Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Adopted Child's Perspective on Adoption: Kristina (Part I)

We wanted to share some of the stories of adoption from the point of view of the children, both biological and adopted. It has been fascinating and faith-building to hear them tell their own stories of life from their perspective. The fourth in this series is from our precious Kristina, now a 20 year old college sophomore who is spending her spring semester studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia, as a Russian Studies and Environmental Studies major.

KRISTINA’S STORY

I taught myself not to feel

As I look back eleven years ago when I made one of the most important decisions of my life, I rejoice that I do not regret making that decision for one minute. I have to admit that I do not really remember my feelings and thoughts at that moment. One might think that I should remember how I felt during such an important time in my life. People remember how they felt when they said “I do” at their wedding ceremony or how they felt when they gave birth to their first precious child. For me, however, remembering my feelings and thoughts is not something that comes naturally. Partly it might be that a child at the age of nine does not have the capacity to recall the overwhelming emotions, thoughts and changes that were occurring to her. However it just might be that I simply taught myself not to feel. How and why would a little girl do such a thing to herself, one might ask? Unless you know how it feels to be both a grown up and a parent at age seven, then the idea of a little girl learning not to feel might be incomprehensible. Looking at my life today, it is hard to believe the things that I have lived through. I myself have a hard time believing that in fact I, Kristina Rebekah Templeton, was able to survive my childhood. By now you are probably dying with anticipation to know what happened to this little Kristina. What was so tragic that the poor girl learned to not feel?

Being adopted is a blessing from God

I receive two types of reactions from people that find out I am adopted; one reaction, “Oh that’s cool” and moves on afraid to ask further questions for fear of hurting me or touching upon such a sensitive subject. The other type of person gets so intrigued and asks questions like, “Oh how did it feel being adopted? What was your life like before you were adopted?” and so on. From my point of view people should never feel awkward or fearful in asking such questions. It’s not like being adopted is some kind of crime or bad thing that I committed or happened to me. Being adopted is a blessing from God that he cared so much about you that he gave you a better life.


There were a few happy moments in my life

I was born into a middle class family in Pushnoe, a little village in northern Russia. This village was so small that I could walk around the center of town in fifteen minutes or less. Hardly anyone owned a car; there was one public bus that served as transportation into the city. There was one elementary, middle and high school in the town, as well as a few produce shops, apartment buildings, a coal-mining factory, a mail house, and a gathering building. The things that I remember of my childhood are those that made the most impact on me as a child. There were a few happy moments in my life. My mother, father and my infant brother, Pasha, lived in a three-room apartment. The two things that I remember about my father are his injured leg, from which metal rods protruded, and that he was a kind man.  I remember beautiful summer days when my friends and I would walk to a nearby sea to swim and pick blueberries and strawberries. I remember my first day of school, dressed up in the traditional new fancy pink dress carrying an enormous bouquet of flowers to the teacher. The joy of starting school, getting school supplies, and meeting new friends made my life happy, but only for a short time. 
Kristina and Pasha in front of the school in
Pushnoe in 2006.
Kristina's flat was in this building in Pushnoe. She and Pasha
lived here until they were taken to the orphanage.

Survival became my life’s purpose

Unfortunately the rest of my memories are almost too unfortunate to recall. Sometime before first grade my father was killed right in front of my own eyes. I stood behind a door, helpless, watching as some man was beating up my father. As soon as I got enough sense I ran home in order to find help, but I was too late. By the time rescue came, he was already dead. The killer ran away, never to be found or punished for the crimes he committed.  From that day on, everything in my life changed; survival became my life’s purpose. I learned that survival is easier if I did not process the traumatic things that I experienced. My life to that point taught me a strong lesson that if I opened myself up to the feeling of happiness, then sooner or later I must feel sadness, loneliness and hunger. So for me it was better just to just not feel anything at all.  Without my father, my mother became a prostitute in order to support her family. Many days I would have to go and beg for some flour or bread from our neighbors or pick berries so we could eat. Many nights I would have to sleep all alone in the house, protecting my little brother. For days my mother would not come home. From time to time she would bring money home, and I would be the protector of that money. She relied on me to be the parent, not only of my little brother, but also of her. But somehow we survived many hard days. And thankfully this is not the life that God had for me and my hardships were short lived.  Even though my mother scarred my life, I cannot help but forgive her because in the end she cared about her children enough that she made money the only way she knew she could. However, one surprising day two women came to our house and took my brother and me away to an orphanage in Vyborg, Russia,  where we were to reside until November 15, 2000.
Kristina (far right) and Pasha (2nd on left) in hospital
in preparation for adoption.


Kristina and brother Pasha, ages 9 and 5, a few months
before adoption.

I was not so sure what was happening to me

On that special day happiness was once again restored in my life. I was adopted into a new family. An American family from Atlanta, Georgia, traveled all the way to Russia in hopes of finding a little girl to adopt, not knowing that they were going to adopt a little girl and her little brother. I remember when my current mom and her friend, Susan Hillis, came to see me at the orphanage and how after that day everyone started treating me so well and giving me attention. By God’s amazing planning I met an American missionary, Judy Grout, who lived in Vyborg and who began to come to the orphanage and begin to give us English lessons. It was so fun having her come and somewhat prepare me for my new life, even though at that time I was not so sure what was happening to me. It was all a dream. Every child dreams of being adopted into a picture perfect family not realizing that there would be hard times in adjusting. All they dream of are nice toys, clothes, room, good food to eat, parents who are nice and even some brothers and sisters to play with. They never imagine that the parents will discipline them and tell them when to go to sleep, or to brush their teeth and do their homework. In the orphanage there are people who watch over you, but all in all you don’t really have to listen to them because they are of no relation to you. 
Spring of 1999, a year and a half before Kristina and
Pasha came home. I met them for the first time on
Pasha's 5th birthday! 
Judy Grout teaching English to Kristina (standing on left)
and her friends. The girl in the pink vest, Olya, has died,
Natasha has a baby boy. Ruslan, on the right, has been
adopted by a family in Sweden. Kristina stays in close
touch with both of them.

Stay tuned for Part II. Kristina will share more about her transition into our family and American culture, give some advice to adoptive parents, and share with us what God said to her when she asked Him why so many bad things happened to her.



3 comments:

  1. Thank you sweet Kristina. You have shared so beautifully and with such strength. You are amazing and I love love love being your mother. It is a joy that I would never trade for anything.

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  2. Thank you for having the courage to share your story. As an adoptive mother, I really appreciate your words and how you tell your story. Thanks so much for sharing it publicly. May the God who loves you dearly continue to bless you!

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  3. Thank you for reading! I thank God everyday that He can always turn the hurt and pain and turn it into something good. I pray that the Lord does use my story to reach both adoptive parents but more importantly the adopted kids. So that they will know how to live the amazing and fruitful life Jesus has for them and not be stuck in their past and hurt.

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