Searching for my family in Russia

This is the last in our blog series dedicated to Searching in Intercountry Adoption. These individual stories are being shared from our 원근법 종이 that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts

~에 의해 Raya Snow born in Russia, raised in Canada

I was born in the city of Ivanovo Oblast, Russia 1989. It is located North East of Moscow with a population of 361,641. After I was born, my mother and father moved to the Caucasus of Russia, Derbent. After I turned 3, my parents got divorced and my mother and I moved to Stavropol, North of the Caucuses. 

Eventually, my mother met another man and we started living together in a two bedroom apartment. He was a very abusive and narcissistic man who would abuse both my mother and myself. I believe my mother one day left him, leaving me in his care. Not being his blood relative, he shortly dropped me off to my mother’s great-aunt’s place. This is where my journey really unfolded. 

My great-great aunt ( Elvira), was a religious older woman whose life revolved around the church and God. We lived somewhat happily together, but I would always wonder about my mother and her whereabouts. Sometimes my mother would come to the house to see me, but those were always incredibly short visits. Due to her never being around, the neighbours started to question my health and education. Elvira then thought to start looking for a forever home for myself. 

I remember, she would advise me to be on my best behaviour, to listen well, in order for a family to take me or to buy me off of her. Being only about 5 years of age, I was very excited to be able to visit other families with children, play with them, and get to know them. Deep down in my heart, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay with them because some were far worse off than I was, living with my aunt. 

One day, there was a lady that came to the door, asking to speak to Elvira about a family from Canada wanting to adopt a little Russian girl. Elvira was so pleased about this news that she allowed the woman to take pictures of herself which she would then send to the family in Canada. The woman let us know there would be a man who would come in the following weeks to advise if the Canadian family was interested in the child, me. In the meantime, I was still going from home to home, to see if anyone showed any interest in purchasing me. 

A month or two later, there was another knock on our gate and as the lady mentioned, there was a man (George) who came to see Elvira and I. George brought us fruits and sweets which I would eat while the two were speaking intently. He let Elvira know that the Canadian family took an interest in me and was willing to pay a big sum in order to adopt me. She let him know the process would not be an easy one as all my documentation was lost in a car accident where both of my parents died tragically. 

According to her statement, I survived miraculously by the will of God. She then showed George the death certificate of my parents, leaving me, a little orphan in her will. George suggested we start the process by recreating new documents, stating my mother’s name and him as the biological father in my new birth certificate. 

Me, being this little girl, understanding that my mother will never return back to me, as she had left and I hadn’t seen her maybe for months, I felt a new adventure was about to unfold. George started coming by the house more often, gaining my trust and I his. We became great friends and I enjoyed having a “father figure” in my life. On the weekends, I would go over to his house and meet his wife and children, who took me in with open arms. 

A turning point was about to happen when Elvira spoke to our neighbours and let them know she was going to take the money and myself up West, to the Ural Mountains where the rest of our family resided. The neighbours were saddened by this news as I was a very malnourished little girl who needed attentive medical care, so they called George straight away and let him know the alarming news. George of course, called the potential family in Canada and let them know that they needed to save me and hide me while the rest of the documentation was being prepared. The Canadian family agreed and I was brought to a small city near Moscow, where the biological relatives of their family lived. There, I met my wonderful adoptive mom, with whom I gained an instantaneous attachment because of desperately wanting to feel loved and cared for. 

I believe I lived with the family in Moscow for about 6 months. While my documents were getting done, I started attending pre-school, spent time with relatives on the weekends, went to church on Sundays and welcomed a new package from my Canadian family every few weeks or so. 

It was sometime in June when George came back into my life again. This time, we were going to begin our travels to Canada. The process was a very tricky one, I had to learn to call him “dad” and he would call me “daughter”.  George let me know that we had to fake a bond, where authorities would not be able to question our relationship to one another. Our lives were at stake if any one of us did something questionable, I could be sent to an orphanage and he to prison. 

