all sweet and bucolic in the photos, but what happens in real life has nothing sweet about it. Just last month, one of the older boys hanged himself in the orphanage. I didn't find out till I had left. My D actually found him. When Nastia told me that Nadezhda had shared this with her, I was shocked and asked angrily, 'WHY didn't you tell me right away?" Her response, 'Oh, mom, it happens all the time there...it's nothing new...'
And in fact, it is so common, no child there even mentioned it. D never brought it up at all, though the Director said it really upset him. Just as bad, we learned how several girls from Nastia's former group are now prostitutes. I knew the statistics all these years, but to know who these girls are is another story. Again, I feel like vomiting. Katya, one of the girls from Nastia's group, came to visit and filled us in on all the horrid things the caretakers don't tell us. Like the girl from Nastia's group who sold her baby this winter for 500 rubles to a man who was, shall we say, not looking to adopt. I had actually read the story online in the local news, but didn't recognize the girl's name. She is in prison now.
When Katya talked about these things, she laughed. That is what my Nastia did when she first came home and shared traumatic stories with me. She laughed. Its a coping mechanism, but its still chilling to hear a young person discuss a rape or an assault and laugh. I'll never get used to that.
What do we do? What do we do for these children? How do we get them out when the entire structure of their government fights against getting them out? How to you change a system and a mindset that has been entrenched for over sixty years? I don't know the answer, but I'm not going to stop trying to find out. I'm praying, I'm researching, and I asked a HELL of alot of questions while I was there. I got some great answers, and some came from people who really DO want to see change happen there. They just don't know how to get it started.
The hardest part for me is always coming home...especially to the area I live in, which is very privileged. I feel sad and guilty and dirty when I see the excess here at home. I don't know how to wrap my head around it. I want to head right back to Siberia. I'm not saying I'm anti-capitalist (in case my brother ever reads this) but I am saying that a great many Americans have their head in the sand. Poverty is not born of laziness. These people are our brothers and sisters, and they have so little and we have soooo much. Such a small sacrifice it would take to make their lives more livable. I've seen it first hand. So very little on our part to make their stomachs full, their bodies clothed and a solid roof over their head.
The director berated me for bringing some of the girls brand new clothes. Her rational was that they didn't need nice things, and I was wasting money. My rational in buying some new things is that these children are sons and daughters of God, like me. They deserve beautiful things even more than I. They deserve to feel as special as any American child. If one new dress brings them joy, I'm bringing it.
|G in her new dress, picked out JUST for her:)|
Anyway, I'm rambling. I will likely ramble for many days while I try to make sense of my thoughts. Feel free to comment. Your comments keep me coming back here even when I'd prefer to stay silent. Keep these kids in your prayers. If I know ONE thing, it's that prayer works. Keep them coming. They need them more than you could possibly know.