The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.
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Bu məqalə Google Translate servisi vasitəsi ilə avtomatik olaraq rus dilindən azərbaycan dilinə tərcümə olunmuşdur. Bundan sonra mətn redaktə edilməmişdir.

Lost childhood and emptiness: why Americans adopted by children return to Russia

In the 90 years of the last millennium, American families adopted more than 60 thousand Russian children. From 2000 of the year, approximately 3-5 of thousands of orphans went to America to their new parents, until in 2012 in Russia they passed the law, which is now known to everyone as the “Dima Yakovlev Law”. It prohibits the adoption of children by American citizens.

Фото: Depositphotos

Present Tense collected the stories of three girls who were adopted by their parents from the USA as children. Now they are adult girls and are in Russia, some temporarily and some forever.


Elena Deidra O`Hulahan was born in Ulyanovsk 32 years ago. The girl was three years old when she and two younger brothers were taken from her mother. The woman gave birth to four children from three different men and for a long time left the kids alone, locked in the apartment. The youngest was only a year old. Relatives then said that this behavior of the mother was forced, she had to go to work. But Elena says that she has this version in doubt.

One way or another, but one day neighbors found out about the locked children and reported to the social service. Two brothers and Lena were sent to an orphanage. Another girl, Elena's younger sister, stayed with her mother. Why such a decision was made - “to take away” three children and leave one - Elena does not know. No one visited them with their brothers in the orphanage. So eight long years passed.

“All I always knew about my parents was that they were alcoholics and bad people,” Elena recalls. - But in the orphanage it was also unbearable. I still cannot understand why none of the relatives wanted to take us from there. We seem to have been forgotten. See the scar on your forehead? I was sitting at the table, something fell and I reached out to get it. The teacher came up and hit me backhand. For no reason. And similar things happened to me and my brothers all the time. The orphanage workers beat us, verbally humiliated us, took away the things we were entitled to: clothes from social assistance, gifts for the New Year ... "

On the subject: From the orphanage to Boston University: the story of a disabled orphans from Russia adopted by Americans

Elena says that she and the brothers survived sexual abuse. The brothers, having matured, remembered dryly about this, without going into details. Elena herself only in adulthood realized what was happening to her. Memories surged across her suddenly:

“I don't understand what triggered it, but I suddenly remembered that man clearly. I don't know who he was: either he worked there, or he came to someone. He raped me for several years, when I was six or seven. He caught me everywhere: in an orphanage, on the street, at school. I touched it. I could not help it, because no one explained to me what was normal and what was not ”.

Lena and her brothers no longer hoped that they would be adopted: the girl was 11 years old, and foreigners, as a rule, opted for very young children. Clancy O`Hulahan, an 50-year-old military man, arrived in Ulyanovsk and adopted eight children at once - including Lena and his brothers. She recalls how they first ate at McDonald's in Moscow, walked, took pictures, and then flew on a plane for a long time.

So Russian children and an American began to live together. Not without problems, of course: Lena says that the adopted children fought among themselves, there were sometimes “real battles” in the house. But this did not frighten Clancy: he already had three adopted children, later he adopted several more - Elena recalls that at some point the number of adopted children in the house reached 18 people. The single father was helped by his friends and relatives.

Now Elena is divorced, works as a lawyer in a government organization for pensioners, she has a small daughter. About three years ago, Elena, with the help of a friend in Ulyanovsk, found her sister. She was adopted by another family. It turned out that she did not know that she had a sister and two brothers in America. The girls started chatting on Facebook: so Elena found out that her biological mother was still alive.

“My sister maintained a relationship with her that could not be called prosperous,” says Elena bitterly. - But when my mother found out that we had found each other, she practically stopped communicating with her sister. Through my sister, I sent my mother photographs, letters, in which I said that I was not angry and would like to communicate. She did not answer any of them. It feels like she hated us for finding her. ”

It was not possible to see each other: Elena's mother died in November 2018, leaving behind only one photo - on her passport. When Elena found out about her death, she sent her sister money to help with the funeral. Now the sisters continue to communicate, the American is still eagerly trying to find information about her past. She hoped to talk with her grandmother - but she also died. There are other relatives through whom it may be possible to find out at least something. For example, if Elena’s biological father is alive, nothing is known about him at all.

