Lost childhood and emptiness: why Americans adopted by children return to Russia
In the 90 years of the last millennium, American families adopted more than 60 thousand Russian children. From 2000 of the year, approximately 3-5 of thousands of orphans went to America to their new parents, until in 2012 in Russia they passed the law, which is now known to everyone as the “Dima Yakovlev Law”. It prohibits the adoption of children by American citizens.
Present Tense collected the stories of three girls who were adopted by their parents from the USA as children. Now they are adult girls and are in Russia, some temporarily and some forever.
“I COULD NOT ADOPT CHILDREN FROM RUSSIA”
Elena Deidra O`Hulahan was born in Ulyanovsk 32 years ago. The girl was three years old when she and two younger brothers were taken from her mother. The woman gave birth to four children from three different men and for a long time left the kids alone, locked in the apartment. The youngest was only a year old. Relatives then said that this behavior of the mother was forced, she had to go to work. But Elena says that she has this version in doubt.
One way or another, but once the neighbors found out about the locked children and reported to the social service. Two brothers and Lena were sent to an orphanage. Another girl, Elena's younger sister, remained with her mother. Why did they make such a decision - to “remove” three children, leave one alone - Elena does not know. Nobody ever visited them with their brothers in the orphanage. So it took a long eight years.
“All I have always known about my parents is that they are alcoholics and bad people,” Elena recalls. “But the orphanage was also unbearable.” I still can’t understand why none of our relatives wanted to take us from there. They seemed to have forgotten about us. See a scar on your forehead? It was I who was sitting at the table, something fell from me and I reached out to get it. The teacher came up and hit me swipe. For no reason. And things like that happened to me and the brothers all the time. The workers of the orphanage beat us, verbally humiliated us, took away the things that were due to us: clothing from social assistance, gifts for the New Year ... "
Elena says that she and the brothers survived sexual abuse. The brothers, having matured, remembered dryly about this, without going into details. Elena herself only in adulthood realized what was happening to her. Memories surged across her suddenly:
“I do not understand what served as the trigger, but I suddenly clearly remembered that man. I don’t know who he was: either he worked there, or came to someone. He raped me for several years when I was six or seven. He caught me everywhere: in an orphanage, on the street, at school. Touched. I could not do anything, because no one explained to me what is normal and what is not. ”
Lena and her brothers no longer hoped that they would be adopted: the girl was 11 years old, and foreigners, as a rule, opted for very young children. Clancy O`Hulahan, an 50-year-old military man, arrived in Ulyanovsk and adopted eight children at once - including Lena and his brothers. She recalls how they first ate at McDonald's in Moscow, walked, took pictures, and then flew on a plane for a long time.
So the Russian children and the American began to live together. Not without problems, of course: Lena says that the adopted children fought among themselves, sometimes there were "real fights" in the house. But Clancy didn’t scare: he already had three adopted children, later he adopted several more - Elena recalls that at some point the number of adopted children in the house reached 18 people. A single father was helped by his friends and relatives.
Now Elena is divorced, works as a lawyer in a government organization for pensioners, she has a small daughter. About three years ago, Elena, with the help of a friend in Ulyanovsk, found her sister. She was adopted by another family. It turned out that she did not know that she had a sister and two brothers in America. The girls started chatting on Facebook: so Elena found out that her biological mother was still alive.
“My sister maintained a relationship with her that could not be called prosperous,” Elena says bitterly. “But when my mother found out that we found each other, she practically stopped talking with her sister.” Through my sister, I sent my mother photographs and letters in which I said that I did not hold evil and would like to communicate. She did not answer any of them. It feels like she hated us for finding her. ”
It was not possible to see each other: Elena's mother died in November 2018, leaving behind only one photo - on her passport. When Elena found out about her death, she sent her sister money to help with the funeral. Now the sisters continue to communicate, the American is still eagerly trying to find information about her past. She hoped to talk with her grandmother - but she also died. There are other relatives through whom it may be possible to find out at least something. For example, if Elena’s biological father is alive, nothing is known about him at all.
