I wanted a chance to go to school as I realized that a life without an education would offer us nothing. At an early age, I already knew that to have no education, would offer me a life of nothing later on. Because of our constant moves and homelessness, I had no friends. So, as simple as it sounds, I also wanted to have friends. But my mom didn't work and she didn't like to live in one place for very long. So at the age of nine, I told my mom I was so tired of moving around and I decided I was not going next time. Our next stop in life was on a farm where a family offered to us that we could live there in exchange for helping on their farm. At first, my mom agreed and went into the nearby city to work at a job. But, again, this didn’t last and soon she was ready to move on. I asked my sister if she wanted to stay with me, but she wanted to continue traveling with our mom. At first, I left with them, but soon decided this was not for me, so, I ran away and returned to the farm. My mom and sister never returned. That was the last time when I saw them. (Now, I constantly pray and hope they were able to provide for themselves and are still alive!!!)
This family on the farm decided to become my “foster family”. While not the ideal family: an alcoholic father who refused to come home and help on the farm, a mother who was constantly angry due to her husband’s absence, and an older brother who had severe mental problems and was also full of anger… this was a real family for me. They agreed to put me in school, so I realized one dream and began first grade at the age of 9. School became my favorite place, because at home, I had to take care of the farm with little help. In the morning, I took the cows to the city where a common caregiver watched them in the pasture, then, I fed the pigs, chickens and other animals. Only after my chores were done, was I able to go to school. And, I knew once home in the afternoon, other farm chores would again take over such as cleaning pig sties, chicken coops, horse barns and spreading the manure onto the field and garden, cultivate the garden, cut and stack wood for the winter, plow the fields for other crops, sickle the grass to collect hay and store it for winter in the barn and finally feed all animals before dark. On a large farm, the work is never done. Only after all chores were done, was I able to complete homework by dim lights.
I lived with this family for 4 years, until the age of 12. At the end of the forth year, their son who was 24 years old and mentally unstable, went crazy and tried to kill me with a pitchfork. So, I realized that this was no longer the place for me, and I went to my school principal and asked him to transfer me to another family. Soon, I went to live with another family, but in a few days my former foster brother, came and found me. He broke all the windows and demanded that the family return me to his family. So, in fear of their own family’s safety, they told me I could not stay with them any longer. I was next transferred into a large regional institution/hospital, which is where all the homeless kids come in for full evaluation, prior to being transferred to smaller city orphanages. During this time, I just felt like I was going through the processes, without really “feeling” anything or getting to know anyone. At the age of 12, my last stop in Russia was my transfer into a home style orphanage in a city called Ulyanovsk in June, 1999.
Little known to me, my (future) American parents would be arriving 2 months later, in August, 1999, to adopt my (future) brother, then return to adopt me (June 2000) and eventually return to adopt my (future) sister (December 2000). While we were not biologically related in Russia, we came from the same orphanage and now we have same mother and father and along with my parents biological son, this is my true family.
Between the time I first met my parents, and when I was later adopted by them in June 2000 my mom wrote me many, many long letters. Through these letters, which a translator read to me, I learned about my new family which included the fact that they were Christians. Prior to this, I only knew of the Russian Orthodox religion, which now I realize, had little to do with true Christianity and more to do with rituals and rules. Mom explained to me who Jesus was, what He stood for, and why He was important to them. These letters, sent over 10 months time, also helped me to regain trust in other people and to realize that someone loved me. This taught me patience and that this family was different. They never gave up and they did this because they truly loved me and I was very important to them. I had never experienced this kind of love before and never knew a love like this until they came into my life. Once home, my parents enrolled me, which mom had already explained in her letters, into North Cobb Christian School where I was surrounded by Christian friends and mentors (teachers), who had Christian morals and characters. Their love and support for me was amazing. I was never criticized or isolated for being different. This is where I decided to become a Christian. But, I soon learned that being Christian meant you had higher standards in your life, than before. I also learned about forgiveness and this hit me really hard. Because, before I became a Christian, I hated my Russian mom for what she put me through. However, when I understood what Christ had gone through and after all that he still forgave everybody, including me, for all THEIR sins. I realized I had to forgive my mom and all the other people for the bad things they had done to me. I didn’t realize how much of a burden this has been on my heart, and when I let go of it, I saw life from a new and wonderful perspective. Now, I realize that if it wasn't for my Russian mom, who chose to give me life, instead of aborting me, I wouldn't be here today! If it wasn't for my Russian mom, I couldn't have this perfect family. If it wasn't for my Russian mom, I wouldn't have any future now. If it wasn’t for my Russian mom, I wouldn’t have a car and the ability to drive. In the end, I see now that my Russian mom gave me what I always wanted: the ability to go to school, have a family and friends who really support and care for me. But, most of all, if it wasn't for my Russian mom, I wouldn't be a Christian, nor have the ability to share my testimony to encourage others to also become Christians. Now, I have so much that sometimes I forget what it was like to be poor, because I feel I am the richest person of all to have THIS past, this present and the future that lies ahead of me.