String of Memories by Alina Perlstein

Her name is Albina Eroskina. Her life begins when she wakes up in the morning in Kazakhstan, Petropavlovsk. The orphanage Albina is in is a brown/tan building with a few windows in each row. The window frames are turquoise. It sounds weird, but it fits the orphanage home. The bedroom—well, it isn’t just hers; there are beds all over the room.

Albina says, “I am near a window, close to someone—behind/next to her.” Everyone was already up before her and being loud. There are no nannies when she walks out of their room.

She walks to the bathroom and there is shit on the floor. Someone had missed the toilet. Gross, right? No one is around her, and Albina is way more mature than everybody in the orphan house. She picks it up, and puts it in the toilet. After she’s done it, she leaves the bathroom. Everyone is screaming and making noise in another room. She thinks it is really annoying. Suddenly, she hears steps walking closer and closer. She screams, “Everyone! Go back to your beds and pretend to be sleeping!” They all run to their beds and pretend to sleep.

The nanny isn’t stupid. The nanny has blonde hair and blue eyes. She knows they are faking it; obviously everyone gets in big trouble.

It is morning; breakfast has begun. After breakfast, the kids all get dressed. The community isn’t great so they all have drawers that have weakly looking tops and pants. Since it’s wintertime, the orphans put on their winter boots and winter jackets, and head out in the cold.

When you head outside, there is a playground. The kids are making snowballs, snowmen, and snow angels. I saw Albina get hit hard in the face with a snowball. Her face turned tomato red. She walked to one of the nannies, and told on the girl. The girl ended up sitting out through the end of the recess.

After an hour, they all go inside. They all have to take their boots and fleece jackets off. They all have hangers and shelves to put their boots in. Albina waits till there aren’t as many people taking/putting their things away. A girl is staring at her with menace. When she has finally done what she has to do, the girl breaks a big glass door when Albina went inside. Her hand is bleeding when she comes in.

I looked over at Albina. I could see her face in fear and confusion. I could read that she was wondering, “Had I done something to make her do that?” A nurse came in and wrapped her arm around with bandage. When dinner was ready, we all ate. It was delicious, and it was time to go to bed.

 

One morning, a week or so later, a different nanny tells Albina she needs to talk to her. The news is that there is a family that wants to adopt her! Albina is so excited! The nanny gives her a photo album and a pair of short, pretty jeans! The photos are so exciting for her. She is just over-whelmed. She can’t wait. The adventure is about to come her way. For a few months, Albina waits for her family to come visit. They finally come. There’s a sister, a mom, and a dad. There is a translator. Her name is Sveta. She’s so sweet, smart, and pretty. Her face lights up like a shining star. Albina and the family walk to the playroom. There are foam cubes. You jump in them and it’s so much fun. Albina and Celly (sister) are drawing and coloring. They are already attached. Celly is probably around the age of seven. By the time they are all tired, it’s time to leave. When they leave, Albina eats dinner.

Everyday, Albina’s soon-to-be parents would visit and play with her. After a few days and weeks, Albina gets worried because the parents haven’t visited her for a while. She waits and waits.

After a while, the dad finally arrives and tells her they are taking her home. Papers have been signed! This is actually happening! Her parents have changed her name because they are afraid people will make fun of her. Her new name is Alina Perlstein. Yes. Can you believe it? That’s me. Alina Perlstein. I have been adopted.

I take some things I have, and hug everyone in the orphanage. A blonde little boy comes to my dad and says, “Papa! Papa! Don’t leave!” I smile and hug him. I go to my two best friends Kristina and Nastya. I will truly miss them a lot. All my nannies are there. I wave goodbye, and my dad and I walk out.

We get to a helicopter place. We are going to get on a helicopter. I’m on my dad’s shoulder, and out of nowhere, I’m in tears. I don’t know why. It could be because I’m sad but also happy.

