The Russian Orphan

A few years ago, I worked at Anasazi Foundation, a wilderness therapy program for at-risk youth. For a time, I helped a young woman who was adopted from Russia. She had lived a very hard life and, as a result, she did not believe that there was any such thing as God—or that there was any such thing as goodness, or “light.”

Then she had a powerful realization. Click below to hear the full story.

Transcript of The Russian Orphan:

One of my favorite experiences, in working at Anasazi Foundation, was when I was placed in a girls’ band and working with a young lady from Russia. Her name was Natasha and she had been adopted from Russia.

Now, when I met her, I was a little intimidated by her because she—she had these dark circles under her eyes and she had this really biting sense of humor—this really sarcastic demeanor.

Her English was only so-so and my Russian—I know a little bit of Russian—and my Russian was a little so-so, but we—I knew words that she didn’t and I knew words that she didn’t know and so we were able to communicate to each other that way and it was actually this really, this really fun little way of communicating to each other and I remember one time, she looked at me—with her sarcastic little sense of humor—and she said: “Сет, ты говоришь как ребенок.”

Which means: “Seth, you speak like a baby.”

You know, she had this little smile after she said that, but—

I remember, at one point, talking to her and I can’t remember how this conversation came up, but I remember talking to her one time about light and about how I had felt light in my experiences—that, that I’ve had these positive experiences in my life and I said: “It, it’s like light. It’s like that’s how it feels. It feels like light.”

And she looked at me across the fire with her, the dark circles under her eyes and she said: “Сет, в моей жизни нет света.”

Which means: “Seth, in my life there has been no light.”

And like, a little bit about her story: she was raised in Russia and lived in an orphanage. She was taken from her mom and her mom had some problems. I think there was alcohol involved, maybe a learning disability or something. But, just as an example, for punishment, this girl, Natasha, she saw her mother take her little sister and sit her down on a stove that was burning.

And so, when, when Natasha talks about a life without light—I can see where she’s coming from, these experiences she’s had in Russia; these experiences that she had in an orphanage. Yeah, she, she really struggled to find light.

And I just remember, I was speaking to her in my broken Russian—that every day offers us an abundance of light—new light, a new beginning, and that if we move forward into that light our lives can be filled with light.

And she didn’t believe me. She was very sarcastic about this. She’s like: “No, that’s not possible. That’s, that’s not going to happen to me. I’m—I’ve been around 15 years, it’s just—this is not—I’ve had a very dark life. It’s not going to happen for me.”

Well, I, after a few days, I went off the trail—it was after my rotation, I was put into a different group, a different band the next week. So, it was about two or three weeks later that I actually got to see Natasha again. And I remember it so clearly, so vividly, because she came up the creek bed and the dark circles under her eyes were gone and instead, there was a light in her eyes.

And I remember the first thing she said to me, and it was in Russian. She said: “Сет, я знаю, что есть свет.” “Seth, I know there’s light.”

She said that after a really difficult hike, she got down into her sleeping bag and she was looking up at the stars and she had never seen stars quite like that in Arizona. You know, where you come out in Arizona and there’s no light pollution and you can see just countless, countless stars and the Milky Way and everything like that. And I’ve been in Moscow and the light pollution from the city of Moscow really blocks out a lot of those stars and you can only see like three or four.

And she said that as she was laying there, looking up at those stars and she realized that her life had been dark—like the night sky—it had been very dark. But she could see all of these little pinpricks of light where there was experience after experience of things, of God, reaching out to her to lift her, inspire her, and carry her through it.

And she said: “I changed that night. I changed out there. Because I know there’s light.”

While working at Anasazi Foundation, a young Russian orphan had a powerful realization about light and darkness.

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Seth Adam Smith

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