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Story of My Life

I woke up to a completely silent house. It was an unusual morning. My grandparents had left earlier for an appointment. I was enjoying doing my chores and watching over my sister and brother, without the constant demands and scolding from our usually hung-over grandpa. But, this peaceful morning was brought to an abrupt end by a sharp knock and the sudden entrance of a Kazakhstani police officer. He asked where my grandma was. After I explained that she was at the hospital, I expected him to leave. But he asked me more questions. He slowly surveyed the house, took a seat at the coffee table, pulled out a stack of papers and carefully noted my answers.

It was only when this stranger asked where my mother was that my eight-year-old mind suddenly realized what was happening. Tears started rolling as I attempted to reassure the policeman that my mom was coming back for us. She had to. My grandma arrived just in time to prevent the officer from taking my siblings and me. The policeman and my grandma discussed something outside. I watched through the window as my grandma signed a piece of paper. When he left, my fear of being taken away went with him, replaced by overwhelming relief.

Up to this point, my brother, sister and I had moved frequently from relative to relative and village to village. The only things we owned were a few changes of clothes so I wasn’t surprised a few days later when my grandma handed me a garbage bag and told me to pack up again. No one argues with my grandma. And they certainly don't ask her questions. But I decided to take my chances and ask which one of our relatives my siblings and I were being shuttled to next. I remember her reply came in a soft, choking voice that I had never heard before: “detski dom.” The Russian word for “orphanage.”

My life had often seemed like the never-ending snowy winters in Kazakhstan, full of dread, steadily piling in around me, closing me up. And this felt as if it were the bleakest day yet.

But being in the orphanage for three years changed me in ways I find almost impossible to explain. Living with the orphanage staff and other abandoned kids like me was not the nightmare I had feared. Warm meals, close friendships, and supportive caregivers provided an important transition from my biological Kazakh family to my adoptive family in the U.S. The orphanage was my in-between family, and it taught me as much as any other I’ve had.

Those years, and my subsequent arrival in the U.S. at age 12, made me adaptable and flexible, able to adjust to any challenge given me. The hardships built my character and gave me perspective. They made me realize that I am going to move forward, no matter what. Most importantly, those years made me realize the importance of caring for myself while also seeking comfort from those who love me.

I used to think that because other people left me, I had nowhere to belong. But through my experiences in the orphanage and with my adoptive family, I have learned that I both belong to myself and to the people who love me.



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majo said...
Jul. 2, 2013 at 9:20 am:
i like the article i just read it inspired me. i m doing essays now and i m not too good at , that is why i m trying to read  some essays online.
 
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