‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Sunday, December 18, 2011

This Is Katya

This is Katya. I first met her in March 2005 when I was adopting Nastia. She was in Nastia's "Groupa' and she was about to turn 16. She stood out to me because she was smart, inquisitive, and a great advocate for herself. The first time I met her, she asked me through the translator 'I don't have much time left..do you think you could find me a family before I turn 16?'

I'm sure you all know me well enough by now to know that I got to work on her request the second I landed back in the US. And I DID find a family for her -- my friend Francie. However, when we contacted my adoption agency about starting the process, they told us they 'looked into it' and that the time frame was just too narrow. I was naive -- I took them at their word. Knowing how things work now, I know it could have been done. It has been done in that time frame. The agency just wasn't interested in working so quickly for a child of that age. A year later I found out they hadn't even inquired about her. They lied.

So, I kept in touch with Katya via letters that year. When I returned with Nastia to visit a year later (on our trip to meet Anya), she was gone. She had 'aged out.' No one knew where she was. A 17 year old out in the world by herself. I can't imagine what she endured that first year out.

But sometimes persistence pays off and God lends a hand, and people we lost are found. On this last trip we took to the orphanage, in June 2011, Katya was there! I had asked the Director, before every visit between 2005 and 2011 to please try and find Katya and a few of the other girls from Nastia's group. She had never had luck. But somehow she had found Katya this time, and she surprised me with her visit in June!

Katya showed up, with a child in tow. She had recently gotten engaged to the father, and was very proud to show off her little boy, Arkasha.(Yes, I know: not the most flattering photo of me, but I was jet lagged and had no access to a shower for two days...) We caught up, and she gave me a gift - a photo of her son, and asked me to be his godmother. She filled me in on all she knew about the other girls from the group. (There were many horrible stories, with one girl recently arrested for selling her child for drugs.)

But somehow Katya had defied the odds: She was alive, she was not drug-addicted, she was not involved in criminal activity or prostitution, and she was still the same smart, inquisitive girl I had met 6 years ago. No, life was not what she envisioned for herself, but she did count her blessings. She lived with her boyfriend in his parents' apartment. She had a roof over her head, which is more than most of her friends had.

I'm writing this post about Katya, because I know how important it is to put a name and a face on the numbers and statistics everyone reads about. How can people care about and want to help a statistic? But if I can tell others about Katya, her dreams, her hopes and -- more importantly right now -- her needs, then others can take action.

I sent funds in September for Katya to buy Arkasha some
winter clothing:) Here's the photo I just received!

Katya is a young mother. She struggles to have enough to feed her child. Her husband is out of work, his parents are older and I'm not sure if they are working either. And even if they do, I know that the average salary is under $80 per month. I do know that when she wrote me this week and asked for $10 to buy food for Arkasha, she wasn't being melodramatic. She is very proud and has never asked me for anything. Like you and me, she just wants what is best for her child, but she is in a position where she is unable to provide for him in a way that we can for our children. He will get no Christmas presents. He doesn't even have his own bed. And yet Katya manages to make the best of things and look on the bright side.

I want to support and nurture the success that Katya has already created for herself -- staying alive and out of trouble. What if I could find families willing to send their gently use clothing, toys, bottles, etc to Katya? I asked her if she could receive packages and not have to pay a fee. As long as the customs form states that the items are worth less than $25, she can receive them at no cost to her. She will have to take a bus to town and go to the post office to pick them up, but I am sending her a small bit of money this week to help her pay for bus fare in and out of town.

If you are interested in sending gently used baby/toddler items to Katya, please let me know. This is her address. I hope she doesn't mind my posting it for a bit.

Yekaterina Chervonets
Menzhinskogo Ulitse 11-19
653000 Prokopyevsk
Kemerovo Oblast

If you have never sent a package to Russia before, it is very simple. First, get a ready-post mailing carton like this:

Fill it and print the address in BOLD, CLEAR letters. Go to your local post office and fill out the customs form. (It must be filled out in detail or it may be returned.) In the customs form you list everything you are sending and its estimated value. Keep the value low, under $25.

Send it express mail to better insure its arrival in Siberia. At the post office they will tell you it will take 10 days to reach its destination. This is a myth of epic proportions. It is supposed to arrive in 10 days. However, it will take an average of 4-6 weeks. Once it arrives in Prokopyevsk, Katya will be sent a slip from the post office to come pick it up.

