Never Forget Where You Came From

I was born as Masha Alexandrova in Moscow, Russia on March 31, 1994.

I was born premature due to my birth mother's alcohol addiction. I had breathing problems as well, so my birth mother left me in the hospital and told my brother (who was only eight years old at the time) that I had died. Two days after I was born she wrote a refusal statement renouncing her parental rights to me. In the two years following, the orphanage tried to contact her several times.

They failed.

A neighbor during that time had reported that my birth mother "had an immoral way of life and her whereabouts were currently unknown." I have never known exactly why she made the choices she did, but I realize now that if it weren't for her choices, I wouldn't be where I am today.

I was two and a half years old when I was adopted and brought to the US. Based on what I can recall, my adoptive mother was at work one day when a friend of hers came in with a young boy. "Is that your child?" my adoptive mother asked. "Yes, he is from Russia" her friend replied. Her friend knew that my adoptive mother wasn't able to have kids of her own, so she gave her the number of the adoption agency, Children of the World. At the time, it was a difficult decision to run by my adoptive father, as he wasn't too keen on the idea of adopting a child, but my adoptive mother didn't give up.

I officially became a US citizen in 1997. I grew up in Long Island with my adoptive parents until they got divorced when I turned 12. My parents’ divorce wasn't easy for me, but I look back and realize that their divorce - and all of the adversity that came along with it - helped shape who I am today. Constantly moving around and having to experience things the way I did forced me to think differently. I wouldn’t have that, otherwise.

"In all of us, there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know who we are and where we came from. For those without this enriching knowledge, there is the most disquieting loneliness.” – Alex Haley, author of Roots.

About two years ago, when my father gave me all of my old adoption papers, I started becoming more interested in where I came from. The papers didn't contain much information, but they did have enough to get me started on my search for my birth family.

After about a year of online research, phone calls, and sleepless nights, I was finally able to get in contact with my brother Ian, who currently lives in Moscow. He was so happy to find out I was alive, after believing for so long that I had died. We began messaging through Facebook and I started to feel as if I had known him my whole life. He told me that I also had a sister, named Rita, who was born in 2000. He told me that we all share the same mother, but have different fathers. He and our sister shared a single room growing up. They were always hungry and our mother was always drunk. As he got older, he wanted to get our sister away from our mother, so he helped to get her adopted by another family in Russia. 

Unfortunately, my birth mother passed away in November of 2008 from alcoholism. My brother told me that he never really understood why she told him I had died, but that he remembered being in the hospital with our mother when I was born; that he never forgot about me. I plan on traveling to Russia one day to visit my siblings.

I believe my biggest challenge being an adoptee was just learning to finally accept everything that had happened, learning to embrace it as part of who I am, as part of my story. Granted, I have faced other challenges growing up as well, from separation anxiety to identity issues. But I never gave up.

I am proud of where I came from, despite the adversity I faced at a young age. I believe it helped me become the strong person I am today.

I believe sharing my story is important in that it can help others with their journey as well. Our stories become an essential part of who we are, and who we become. 

It's important that people understand that so many of the stereotypes about adoption are not true, and that adoptees have the right to whatever feelings they have towards their adoption. Just because an adoptee wants to know more about their birth family doesn't mean they don't love their adoptive family.

For anyone planning to adopt a child, just remember that you're not just adopting a child, but you're adopting their past as well.