On the subject: Peculiarities of the American Mentality, or Why Ours Feel Awkward

“Of course, losing the past is awful,” says Elena. - Even doctors in America ask me: "Did you have this disease in your family?" I answer: "I don't know, I am an adopted child."

Three years ago, in a dream, Elena’s younger brother died. He has had health problems since childhood. Sister very hard suffered his departure. But, getting used to pull herself together, she continued to live.

“I could hide in an imaginary 'corner' and live until the end of my days in order to think about my grief, thereby prolonging it,” she says. - But it's useless. Looking back on my experience, I can say for sure: I could not have adopted children from Russian orphanages. Their life is so hard, they are so broken and not accustomed to family and independence, that they almost always become a problem for their new families. Yes, 20 years have passed since our departure, but - oh, God! - Russia still has the same president, what changes can we talk about? Therefore, I am sure: nothing has changed in the system since then. ”


In the summer of 2019, the 29-year-old Masha Cook from Minneapolis arrived in the small Karelian city of Suoyarvi. Her biological mother still lives there. She was found thanks to a group for foster children from Russia and Ukraine on Facebook: Masha joined her three years ago, told her story - and after a few days the organizers contacted her.

“They wrote to me at night: they said that they had found my biological parents and that I could talk to my mother on Skype right now,” Masha says excitedly. - She was found thanks to social networks: some woman in the local community wrote that she remembers our family, and gave her mother's contacts. I saw her on my monitor: my mother was crying, she said: "My God!" - and asked me to come to Russia so that she could explain everything to me. Then I had not yet studied Russian, my friend was translating our conversation. Since then I have lived only with these thoughts for three years: I studied Russian, prepared documents and thought about how they would meet me at home.

Masha’s father did not live to see him: he died in the 2017 year. When the girl arrived in her hometown, she could not find his grave. Until the last day he drank. Masha’s biological mother also drinks heavily. The girl was in a hurry to Russia: she was hinted that her mother might not live up to her arrival.

The childhood of Masha, her brother Vladik and sister Vika was terrible. Their parents, who at that time were not even thirty, disappeared for weeks, drank and brought strangers into the house. Mother was engaged in prostitution, children often saw strangers. They raped older children. Masha does not remember this, but she knows from the stories of her brother and sister that strangers did inadmissible things with them. Vlad was seven years old, Vika was five, Masha was three years old.

“When the guardianship authorities seized us, I was on the verge of death,” Masha says. - I developed muscular dystrophy: I could not even get out of bed, my skin seemed to rot, plus severe dehydration. Later they told me that because of hunger I could no longer even cry. My brother and sister brought me food - they were fed by neighbors, people on the streets. Everyone knew us, so the arguments of the parents in court that "everything is fine with us and the children are well fed" obviously did not work. "

In the hospital, the girl was nursed for several months, and then sent to an orphanage, where Vladik and Vika were already. The father visited the children, but rarely: after the deprivation of guardianship, he, according to acquaintances, began to grieve and washed down even more.

“Of course, it was hard, to put it mildly, in the provincial orphanage in the 90s,” Masha recalls. “Three years after we got there, we were told that an American family wanted to adopt us.”

Later, their American father Craig told his adopted daughters and son that he saw three Russian children in a dream: two girls and a boy. Therefore, when a friend from the adoption agency between times showed him a photograph of Vika, Vladik and Masha, he shouted: “It's them! These are my children! ”.

“Judy, our mother, was all for it,” adds Masha.

On the subject: Sad statistics: calculated the scale of adoption of Russian children by foreigners

The first thing that struck Russian children in America was chewing gum. New and tasty. In Suoyarvi, Vladik and Vika, wandering around, unfastened the chewing gum from the sidewalks. The main thing that American parents had to teach their children to is love. They did not know what it was. Two years later, Craig and Judy adopted three more children from Russia, and after some time - one seriously ill child from Minnesota.

