I grew up in Rezekne, Latvia, a town thirty miles from the Russian border. When I was 10 my mother died and everything in my life changed. My next stop was an orphanage in my hometown. I stayed at the orphanage for six months and then moved in with a foster family from Valmiera, a town in the middle of Latvia. My foster mom wanted me to have as much opportunity as possible so she signed me up for a program where foster kids visit the U.S. and meet families who might adopt them. I did not know what to expect but I agreed. I got an offer to visit a family in New York. I had seen the “Home Alone” movies and TV shows featuring New York and it seemed like a fun adventure.
Going to New York was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. From the moment of meeting my family at the airport I knew that this was going to be good. Even though I barely knew any English, we had a translator that would help us with our communication. But even without the translator (when she wasn’t around) I knew that this is my family and it was easy to get to know them by spending time with them.
The best part about the hosting program was having the chance to get to know the family that might be in your life forever. A month with someone may not seem like a long time to spend together to make a decision that affects the rest of your life, but when you are living together and spending every moment of the day together you do get to know each other better than you might ever expect. My family and I had every meal together, traveled to places that are beautiful, and even read together just so we could be around each other. By the end of the visit I was joyful to meet the family that I belonged to. We shared the love for reading and intellectual curiosity. I felt relief and surprise that I felt connected to these people who were so recently strangers.
August 26th, 2014, I made the decision to be adopted and it ended up being the best decision I have made in my life even up to now. Nothing ever compares to a decision that you make in that moment of your life. Now it is 6 years later and I go to a good college and have an amazing family and everything I could wish for. Besides all of this I have so many amazing opportunities ahead of me and many doors open just because I made the decision to be adopted. I have an amazing and supportive family that never leaves me behind and makes sure I am happy and healthy and loved.
If I would have made a different decision and was not adopted, I truly do not think that my life would be as good and as amazing as it is now. In Latvia I would have tried to finish high school with good grades, but I do not know how possible that would have been. And I really do not think that I would have made the next stop of going to college and making something of my life. Now I go to Trinity College in Connecticut and am double majoring in Russian and English. Besides that, I am an intern at a Congressman's office and am helping his team get him elected for a second time. Also, I am a Russian translator and also do a lot of volunteer work in third world countries like Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala. I have a lot of amazing friends who are incredibly supportive and encourage me to be the best person I can be. My parents are also by my side through successes and failures. I love being in the US and having the opportunities for my future that I have now. I would not be where I am today without Project 143.
Having a family that supports you and loves you unconditionally makes you change yourself and all of your plans for the future. You have more control of everything that goes on in your life and you are encouraged and try to be the best version of yourself. From school to friends to family, you try to be there for everyone and love everyone as much as they love you. I am not saying that there aren’t struggles when you are going through this process, but with someone always by your side it is easier to overcome whatever comes your way.
Project143 has provided me with everything that I have always dreamed of. A loving family, a future, and through this experience I became the best person I can be.
Thank you so much Karina Smith for sharing your story with us!