Standing in the street in nothing but panties, dirt caked to her little knees and hands, at about seven years old Victoriya was on her own. This would be the theme of her life for the next nine years. Her mother did not want her and there was no father in the picture. Even though she wanted her mother, she didn’t like the string of boyfriends that had come and gone.
There was a fresh scar of a swastika that had been cut into the underside of her wrist. The burn on the soft skin between her thumb and forefinger was almost healed but would leave a scar that would last for the rest of her life. This would be a lasting memory of her mother’s last boyfriend.
With no family that would come forward to care for her, Vika began a life in Ukrainian orphanages. Most people see the orphanages in the U.S. and think it’s not that bad. But the orphanages in the Ukraine are much different. When you use the term institution, you think of prisons and mental health facilities with bad lighting and the stench of old urine. This is the only thing that compares to the run down facilities that house the parentless children of Ukraine.
The orphanages that Vika grew up in were smaller than most and housed only 100 to 200 children at a time. Each room had approximately 30 beds that were stacked head to toe. The beds were old military cots that had been left over from the last war with mattresses that were thin where metal poked through as she slept. The pillows were old and small and felt like a bag of rocks, if she had a pillow at all. Blankets were a luxury that only the bigger and stronger kids kept to protect against the cold Russian winter nights.
That’s how it worked, if you were bigger and stronger, then you took from the smaller, weaker children. There was a definite pecking order and the stronger, older children ruled the orphanages. There were many fights and children who acted out their disappointments in life by bullying and committing petty crimes in the local stores. Everything was shared whether they wanted to or not. The strong survived. It was reminiscent of Lord of The Flies.
Nights were the worst. No one to kiss her good night or tell her that they loved her. Nightmares from a past that haunted Vika would terrorize her dreams. She talks and cries out in her sleep, speaking in Russian in response to the memories; memories that chased her even after she awakens from another long, cold uncomfortable night. At night, some of the children were bitten by rats that roamed the halls and climbed in their beds after the lights were out. Most of the time, the cats kept them at bay, but occasionally, one would find it’s way to a child’s hair or face.
Like most prisons and institution, everything was run on a schedule. Fear was the chosen motivator used by the adults to get the children to behave. Orphanage workers make an average of $130 per month so it is very common for them to steal from the children in the orphanage to have food and gifts for their own children at home. They steal the belongings and literally take the food from the orphans mouths, though honestly the food provided is very limited and low quality. This contributes to the malnourishment and small size of the children; contributed to the many stomach illnesses that plague Vika.
As one child, Aloyna, said it, “the workers treat us like cattle. They don’t care. It’s their job. They come in and do their job, and leave. They don’t care about us at all.”
But when Vika arrived at her first orphanage, the workers gave her a birth date and guessed at her age; as she was found on the street with a mom who never claimed her, the exact information was never known. She was given the birthdate of January 19 and it was estimated she was around seven years old.
As the years passed, Vika watched her friends get adopted. She longed for someone to come take her and give her a home. Nine years passed and she was the oldest and last of her friends still left in Snow Drops Children’s home. No one stole from her or bullied her any longer because she was the biggest and oldest one there. This posed it’s own problems as she turned finally turned sixteen. Children “age out” of the orphanages at age sixteen and are left to take care of themselves. Although the government contributes to college, they do not provide housing for these children, and college is not an option for a child like Vika. Even though she is sixteen, she is only in the seventh grade.
At thirteen years old, Vika began to worry about what would become of her when she reached sixteen. With no family and no chance for adoption, the fear for her future would consume her every thought. But during Christmas, before her fourteenth birthday, Vika came to America to be hosted by the Carlisle family. She had no way to know it but she, along with another girl from an orphanage in another city, were on their way to stay for a few weeks in San Antonio, TX. Here, in their home, for the first time in many years, she was able to experience a sense of family. She went to bed each night not starved for a kind, encouraging word, or a hug and kiss goodnight; but, instead she was filled with love and support, hugs and kisses, and gifts, during that holiday season.
The hosting went well and the Carlisle’s pursued adoption of both Vika and the other girl, Tanya. During early fall that year, the Carlisle’s came to Ukraine fully prepared and expecting to adopt both Tanya and Vika; but, found out on arrival in Kiev, that Vika’s paperwork was not completed properly and she would not be available until September. Upon arrival in Ukraine, it was discovered Vika’s paperwork was “lost”. This was the third time in the nine years of living in the orphanage that her paperwork was not filed properly with the State Department on Adoption. The Ukranian government requires a mandatory fourteen month waiting period from the time the paperwork is filed, until that child is available for adoption. This process seems like an eternity to Vika who has finally found a family that wanted her. She thought she was about to leave the orphanage with them, and once again her hopes and dreams were crushed by the same people who have kept her for most of her life, but really don’t know her or have any way to help her have a future. All she knew was, with this delay, she would soon be sixteen years old and would “age out” of the orphanage at that time. What would become of her? How would she survive? How would she earn a living?
It’s now two years since Vika spent her first Christmas with the Carlisle family. Tanya, now Zari, has come to fit in to the family well and is thriving in her new environment. But a year long illness has left the family with financial issues and has caused difficulty in coming up with the increased adoption fees now requested by the Ukrainian facilitator.
As you read this blog post, please allow yourself to envision Vika’s life and her longing to have a family. Know that today, you can make a difference in this child’s life. Making a donation to the Carlisle’s for Vika’s adoption will get her in a loving home in America within the next few weeks. Please help Vika finally have the opportunities that she will never have in Ukraine. Please donate to Give Forward at http://www.giveforward.com/adoptionofvikaamporphanagedonation
Blessing to you! You have just made a significant difference in someone’s life.