“Of course, losing the past is terrible,” says Elena. “Even doctors in America ask me:“ Did you have this disease in your family? ”I reply:“ I don’t know, I am an adopted child. ”
Three years ago, in a dream, Elena’s younger brother died. He has had health problems since childhood. Sister very hard suffered his departure. But, getting used to pull herself together, she continued to live.
“I could hide in an imaginary“ corner ”and live until the end of my days in order to think about my grief, thereby prolonging it,” she says. “But it's useless.” Looking back on my experience, I can say for sure: I could not adopt children from Russian orphanages. Their life is so hard, they are so broken and not accustomed to family and independence that they almost always become a problem for their new families. Yes, 20 years have passed since our departure, but - oh, God! - Russia is still the same president, what changes can we talk about? Therefore, I’m sure: since then, nothing has changed in the system. ”
"FINALLY I'M HOME"
In the summer of 2019, the 29-year-old Masha Cook from Minneapolis arrived in the small Karelian city of Suoyarvi. Her biological mother still lives there. She was found thanks to a group for foster children from Russia and Ukraine on Facebook: Masha joined her three years ago, told her story - and after a few days the organizers contacted her.
“They wrote to me at night: they said that they had found my biological parents and that I can talk with my mom on Skype right now,” Masha says excitedly. - She was found thanks to social networks: some woman in the local community wrote that she remembers our family, and gave contacts to her mother. I saw her on my monitor: my mother cried, said: “Oh my!” - and asked me to come to Russia so that she could explain everything to me. Then I had not yet studied Russian, our friend was translating our conversation. Since then, for three years I have lived only with these thoughts: I studied Russian, prepared documents and thought about how they would meet me at home. ”
Masha’s father did not live to see him: he died in the 2017 year. When the girl arrived in her hometown, she could not find his grave. Until the last day he drank. Masha’s biological mother also drinks heavily. The girl was in a hurry to Russia: she was hinted that her mother might not live up to her arrival.
The childhood of Masha, her brother Vladik and sister Vika was terrible. Their parents, who at that time were not even thirty, disappeared for weeks, drank and brought strangers into the house. Mother was engaged in prostitution, children often saw strangers. They raped older children. Masha does not remember this, but she knows from the stories of her brother and sister that strangers did inadmissible things with them. Vlad was seven years old, Vika was five, Masha was three years old.
“When we were taken into custody, I was on the verge of death,” says Masha. - I developed muscular dystrophy: I couldn't even get out of bed, my skin seemed to rot, plus severe dehydration. Then they told me that from hunger I could no longer even cry. My brother and sister brought food to me - they were fed by neighbors, people on the streets. Everyone knew us, so the parents' arguments in court that “everything is fine with us and the children are full” obviously did not work. ”
In the hospital, the girl was nursed for several months, and then sent to an orphanage, where Vladik and Vika were already. The father visited the children, but rarely: after the deprivation of guardianship, he, according to acquaintances, began to grieve and washed down even more.
“Of course, in the provincial orphanage in the 90 years it was, to put it mildly, unsweetened,” Masha recalls. “Three years after we got there, they announced to us that the American family wants to adopt us.”
Later, their American father Craig told his adoptive daughters and son that he saw three Russian children in a dream: two girls and a boy. Therefore, when a friend from the adoption agency showed him a photograph of Vika, Vladik and Masha between the cases, he shouted: “These are they! These are my children! ”
“Judy, our mother, was all for it,” Masha adds.
The first thing that struck Russian children in America was chewing gum. New and tasty. In Suoyarvi, Vladik and Vika, wandering around, unfastened the chewing gum from the sidewalks. The main thing that American parents had to teach their children to is love. They did not know what it was. Two years later, Craig and Judy adopted three more children from Russia, and after some time - one seriously ill child from Minnesota.
