I want to share my story with you because life is not all rainbows and flowers. It’s hard.
I was born in Surgut, Russia. It is in Siberia. I was born into a Muslim family. At home we spoke Tatar, but when we went out in the world we spoke Russian.
I lived with my mother, grandfather, and grandmother. My grandparents raised me because I had a single mom who worked often and spent a lot of time outside the house. My grandfather worked in the tundra as a lumberjack. He was a tough guy and wanted me to be tough as well. I always thought he was picking on me by making me work hard, or by making me cry, but now I think he was just trying to make me stronger. My grandmother, on the other hand, worked inside the house: making the most amazing Russian dishes you can think of. It wasn’t a bad life, by any means.
Then, everything changed: my grandpa's only son, Marseille, was murdered on a public bus. About three years later, when I was nine years old, my grandfather left my grandmother for a younger woman. She was devastated; she died from a heart attack about a year later. Meanwhile, my mom got a new boyfriend and became pregnant, giving birth to another daughter. Approximately a year after my grandmother passed away, my mom's boyfriend stabbed my mother in the heart. On her deathbed, she made me promise that I keep my two younger sisters and I together, no matter what. We ended up in an orphanage. Even though we had family near, they didn't want us.
I repeat: it’s not all rainbows and flowers.
Prior to being adopted, I lived with my two younger sisters in an orphanage. As a child I took care of them, and never really had time to be a child myself. Orphanage gave me that opportunity: I didn't have to cook, clean, or watch the little ones. I didn’t have to worry about food. It was all taken care of. I met a lot of different people there and maybe also picked up some bad habits, like smoking. I started smoking when I was only twelve years old.
The orphanage even took us on vacations, which, for me and my sisters, was unheard of. We spent one summer in Bulgaria. It was amazing. The hot springs, the Black Sea, the sun!
I lived in two orphanages. "Zazerkalie" and "Na Kalinke." My sisters and I were there for a little over two years, and I was eleven years old when we were sent there. My sister was five years old and my younger sister was only six months old. It was hard to adjust to being institutionalized, but you get used to it. Used to chaos, perfectly making your bed, and eating three meals a day (which we could not afford after my grandmother's death). The constant rotation of people. The saddest stories you’ve ever heard. It all becomes normal.
I was thirteen years old, too old by orphanage standards to be adopted. I had two younger sisters, who were seven years old and two years old at the time. The year was 1996, just a few weeks after my birthday in June.
I did not want to be adopted, because my personality had already formed, and I couldn’t imagine loving and calling someone a mother and a father, after what happened to my family. But I promised my mother that I would keep my sisters and I together, so I agreed to the adoption anyways.
When I got adopted, I didn’t know much about the family that I was about to join. I got some photos of them about two weeks before they arrived to pick us up, but that was it.
The first challenge that I ran into, of course, was that I did not speak English. The next challenge was to form a relationship with my adoptive family. We are still not very close. I see them at Christmas, if that. I moved out when I was seventeen years old, and took guardianship of my middle sister when she turned seventeen as well.
I thought that adoption meant you get a loving family.
Now I believe that you can only receive unconditional love from your biological parents.
We didn’t get along at all. My middle sister and I fought with our adoptive family. They always treated us like we did something wrong. All the time. I’m glad to be out of that household.
I never felt love for them, only ashamed and guilty.
I miss Mother Russia tremendously, and right now I’m saving money to visit the remaining family I have in Russia.