Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Adopted Child's Perspective on Adoption: Andrei

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 sixth in this series is from a truly wonderful young man, our son Andrei. He is 19 and preparing to enter his freshman year in college this year. 

I didn't know any other way of living.
Our sweet son as a little boy in Russia.
His beloved great-grandmother gave
us this picture.

Most kids grow up thinking their life is pretty tough. For me it actually was. The first memory of my childhood included my dad coming home from the army. That was the beginning of it all. After he came home, my parents got their own apartment. It started out pretty great but then it all started falling apart. My parents quickly went through their money by buying alcohol and tobacco. They even sent me out to buy it for them. By age six I had experienced more sadness and pain than any child should even know of, much less live through. I didn’t know any other way of living. To me, this was normal. When I was around six years old, I remember my parents telling me that some government officials were coming to ask my brother, Sergei, and me a few questions. I remember this because that was the first time they were sober in a long time. When the government came, some lady asked me if I was happy, taken care of, and fed. I told them I was happy, treated well, and had food three times a day. When the lady perceived that I was lying, she went to the refrigerator and opened it. There was nothing in it. When the lady left, so did Sergei and I. 

What really mattered to me was that I could not see my brother
I was placed in an orphanage for young kids and sent to school. The government paid for my lunches at school. I didn’t eat them. Instead I saved them until school ended and took the food to Sergei. He was placed in a children’s home nearby. I didn’t mind it in the orphanage. I was happy to be near my brother and be able to take a bus to see my grandmother a few miles away, but then something changed. Sergei was placed in a foster family. I was happy for Sergei but I couldn’t take it. Soon I had anger problems and I remember that I would steal things and get in fights. My grandmother became worried about me, so she sent me away to a boarding school for orphans. I hated it. It was far away from everything that I knew. I was constantly beaten there. That didn’t matter to me so much because what really mattered to me was that I could not see my brother-- and my grandmother was getting too old to visit. Finally my grandmother came to visit me. When I heard that she was waiting for me, I couldn’t believe it. It was April 1st, April Fool’s day, but she was there. 
Andrei with his protective arm around Sergei
the day of their reunion in the orphanage.

Every day felt like a battle for survival to me
Andrei (right) and Sergei with their
great grandmother who loved
them and cared for them.
That day she took me back to her apartment. It was heaven. There was nothing better on earth for me. I was able to visit Sergei in the foster home. That summer I even went to Ukraine to visit my grandmother’s sister. It was nice to spend a summer where I wasn’t beaten or constantly hungry. The worst thing that happened to me in Ukraine was that I scraped up pretty bad from a bicycle crash and was bitten by a German Shepherd. At the end of the summer I went back and went to a new orphanage. My grandmother was too old and didn’t have enough money to take care of me. I was around 8 years old then. This orphanage was no better than the one before. Everyday felt like a battle for survival to me. Everyday I was afraid of being beaten up. It became so bad that I became bitter and violent. My temper was short. After being there for about six months, Sergei was placed in this orphanage. He was placed in the little children’s area of the orphanage. 

They showed me something I didn't usually see... love
The day Sergei came, I met my future parents, who were at the orphanage to adopt Kristina and Pasha. They showed me something that I didn’t usually I had fun with them until they had to leave. That’s when I became my brother’s keeper. I made sure that no one was going to touch him and if someone did, they were going to have to deal with me. Through out my stay at the orphanage I learned to defend myself and my brother, I skipped school, got in fights, learned to siphon gas, and steal. But about a year and a half after I met my future parents I was called into the director of the orphanage’s office and was told that i was going to be adopted.

I decided I would go to America
The long process of adoption began. It took what seemed to me like forever. Then finally I had to be taken to court in St. Petersburg, about 2 hours away. I had just turned 10. The law required me to go to court and decide for myself if I was going to be adopted or not. No matter what I decided, Sergei was going. I was excited and scared. For a second I thought I would stay in Russia but I couldn’t be separated from my brother. I decided I would go to America.

When I left court, I saw my new mother and father, and by new brother, Pasha. I was so excited. On the way back to the orphanage to pick up Sergei, I threw up on my mother's green dress and stained it. I was so scared she would be mad or that I would be in trouble, but nothing happened. After we picked up Sergei, we flew into Moscow. We went to the circus and lived like kings for the first time in my life.

Andrei and Sergei at the Russian Circus.

Andrei, Pasha, and Sergei in

I remember the first six months were hardest
Andrei (with Kristina) seeing his new home
for the first time.
I remember coming to my new home. Everyone was happy and everything was new. Even though I was in a new place, surrounded by new people, my old troubles and habits followed me. I was still angry and difficult to deal with. I remember the first six months were the hardest. Soon after coming to my new home (we were adopted in June), my whole family went to the beach where I met even more family. I was overwhelmed by the new people and the disability of not speaking their language. I would throw fits and curl up in a corner for hours. I would hurt myself. There was something about pain that brought comfort to me, something familiar. As the time passed, it became easier but it took years to break old habits.

Enjoying the beach.
First 4th of July with new siblings
and cousins.

School was difficult.
I remember that school was difficult. I went into third grade when school started in August. Language was a barrier but I was happy to be surrounded by my new friends. Many of those people are still my friends today. One in particular was Vasya Hillis. He was another boy who was adopted just several years before me. He and I became best friends and would always be together. Many things have changed over the years, but not my friendship with Vasya.

Andrei (on left with armor and sword) with his third grade class.
Andrei (right) with his best friend Vasya Hillis, son of
Susan and Brian Hillis.

I hope to major in business...

As time went by, things got better. I would be lying if I said my old “demons” left me but it’s a daily struggle even to this day. As I moved from elementary school to middle school, to high school, I became more involved in things. Currently I am 19 years old and looking forward to starting college in a few months. I serve on the sound team and am a youth group leader at Northlands Church. I was involved in Cross Country and student leadership at St. Pius X Catholic High School. I served as a worship leader both for my Christian middle school and in youth group. I served as a children’s church leader as well. Through my involvement, I've learned many skills that will help me in life. In college, I hope to major in business while taking ROTC and then join the army.
Serving on the sound/media team at church.
Running Cross Country at St. Pius H.S.

God never fails to reveal something in my time of need.

Andrei (in red towel) and his brothers being prayed
over after being baptized.
After my adoption I learned quite a few things about God. There has to be a reason why I went through the things that I went through. Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:19 “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you declares the Lord.” Time will tell what God’s plans are for me. John 13:7 says, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” I’m heavily involved with the church. I’ve made personal commitments to help others and to bring them closer to Christ. My faith is a constant struggle because of my past but God never fails to reveal something in my time of need. He has given me many words over the years from many people that I look up to. I have heard His voice and guidance on many occasions. If it was not for hearing His voice I would not be the person that I am today. One day everything that I went through will have a meaning and a purpose. Jeremiah 1:17 says, "Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."


  1. Andrei, thanks for sharing your story. I admire the man that you are and everything God is doing in your life. You've got wisdom beyond your years and God's given you such strength and humility. I am proud to know you!


  2. Andre - I just LOVE how honest and full of hope you are! You rock!!!! The verses you end with were such an encouragement to me. There is nothing more powerful than God's are using it like a sharp sword!

  3. Thank you Andre! Your life story is an encouragement to me and others! I so enjoyed reading your account and am looking forward to hearing the rest of your story in years to come! the Lord bless you as you head off to college! His hand is evident in your life!

  4. Andrei - fantastic! Such an incredible journey so far, and so much hope and promise for an even more amazing future!

  5. Most families send picture and letters through email. Some celebrate holidays together. I know one couple even who babysit for their now 3 year old daughter! click here