Ukrainian War Orphans

It was already on my mind. Wondering if the adoption agencies are gearing up for a bunch of white orphans from Ukraine. Well, it isn’t happening at this early stage but already I found a troubling article in The Guardian by Katy Fallon. As has happened with Mexican children at the US border, desperate parents are sending children alone to meet relatives across the border in Poland but they are not being met by anyone.

Children are going missing and cases of human trafficking are being reported by aid groups and volunteers along Ukraine’s borders amid the chaos of the refugee crisis triggered by the Russian invasion. Charities and rights groups working in neighboring countries to receive refugees said they had seen cases of trafficking, missing children, extortion and exploitation as more than 2.5 million people crossed into neighboring countries to escape the escalating violence.

“This is obviously extremely distressing for a child and can lead to them wandering around the station alone, disoriented and in the worst-case scenario, disappearing altogether. This, unfortunately, is not a hypothetical case – it has happened already,” Karolina Wierzbińska a coordinator for Homo Faber said. “We are also already getting reports of cases of human trafficking and women being offered work in Poland only to find the workplace is illegitimate, the employer is mistreating them, refusing to pay their salary on time. There are cases of extortion of personal documents or money.”

Homo Faber, a human rights organization based in Lublin, Poland, has been working at all four border crossing points to mitigate the risks and has set up a 24-hour helpline, operated by Ukrainian speaking volunteers trained to support women and children crossing the border. At nearly every train station near border crossings, crowds of people, often men, hold cardboard signs offering refugees lifts to destinations across Europe. Wierzbińska said it was impossible to vet every person offering to drive refugees to friends or family before they picked people up. Polish border guards have been helping to distribute the organization’s leaflets, which detail how to keep personal documents safe, how to prepare for travelling through busy train stations with children and what to do if someone offers you a ride but changes the destination during the journey.

“We feel strongly that information should reach women before they cross into Poland,” Wierzbińska said. “These are people dealing with serious trauma. The amount of conflicting information, decisions to be made – the sheer volume of stimuli can lead to a cognitive overload. The sooner they are made aware of the situation awaiting them in Poland, the more time they have to process it.”

Monika Molnárová, from Caritas Slovakia’s stop human trafficking team, said Slovakia’s national unit for combatting human trafficking was working at the border and had intervened to protect women and children in suspected cases. “The risk of trafficking is considerable, as the refugees, exhausted and deprived of any basic comfort, are, with every new day on the road, more and more vulnerable. We believe traffickers and recruiters are most probably targeting both women travelling alone and women travelling with children,” she said.

At a temporary camp for refugees near the border, run by Slovakian authorities, camp manager Sergej Savin said that they did not allow ad hoc transportation of people from the site. He added that there had been people who had turned up offering rides. “In some cases, it was not good. For example, there was a man, he wanted only one woman and four children. I told him to go. We cannot do this like that,” he said.

Usually the UN would register refugees at the border and identify vulnerable people such as unaccompanied children. “Now, obviously, because of the sheer scale of the numbers who are coming over, and the fact that the borders are effectively just open, this isn’t happening, which makes it incredibly difficult to identify children who are unaccompanied and separated,” said Joe English, a UNICEF spokesperson. He said that the agency was setting up a system of ‘blue dot’ safe spaces for children in seven countries receiving refugees.

Silenced Women

When I saw this graphic, it went straight to my heart like an arrow. My grandmothers, forced by circumstances to give up their first born, and in two cases only child (which includes a grandfather who never was given the benefit to know he had a son), to go on with their lives as though nothing happened.

I don’t think I’ll ever truly 100% get over it and I probably should not because adoption is still a thing that drives mothers and their babies apart. I now have an unflinching awareness of what it means to be adopted.

At almost 70 years old now, having to live through a full 6 decades before I knew the truths of my origins, I do fell as though I was born to re-connect the broken threads of my family’s beginnings, that I have somehow managed to fulfill my destiny in having been born at all.

In learning about my family’s ancestors, I also discovered what a miracle it was that in the mid-1950s, I was not given up for adoption, with my parents forced to suffer the same fate their own parents encountered. My teenage mother and my father only having just started on his university studies – both interrupted when I decided to take up residence in my mother’s womb.

My grandparents could not tell their own stories of loss that hurts for a lifetime because no one would have been sympathetic regarding their plight but for adult adoptees today, there is a growing awareness of the trauma and pain of being cut off from one’s roots and some are even choosing to attempt parenting when they had thought to give up their child and they are finding a lot of support in society all around them.

May the reform of attitudes continue to take over the dominant narrative that adoption saves babies and children from a worse fate.

Branded A Scarlet

 

When I was a schoolgirl, we were made to read The Scarlet Letter.  Now as a grown woman, I wonder about that.  Who’s idea was it that young girls should read literature of that sort and what was the intention in making us do so?

Imagine my surprise, when upon discovering the granddaughter of the second wife of my grandfather, she writes to me –

“Another thing about your grandmother as heartbreaking as it was a women having children outside of marriage was considered a total disgrace usually  branded a scarlet and forced to relocate and start their life anew, which explains your Dad’s adoption and I feel pretty certain abortion back then was not a common practice.”

My dad’s mother was unwed.  My dad’s father was much older and married to a woman way much older (27 years older) than he was.  It isn’t a wonder to me that he was unfaithful and found a vulnerable young woman to attract the romantic attentions of.

I’m pretty certain that my grandmother didn’t know he was married when she started seeing him.  I’m also pretty certain that she did know he was married by the time she discovered she was pregnant.  Because her childhood was difficult, she learned at an early age to be self-reliant.  She took herself to a home for unwed mothers run by the Salvation Army.

My dad was with her until about eight months of age.  She was still breastfeeding him when the Salvation Army who had taken legal custody of him, adopted him out.

What is amazing to me is that this step-cousin was still blaming the woman for her grandfather’s lust.