“When my plane landed this summer in Russia, I caught myself feeling that I was finally home,” Masha shares. - It didn’t seem unusual to me that I saw around. It's like a good friend with whom you somehow lost touch for many years: he is still inside you, you are talking to him. I went with my friends to Suojärvi: I tried to go there without expectations, so as not to get upset later. Mom knew that we were coming, but, despite this, she was already drunk. Seeing me, she ran up and began to sob. Me too, of course. But we still couldn’t talk: I’m only learning Russian, and she already hardly speaks the words. When I showed our album from America with children's photos, I understood from her absent glance: where I am, and where Vika, she does not understand. ”
Vika died last fall. She was 30 years old, she drank a lot, and the liver could not stand it. Unfortunately, neither Vika nor Vladik, having matured, could cope with the past, says Masha. The brother stopped communicating with the sisters a few years ago.
“He said that when he looked at us, he remembers everything that happened to him in Russia. Vika was also very hard, I saw it. But when I said in Suojärvi about her death, there was almost no reaction. “Ah, dead?” - our mother only said. ”
After meeting with her biological mother, Masha returned broken, a real depression began. She did not stop feeling emptiness, but felt it only stronger. But in Suojärvi, she met her uncle, her father’s brother, and those same neighbors who helped children in childhood. Masha says that the thought of these people warms her and she hopes to keep in touch with them.
“Of course, all these years I have lived with sadness and wondered if my mother thinks at least sometimes of us, does she remember? But she is no longer a man, alas. And he does not feel that we have felt all these years. Am I forgiving her? Forgiven for a long time. My American mother wrote a letter to her, his friends will translate it into Russian and give it to her. I would like her to care. ”
Despite the fact that childhood ghosts are still attacking Masha: she sleeps very poorly, panic attacks constantly occur - the girl is set up for a happy life. In September, she marries a childhood friend.
29-year-old Alexandra (the name of the heroine was changed at her request) only remembers her mother because she had red-red hair. Since the Americans adopted her, Sasha has not seen her biological parents. Father died shortly after his two daughters were in an orphanage. He worked at a university in St. Petersburg. Upon learning that the former wife and mother of his children were deprived of parental rights (he was not included in the birth certificates), he washed down and died.
The girls' mother died four years after the children were taken from her. Guardianship came after them due to constant beatings, drunkenness and hunger. Sasha says that her head then, at four years old, was "twice as large as her body." And I was hungry all the time. In total, their mother had five children: the two girls sent to the orphanage had a brother and three sisters, one of whom died. But the older children did not live at home.
Sasha remembers how the guardianship officers came to take them away, and mother put a bunch of photos at the door and told her daughters to “go with her aunts to rest,” promising that she would catch up with them. But did not catch up. And then never came to the orphanage. A pack of photos was forgotten at the doorstep.
In the last years of their life, their mother wandered, drank - as a result, she was found dead on the street. Buried at the expense of the state. On a modest grave - a small tablet with the name and surname. When Sasha, having picked up the archives in 2016, found the cemetery in her native Peterhof, she did not immediately find where her mother was resting.
“I remember, I screamed at her,” the girl tells of her visit to the grave. - She sobbed, howled, tried to express everything that she wanted to say during these years. But at the same time she told her “thank you” for not blaming her for what had happened, for not holding evil. That conversation in the cemetery was an important step towards my psychological recovery. ”
Mother died in the 1998 year, but Sasha found out about this only after 16 years. All these years, she imagined how she would come to Russia, find her mother and ask why they had left her and her sister.
On the subject: How do children from Russia live in the USA?
The girls moved to the USA in 1995 with three more children from Russia, who were adopted by their new parents. The family asked not to remember Russia: "You are now in America, you have a new life." Sasha believes that this had the opposite effect: in 11 years, she decided that she would definitely return to her homeland and work in an orphanage. At the university I entered the faculty where Russian was taught. And then I went to Russia to study exchange - 16 years after leaving for America.
