I was nine years old when I became an orphan.
But, before I was an orphan, I grew up in a small, cold, and empty apartment in Russia with my older sister, and an alcoholic mother. We were born into poverty.
I was six years old when my dad was killed. I still remember the day when the police officer came to my sister's apartment to tell us that he had been stabbed to death. I never met him.
Living without a father and with an alcoholic mother forced me make difficult decisions at an early age. It forced me to come up with creative solutions to everyday problems in order to survive, whether it was to bargain for food or sleep behind the bread shop on the street. For me, developing an entrepreneurial mindset was not an option, but rather a necessity, even when I was only six years old.
In 2005, I walked into a new family, in a new country, to start a new life.
At that time I knew that adoption was a step closer to a better life, but I did not know the things I would have to give up in order to have that better life.
Adoption taught me a lot about appreciation. I became more appreciative of having new toys, nice clothes, warmth, care, and respect.
The transition from poverty to affluence was more than an outer transformation; it required me to go through an inner transformation. I had to become comfortable with change in order to survive.
Children, who are adopted, have no option, but to change. They have no option, but to give up pieces of themselves, such as birth name, family, friends, native language, culture, memories.
With the love and support of my family, I was fortunate to overcome these changes. In fact, I was fortunate to experience two spectrums of life: from poverty to wealth. I was not only fortunate to be adopted by a caring family, but also to be able to graduate from both high school and college.
I entered Kent State University with a passion to study Russian, as a way to keep in touch with my birth family in Russia. Though soon into my college career, I also gravitated towards entrepreneurship, with the realization that I was already an entrepreneur. On a broader scale, I realized that I consider my life to be a venture, one that required me to learn from my own mistakes, and contribute to a greater cause.
A venture that has helped me to discover my purpose in life, which is to help adoptees live a better life, despite their hardships and misfortunes.
At age 23, I finally decided to stand up and speak up. I realized that despite still being an orphan, I am no longer alone. I am no longer scared. I am no longer defined by a word.
Today, I am on a mission to help other adoptees live a better life, despite their hardships and misfortunes. Overcoming these struggles can be hard, but I promise you, that if you surround yourself with people who have gone through these struggles, the process becomes much easier. I know this because I have done so.
If my mission speaks to you, please join me in helping adoptees around the world Stand Up & Speak Up.