On Christmas morning of 2013, my mom surprised me with one of the best gifts ever. She had secretly hired a private investigator in Russia, and he had found my biological family. There were pictures, stories, and even videos. We decided we needed to meet them and began planning our trip that day.
Six months later, we made a return trip to the city of my birth, Ryazan, Russia. We explored the city with a translator and brought diapers and gifts to the orphanage where I had spent the first year of my life. That night I attempted to sleep and was mostly unsuccessful. I couldn’t stop thinking about meeting my birth family the next day. Would they like me? Would they be disappointed? Would they be kind and accepting? Would they be unhappy that I had gone to America? Would they even show up? I shouldn’t have been concerned. They were warm and friendly and as curious about me as I was of them. They greeted us with hugs and handshakes, and we set off on a long day of getting to know each other. It turns out I have a mother, a brother who is only ten months older than I am, and a half sister. Sadly, my father passed away the year before. However, I was able to meet my 92-year-old great-grandmother who lives in a very run-down house two hours away from Ryazan. She didn’t understand who I was, but I could tell it was important to my biological mother for us to meet. We had a picnic in her yard, exchanged gifts, and did our best to share all the information we could before it was time to return to our hotel.
The next morning we were met at our hotel by my mother and her husband. They drove with us to say good-bye at the train station. It was very difficult. I promised I would come back and stay longer next time, but it was hard for my mother to let me go. She even boarded the train for one last tearful hug. I waved good-bye through my own tears as the train left for Moscow.
This experience was important to me because it changed the way I think about myself. It influenced my perspective of my place in the world, and it greatly broadened my gratitude for the life I have now. I will always remember going “home”.
Top Left: Jack delivering diapers to his orphanage in Ryazan. Top Right: Jack with his biological brother, Andrei
Bottom Left: Jack with his biological great-grandmother. Bottom Right: Jack with his biological mother, Alla
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