My Background and Involvement
As a Ukrainian adoptee, I grew up in a loving family ever since I was adopted at four years old. I don’t have many clear memories growing up in the orphanage, but more will be shared about my adoption and years prior to being adopted in another diary entry. I do remember being adopted and frightened by culture shock and strangers, but I immediately formed a trusted bond with my parents. I spoke the extent of Russian a four-year-old would know. However, I was delayed in many aspects of development due to malnourishment, neglect, and being tongue-tied until the age of three. At four-years-old, I was only 19 lbs. and could barely walk on my own. Though I learned English rather quickly, I was also delayed in school and held back in kindergarten another year. The impact of malnourishment, abandonment, and neglect remained with me through the years. I was constantly reminded of it when I struggled in my classes and in following general conversations due to a mental processing delay and other learning disabilities. Through the support of my parents and other people who cared to help me along the way, I was able to learn how to manage and cope with these disabilities. My parents made my adoption story something special. They were open and honest with me, while allowing me to be open and honest with them. This I believe impacted my entire perspective on being adopted because I would not have viewed it the same any other way. My developing faith as a follower of Jesus Christ has been foundational to my outlook on life and has brought me to endure through much heartache and loss. While I grew up fascinated with my Ukrainian nationality, I never was as excited to meet other adoptees as I was to meet other people from Ukraine. My family encountered the opportunity to foster a child for seven months. Long story short, we came to the point of loving her as our own over time, but circumstances didn’t allow for us to adopt her. This devastated me and triggered deep unaddressed emotions from pre-verbal memories of early childhood trauma. This was the first point in my life that I truly came to identify, accept, and address the internal conflict that brought on depression and anxiety. Through several years of counseling and mentoring of a few special people who invested in my growth as a person, I began healing while learning how to cope and manage my emotions and thought processes. This inspired me to pursue a career in mental health therapy. Through personal encounters, I’ve been allowed the opportunity for overseas engagement over the years in Panama, Ethiopia, Quebec, Uganda, Israel, and Ukraine. This also helped shape my entire outlook on life in deep meaningful ways with the privilege of getting to serve local ministries and refugees in those countries and also inspired me to pursue TESOL [Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages]. My desire is to one day engage in full-time ministry with Slavic communities somewhere in the world while using therapy and TESOL as a platform of outreach. One of many lessons I have learned in life is to never overlook or take for granted the people you cross paths with in life. It is the people and community involvement in places that has greatly impacted me in ways that I would have missed out on otherwise.
All my life, I’ve wondered about my birth family. Countless times since I was a child, I would look up at the sky and feel the closest to these people I never knew, because I knew in my heart that these people looked at the same sky and wondered about me. My feelings of curiosity outweighed my feelings of loss. The process of searching for and locating my birth family is a story for a separate diary entry. My reuniting with birth family is shared in Redemption Story Unfolding, which is an ongoing series of personal journaling I’ve written ever since I reunited with my birth family in Ukraine. Many of my diary entries relate to this part of my story, however, other aspects of my story and personal insights for adoptees are also included. The purpose of Redemption Story Unfolding is to inspire faith and hope, along with bringing a community together of shared life experiences in reuniting with birth family. Ever since having found my birth family, my whole world seemed to change and it has been a wonderful, exciting, unexpected, eventful, unpredictable, and challenging journey that I honestly would not change. It’s been a season of growth on so many levels for all people involved. I’m thankful to share Redemption Story Unfolding, which centers around my beautiful birth mother, Natalia. The least I can do is help her in furthering her dream to share her story with the world. I’m thankful to say this is a redemption story unfolding. My experiences in connecting with other birth family members will not be shared here for the sake of respecting their privacy. I want to give a big thanks to my parents for loving and supporting me all these years and through this journey.
In regards to my involvement with I’m Adopted, I discovered it online. As I was searching out other people’s stories of reuniting with their birth families, Alex Gilbert’s story on YouTube appeared and it inspired me to take the initiative of first steps in the search process for my birth family. I never sought out to interact with adoptee groups until I found I’m Adopted. This inspiration encouraged me to begin interacting with people in the I’m Adopted community. It’s been so special for me to meet others who have a passion for Ukrainian, Russian, and Slavic cultures. Surprisingly, I also didn’t realize how much I related to the feelings of other adoptees. I got involved with the I’m Adopted Talks and soon after that I became the U.S. Ambassador for Ukrainian adoptees. My passion is to seek to encourage, learn from, and relate to adoptees from all backgrounds in their journeys of life. I view this as an opportunity of walking alongside this journey of life as an adoptee with fellow adoptees and growing together to discover more about ourselves, the world around us, as well as exploring the meaning and purpose of life.