Thursday, March 10, 2011


Four years ago today, a beautiful little girl was born in a quaint and picturesque town along the Dneiper river in southeastern Ukraine.  

What should have been a day full of celebration for her parents quickly became a day full of sadness.  Tears of happiness became tears of grief.  

The little girl they waited for, and hoped for, had arrived.  But she was not the little girl they'd anticipated.  The child they had envisioned was not the child placed in their arms.  

The little girl they greeted that day was not a child they could welcome into their lives.  As precious as she was, she could not stay with them.  She had Down syndrome.  And in Eastern European society, there was no place for her.  

There were no supports for parents raising a child with Down syndrome.  And the stigma of having a child who is different, who is disabled...well, there just wasn't an option.  They had to give her up.  They handed their daughter to a social worker, who made arrangements to place the little girl in the local orphanage.  

Half a world away, another family also touched by Down syndrome, spent that day just as they would spend any other day.  They'd already had their day to be sad about Down syndrome and were fortunate to live in a part of the world where there was more support for children and families living with the diagnosis.  They'd already seen that disability is a matter of perspective, and that all people are the same within.

They had no idea that this little girl was born that day, that she was now alone in the world, or that she would one day play a huge role in their lives.

So the little girl waited, for three whole years, for someone to find her and claim her as their own.    

For over a thousand days, not one single person inquired about her.  But she survived anyway, in the care of her nurses.  Not having a family--or anything else--of her own would not dampen her zest for life, or her desire to learn and grow.

She thrived, despite her circumstances.  And that family half a world away, who had already made peace with Down syndrome, well, they found her.  And they ran to her, and they made her their own...

Today, as Alina turns four, she'll be celebrating her birthday with presents, balloons and Dora decorations.  She'll be sharing a birthday treat with her preschool classmates and her mama will come in and read to the class.  She'll have a special birthday dinner with some of her favorite foods--pizza, salad and berries, followed by ice cream cones dipped in rainbow sprinkles.  She will be surrounded by people who love her.

If she were still in the orphanage, today would have been a very different day for her.  The paperwork would have been ready for Alina's transfer from the relative safety and security of her baby home to a remote, regional mental institution.  I'm in tears typing that sentence.  I can begin to process it, but can't even come close to reconciling that thought in my mind.

This treasure locked away for life, this precious child...what did she ever do to warrant being placed in an asylum?  How did we find her, and what did we do to deserve her?

Alina is purposeful and intuitive.  There's a fire--and a fighter's spirit--underneath her curious, active and happy-go-lucky exterior.  She's sharp, an excellent problem solver with a strong memory, and can entertain herself for hours.  She's easily amused, quick to love and has a heart of gold.

She is an absolute gem.  What would we do without her?

Oh Lina, Happy Birthday, little love.  You are treasured beyond words...

* * *
When we found Alina, there were two other children who caught our eyes.  One was Yana, who will soon be going home to her forever family.  The other is Antonio, who is still waiting.  (We initially donated for four children, but the pictures of the two little boys were actually pictures of the same child at different ages...we must really have loved Antonio!)  This precious little guy just melts my heart.  All of the children with Down syndrome in his groupa have found families.  I can't imagine why he is still waiting for his!

Antonio - baby picture

Antonio - around 1 year old

Antonio - 2 1/2 years old
We would welcome donations to Antonio's grant fund in honor of Alina's birthday.  I am going to do whatever I can to find him a home, too.  Please, if you are considering Antonio, or if you would like to inquire about him, contact Andrea at Reece's Rainbow today.  I know parents who have been to this orphanage and would be willing to share tips and information about it, and would also be willing to share their impressions of Antonio.  This little boy will be a wonderful addition to one lucky family :)!


  1. Antonio has STOLEN my heart too. He is just breathtaking. Alina...oh the joy in her face and the words you wrote are just beautiful and honest and oh so true. Thank GOD for you gave me the courage and the gently nudge to follow my heart to Sofia. For that I will be forever grateful!
    Happy Birthday Sweet Alina!

  2. Tears. Oh Lisa...that was so, so beautiful.

    Happy Birthday Sweet Alina!

