April 7, 2009
When visiting St. Theresa’s Orphanage in Zagreb Croatia last year, I was introduced to a beautiful young lady, who I will call Nadija. At the time, Nadija was 18 years old, attending the university in Zagreb and living at St. Theresa’s . Although 18, she was allowed to live at the orphanage while she attended classes at the university. She helped with the younger children, cooked or cleaned, and did whatever needed her attention. Nadija spoke almost flawless English. She was warm, giving, intelligent, beautiful and eager to tell her story, which captivated me.
Nadija had lived with her mother and brother in Bosnia until she was 13 years old. When the war began in Bosnia, her mother decided that the family would move to Zagreb to escape the war. While Nadija told me her story, I could see the love she had for her mother as tears welled up in her eyes. Obviously this was a loss that was still very emotional for her, and it was painful to listen to. Nadija continued to tell me that they did indeed make it to Zagreb, escaping the horrors of the war. Within a year of their arrival her mother had found employment and had moved them into a small but quaint apartment. She enrolled the children in the nearby school and life began again for the three of them.
I could see the next excerpt of her story was the most painful, but she continued. One day when walking in the streets of Zagreb with her mother an accident changed her life forever. Nadija watched as her mother was struck by a passing car, and died in front of her eyes. Nadija and her little brother have lived with the sisters at St. Theresa’s Orphanage ever since. I was compelled by Nadija’s story and could not even begin to imagine the horror, pain and loneliness she must have felt when her mother, the only caregiver she had ever known, was struck down in front of her eyes. Yet with love, guidance, and direction, Nadija prevails and intends to do something with her life. She is an exception.
One statement Nadija made however has affected me the most. Nadija admits she was well cared for at the orphanage by the sisters. They not only provided her shelter and food, they also gave love and guidance. Nadija was eternally grateful for what the sisters and the orphanage had done for her. Even with this though, Nadija’s parting statement to me was the one that I still think of today: “I believe that all children deserve a home and a loving family”. What a powerful statement from someone who grew up as an orphan! The millions of children who grow up in orphanages around the world will not see the same outcome as Nadija; they will not be so lucky. The statistics are against them, with most being turned onto the streets as a teenager and turning to prostitution and a criminal life style for survival.
Nadija’s words “…all children deserve a home and a loving family” tell all of us that adoption of an orphaned child can make such a difference in the life of that child. I share this story with you in light of our Journey of Hope program. This program, through The Fatherless Foundation, hosts older orphaned Ukrainian children (like Nadija) beginning at the age of 6. If you are considering adoption please consider the Ukraine Hosting Program. Through this program you will meet children currently living in an orphanage; their only wish is to be adopted by a family. If you have an interest in making a difference in an older child’s life please contact Sonja or Lydia. Please touch the life of a child.