Friday, July 25, 2014


Last Friday, my friend and I went on one of our regular visits to the orphanage across the river. I was playing ball with the kids outside. It was kind of a small group, but that's normal for the summer; some have been at camps, or visiting relatives. However, when I asked, "Oh, and by the way, where are Slava and Sergei?" The other boys told me that they had gone away to somewhere yesterday. I didn't recognize the place name, but I quickly found out that it meant that had been transferred. They were never coming back. The sad news hit hard (Seryozha is my special buddy!), but I was able to keep playing. When we were done, I told my friend what I had heard, and she and I went off to find out details. The director is on vacation, and no one really knew anything, but after a good bit of running around, someone kindly tracked down an address and phone number for us.

Slava and Sergei at the picnic in June
On Wednesday we made the trip out to visit them. Their new home is huge, five-story, "neuropsychiatric" institution. We arrived, and were told to wait outside for them to be brought down to us. It took a while. The grounds are quite nice, and there were some older men with varying levels of abilities sitting around, enjoying the sunshine or working. We chatted some with them.

Finally the nurse called us over to get Sergei. Slava was still on his way; we found out that they're on the top floor, with no working elevator. (Slava can't walk.) Sergei looked awful. In six days, he had lost a lot of weight, and he was visibly upset. That gorgeous smile you see above was gone. Although, we were able to coax some shadows of it back toward the end of our short visit. Finally they brought Slava out, and asked us how long we wanted them for. An hour? Okay.

We sat and talked, hugged the boys, showed them pictures that we had taken at the picnic, walked around with them when it was too much for them, gave them coloring books and some little cars that Jaan had sent for them. The coloring book finally settled Sergei down. In the photos we took after that, just the top of his head is visible, as he focused on coloring. They're still such little boys, right on the level of toy cars and coloring books with stickers. Slava can talk (Sergei can't), and once he starts on something, he repeats it over and over. One of his themes on Wednesday was, "I want to go back to the orphanage and go down the slide." (There's a lovely wheelchair accessible playground at the orphanage.) There is nothing childish about their new surroundings. Slava hadn't even been outside all week, but there's no playground for him, even if he had been able to get out.

After an hour, I noticed the medical personnel checking on us through the window, but we kept the boys for a little longer. Once a full hour and a half had gone by, they came back and took them away. It was kind of awkward, they all hurried off with no goodbyes or anything. As we--just my friend and I and her project manager, who had driven us out there--stood there wondering what to do next, I said out loud that I would have liked to see where they live. The project manager, a wonderful local pastor said, "Let's go! We'll find them!" I would never have done that by myself, but we rushed off after him, and went right in to the huge building. He found the stairs where some other residents were still dragging Slava up, took Slava from them, and told us to follow, "I'll just tell them that I wanted to carry him up."

So, we got to see the crowd of men who live there and the conditions that they live in. It was very clean and bright. That's about all. Completely bare, too. For now, Slava and Sergei are together, just the two of them in a tiny isolation room. That looked like a good situation for them, but I don't know how long it will last. Maybe they can stay together even afterwards? Pray for that.

We hugged them again and said goodbye. It was so hard to leave them there. Please pray for them! Also, pray that we can visit them somewhat regularly, and that we would know how to help. It is a long trip out there, expensive if we go in a car again. I am pretty sure that I've found a way to do it by bus, but that still wouldn't be something I could do often.


Mom said...

So sad. Prayers for them...and for you.

Baba Julie said...

It's very sad. So glad that you were able to see them and will continue trying to do so. Praying! Love you!

Anonymous said...

Phyllis, I just saw this and melted into a puddle. Serozhya will be in my heart to pray forever. It is my duty. He is a treasure. God is a father to the fatherless.. -jill r.