I was born in the USA and was a typical opinionated, conservative redneck who used to believe that helping others should begin at home. Well I was wrong. People you have no idea how much it hurts me to admit that!

I served my country during the Vietnam conflict and witnessed poverty, hunger, death, destruction, and atrocities that can only be witnessed in war torn countries. It hurts me to admit it, but american soldiers were responsible for much of the suffering that occurred there and a lot of the children that were born there.

After I returned home to the states, I tried my best to forget everything I had experienced. Fortunately the entire country also seemed to want the same thing. We had invaded another country based on lies told to us by the then current administration whose only apparent motive was profit to the arms manufacturers and their government supporters.

While all of this appears to be the ramblings of a senile old fart, it is a foundation for what has occurred in the past and is happening at this time in countries around the world whose leaders apparently have no concept of basic human needs and rights.

A few years ago, I was extremely fortunate to meet a young woman who was born in the 1980’s in what was then known as the U.S.S.R. . You would never have known that this person, with a smile for everyone, had suffered so many terrible atrocities committed on her person (in the guise of medical research) due to her beautiful nature.

This person has requested that her real name be kept secret and has agreed to tell her story except for parts that might endanger her safety and that of her adoptive family because the Soviet government has a long memory for people who escaped their grasp.

I am going to call her Smiley.

Smiley never really knew her parents other than the fact that her mother was an alcoholic and her father was an academic. Her mother passed the polio virus to her in the womb, but apparently it did not immediately start to affect her body. One of her earliest memories is of having two perfectly good legs instead of what she has now. Through her early childhood, polio ravaged her body.

The Soviet government’s policy was that all disabled children were to be put into orphanages where “doctors” would then perform experiments on them.

Smiley remembers waking up on a table with her right leg cut open from her knee to ankle and the “doctors” saying she would probably die anyway, so why waste any painkillers, as they left for lunch. Actually it was a matter of policy to not ever use pain medication on any of the children except for experimentation purposes. She remembers sewing up her own leg which left one of many scars she carries to this day. Unfortunately the mental scars are more numerous than the physical ones. She spent eight long years is this and other hellholes they called homes. She remembers the limited diet of rice and oatmeal. No milk or sugar, no seasonings of any kind. No warm clothing of any kind, just a lightweight gown. Winters in Russia are COLD! She suffered sexual abuses from both male and female workers and once crawled outside to escape where she almost froze to death. She was found by one of the four wonderful nurses that actually cared about the kids. The attrition rate among workers was extremely high and there was no such thing as background checks so pedophiles were frequently hired and turned loose on unsuspecting children.

Smiley often witnessed infants being shaken to death. Once when she tried to protect a six month old infant, she received a terrible beating from a male worker causing a fractured jaw, blacked both eyes, multiple bruises over her entire body and a warning from one of the nurses to mind her own business next time she saw something like that happening.

There was no standard operational procedure for preventing injuries or protection for these poor kids. The only time children were bathed was when important people were coming to visit, but the water was always cold and never fresh and clean just whatever was available. Clothing was passed down from the dead to the living and was never cleaned . She only remembers being able to bathe ten times in eight years. She was always filthy, after all why take care of someone who is not going to live anyway.

One time she saw a small starving kitten outside the nursery so she started leaving the window open a little so it could come in and go out. It was the only friend she had so she would share what little food she had left each day.

There was no such thing as wheelchairs or crutches for the children so Smiley had to crawl everywhere she went, which developed her upper body while her lower half withered away. Even in this condition she did her best to care for the other kids younger than herself.

The government had a policy that disabled children could not be adopted and were only allowed to live until they had served their purpose, they were then placed on a list for termination. The same two nurses didn’t agree with this and moved many of the kids from home to home so they could not be found. Smiley was one of these kids. maybe I should call her lucky instead.

After eight long miserable years Smiley was adopted by an American family. SHE WAS FREE!!!!

To this day, Smiley gets sick if she even smells rice or oatmeal! She never even imaged any other kind of food existed until she was in the United States. When her new mom took her to the grocery store for the first time, in her own words she went bezerk over the fruit and vegetables. there was so many different kinds she didn’t know where to start. In Russia everyone except members of the politburo stood in long lines to get any kind of food.

At this time in the U.S. it is impossible to find a doctor who understands how to treat post polio syndrome because the medical schools no longer teach anything about it. P.P.S. symptoms are similar to several other diseases and are usually misdiagnosed as anything from fibromyalgia to intoxication Everyone who suffers from this debilitating condition is out of luck unless the patient is financially able to travel to other countries where polio still exists.

Due to International pressure by the United Nations Russia’s laws and Vladimir Putin are slowly changing how disabled children are being treated. Putin’s reign of terror is slowly diminishing as he is realizing that Russia needs the support of countries that do not tolerate these horrible and flagrant abuses of helpless children.

To read about Russia’s homes go here: http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1057&context=international_immersion_program_papers

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