I would like to start this story by introducing myself and my family. My name is Lubov and I am 48 years old. I live together with my sister and 6 adopted children, 5 of which have DS. We live in the Saint Petersburg’s area in Russia. My sister and I both have birth children who are already working and living outside home.
Our story started in 2006 when I started to work in one of the St. Petersburg’s adoption centers for the children younger than 4 years old as a medical assistant. 3 Months later I have adopted a 1.6 years old boy, who looked a lot like my son at this age.
Within the 6 years that I was working there, I had seen many children being adopted, but babies with DS were never taken. From these adoption centers, babies with DS were further transferred to the orphanages for disabled children, where the living conditions are much more difficult that in the adoption centers and children are more likely to stay there forever.
I was always worried about these children and during the sleepless nights thinking about their lives and future. During the Soviet times, it was very common to leave your child with Down Syndrome after the birth in the hospital as people didn’t know anything about this condition and were afraid to fail, as well of being criticised by the public for having an “unhealthy child”. Of course, now the situation is much better and most of the children with DS grow up in the families. However, there are still many babies with DS in the adoption centers and orphanages but now there are many families who adopt them and give them the love they deserve.
I was looking at the websites of the adoption centers and In 2012 I found Marina, a girl with DS and made a decision to take her into our family. She was only 3.6 years old, was only 84 cm (33 inch) and almost couldn’t walk. Marina has easily adapted to her new home and family and started to go to the developmental preschool. Although due to the health problems she couldn’t attend preschool every day I have realized how much she loves other children and being a part of the group so I started to think about another baby.
One of my friends told me about a girl with DS that has been directly influenced by the new law of “Dima Yakovlev”. This law has prohibited foreigners to adopt children in Russia and one American family who came to meet Yana, didn’t manage to adopt because of this law. In December 2013 I took Yana into our home. She is very sweet and funny girl, although she had huge problems with tvision, because of this, she almost couldn’t walk. We had to do an operation and purchase special glasses. Yana started to feel much better, started to develop faster, walk and even run. Marina and Yana became very good friends and Marina started to teach Yana how to play and help her around. After awhile they became real sisters.
In 2014 the local adoption center has offered us to take another girl with DS who was only 7 months old and we couldn’t let her stay there. Both Marina and Yana very enthusiastically accepted her as a family member and were always trying to touch her and to play with her. After a few months, it has been identified that Sima has various somatic health problems and was developing with quite a big delay. Her situation needed special attention and treatment which only a family can provide.
One of the orphanages for the children without disabilities was located next to our home and once when passing there I saw a boy with DS seating alone in the snow, other children were playing and not giving him any attention. I was very surprised, as usually children with DS stay in other institutions. On a few occasions during this winter, when going out, we had been going around this orphanage and saw this boy always seated alone. In the spring we caught his attention and he smiled at us. For the next few next days we were coming closer and calling him to come to the fence and talk to us, so after awhile he started to recognize us. We began to think about adoption, but the decision to adopt was not coming easy until we heard this boy’s story. He was living with his family until he was 4 years old, but in November 2014 his family had another “healthy” child and decided to give Vladik away, that is how he came to the orphanage. In September 2014 Vladik came to our home. He turned out to be very independent and serious boy who could do many things by himself and was trying very hard. I think for a long time he was very scared we would give him back so we changed so we would never walk close to this orphanage where he was located before.
Within the last years many children started to find families and adoption centres started to get closed as it was no need for so many anymore. Out local adoption centre was also closing and we were asked if we would want to take the last child – a girl with DS. We though that a house with 4 children has a place for the fifth one and she was the same age as Sima. This is how Milana became a part of our family in December 2016, which is less than a year now.
All of our children go to the institution for the early development wherein they are working with several teachers on early intervention programs. Unfortunately it is possible only once, sometimes twice a week as it takes us over 2 hours one way driving to get to school as we live outside the city. Also we have teachers coming to out home. Although next year our oldest children will need to go to the special school and right now we are working on the plan how to make it logistically happened as it is around 100km (63 Miles) from our home to this school.
Our children are very happy, all of them develop fast and make big steps forward and most importantly love each other and enjoy each other every minute of every day.
Luba and her sister, Vera, live in Russia with their 5 adopted children.
They were both born in Leningrad in soviet union times, (now St. Peterburg, Russia) where they have lived ever since. Luba has 2 birth children (a son who is 27 years old and a daughter who is 23 years old) Vera has a son who is 19 years old.
My sister’s life and mine are similar to many women in 90’s, not easy. Politically, we have experienced very hard times, monetary inflation, different wars and after revolutions’ instability. My husband and I had 2 children together, but during the 90’s it was hard to find a job and my husband went to look for a job in a different city. Besides finding a job, he has also established another family there. My sister had a similar story. A few years later my sister and I bought an apartment together and moved in. That is when the next, and most important chapter of our lives is, rearing our children.
You can follow Luba and Vera on instagram @stupnikofffamily