“When my plane landed in Russia this summer, I caught myself feeling that I was finally at home,” Masha shares. - It didn’t seem unusual to me what I saw around. It's like a good friend with whom you somehow lost touch for many years: he is still inside you, you talk to him. I went to Suojärvi with friends: I tried to go there without expectations, so as not to get upset later. Mom knew that we would come, but despite this, she was already drunk. Seeing me, she ran up and began to sob. Me too, of course. But we still couldn’t talk: I’m just learning Russian, and she’s already having difficulty pronouncing words. When I showed our album from America with children's photos, I understood from her absent look: where am I, and where is Vika, she does not understand. ”

Vika died last fall. She was 30 years old, she drank a lot, and the liver could not stand it. Unfortunately, neither Vika nor Vladik, having matured, could cope with the past, says Masha. The brother stopped communicating with the sisters a few years ago.

“He said that when he looked at us, he remembered everything that happened to him in Russia. Vika was also very hard, I saw it. But when I said about her death in Suojärvi, there was almost no reaction. "Oh, died?" - only our mother said. "

After meeting with her biological mother, Masha returned broken, a real depression began. She did not stop feeling emptiness, but felt it only stronger. But in Suojärvi, she met her uncle, her father’s brother, and those same neighbors who helped children in childhood. Masha says that the thought of these people warms her and she hopes to keep in touch with them.

“Of course, all these years I have lived with sadness and wondered if my mother thinks about us at least sometimes, does she remember? But she is no longer quite human, alas. And he doesn't feel what we have felt all these years. Do I forgive her? I've forgiven a long time ago. My American mother wrote her a letter, her friends will translate it into Russian and give it to her. I wish she would care. ”

Despite the fact that childhood ghosts are still attacking Masha: she sleeps very poorly, panic attacks constantly occur - the girl is set up for a happy life. In September, she marries a childhood friend.

On the subject: How do children live in America, adopted to "the law of Dima Yakovlev"

Rewrite Memories

29-year-old Alexandra (the name of the heroine was changed at her request) only remembers her mother because she had red-red hair. Since the Americans adopted her, Sasha has not seen her biological parents. Father died shortly after his two daughters were in an orphanage. He worked at a university in St. Petersburg. Upon learning that the former wife and mother of his children were deprived of parental rights (he was not included in the birth certificates), he washed down and died.

The girls' mother died four years after the children were taken away from her. Guardianship came for them due to constant beatings, drunkenness and hunger. Sasha says that her head then, at the age of four, was "twice the size of her body." And I was hungry all the time. In total, their mother had five children: two girls sent to the orphanage had a brother and three sisters, one of whom died. But the older children no longer lived at home.

Sasha remembers how the guardianship officers came to take them away, and her mother put a pack of photographs at the door and told her daughters to “go with their aunts to rest,” promising that she would catch up with them. But she did not catch up. And then I never came to the orphanage. A pack of photographs was forgotten at the door.

In the last years of their life, their mother wandered, drank - as a result, she was found dead on the street. Buried at the expense of the state. On a modest grave - a small tablet with the name and surname. When Sasha, having picked up the archives in 2016, found the cemetery in her native Peterhof, she did not immediately find where her mother was resting.

“I remember yelling at her,” the girl says about her visit to the grave. - Sobbed, howled, tried to express everything that she wanted to say during these years. But at the same time I told her “thank you” that I do not blame her for what happened, I do not hold any grudge. That conversation in the cemetery was an important step towards my psychological recovery. "

Mother died in the 1998 year, but Sasha found out about this only after 16 years. All these years, she imagined how she would come to Russia, find her mother and ask why they had left her and her sister.

On the subject: How do children from Russia live in the USA?

The girls moved to the United States in 1995 with three more children from Russia, who were adopted by their new parents. The family asked not to remember Russia: "You are now in America, you have a new life." Sasha believes that this had the opposite effect: at the age of 11, she decided that she would definitely return to her homeland and work in an orphanage. At the university she entered the faculty where they taught Russian. And then she went to Russia to study in exchange - 16 years after leaving for America.

