My youngest son, Daniel, was adopted from the Ukraine. He was seven-years-old when we arrived home with him on Christmas night 2003.
The only words he could say in English were “McDonalds” and “chicken nuggets.” Everything else came out in Russian. As for me, my Russian was limited to” nit” (no), “dah” (yes) and for some strange reason, “ko-ka-rosa” which means corn-on-the-cob.
My husband and our biological son were also inept in Russian. Communication in our household was quite creative during Daniel’s early days in America. Like all children, though, his brain is a sponge and he was conversationally fluent in English within six months.
As Daniel’s English increased, his Russian decreased. It wasn’t long until there was no trace of his original language, except for a beautiful accent that he still has today.
“What a shame he’s lost his Russian,” people often said, and I agreed. Daniel, however, seemed happy to be rid the Russian. In fact, he had no interest at all in his homeland, a feeling he expressed in one simple statement:
“No baby,” I corrected him. “That’s your birthplace and your heritage. We’ll always be interested in what is happening in the Ukraine. We’ll always care about its people and appreciate the culture and history.”
Again, he made his feelings clear. “Ukraine STINKS.”
His dislike for all things Ukraine disturbed me at first, but then Daniel got a letter from one of his biological brothers who had been adopted earlier by a family in Italy. “I’ve forgotten all of my Russian,” the brother wrote through an Italian-to-English translator,
“but it’s probably because I WANT to forget!”
It hit me then like a ton of bricks. Of course Daniel doesn’t care about the Ukraine. His life over there was awful. He was one of seven children and a big happy family they weren’t. How could they be with a violent father and a negligent mother, parents whose behavior forced their children to beg for food on the streets, go near-naked in the wicked winters and fend for each other when dad went on one of his drunken rages? When authorities intervened, the children were split up and sent to different orphanages. (All have been adopted, and though we have located two of his siblings, we’re still searching for the other four.)
Yep…for Daniel., Ukraine stank.
Except for his siblings, Daniel has no interest in even discussing anything pertaining to his former life. There is no desire to revisit the country that was once his home or experience anything related to it. While I do hope he’ll one day take pride in the spirit of the Ukrainian people and the rich culture of the country, he has—for now—turned his back on the past and moved forward.
When I think of my youngest son’s resolve to write-off his former life, I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippians. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (3: 13 NIV).
We all have a past life—the one we were living before we knew Christ. Through Him, we became the adopted children of God (Ephesians 1: 5), able to count ourselves as “a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)
We start new with Christ, but to put the past behind us and move ahead with perseverance (Hebrews 12: 1-2), we must take a lesson from John the Baptist who said of Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 KJV)
With my Daniel, one evidence of his new and unfolding life in America was the decrease in his Russian vocabulary. The more he was submerged in our culture, the more his English increased and the more he became like us—and that’s exactly what happens when a believer in Christ becomes more and more submerged in the words and ways of Jesus. According to Ephesians 4:15, we grow up spiritually and become like Him.
Jesus teaches that we aren’t to look back at the life we left behind (Luke 9:62). And honestly, why would we even want to think upon the days when we were slaves to sin and living without hope? I think we can all agree…
I enjoyed reading your article. What a great comparison in the change in our lives when we become a Christian. Thank you for sharing. I pray with you that you will be able to find his brothers. It would be great to hear of the reunion. GOD BLESS YOU