Hungarian Rhapsody: An Adoption Story
The Family

"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 and honey.

(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.

There 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.

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