We first began our trip to Moscow, where we stayed at George’s blind father’s place for a few days before heading out on a Cargo ship to Turkey. I remember the ship well and I grew fond of the people in it. Once we reached Turkey, we took a flight to France which I don’t have any memories of, and from there we flew to Canada. 

Once we got off the flight, I could see in the hallway above me, there were many people waiting to greet their loved ones. My adoptive parents were one of those people, who were waiting with balloons and a cam-recorder for that very first hug. George and my adoptive mom ended up getting married and this “happy” ending lasted for a couple more years until George and my adoptive mom separated (finalised the divorce) and then she claimed full custody of me. 

Twenty-five years went by, I started on my search for my biological parents which I have found with great success. I had help through a friend of my adoptive mom who was able to help me find my biological mother on a Russian app. I have found my biological mother, who is still well and alive with a beautiful, big family who has been supporting her throughout the loss of her child, me. I have also reconnected with my biological father, whom I found through a Russian tv show and he had been at war in 1994 – 1996 between the Chechens and the Russians. After the war ended, he began his search for me, with no leading answers on my whereabouts or my biological mother from Elvira. 

This is a true story. It is a story of grief, loss, abandonment and also happiness. I would like to bring awareness that abduction happens, that childhood trafficking exists and it needs to be spoken about. Adoptees are lacking support in those areas as we are terrified to speak about our truths and what the truth might do to those surrounding us. 

This is a new era, a space to bring light to our journeys, to the eyes of our governments, our adopters, adoption organisations and our peers. Let’s start creating legal changes through advocacy and the support of our fellow adoptees! Together, let’s share our truths!

자원

국제 입양에서의 탐색과 재결합

Searching for my family in Sri Lanka

The following blog series will be dedicated to our Searching in Intercountry Adoption series. These individual stories are being shared from our 원근법 종이 that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts.

~에 의해 개비 베클리, born in Sri Lanka, raised in Australia

When I cook, standing in my kitchen, surrounded by the scents and smells of Sri Lankan spices, curries and dhals, I am transported back to one of my first memories of meeting my Amma in her small smokey kitchen back in the year 2000. I then fast forward to 2019, sitting in my younger sisters apartment watching her cook, being entranced by the smells, laughter and life coming from her kitchen in her home.

My life has taken so many unexpected twists and turns. I reflect upon the different versions of myself through my search and reunion with my family. I reflect at the past global climate when Sri Lanka was in the grips of a bloody civil war war and what life is like now amidst the current political instability.

I think of choices parents make for their children and the hopes and dreams we have for them. I know we all share a common thread, we want our children to be happy, healthy and content with life. I know that is what my Amma and Thatha want(ed) for me and my siblings and I know that is what I want for my children.

Yet the complex psychosocial strings that took me away from my first family and weaved a complex narrative in my second, continues to undo and reconnect as I attempt to parent my own and leaves me feeling some days like I have an understanding of what’s going on, yet most days, I struggle to make sense of it all.

My story is mine to tell, yet I am only one part of a multitude of layers, stories and connections. To tell my story is to honour my first family’s story. Our story is a love story of two people shaped by an extreme set of extraordinary circumstances that include war, love, poverty and hope. Then my second family who also experienced war, love, loss, trauma and hope; and finally the family that I have created, also has love, loss, hope and possibilities.

The way that I comprehend searching for my family is it has always been about finding out who I am, recognising the person staring back at me in the mirror and understanding who I am as a person and how I relate to the world. 

Searching for me is coming to understand it doesn’t stop when you have the answer  to your prayers, it’s then understanding and building relationships with the people who share your bloodlines and those that don’t. It’s accepting the choices that people made ‘in your best interests’ and placing those choices with the people that made them and not on myself.

Searching over the past 23 years has been important, life affirming and life saving. I have now know my first family longer than I haven’t known them — and for me that’s important milestone because it helps me understand the complex person within.

I know the trauma of that first great loss in my life has impacted my whole life. I want to bust the myth that love it s enough to conquer the hurt, pain and the trauma — it is not. 