I hope a few readers will feel inspired to send her some things. Of course, if you can include a translated letter or card, all the better! I'll keep you posted on Katya's situation. I am excited to see her when I return to bring D home!

Most recent photo of Arkasha. Isn't he adorable?


  1. Have linked this to my fb and will also post on my blog today.

    Much love


  2. This may be a stupid question, so please forgive me :) Do ppl in Russia have dvd players that play our movies? I wanted to send a Fantasia disc with some other things if so. Thanks!

  3. THanks Kimmie! And Mainiac...I wish! Russian DVDs are a different format. Katya does not have a dvd player. They are too expensive. The DVDs have to be bought over there so that they'll work. I WISH the format were the same..I have dozens my daughter doesn't watch anymore that I would LOVE to send! But also, they would have to be subtitled in Russian, too!

  4. I'm so proud of her! I hope "my" girls, who aged out this year and next, fare as well.

    One thing to let readers know: it's a good thing to make the items sound as unappealing as possible on the customs form. Mark your items as "used clothing", "used toys", etc. It won't offend Katya, and it may help keep those packages safe. It removes a temptation!

    How old is Arkasha? What size? Anything special she's wishing for him?

    Likewise, the value you declare is not the actual value or what you paid for an item. It's the resale value. So, don't have qualms about declaring things for little or no value.

  5. Hi id love to items..ill write the addy down and start mailing..

  6. Hey Keri how do we send money? Do they have Western Union?

  7. Gena, I've sent Katya money twice via 'Western Union'. I wish there were a cheaper way, but I haven't found one. But good news! A wonderful woman contacted me about supporting Katya monthly for awhile. I don't know if she wants me sharing her name, so I won't. But it looks like Katya will be able to provide for herself and her little boy for the foreseeable future, thanks to this woman! I'll post when I know more. For now, your prayers are sufficient. I know how giving you are, but I also know that it is a huge sacrifice for you to do so. YOur heart is huge, and I admire that about you. Just know that your prayers are just as important for Katya, and even sending just a card would be nice!

  8. Kate, thanks for adding the info you did! Very helpful! Unfortunately I do not know Arkasha's size, but a 2T would be best..it will last him longer. He is not yet two years old! I know that Katya wished he had some toys. I am sending some little cars and blocks. I'm sure she would welcome anything! Stacking toys are good for his age!

  9. I have boy's clothes (outgrown from ds) that are still new looking ... size 4 & 5 ... I will send a few things ... plus toys.

    On another note ... how is Ksusha doing? I see her picture at the bottom of your latest post. Does she get to remain at the orphanage till she is 17yrs? Hopefully she gets support once she ages out. I still thing about her and pray for her all the time.

    MariaG (Canada)

  10. As you tell Katya's story you could have been telling the story of my Sergei's older sister, Nadia. She, too, left the orphanage, married young, had a daughter. Julianna is now 5. But, her husband could not get work, got depressed and left her. She lives in a tiny village in a one-bedroom apartment. She so loves her daughter. She told me she shows Julianna my photos and teaches her to call me "Babushka".

    I think this is just about as well as orphanage girls can do. Certainly could be worse....but it breaks my heart when I think that, if only I'd KNOWN it were possible, we could have adopted her when we got Sergei. But, she was in another part of Russia, and we didn't know.....

    Hope someday to visit her. Obviously no powers except heavenly ones could get her a visa to visit us.

  11. I can definitely send some things. I am about to clear out some of my son's toys and books as we have lots of things for Arkasha! My son will love working on this with me. We would rather it go directly to the end user. Can I slip money in the package or will it be confiscated?

  12. Are there 5 in her family (Katya, boyfriend, son, bf's parents)? What size is Katya? Anything maybe she would enjoy that I could include along with the items I am sending for her son?

  13. I cross posted this on my blog wrigleymomma.blogspot.com I gave a brief description and put a link to your blog post. I hope this is ok. I already have your blog listed on the side as one that I follow. If you want me to remove it, please let me know. Merry Christmas!!!

  14. I've been working on sewing a quilt for Arkasha, and I'm almost done. I'm planning on making a tote bag or something for Katya as well. I want to write a card as well, is there a specific translator you'd recommend using? I know sometimes the online ones are not 100% correct.
    Thanks for sharing this, I've been reading for a while (though I've never commented). I love to sew and often make things for donations, so I'm happy to send something. I hope they'll enjoy it!


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