For years, my dad has been traveling to Russia, my friends have been traveling to Russia, and my family has been writing letters. The mission is definitely real, but it did not seem real to me. Simply, I felt like I was just playing along with the idea, writing a letter once a month to a kid my age that I believed I would never meet, let alone develop a connection with. After this trip, that all changed.
From the second I stepped foot in the orphanage, I knew what everyone around me had experienced was real. The love of the kids was incomprehensible. At the beginning of the week, the kids, mostly the younger ones, practically threw themselves at all of us; they wanted to know every detail of our life, and they had never met us. The first day when we made name tags, I was welcomed by two younger kids that I would grow to love, Peter and Nastya. They helped me write their names and my own name in Russian, and brought me into a world that completely unknown to me. They brought me into their lives with open arms. Throughout the week, my relationships with these kids developed. By the end of the week, we weren’t Americans and Russians; we were friends.
None of these relationships have stood out more than that of a 15 year old girl named Natasha. Natasha is one of the most beautiful, smart, caring, thoughtful girls I have ever met. If anyone was my true friend in the orphanage, it was her. She let me into her past, her present, and her future, something I could have never done if I was in her situation.
With her, I fully understood just how unfair life is for these wonderful children. This year, she has to graduate. She has to go to a technical school, where she wants to learn how to make lace. She is terrified to leave the orphanage. The thought of how wonderful she is and the situation she has been put in brings me to tears every single time I think about it.
She gave me a picture that I will cherish. I know I will write to her as much as I can, send her as many pictures as I can, pray for her, help her in any way that I can, and love her as the friend she is to me, but yet she, and every child at the orphanage deserves infinitely more than that. I love each and every child there, and not a day will go by without me thinking of them, praying for them, and counting down the seconds until I can see them again.