Connection, meaningful connections and conversations, intentional understanding, acceptance, trauma informed care and a safe space to feel my feelings is what I have needed. Finding purpose and meaning in my life has come from reuniting with my family, culture and kin. I know what it is like to walk the walk and I know why it’s important to give back and assist others in their journey of healing.

Searching has never been the end goal, searching is part of the healing journey I take every day.

Coming Next: Searching for my family in Russia

자원

국제 입양에서의 탐색과 재결합

콜롬비아에서 가족 찾기

The following blog series will be dedicated to our Searching in Intercountry Adoption series. These individual stories are being shared from our 원근법 종이 that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts.

~에 의해 Jose Taborda, born in Colombia, raised in the USA

First journal entry by my adoptive mother

In the spring of 1978, I was born in Medellin, Colombia. Separated from my first family by adoption, I was brought by my adoptive parents to New Jersey and grew up with my younger adoptive sister in a Northern New Jersey suburb just outside of New York City.

I was lucky as an adoptee because my adoptive parents made a conscious decision to talk to me about my adoption from an early age. They attended a couple of workshops about adopting a child offered by an adoption agency prior to my adoption where they had been counselled to inform me as soon as possible about my adoption so as to normalise it for me. This advice informed their approach in terms of collecting information and artefacts of my adoption. This included stories of my adoption in Colombia in the form of journal entries written by my adoptive mother, a photograph of my first mother, and my adoption records containing identifying information about my first mother. 

Upon refection, it wasn’t just luck and good advice, my parents were compassionate people who made the decision to share what they knew about my origins with me throughout my life. They had the right instincts that led them not only to send me a dossier containing every artefact about my adoption while I was in college and I first expressed an interest in searching, but also to support my search when I began. 

 When I moved to New York City in my mid-twenties, I started searching. At the time, I had a Yahoo! Email account and noticed that it offered searchable interest groups. There was a group called Colombian Adoptee Search and Support (CASAS), which gathered many people like me: twenty-something Colombian adoptees who grew up around New York City and living in the area! I was shocked to find hundreds of people who were sharing resources about searching, so I started making connections and attending meetups and dinners in Brooklyn and Manhattan where we enjoyed sharing stories and Latino fare. 

Through these meetups, I had gotten the contact information of a private investigator in Medellin with whom I started to interact about my search. Because I had identifying information about my first mother, it took him two weeks to find her. A couple weeks after that, I had my first phone call with her. As one can imagine, finding my first mother within a month of beginning my search was all a whirlwind and very overwhelming. My excitement got the best of me, and I dove right into making plans for a reunion. Well, all of this came as a shock to my adoptive mother and sister, who weren’t as excited as me. They felt threatened by my news. I remember spending a lot of time convincing them that I wasn’t trying to replace them, but rather, it would be an opportunity to learn about my origins. They were not convinced that it was so simple. Searching for first family by adoptees may bring up many past trauma wounds for all members of the adoption constellation. I have heard stories of adoptees shying away from doing any searching while their adoptive parents are still alive due to the raw emotions around adoption that are very rarely acknowledged and dealt with during an adoptive family’s time living together. And when the possibility of a reunion arises, adoptees may find themselves having to reckon with these complicated emotions. This reckoning is not our responsibility as adoptees, but it may be an unanticipated and unwelcome reality that adoptees must face when searching and reuniting with first family.

Coincidentally, the film “Las Hijas” was going to be screened. It was timely that Maria Quiroga, a local filmmaker, was releasing the film profiling three female Colombian adoptees and their reunions with first family.  So I invited my mother and sister to join me. It was an interesting experience because the filmmaker handled the subject matter responsibly in presenting the reality of how complicated reunions between adoptees and first family can be. It helped to see this objective perspective on the emotionally charged situation that was playing out for us. It provided a context for our sensitive conversations, and it helped us to understand that we were not the only ones experiencing the feelings we were. Despite all of that, we continued to have conversations that required my soothing their frayed feelings around my upcoming reunion. 

