"Hungarian Rhapsody: An Adoption Story"
is a heart-warming account of an Indiana couple who set out to
adopt a child from an orphanage in eastern Europe but wouldn't
stop until they had brought home six children.
Fighting red tape all the way, Jim & Kim Derk were determined
to reunite a split-up family and keep them together at all costs.
A must-read for anyone considering an international adoption,
this book offers much insight into what really happens when Americans
head overseas to foreign orphanages.
Years ago Kimberly and I had seen a haunting story on ABC’s “20/20” of
Romanian orphans confined to cribs, rocking themselves to sleep.
That’s what we expected to find in neighboring Hungary,
but we found nothing like that, at least in this orphanage. The
caregivers we saw really adored the kids; they were just overworked
and overwhelmed. The setting itself was institutional to be sure,
but clean and functional. The more time we spent at the orphanage,
the more impressed we were with the care being offered there.
It was just heartbreaking to see children whom no one wants.
I’m not sure any building would have been good enough.
We were told early on to avoid contact with the other children
in the orphanage so they didn’t think they also would be
leaving when we left with our four. But the other children craved
attention so much that it became an impossible request to follow.
Kristian liked one goodnight kiss on each cheek and one on the
forehead. While lying in the dark in his rusty bed he’d
hold his hair up and back to expose his forehead for the last
kiss. One night, after our goodnight ritual, I got up from my
knees in his dimly lit room and saw every other kid in the darkened
room holding his hair off his forehead, too. Kim and I just went
down the line of rusty metal beds and gave them all a kiss, trying
not to drip our tears on the last one.
You couldn’t help but care about the other orphans there,
but you didn’t want to raise their hopes either. It was
a very fine line, and we danced all over it every day.
We survived by telling ourselves we were taking four kids out
of there and that was all we could do ourselves. We were doing
our part. It was a lot. But it didn’t seem like enough.
We spent a lot of time learning the precise routine the kids
followed in the orphanage because we’d have to keep it
the same for a while once we had the kids in our care. Watching
our children eat was a big lesson for us.
The youngest kids in the rooms always ate first; in our room
that was our twins, Adam and Ava. The caregiver would prop the
baby in one arm and proceed to — I am selecting this verb
carefully — hoover the food into their mouths. It
was so efficient and quick. None of the kids needed bibs and
few spilled even one drop of the gruel being shoveled in. We
were amazed at the speed a baby could consume ten ounces of vegetable
puree, six ounces of applesauce and tea mixed with a little sugar
(We saw a lot of tea; it’s much cheaper than milk.)
Then it was the older kids’ turn. The children age 2 and
up carried their own glass dishes from a rolling cart to a small
table and set their own place. A large bowl of “Gulyás” (goulash),
the real stuff, a thin broth with vegetables, was placed in the
middle. Each child used the ladle to fill his/her own bowl, and
each waited until all others were served. Then they thanked the
cook for the food.
To a child, they ate course by course, every drop of every item
offered, cleaned their spots and removed their dishes.
were no complaints, comments or even conversation at the table.
Everyone just sat there and ate in silence, sometimes smiling
as something new arrived. Kim and I sat in abject silence at
the spectacle of it all. It was fascinating.