Thursday, May 10, 2012

After my Sixth Visit with Maximilian and Philip

After my Sixth Visit It really seems that Maximilian and Philip have been with us all the time, and I feel like all my family is here, sharing these wonderful days all together. It does not look like Friday is quickly approaching and then we'll have to say good-bye. It'll be hard. All Lukovit will be flooded. The videos from my fourth visit were wonderful, and I must credit Vesko, Toni's new assistant, for them. Actually, besides helping Toni, he's a professional in the video production industry, and a very pleasant person. This morning they met us at a store across the street from the Diplomat Hotel where they take photos, and Maximilian and Philip got their photos taken for their Bulgarian passports and U.S. visas. We cannot wait until those photos are made part of the documents for which they are intended. Having the kids go for their pictures to be taken means that nobody expects that there can be any problem any longer. That is greatly reassuring--but still we'll feel much better after having I-800 approval!!!

 Something that speaks very highly about those two little boys is that as soon as a mother with a baby entered the photo place, both of them got very interested in the infant. Philip ran to the stroller, and was very eager to reach out and touch the baby, but obeyed the social worker and kept his hand near the small one, without actual contact. As he saw the baby, Maximilian's face lit up. I pushed his chair closer to the stroller, and he also stretched his hand, although the frames of both his wheelchair and the stroller didn't prevent any actual contact at all. It's really uplifting to see how a boy who has some very bright replies and yet faces such great physical limitations can be so very loving---and so much in need of love. You can see that he has absolutely no envy or jealousy at all in his heart. He would like to walk, but without any resentment of any kind enjoys seeing others walking, running, and moving around. At one point during the course of my third or fourth visit, he asked the social worker whether when he comes home we could teach him how to walk. I said that we'd take him to doctors who would see what could be done. Even if it never happens (and seeing how difficult it is for him to hold his back straight without support I very much doubt it will ever do), I strongly believe that the worst thing you can do to a child is to take away all hope. He keeps on looking at me, and squeezing me against him. At one point yesterday he asked to go down on the floor with me and play, as we had done in my prior visit. I love to have him sitting on me so as to provide support for his back. After being like that for a long time, without moving, somewhat lost in time and space, my legs were almost numb, and I was wondering how I was going to manage to get up--but the experience was wonderful, and the bonding is really strong.

 Philip moves around all the time, and even though his gait is uneven and he doesn't look steady, he manages to run.It looks like he's going to end up flat on the floor every time, but he keeps on going. He seems to have that same strong determination Nicholas has and always had. Even when he was still in Haiti, he defied doctors' prognosis that he would never walk on his own--and out of his own very strong will he did learn how to do it. It was a matter of trying, falling down, getting up, and keeping on trying-- again and again. Going back to Philip, although he has something to do all the time, he also enjoys hugs and kisses--and finds time for those as well.

At one point Illiyan (let's go back to his present name for a moment) asked what his new name would be--and he frowned at the name "Maximilian." He was in his chair and I was behind him at that moment, but Vesko says he did make a face at the name. He said it was too long. I had told the person temporarily in charge due to the director's absence and the social worker the story of St. Maximilian Kolbe. I don't know how much in detail they told that story to Illiyan, but what I do know is his answer--which was quite remarkable, "If there was a good man who gave up his life to save someone else, then I like the name."