One thing that stands out for me now sixteen years later as I reflect on my reunion as a young man, is that I did not pursue any mental health support to guide me on that complicated endeavour. In my local adoptee community, the discussion was more centred on the topic of search and reunion in my memory and not as much on adoption mental health issues. However, I acknowledge there is a high likelihood my antenna wasn’t tuned to that particular signal, so to speak. More recently, I have read a lot of highly-respected literature about adoption and mental health including 원초적인 상처 by Nancy Verrier and 입양된 자아의 여정 by Betty Jean Lifton to name a couple of outstanding examples. I am a regular listener to adoptee podcasts including 입양인 with host Haley Radke and 적응 with host Kaomi Lee among others. I have met many adoptees and I am lucky to live close to an adoptee organization called Also Known As, Inc. that hosts meet ups for transracial, intercountry adoptees. Wise adoptees and adoption professionals these days counsel adoptees who are engaged in reunion to set some boundaries that include having a third-party present during reunion meetings, not staying with first family right away, and pursuing therapy before, during, and after reunion. I did none of those things. 

All of this gathering of resources and self-education on the intersection of adoption and mental health has demonstrated to me that I took a very impetuous, uninformed, and quite risky path on my reunion journey. I stayed with my first mother and her family for three weeks at their home in an outlying municipality of Medellin. I do have very positive memories from my first visit in 2006 that led me to return in the two subsequent years. However, somewhere down the line some members of my first family started to develop expectations that involved money. It was not much at first, but, with time, their boldness grew. This expectation made me uncomfortable because I didn’t want to have to explain to any of them that I am a professional in a field that is not very highly-compensated. To them, I was just the more fortunate one who was able to escape their humble circumstances. No matter how difficult my personal situation was, they are right that I had many more opportunities in the U.S. than they did in Colombia, but I did not feel that it was my responsibility to have to provide for them. I wanted to just get to know them knowing that it would take time to develop a family bond. Truly, I faced hard feelings when they asked for money and that made things very confusing for me. While I know that my experience is not unique, I wished that it wasn’t part of my reunion story. At some point, I stopped contacting them because it all became too much for me. This is where an intervention such as adoption-focused therapy would have been helpful. 

Some years passed and I turned the page on my adoption by quite literally ceasing to think about my adoption and pausing all the actions I had taken to learn about my origins during my twenties. I turned thirty, I got married and became a new father, and I wanted to focus on my new family in Brooklyn. I was also in graduate school, so juggling responsibilities was the theme starting in 2010. Since that time, a lot has changed.

Nowadays, I am divorced, I am co-parenting a budding teenager, and I have settled into a career as a college educator. As I moved into middle-age, I became more introspective, and I found myself interrogating some difficult feelings that felt like depression and anxiety. When I realised that I did not have easy answers to that line of inquiry, I began searching for ways to remove barriers to happiness that had started showing up. It started to dawn on me that my adoption may be the cause of some of my bad decisions in life and the source of a feeling of malaise that crept in every now and again. I remember once sitting on a beach in the Rockaways with my best friend and confidant of many years and reflecting out loud that I should look into therapy for adoption to try to answer some nagging questions. 

About six months after that conversation in 2021, I got around to doing some basic internet searching and was amazed by what I found. There was so much work that had been done in the intervening years since I started my search. As I previously mentioned, I went down a path of self-education, I engaged in some adoption-focused group therapy, and I have been attending online and in-person support groups made up of adoptees since that discovery. I have learned so much about myself and adoption since I started to reconnect to my adopted-self. Some of it has been difficult, but I am very happy to have opened myself up to feel, meditate, inquire, grieve, and build community. It is cliche, but I wish I knew during my reunion and prior what I know now. 

In short, I hope that adoptees who are on the bold path of searching and reuniting with first family will take careful, well-informed steps. I know from my experience that there are no easy answers, and reunion may be when many hard questions rise to the surface. However, that search for the discovery and recovery of self and identity is worth it all because even if one does not find first family, there is so much to learn about oneself along the way. 