“I came to St. Petersburg and was terribly scared,” Sasha recalls. - I remember how on the street I was covered by a wave of a familiar smell, which I felt so deeply that I was horrified. Days passed, and this state did not go away. I studied, made new friends, went to a cafe, but I could not get rid of this feeling. In the end, I went to the same orphanage. They remembered me there and my photograph hung on the stand dedicated to foreign foster families. I began to volunteer, was an English tutor, and it seemed to me that it felt better: I felt that I could count on help there. But the longer I was in the orphanage, the deeper I plunged into an emotional pit, where it was dark and eerie. I got scared and stopped going there. ”

Sasha barely reached the end of that school year. Her state of mind left much to be desired: she got drunk to unconsciousness and forgot about safety. At that time, she did not learn anything about biological parents - there was no strength. I decided that I could only step back in America. There, having come to her senses a little and started going to the psychotherapist, Sasha applied for a scholarship, which after graduation would allow her to go to Russia and teach English there for a year.

“I sent the application, suffering. I didn't know if I could cope with another year in Russia, because the previous one resulted in an emotional and physical catastrophe, in a real psychotrauma. Without making a decision, I asked God to give me a sign. And when the scholarship was approved, a week before leaving, I heard his voice in my head at the service in the church. He told me that there is no need to be afraid. I stopped. And, leaving, I experienced complete peace. "

In a language camp where she worked in Russia, Sasha met her future husband. After 2,5 years of relations at a distance, Sasha confirmed Russian citizenship and a passport, and she with five suitcases moved to Russia and got married. American parents also came to the ceremony. Initially, they were against Sasha’s intentions to return, but having met her fiancé and his family, they became warmer. At the wedding was Sasha’s biological older brother, who was found.

“Eight years ago, when I first went to Russia and began to think about moving, my parents worried about me: they were afraid that all this would bring me pain,” says Sasha. “But after a few years, seeing how glad I am to be back and how my life was getting better at home, they calmed down. I regularly visit them and call them. ”

On the subject: Love story: how an orphan from Ukraine found fate in the USA

The eldest children of their mothers, who escaped the orphanage, now communicate with Sasha. One of the sisters lives near Moscow, one - abroad. Brother, like Sasha, in St. Petersburg.

“How are the sisters and brother living now? I will not go into details, I will only say that they have not yet managed to fully cope with the emotional burden that our childhood has placed on them. But we try to keep in touch. ”

Living in St. Petersburg, Sasha works in the same organization that helped other heroines of this material, Elena and Masha, to come home. He draws up new documents and helps to correct mistakes in old ones, as well as emotionally supports growing social orphans. People come to Russia and Ukraine from around the world: the group consists of more than a thousand people not only from America, but also from Canada, France, Italy, and other European countries. There are those who do not go to their homeland, but simply communicate in a group. Sasha says that support for foster children, albeit long overdue, is very important. As for foster parents, Sasha also works with them.

“Most of the adopted children are still in great pain,” she says. - Alas, it does not happen like this: you were transported to another country - and your life has changed dramatically. For example, we were not taken to psychologists in childhood. Therefore, it is important to talk about your past, to know it, not to be afraid to discuss it. I myself went through this state, so I know how to support people like me. "

Sasha mentions "Dima Yakovlev's law", adopted in 2012 and prohibiting the adoption of Russian children by US citizens. She says that she treats him in two ways: on the one hand, she has nothing against the fact that Americans who sincerely want it could adopt Russian children, on the other hand, she knows what it means to lose touch with the past.

“Losing your childhood, your culture, people, personality, in the end - you will not wish such an enemy. In an ideal world, all the children of the country should remain in it, but I would like to see children more often adopted in Russia. Only then will it be possible to talk about the real restoration of the nation, I think. ”

Sasha is now in her fifth month of pregnancy. She says that motherhood does not frighten her, because she “forgave” the sins of her mother and “rewrote” the memories of her biological parents:

“I want to become a mother who will leave her children faith, love and peace as an inheritance, and not the fear and pain that I got. My childhood was difficult, once it was difficult for my own mother. But she could not cope with herself, preferring to drink and take drugs so as not to feel anything. I can handle it. Because thanks to God, I want and can live in my homeland. ”

Read also on ForumDaily:

From the orphanage to Boston University: the story of a disabled orphans from Russia adopted by Americans

Peculiarities of the American Mentality, or Why Ours Feel Awkward

Sad statistics: calculated the scale of adoption of Russian children by foreigners

Love story: how an orphan from Ukraine found fate in the USA

How do children who were adopted before the "law of Dima Yakovlev" live in America?

USA Our people Homeland orphans
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