  3. Such a beautiful, bittersweet post. Happy, happy birthday, beautiful Alina!! I hope all of those other waiting children can soon have happy birthdays as well.

  4. Happy Birthday sweet Alina! You are a gem....a beautiful treasure...a princess of the King!

    Antonio, a prince, who needs to find his family.

  5. Happy Birthday Sweet Alina. I hope all of your birthday wishes come true. If you can, give your mama a kiss for us, we love her too!

  6. Oh Lisa....what a BEAUTIFUL post!! Tears of joy as I read this and remembering your journey to bring her HOME!! Happy Birthday...sweet, sweet girl!!

    And you are really tugging at my heart strings with these pictures of Antonio! As I have mentioned before, I have had my eye on him for some time.....sadly, it is not our time:( But I pray for him EVERY day!

  7. Happy Birthday Alina! I too had tears in my eyes reading the lines about how different her 4th birthday would have been if she were still living in the orphanage. A rescued life. A blossoming flower. A treasure for your family to enjoy.

    Have a wonderful day. Post pictures of all of the b-day celebrations...please. :)

  8. Oh Lisa, I seriously seriously can not stop crying!!! I just can't! I can barely see the letters I am typing! How incredible today is for you and for Alina! I would NEVER have thought that a year ago, as I was following your journey....that now, 1 year later I would be on the same path to another beautiful little girl! Alina is magnificent and she is so lucky to have you! I still can't express to you how instrumental you have been in me finding, and having the courage to commit to Kareen! It is amazing how threads in our lives weave into something miraculous that we never saw coming! Thank you for saving Alina and for helping me save Kareen!
    Much love
    P.s. give that little angel some birthday kisses from us! Also I think my VERY favorite pic is that one of Bridget hugging her from behind! I think I will have to share your post on my blog today!

  9. Absolutely beautiful...happy birthday sweet girl!

  10. Happy Birthday, sweet Alina. I'm so happy she found you.

  11. Just beautiful Lisa! ...Her, you, her relationship with Bridget, your family..... and how you found her. I was crying as I read your post!

    Happy Birthday sweet...beautiful Alina!

  12. My heart was stuck in my throat while I read this still is. Alina's rescue was my very first glimpse of Reece's Rainbow, and it forever changed me.
    If I could rescue Antonio, I would in a heartbeat. I've spent days plotting ways to make our income meet the requirements, prayed my heart out, begged my husband, cried and plotted, prayed, cried and plotted. I know God has someone for him...
    Thank you for writing from your heart and moving me to prayer once again. Love you!

    P.S. Happy Birthday to beautiful Alina ~ I hope her day is filled with love and laughter and that she feels like the princess she is. ox

  13. Ok Lisa, you could give a girl a warning to have a tissue handy! Absolutely beautiful post and as we are waiting on immigration paperwork to pick up our sweet daughter from over there this post so dramatically brings it all home.
    Happy birthday beautiful Alina!

    Oh and Antonio, I agree how does he not have a momma yet? Adorable

  14. happy birthday to miss alina!
    lots of love from the jupin family!

  15. Happy, Happy Birthday Princess Alina.....I'm sitting here with tears at this beautiful celebration and my heart is in love with Antonio!

  16. Happy Birthday, Alina:) Lot of love! Emmy, your birthday card was beautiful!!

  17. Happy Birthday sweet Alina. :) Prayers for Antonio & the other precious angels waiting for families.

  18. Happy, Happy Birthday little Miss Lina! What an important day indeed! :)

  19. What a beautiful post! Happy 4th birthday to Alina! Antonio is seriously the cutest boy ever! Don't understand why he's still waiting for his family. I wish we were in a position to adopt. I can't convince my husband to add a puppy to our chaotic family so another child is out of the question. I hope he finds his family soon!

  20. Happy Birthday Alina! Lisa, your words are touching, your thoughts moving, and your family amazing. Thanks for sharing your feelings on this special day!

    Antonio has been on our family's hearts since we saw him on Reece's Rainbow Christmas 2009. I am working on a post for him and hope to help add to his fund as well!

  21. Happy birthday sweet girl!

  22. Happy Birthday Alina!!

    Antonio is so sweet. He is one of the first kids I noticed when I found RR over a year ago. I cannot believe he is still waiting...