Sveta, dad, and I get on the helicopter, then on an airplane. We stop at a hotel. The hotel is beautiful and so big. We sleep the night, and the next morning, we chill at the hotel. We both decide to go swimming. I don’t think I’ve ever swum before but this is the time to learn. I’m at the steps and have floats on my arms just in case I drown. My dad watches me. I start swimming and it becomes easier with me. I don’t need my floats anymore. I take them off and just swim freely.

After an hour, I get tired and lay on one of the beds. I look around and suddenly there’s a shop with pink sunglasses. I want those to be mine. I tap my dad and say “Achtkees,” which means “sunglasses” in Russian. He does not know what I am saying. I point to the sunglasses. He understands and takes me to buy them. I put them on and I am so happy. It is a great day.

The next day, we go to the last airplane ride, and a car ride. After a few hours, I am in Beverly Hills, CA 90210! My eyes get so big that I thought it was going to pop out! My mom is outside and says “Welcome Home.” My dad and mom hold my hands, and open the house door. It’s so clean and beautiful. The stairs are shiny and it isn’t like anything like Kazakhstan.

I walk to what is called the dining room table. There are so many people welcoming me. When I look straight, I see a dog on someone: my older sister, Jenna. I am so scared that I start crying. Dad picks me up and carries me to the dining room table. I pet the dog and fall in love with it instantly.

I now have two sisters named Jenna and Celly, and a brother, Daniel. Sveta is gone. I am really going to miss her. There is a woman who actually is my tutor. She is going to help me with English.

 

Now, I do not speak Russian anymore. My tutor told me when I got older that I learned my ABC’s really fast. I remember that I was supposed to go to 1st grade, but they put me into kindergarten because I had not learned enough English to be in 1st grade. I do not regret being in first grade.

My first day of Kindergarten was scary and nerve-wracking. I remember clearly that I threw up. MY FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! I was so uncomfortable. My friends remind me now and then. I hate it. At school, my teachers all loved me. My family told me that I was sweet, always positive, etc. I didn’t need to be the teacher’s pet. It’s who I was and still who I am. I’m telling you guys all this, adopting someone isn’t easy. Never will be. I got lucky.

 

My years of being a middle schooler have been fine. When I was in sixth, my mom told me I had a half brother. It was so exciting! My mom told me his name was Grisha. He’s three years older than me. My mom told me she was going to try getting a family for him. I didn’t really want her to adopt him because it was too much for her and the family. The only people in the house are mom, dad, Celly, and I. Jenna and Daniel are way older than us; they have their own houses.

Anyways, back to what I was saying. After a few weeks of my mom trying to get him a family, she succeeded. The family lived in Evansville, Indiana. They had other kids that they adopted from Kazakhstan. My mom told me she had to go out and meet the parents. Off she went.

The next morning when I saw her, I asked her how it went. She said that it fine. The adoptive parents were going to adopt him! Now, Grisha is seventeen. He has brown hair and blue eyes. His nose is kind of like mine, and has teeth that look like mine. He’s buff and cute in my perspective, even if I’m his sister. The family is good.

He and I have met each other. The first time I saw him was at the airport. We hugged and it was a great feeling. My hands were trembling, my mouth was stuttering when I talked, it was so awkward at first but it got better. My half brother had talked to me about the memories he remembered. He remembers seeing me born out of my mom, riding a horse with him (I was really little), how my dad looked more like me. He also told me that our mom was going to look for a job, but never came back. She had left us with our grandmother who was sickly. Our grandmother took care of us until she got too old and sent us to the orphanage before she died. She did not know when she died that the orphanage was by age. I was a baby when my brother was three or four. We got separated and never got to see or look at him. But I’m so glad that now he and I are reunited.

We went to there house and played games like Wii, board games, etc. We stayed for a week and had to go. His family and my mom and I were at the airport. I hugged his family and off we went.