“I came to Petersburg and was terribly scared,” Sasha recalls. - I remember how on the street I was covered by a wave of a familiar smell, which I felt so deeply that I was horrified. Days passed, but this state did not go away. I studied, made new friends, went to a cafe, but I could not get rid of this feeling. In the end, I went to the same orphanage. There they remembered me and hung my photograph on a stand dedicated to foreign foster families. I began to volunteer, was a tutor of the English language, and it seemed to me to feel better: I felt that I could count on help there. But the longer I stayed in the orphanage, the deeper I plunged into the emotional pit, where it was dark and creepy. I got scared and stopped going there. ”
Sasha barely reached the end of that school year. Her state of mind left much to be desired: she got drunk to unconsciousness and forgot about safety. At that time, she did not learn anything about biological parents - there was no strength. I decided that I could only step back in America. There, having come to her senses a little and started going to the psychotherapist, Sasha applied for a scholarship, which after graduation would allow her to go to Russia and teach English there for a year.
“I sent a statement, tormented. I did not know whether I could handle another year in Russia, because the previous one resulted in an emotional and physical catastrophe, in a real psychological trauma. Without making a decision, I asked God to give me a sign. And when the scholarship was approved, a week before departure, I heard his voice in my head while serving in the church. He told me there was no need to be afraid. I have stopped. And leaving, I felt complete peace. "
In a language camp where she worked in Russia, Sasha met her future husband. After 2,5 years of relations at a distance, Sasha confirmed Russian citizenship and a passport, and she with five suitcases moved to Russia and got married. American parents also came to the ceremony. Initially, they were against Sasha’s intentions to return, but having met her fiancé and his family, they became warmer. At the wedding was Sasha’s biological older brother, who was found.
“Eight years ago, when I first went to Russia and began to think about moving, my parents worried about me: they were afraid that all this would bring me pain,” says Sasha. “But after a few years, they, seeing how glad I am that I returned and how my life at home was adjusted, calmed down.” I regularly visit them and call. ”
On the subject: Love story: how an orphan from Ukraine found fate in the USA
The eldest children of their mothers, who escaped the orphanage, now communicate with Sasha. One of the sisters lives near Moscow, one - abroad. Brother, like Sasha, in St. Petersburg.
“How do sisters and brother live now?” I will not go into details, I can only say that they were not able to fully cope with the emotional burden that our childhood took on them. But we try to keep in touch. ”
Living in St. Petersburg, Sasha works in the same organization that helped other heroines of this material, Elena and Masha, to come home. He draws up new documents and helps to correct mistakes in old ones, as well as emotionally supports growing social orphans. People come to Russia and Ukraine from around the world: the group consists of more than a thousand people not only from America, but also from Canada, France, Italy, and other European countries. There are those who do not go to their homeland, but simply communicate in a group. Sasha says that support for foster children, albeit long overdue, is very important. As for foster parents, Sasha also works with them.
“Most of the adopted children are still in great pain,” she says. - Alas, this does not happen: you were transferred to another country - and your life has changed dramatically. We, for example, were not taken to psychologists in childhood. Therefore, talking about your past, getting to know it, not being afraid to discuss it is important. I myself have gone through this state, so I know how to support people like me. ”
Sasha mentions the “Dima Yakovlev law” adopted in 2012 and prohibiting the adoption of Russian children by US citizens. He says that he treats him in two ways: on the one hand, she has nothing against the sincere desire of the Americans to adopt Russian children, on the other, she knows what it means to lose touch with the past.
“To lose your childhood, your culture, people, personality, in the end - you will not wish such an enemy. In an ideal world, all the children of the country should remain in it, but I would like to have children adopted more often in Russia. Only then will it be possible to talk about the real restoration of the nation, I think. ”
Sasha is now in her fifth month of pregnancy. She says that motherhood does not frighten her, because she “forgave” the sins of her mother and “rewrote” the memories of her biological parents:
“I want to become a mother who will leave her children faith, love and peace as an inheritance, and not the fear and pain that went to me. My childhood was difficult, once it was difficult for my own mother. But she did not cope with herself, preferring to drink and take drugs, so as not to feel anything. And I can handle it. Because, thanks to God, I want and can live in my homeland. "
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