An American left her family and flew Ukraine to make her wish come true- to hug and kiss a little boy who captured her heart.
She shares her story with us.
Once upon a time, a baby boy was born. When the doctors looked at him, they decided that he wasn’t quite right, that he wasn’t perfect. When his parents looked at him, they saw not a beautiful baby boy hungry for love but a burden with which they couldn’t cope. The baby boy was sent to an orphanage. The orphanage was under-funded and under-staffed. It didn’t in any way approximate a family. None of the boy’s developmental needs were addressed. He didn’t grow as fast as he could have. He never learned to talk. No one ever taught him to walk, to feed himself, or to go to the bathroom. No one loved him. He was left tied to a crib for long hours every day. He learned to stimulate himself by banging his head on the crib bars, by smacking his face, by humming to himself, and by grinding his teeth. He was given all sorts of negative labels by the doctors who only infrequently examined him. He was relegated to a lifetime of no stimulation, no therapy, no expectations, and no love. Despite this, the boy persevered, and against all odds, he retained his ability to smile and laugh.
Once upon a time there was a woman living across the ocean from this boy. She already had three children, two of whom were adopted and had special needs. While looking at the pictures of children on an advocacy site for children with special needs who waited to be adopted, that woman found the picture of this boy. She was not in the position to adopt him herself, but she fell in love with him nonetheless. She began to share his picture and what little was known of his story. She worked to find out where he was living, and then she found a charity that helped at the boy’s orphanage. She found out his name. She received additional pictures and video of him. She was able to send him gifts. But this was not enough for the woman. She needed to be with this boy; she needed to see for herself who he was and where and how he lived. She traveled across the ocean that separated them to spend two weeks with him.
That woman is me, and that boy is Vladik. In June of 2013, I traveled to Zaporozhye, Ukraine, to visit Vladik and the other children who reside at the Zaporozhye Orphan Asylum and at Chernigov Children’s Home in Kalinovka. I am not a stranger to orphanages; I have visited more than a half-dozen in Ethiopia, where two of my children were born. What I found in Ukraine, however, was shocking. Rooms full of silent children who sit or lie in their cribs nearly 24 hours a day. Medical care that is almost non-existent. Neglect on a level that was nearly unimaginable. But most shocking of all was that most of the children retained a zest for life that could not be suppressed. In the most bleak and dire life circumstances, these children hungered for love, embraced joy, and gave of themselves without regard for any payback.
I was able to visit with Vladik every day for nearly two weeks. I participated in all aspects of caring for him: feeding him, dressing him, changing his diaper, taking him outside, rocking him, playing with him. He is a boy with so much potential! In a brief amount of time I was able to teach him a rudimentary sign for “more.” I was able to help him feed himself instead of being dependent on others to feed him. I was able to get him to interact with me instead of tuning out the world with an intense self-focus. I see in Vladik a child who could make huge strides in his developmental, communicative, and self-care skills if only he were given the chance for appropriate therapy and education. I see in Vladik a child who has boundless love to give if only he were in a family. Unfortunately, as long as Vladik remains institutionalized, his chance to reach his full potential is severely blighted.
I spent more than 30 hours with Vladik over a 2-week period. I am happy to speak with anyone who is interested in adopting Vladik and would like more information about him. I have dozens of photos and videos of him that I am willing to share. I love this little boy with all of my heart, and my greatest wish is for him to be adopted by a family who will give him everything he needs and deserves.
This video with music by Lisa Germano is dedicated to Vladik and all the children who are wishing to have a family.
Contributed by Daneille S. Vrtar.
Photo Credits: Daneille Vrtar
Before Daneille traveled to see Vladik, Maya made a video just for her.
You can see more Vladik here!