When I got home, I was in tears. It was so hard breaking apart and not seeing him, especially when he’s my half brother. My mom got really mad at me and said, “If you keep getting upset like this, you won’t be able to visit again.” I understood why she said it. So, the next time I saw him, it was better. I didn’t cry at all. I said to myself repeatedly that I would see him again. It isn’t the end. My mom emails his mom often, and I get to read it. Grisha and I would just email and send each other mail once in a while. He speaks fluent Russian, and a little bit of English. It’s hard to understand him sometimes, but I try. He’s getting better everyday.

In seventh grade, my mom found a birth certificate in my photo album. My certificate my mom had found had said I had two dads. I was so confused. My half brother had told me I was his full brother. Now, I had proof I had two dads. Everything my half brother had told me is now confusion to me. We didn’t tell Grisha because it would confuse him and we didn’t want that. My photo album also has a paragraph that talks about my personality and stuff. It’s good. I can’t remember what it says, but I love reading that as whom I was when I was in the orphanage.

When my family and I go to dinner, sometimes we would talk about the memories they remember. My sister and I sometimes talk to each other about it. Celly and I don’t fight anymore. Even if we aren’t the same blood, I feel like we are the same. My mom once told me that Celly wanted a sister, and if she hadn’t wanted a sister, I wouldn’t have had this wonderful family. I’m happy with what I have. I have great friends, and Buck’s Rock Camp is my life.

The thing that pisses me off is when kids ask me questions like:

Why are you adopted?”

“Have you ever met your parents?” (No brainer. You usually don’t)

Did they give you away because you were a bad child?”

Some things like that. Like, I’m adopted because I’m amazing. I’m only kidding. I got adopted because I did. There isn’t really an answer to that. People have their own reasons. It makes me sad sometimes, answering questions like that, so I choose to not answer most of questions like that.

Especially, a time when I had a friend who kept asking questions that I didn’t want to answer, and when she asked what I was eating. I was eating these Russian things that kind of had potato in it. It was a nasty question, so I just said; “It’s something where I had it in Russia. Can you please not judge that? Thanks.”

My favorite thing about being adopted is I love hearing memories people I have of me. Not many people get adopted these days, and I love sharing my story. I am going to my freshman year, almost fifteen. It feels like I was never even adopted, but I was. My family isn’t perfect but they care about me. I’m the little one, which I hate being called.

If you are wondering is I ever think about my birth parents, my answer is yes. A lot. I wonder what they look like even if my half brother told me my dad looked like me. He was Kazakh like me. Kazakh is different than Russian. It’s also more in the Asian side too.

Anyways, if I could ever meet one, I wouldn’t. I don’t want to. I have a great family, and I just don’t want to hear what their answer was. I would thank her for what she did or else I wouldn’t be here. I know I should be sad that they got rid of me, but I’m not. I’m just not.

Before I graduated out of middle school, I decided to do a job for my therapist. It was on a Saturday, and I got to hang out with adoptees like her and I. It was the best experience of my life. They played games and drew; on a pad of paper, they wrote a wishing tree. Example: I wish I knew why my parents gave me away. We had snack, it was just wow.

The sad part is, which I never knew, is that some of the girls told me they got made fun of because they are adopted. It never happened to my sister and I, which I was shocked to hear from these girls.

It’s not okay for people to make fun of adoptees like us. Like I can probably guess why they would do that. Maybe they are scared, or just don’t know how to really be friends with an adoptee. But, we are just like every human. There’s nothing wrong with us. This world is changing weirdly. Anyone agree with me? No one should be making fun of people who are adopted; no one should ask hurtful questions (especially when they know they are asking a hurtful question). If you see someone getting bullied about being adopted, stop it. We don’t deserve it, alright? No one deserves to be bullied. Being adopted has changed my life.

Now, I currently talk to my best friend Kristina, my half brother Grisha, and living with four adorable dogs. I love my home and my family. We may fight and have bad times, but I’m so happy to have/be in their lives. Over the summer, I go to Buck’s Rock Camp. It’s the best camp I’ve ever been to. I hope you all enjoy my story that not many people have a chance to experience and tell.