Here’s how Adam remembers the day he went back to the orphanage where he spent his first four years for the first time since 1999:
On the way in the train I felt kind just empty. Anxious. I was anxious, but I did not exactly know what I was anxious for.
I took us about half an hour to walk to the orphanage from Mirka’s house. It was very icy and slippery. I didn’t exactly think it was my orphanage at first. It looked smaller. And it looked different. I remember ginormous green gates. And lots of wooden play structures in the from yard. Now there is a gazebo and a statue of Mary and modern play structures.
I was just kind of taking it in, taking it in that I was really here. I hesitated to go in a bit. I felt pretty alone. It was my thing, my wish to go to my orphanage. Zachary says he never wants to go back to his orphanage, so I felt alone. No one at all could know what I was feeling.
Dad and I went inside. We turned the first corner and I saw the mural. Right then, everything started seeping in. It freaked me out a bit. I see that mural in my dreams a lot. I have dreamt about it all the time since I left here. I remember it vividly. And here it is, the same exact thing.
My favorite part of the mural is all the little kids playing. Its style is very Ukrainian. It hasn’t changed one bit at all. Even thirteen years after I left. It’s strange seeing it after so long. It is mind-blowing.
Then we saw the chief security guard and asked if we could go to my room. The room that I stayed in when I was a kid.
I don’t remember walking up the stairs. When I got to the first door, it was a bit shocking. The Sonnechka sign was different. It was newer. The room had the same name, but a newer sign. We went into the entry vestibule and then to the door of the main room.
I opened the door and saw all these little kids. This little girls runs up to me. I didn’t really know what to do. I was in a shocked state for the first moment: Should I pick her up? Should I not react at all — ignore her? Should I pat her head. Then the better part of me picked her up and held her. Mirka was translating and explaining everything to the nurses. And all the little kids wanted attention. I felt overwhelmed. All these little kids. But I got better.
Being in the place where I grew up, and having kids right off the bat come up to you. Part of you is frozen. Yeah, I was having really strong, deep emotions inside, but I was frozen. I couldn’t do anything, and I didn’t have anything to say.
Then I thought: Why not embrace this? I can show affection. My parents showed me affection right off the bat, so why can’t I show affection to these little kids? So I let myself start to interact with the kids. I felt comfortable holding the little first girl and then picking up the next little boy. I tried to talk to them and answer their questions. I listened to one very confident little girl try to persuade me to give her my hat. Her name was Diana. And I remembered the whole room.