My apologies for being late. I have the best of intentions, I assure you.
After spending a restless and unsatisfactory first night, we were rousted out early to chase down the adoption decree. As in “Be in front of your apartment building in 15 minutes.” We were in the highly capable care of a F.O.F.— a Friend Of the Facilitator. This FOF was/is a lovely, lovely lady. She was kind enough to stop by the Fat Stomach* so we could buy breakfast (we’d been subsisting off trail-mix). We spent all morning trying to get the paperwork. Because the FOF was determined to do everything legitimately, and not use bribes, it took quite a while–all morning and afternoon, in fact– but was possible. After we had the papers, she was nice enough to drive us to the supermarket to buy food, lest we starve.
On an interesting side note, to use the restrooms (or W.C) at this market, you first have to pay for you toilet paper. I suppose the income garnered goes towards the water-bill?
Now, the very, very nicest thing about this lady, this F.O.F, was that she took us to see Katya. It was a thirty-minute drive by car. Boyarka is a small, nondescript village. Nothing spectacular. Despite it’s smallish size, it houses two orphanages. Katya’s orphanage was situated across from a park of tall, leafy trees with white-washed trunks. The building is rectangular in shape with two wings extending away from the street, built of yellow bricks, flanked by hedges and birch trees, and barricaded with a large stone wall with set in iron gates. One of these gates was wide enough to admit a car, a road led from it along the right edge of the building, and the play ground, to a series of sheds where, presumably, lawn-mowers were kept. I doubt a car was used often, though, because the soil had washed from underneath the tarmac and created a nasty sink-hole in one spot. The other gate was human-sized, and we passed though it into a court-yard.
The building’s interior was dim and quiet. We went though a little entrance to a large room, that opened up to the right and left to create hallways. Directly in front of us was an unocupied desk: To the right a smallish hallway which, I later learned, held a bathroom–a clean, but smelly affair, due to the septic-system being too weak to permit the flushing of toilet paper. To the left was a large, sunny hallway, filled with faint breezes and transmitted light from the sheer curtains. Mother saw a little boy tied up there, once. We went though a part of the left hallway, and up a little ramp, where we exited the orphanage building to a blaze of sunshine.
Kids started running over, shouting “Mama, Katya’s Mama!”. Which, when you know the back-story— That they tried, at first, to say that Mum and Dad were *not* Katya’s, but theirs, and Mum and Dad had to explain that yes, they were Katya’s, and only Katya’s, parents— is rather heart-breaking. Katya, who as far as we could tell, was as low on the “Favourite Kids List” as she could get while still being on her feet, with her owie head; Katya, who screamed; Katya, who had (to quote a Caregiver) “Nothing” in the upper story; Katya, who was in every way inferior to them–
Katya had a Mama, and they did not.
Please reflect for a moment, what it might be like, to want something like that, and not have it. People can become petty over such piddly things as a co-worker getting a promotion; someone else going on a much coveted vacation; a good grade; popularity. You should be able to think of a time or two in your life, when you’ve “needed” something, and couldn’t have it. Or maybe you really *did* need something. Draw up a little empathy, and use you imagination.
Think about these left behind children; for them–all matters of emotional stability aside– a Mama and Papa is a matter of life and death. For the healthy ones, the deciding factor in whether or not they will be kicked onto the streets once they turn 16, to face drug cartels, prostitution, jail, trafficking, gangs. For the disabled ones, like Katya, it determines whether or not they will be sent to a mental institution, to spend the rest of their days lying in a crib– allowed to bite their hands and bang their heads if their lucky– tied down and/or drugged, if they’re not. Mercifully, half of the children sent to institutions die in the first year.
It was really sad to hear them so resigned– “Katya’s Mama”. But before we could get too emotional, Katya heard the commotion, and came running up.
First she hugged Mum–no pictures, sorry; I was filming. She kept peering around over Mum’s shoulders. Looking for Daddy, I guess, because when the F.O.F explained that he was waiting for her, in America, she stopped looking. Then she wanted me to pick her up. And mum took the camera, so the third time I picked her up, Lion-King style, mum took a picture.
(My apologies for Katya’s lack of clothes. We always try to be sensitive to how Katya might potentially feel about our posts, when she’s older. But the orphanage would have the kids run around all day in the hot sun in just their skivvies. It does have the advantage of showing you a bit how emaciated she was. Look how hollow her stomach is.)
Someone saw this picture, on FB, and said that it was “Love at first sight!” Umm… no. Truth be told, I didn’t really even like her. Unlike Mum, Dad, and even Chad, I had never felt any special “Call” towards Katya. I helped fund-raise for her adoption simply as a matter of obedience. If Mum and Dad felt she was for us, than she must be. But I felt no special attachment to her. She was rather feral. I pitied Katya, but I had no clue how to relate to her. I’ve never been that comfortable around little kids, much less orphans– let alone non-verbal orphans with issues. Which is why I picked her up and held her over my head, because most kids enjoy that, and she proved most typical in that regard.
I’m surprised, in a way, at how fierce my love for Katya has become. And yet, I’m not surprised. I did, after all, beg and plead–with tears in my eyes– for God to help me love her.
My first words? “She’s so *bony*” Which was true. It hurt to hold her hands; It hurt to have her sit on your lap: Her skin was like a very old lady’s– papery thin and dry, with her bones sliding around inside. Seriously, the pictures don’t even show. Any “chub” she may appear to have is simply her little bit of muscle being squished. Seriously, folks, when she came home she couldn’t even lift a (filled) glass measuring cup without using both hands and shaking with effort. Nor could she turn a door-knob or shut the dryer door. And she could only exert herself for a few minutes, before becoming so fatigued that she had to rest.
Really, I remember very little about that visit–not even what we ate for supper. I do have vague memory of wandering down under Independence Sq., finding a bakery, and buying bread. Going by my journal entry, I slept better that night.
I always regret not taking more pictures, and not journaling more, in times of stress. Ditto for when Katya had her surgery. But when I’m stressed, sometimes it’s almost too much, at the time, to rehash it in a journal entry. And when something stressful is happening, I’m usually too “in the moment”, busy planning how to get *out* of the moment, to take pictures, or to be able to decide how to capture the essence of the situation.
I’ve almost got pt. 3 ready, so look for it.
*The Fat Stomach is a truly authentic Ukrainian restaurant, that is frequented by the locals. Their food is served in a buffet, and paid for cafeteria style. Prices were, of two years ago, reasonable, and there was a wide variety of Ukrainian foods to choose from. The food was filling, and quite tasty. I myself think wistfully of their cherry dumplings–served with sour cream and sugar– pretty much every week.