For anyone who may not know St. Maximilian Kolbe's story, I'd like to summarize it here. Together with numberless saints who lived and died for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the sick, the disabled, the needy, by offering to die in order to save the life of a Jewish man with children, Father Kolbe, also known as the Hero of Auschwitz or the Saint of Auschwitz, embodies what the Catholic Church is all about. He was a Polish priest who had been taken to that abominable concentration camp because of publicly denouncing the evil of the nazi regime. Apparently one man had managed to escape or had tried to escape. In retaliation, the nazis announced that ten would be killed, and started randomly picking the ten ill-fated ones, including a young Jewish man who shouted out, "Please, don't--I have children!!!" To the nazis, that was actually one additional reason to kill him sooner--but for Father Kolbe it was a reason for that man to live. He surprised the Third Reich officer by addressing him and telling him he was a Catholic priest and wanted to die in the place of that man. It is reported that even such heartless, inhuman killer was taken aback by Father Kolbe's request and by the firmness in the priest's voice as he was offering the ultimate sacrifice of his own life to save someone else. The courageous priest even gave the nazis a hard time dying. He lasted for one full week, throughout which while agonizing and despite his own suffering, he kept on praying for the end of that wicked, abominable regime. Father Kolbe's sacrifice was not in vain. The young man whose life he had saved was able to survive and reunite with his children, voluntarily embraced Catholicism, and years later attended the canonization by John Paul the Great of the man thanks to whom he was alive.

 At one point Maximilian (yes, he did agree to his new name) aimed one of the two plastic guns I had brought for them in my direction. I asked him if he was trying to shoot me. His answer was polite, appropriate, and smart, "No, I was trying to shoot at that box," meaning the box for a puzzle I had bought across the street from the hotel after seeing with my own eyes how very much Philip loves puzzles and how very good he is at them.

 I love to hear Maximilian's voice calling me "Momma." He likes to say it. He likes the thought that now he has a mom. He holds on to it. He wants to come home. Why can't the remaining documents be processed in just a few days? It could be possible if those with decision-making power at both ends understood how extremely, enormously, extraordinarily important those papers are--both for the child or children and the family involved. When it comes to us, we're all even more paranoid than usual. It is a process to be anxious, crazy, paranoid about--and at home we do take that to the extreme.

Maximilian is mastering our names--and his pronounciation is excellent!!! Philip has a lot of work ahead with his articulation--but let's hope and pray that Kristin Benjamin, the speech pathologist who worked, and is working, wonders with Nicholas will have similar success with Philip. The sounds are there--and, most importantly, the comprehension is fully there as well. To crown it all, the same as with Nicholas, Philip's very strong determination will be a key factor in getting each goal reached.

Before closing I'd like to comment on how favorably impressed I was by the cleanliness of the place, the caring disposition of the staff, the attention to each child's needs, and the different amenities they have. The world got shocked at the horrors that, unbeknownst to most, were going on at an orphanage in Pleven That had to become public so that those crimes against humanity could be finally stopped. Precisely for that reason it is particularly important, and only fair, to let the world also know that there is a difference between day and night (actually, I should say between night and day) if we compare Pleven and Lukovit.

Look how extremely curte Philip is--and how very happy he looks!!!


Maximilian loves hugging me--and I love hugging him!

Look at that smile that comes from the soul!

Putting puzzles together is a serious thing-and he's so fast and so good at it!

We spent long time like that. . .

. . . long, long time that cannot be remembered without tears. These are sweet pictures that pierce the hearts of all of us like shards of broken glass and make them bleed. . .

. . . until those papers get finallly done, signed, and sealed. If only we already had I-800 approval at least!!! After that the remaining of the waiting time won't be that hard.

Looking at a family photo book

They were really interested in learning about everyone and everything.
No words needed.

This picture speaks by itself.

Look at philip's eyes!!! And he was very proud of his new 60-piece puzzle, whioch he had put together for the first time in no time at all.

Well done, Philip!!!

In the meantime, Maximilian on his own was getting to know his new family better and better.

It's photo book time for Philip now. They do share and take turns very generously, with no problem at all.

Their interest is not in just the photo books--it's in their new family!!!

That smile is just priceless.

Kolinka, one of the social workers, is showing one of the photo books to Maximilian.

Some priceless pix with the hand puppets. . .

They share their toys--and their mom!

That look carries a huge promise for the future.

I'm really their mom in the full sense of the word already. Philip is even tickling me with the froggie!

Why couldn't I bring them home right then?
On Wednesday morning, 05/09/12 (5th visit) they got their passport photos done. Kolinka and Pavletta took them to meet with the interpreter hirred by Toni and me at the shop. How very much I want to have those photos back---pasted on their passports, and on the visas on their passports!!!




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