Like most Americans, I remember the images of Romanian orphanages under Ceausescu’s rule. I was appalled by the pictures of starved children, rocking, sitting, and lying in wooden cribs. At the time, I could only imagine how these children had survived…or had they?
When we made the decision to adopt internationally, I remember thinking I didn’t want to adopt from a former iron-curtain country, because I wasn’t sure if I could handle the problems these children would face. Fate played her cards, and in the end, I did end up adopting a child from a former iron-curtain country…Russia.
My preconceived ideas of a Russian orphanage went with me when I boarded a plane for Moscow. I imagined Elle’s “home” would be dark, dank, colorless, and lifeless. I was half afraid to see wooden boxes lined up containing babies, toddlers, and children, acting more like jail cells than baby cribs.
As I was delivered to the front doors of the orphanage, the crumbling concrete walls of the building did not calm my fears of what I would face inside, and the dull, hospital green colors of the walls offered no light or joy. The lobby was clean, albeit old and tired.
Once Elle was in my arms and I was given a tour of the orphanage, I started to see past the communistic decorating style and started to see life and joy…painted on the walls. Someone, at sometime, had taken the time to lovingly paint scenes of Russian fairy tales on the walls, down every corridor, in every room, and in the play cabanas ringing the play yard outside.
Some scenes I recognized, others I didn’t, but all had a Hans Christian Anderson feel about them. There were bright blues, vivid reds, and sunny yellows, all painted over the drab, hospital green color of the walls. Colors, scenes, and artwork I never expected, but was so excited to see.
Later, as I visited a Moscow flea market for souvenirs and mementos, I came across colorful handmade Russian dolls, resembling the characters I had recently seen on the walls of the baby house. Gone were the images in my mind of the Ceausescu ran orphanages, the lifeless rooms filled with wooden cells, and the blank-eyed babies. Now, my memory was filled with colorful paintings, rich Russian fairy tales, and at this particular baby house, a little baby that soon would become my daughter.
Photo Credit. Lanita M.