I hope that adoptees take the time to explore all of the particular intersections of adoption and mental health including, but not limited to, the Primal Wound theory, the post-traumatic stress implications of adoption, ambiguous loss, and the Adoptee Consciousness Model. Most definitely read the two books by Verrier and Lifton previously mentioned. Check out Damon Davis’ podcast Who Am I Really?, and the two others previously mentioned. Read JaeRan Kim’s brilliant blog 할로우의 원숭이. If looking for a therapist in the U.S., check out Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker’s adoptee therapist directory curated on her website Grow Beyond Words. If one does not have the money to pursue therapy, there are plenty of books, podcasts, and support groups that could provide information and resources helpful in informing decisions around searching, finding, and reunion with first family. Just start checking out all of the amazing resources on Lynelle Long’s comprehensive treasure of a website 국가간 입양인의 목소리. Search on Facebook for a group you can join that holds online support groups, or, even better, search for a local group in your area to meet up in person with adoptees. A great place to search for a local group in the USA is on Pamela A. Karanova’s website Adoptees Connect

The above is just a cursory glance at some of the most salient resources I have found that have nourished my soul as I step into more consciousness about my adoption on my journey of self-discovery. My greatest hope is that someone reading these words may find something in them to hold onto. 

Coming Next: 중국에서 가족 찾기

자원

국제 입양에서의 탐색과 재결합

입양인 전문가 웨비나에 의한 해외 입양 검색

On 23 April 2023, ICAV ran a panel webinar to bring you the expertise of our Search professionals around the world, sharing their best words of wisdom for what to consider when undergoing searching in intercountry adoption. They directly represented adoptee organisations from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Sth Korea, Haiti, Colombia and Greece.

Watch the webinar here:
참고: Chrome에서 보는 경우 동영상을 보려면 자세히 알아보기 버튼을 클릭하세요.

Timecode

For those who are time poor and want to skip to the sections that are relevant, here is a timecode to assist:

00:20 Intro, Welcome, Purpose
04:30 Intro of panelists
04:39 Marcia Engel
06:48 Rebecca Payot
09:29 Jonas Desír
10:25 Linda Carol Trotter
12:55 Kayla Curtis
15:22 Hilbrand Westra
17:44 Benoît Vermeerbergen
21:00 Celin Fässler

Questions / Answers

23:28 What does the general search process involve? – Kayla
27:30 What should adoptees to do prepare? – Linda, Marcia
35:51 What are some of the outcomes? – Jonas, Kayla, Linda
46:50 Some possible barriers to expect? – Rebecca, Linda
56:51 What ethics to consider? – Marcia, Kayla
1:06:40 What should a search cost? – Rebecca, Linda, Celin
1:11:46 Who to trust? Hilbrand, Jonas
1:16:16 What issues to consider in DNA testing? – Benoît
1:19:18 What outcomes can result with DNA testing? – Benoît
1:20:40 What DNA tests do you recommend? Benoït, Marcia
1:23:51 What are the advantages of using an adoptee led search org? – Celin, Marcia
1:28:28 What was involved in becoming a trusted Government funded search org? – Celin
1:30:36 What is needed most from Governments to help adoptees in our searching? – Hilbrand, Marcia

Summary of Key Messages

딸깍 하는 소리 여기 for a pdf of our Key Messages from each panelist

자원

Huge thanks to the 26 adoptees who wanted to share their experiences of searching so that others can gain a deeper understanding. They represent experiences of 13 birth countries (China, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam), sent to 9 adoptive countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Scotland, Sweden, UK, USA).

ICAVs newest Perspective Paper on Searching in Intercountry Adoption

For more resources, see our Searching & Reunion page

스페인의 왕자

나는 스페인의 왕자
나는 땅을 가로질러 걷는다
사람들이 보는 앞에서
내 신분은 문제가 되지 않는다
그 근원의 힘
대륙만큼 확실하다
바다 위에 앉아

나는 스페인의 왕자
나는 세월의 눈을 통해 본다
나는 내 유산의 부름에 복종한다
그녀는 내 머리를 불다
6월의 바람처럼 
그녀의 노래는 조수
나를 통해 새로운 날마다

나는 스페인의 왕자
나는 나의 왕처럼 키가 크다
빨간색과 노란색 파도
그리고 내 마음도 함께
재물, 이 광활한 광야
좋은 사람들을 장식하다
나는 그 중 하나입니다
네, 저는 하나입니다

 스페인의 왕자
 (프린시페 데 에스파냐) 
제이. 알론소
루브린, 에스파냐 
(c) j.alonso 2019

j.alonso의 시는 저자의 서면 동의 없이 복제, 복사 또는 배포할 수 없습니다.

