On the May 2010 trip to Kazakhstan, I took copies of photos I had taken in 2003 on our first adoption trip. They were photos for the kids who were leaving the orphanage. I knew they would love to have some pics of themselves when they were little! Vika, a girl in the 9th class in Akkol, was looking at the photos with me. She pointed to a younger boy in one of the photos. He was about six years old in the pic.
She said, "That's my little brother." I didn't recognize him from my recent trips, so I asked if he were in Akkol.
"He's at Urupinka now."
"When is the last time you saw your brother?"
After thinking a moment, "Five years ago."
I could not believe it. Urupinka is maybe 20 kilometers away. Her little brother was now 12 years old and she had not seen him for nearly half of his life!
"I have a sister at Urupinka, too." She looked so sad when she told me.
I had already known that there was a family group of five sisters with two at Urupinka and three at Akkol. I had gotten permission from the Urupinka director to bring the girls with me when I went for the grad party, but I had not yet talked to the Akkol director about a visit. The next day, when I spoke with the director, I asked if I could take the three sisters with me to visit their sisters and also if I could take Vika with me to visit her brother and sister. She thought for a moment and said I could take them, but one of the caregivers from the orphanage would have to accompany us.
Then she said, "Take all of the children who have a sibling at Urupinka. You can take our bus." I could not believe my ears! I was so happy!
Word spread like wild fire throughout the orphanage that kids were going to Urupinka to visit their sibs. Children were coming up to me asking if they could go to Urupinka, too.
"Do you have a brother or sister there?"
"Then you are going!" Such joy was on these children's faces knowing they were going to be reunited with their brothers and sisters soon! Luba, another 9th class girl, approached me and asked if she could go as well. She didn't have a sibling there, but her best friend was there. She was given secret permission to go. She couldn't tell anyone or else everyone would want to go see their friends, also!
The next day, the kids were so excited on the bus on the way to Urupinka. Some clutched gifts they had brought for their sibs. Others had photos to show them. When we got close to Urupinka, there were a couple of very small villages on the way.
"Is that it?" Necks craned to see the orphanage.
"No, that's not Urupinka, yet." When we finally arrived in Urupinka, Nina, the girl sitting next to me held my hand tightly. She was excited and nervous to see the sister she had not seen in years.
The older of the two sisters at Urupinka was waiting outside the orphanage for our arrival. Our bus driver had been 1.5 hours late picking us up, so she had probably been waiting there for that long. She beamed with happiness when she saw her sisters on the bus. While I got ready for the grad party in the cafeteria, the children were reunited with their sibs. I wish I could have seen those sweet reunions!
After the grad party, it was time to go. I went out to the bus. All of our Akkol kids were standing by the bus with their siblings (and friend) with their arms around each other. They did not want to let go. They did not want to say goodbye.
We got on the bus and everyone waved until we could not see each other any longer. Nina cried quietly next to me, not knowing when she would see her sister again. Luba looked out the window, tears quietly streaming down her face, thinking of the best friend she might never see again. Dina sat across from me, reading a note from her older sister with a smile on her face. She passed it to her two older sisters who also read it and smiled. The boys were laughing and joking in the back of the bus.
Sadly, Vika's brother was not at the orphanage that day, so she did not get to see him, but she did get to see her sister. On the ride back from Urupinka she asked us hopefully, "Do you think my sister looks like me?"
That one question summed up what these children, and really all of us, want: to be a part of a family, to look at a face that looks like ours, to know that we belong together forever and nothing will change that, not even half a lifetime spent apart.
Christmas 2010 On our 2010 Christmas trip to Urupinka, once again we were able to take siblings with us. Sadly, most of the Akkol sibs had aged out of the orphanage and moved away in August, so we were a small group. The five sisters (now four), Nina and her sister and the sibling group pictured on the left were the only ones left.
I am very grateful that I was able to make these visits between siblings possible, especially for the older children who are now gone from the orphanage. For them, it was their last chance to see each other for a very long time, if ever.
Unfortunately, every year there will be new children in the orphanage and every year sibling groups will be divided between the orphanages. As long as we are able to make the trips to Kazakhstan, we will continue to make visits between siblings possible.
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