                                  

발췌: 이란인 아버지에게 보내는 첫 번째 편지

내 조국으로의 귀환 -이란, 마샤드

내가 자란 스웨덴에서는 나 같은 사람들이 채택 된. 입양한 것을 쉽게 알 수 있습니다. 우리는 멀리 어딘가에서 온 것처럼 보이지만 우리의 모국어나 문화를 모릅니다. 이것은 우리가 가는 곳마다 혼란을 야기합니다. 또한 우리 내부에 혼란을 야기합니다.

우리는 누구인가? 나는 누구인가?

우리는 슬픔을 공유하자마자 우리가 새로운 놀라운 나라와 친절한 양부모에게 감사해야 한다는 말을 듣기 때문에 우리의 트라우마를 조용히 슬퍼합니다.

이것은 스웨덴의 생물학적 아동이 결코 들을 수 없는 것입니다. 스웨덴에 사는 것에 감사해야 한다는 것입니다! 이것은 다른 모든 사람에 비해 덜 가치가 있다는 느낌을 줍니다. 우리는 동료들과 다른 조건으로 스웨덴에 존재합니다. 조건부라는 것. 많은 경우에 양부모는 우리를 잘 돌보지 않았습니다. 그들은 우리의 트라우마를 무시했습니다. 그리고 그들은 우리 모두가 어린이와 성인으로서 견뎌야 하는 인종차별을 이해하지 못했습니다. 우리는 보호받지 못했습니다. 우리는 공정한 게임이었다.

입양되면 때때로 어머니를 생각하며 슬퍼합니다. 어떤 이유에서인지 당신은 아버지에 대해 별로 생각하지 않습니다. 우리의 어머니가 무지하고 어리고, 마약 중독자일 수도 있고, 매춘부일 수도 있다는 인상을 받았기 때문이라고 생각합니다. 그리고 우리 아빠는 그저 좋은 친구였다는 걸. 그런데 매춘과 관련된 부분은 입양아들이 어렸을 때 물려받는다는 이야기의 일부다. “네 나라에 있었다면 창녀가 되었을 텐데 왜 고맙지 않느냐!” 이 메시지가 우리에게 어떤 영향을 미치는지 상상할 수 있습니까?!

아빠, 다른 입양인 대부분처럼 나도 엄마에 대해 궁금해하며 시간을 보냈지만 과거에 당신에 대해 생각해 본 적이 있는지 모르겠습니다. 지금, 나는 항상 당신에 대해 생각합니다.

에 대한 사라

이란인 아버지의 첫 선물

진실을 알고자 하는 입양인의 욕구

오늘 저는 벨기에에서 자란 ICAV 회원인 인도 국제 입양인의 강력한 삶의 경험을 나누고 싶습니다. 입양 전 자신의 삶의 진실을 알고자 하는 그녀의 열망에 대해 기꺼이 공유하고자 합니다.

인도에서 입양되어 유전적 가족을 찾는 것이 일반적으로 매우 어렵습니다. 이는 문서 부족 및/또는 출생 국가 또는 입양 국가의 문서 진실과 함께 수색 및 재결합을 촉진하는 데 거의 도움이 되지 않는 인도 국제 입양법과 같은 다양한 이유 때문입니다.

Serafina의 이야기가 보여주는 것은 그녀가 그녀에게 들은 모든 것에 기꺼이 의문을 제기했기 때문에 때때로 결과가 예상하지 못했다는 것입니다.

독서를 즐기십시오 세라피나의 이야기 그녀의 여정과 그녀가 전하고 싶은 메시지를 직접 확인해보세요!

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