Newly updated for 2020, This revised and updated book documents Adele’s experiences with her daughter since the book was first published in 2013, and Adele’s ongoing involvement in highlighting the plight of Orphans in Romania.
This memoir, by photojournalist, Thomas B. Szalay, reflects on his journey into the lives of Izidor Ruckel and other abandoned Romanian children.
”Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young-
a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Teo Chariessa, Conop, Romania wrote;
”A very powerful book, meaningful, speaking straight to the soul, heart-touching. Vivid descriptions bring the reader at the core of events and situations. A lot of suffering that generated so much ambition, determination, so much courage in a person weakened and vulnerable due to so many trials and tribulations. Love and self-sacrifice coming from a broken heart. A wounded soul has so much power and nothing can stop it when it’s started on it’s way. A huge ambition compensates all the frustrations and by saving another soul, you have saved yourself. A very good book, a thrilling read, a wonderful writer.
“You wake up one morning to the sound of history knocking loudly, impatiently, persistently at your door.
To answer it is to take a leap of faith into your future.” Adele Rickerby
Jonquil Graham wrote: “A must read book for those of us who adopted from Romania, or anywhere. It’s about a mother’s perseverance and how she found conditions and the baby she adopted. It’s about hope and what happened in Romania post-Ceausescu. It is haunting and if you were in the same position, would you be brave enough to just go with your gut and do what is right for the sake of a child? ”
Costin Hewitt, a Romanian Adoptee, wrote; “This is an amazing book. Thank you so much.”
Tony Tingle, Editor, Memoirs Publishing in the U.K wrote: “The Promise I Kept is a powerfully and vividly written story.”
Colby Pearce, Principal Clinical Psychologist at Secure Start and author wrote:
I recently finished, The Promise I Kept, Adele Rickerby’s memoir about the personal journey that led her to adopting a child from a Romanian orphanage in the aftermath of the downfall of the Ceausescu regime. It is a well-crafted story that is accessible to most readers and can be read cover to cover in two-three hours. People will take out of the story different things, depending on their own life journey and interests. I found the insight into the inner world of the mother and evocative descriptions of the characters and places she experienced along the way most satisfying. I am happy to recommend it to the many who are fascinated by personal memoirs and accounts concerning adoption.
Sandra Flett wrote: “I love memoirs, especially of ordinary women doing remarkable things to help others in desperate situations and this book was right down my alley. Growing up as a child and teenager in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I would hear bits and pieces about the ” Romanian Orphans”. And so to read a true story about a woman who rescues a little baby Romanian girl captivated me. I only wish it was much longer. I read it in about 2.5 hours one summer afternoon and was sad that I didn’t know the rest of the story. More please Adele Rickerby!”
|1.||Kelly Proctor reviewed The Promise I Kept: A mother’s journey to save a child from the poverty and squalor of post-Cold… A Burning Desire June 1, 2014Adele Rickerby’s, The Promise I Kept, is a superb story of what the can be accomplished when one sets a goal and has the burning desire to carry one through the innumerable obstacles. Due to certain health issues, she is not able again to conceive another child. But her desire to be mother again does not die and she decides to pursue the adoption process.|
Adele’s story of wanting to be mother again, despite all the immediate roadblocks that were presented to her in Australia, should had been enough to discouraged anybody from trying, but the burning desire inside her, carried her far away from the borders of this country to a land that just having been freed of a despotic ruler and was trying to find itself. Among all this chaos Adele is there, going through every and other hurdle that comes along in this journey, from mindless and corrupt bureaucracies, inhumane proposals, and much more, she is finally able to come back home with her new daughter.
This is just another great example of what the mind can conceive, it can achieve.View on Amazon.com Add a comment View this book’s reviews on Amazon.com
|2.||Kaiden reviewed The Promise I Kept Good story! January 5, 2014An interesting story about a courageous women who singlehandedly travel on the other side of the world and struggle through a bureaucratic maze to finally achieve her dream to adopt a child. A must read for anybody who contemplate adopting a child oversea!View on Amazon.com Add a comment View this book’s reviews on Amazon.com|
|3.||mark johnston reviewed The Promise I Kept You read this from cover to cover November 27, 2013A very interesting wee read about a young woman on a mission to the eastern block, to adopt a child. If we cast our mind back to that era it was certainly was a troubled time both politically and socially in the ‘block’. Between being thrown off trains because of her New Zealand citizenship, and not able to speak the language, she faced and conquered many problems and challenges with patience and doggedness . The corrupt ‘officialdoms’ backstreets and dangers are compensated by the sheer generosity of strangers. All these faced by a smallish woman with the burning desire for another child, despite a failing marriage at home. A very compelling read.Mark Johnston.|
This article, which I wrote for the ”Adoption Today” magazine, appeared in thier July 2016 issue.
Within one year of adopting a baby girl from an orphanage in Romania, after the revolution, my husband was living elsewhere and I was a single mother of two beautiful girls. This was the inevitable result of a dysfunctional relationship. One in which I did not have the support of my husband when adopting.
I travelled alone to Romania and back home again via Germany and New Zealand, where I needed to finalise the adoption of my daughter as a New Zealand citizen. My ex-husband did not finally meet his adopted daughter until I returned home to Cairns, Australia, two months after I had left. There were many opportunities for him to be involved, but, apart from playing his part with the paperwork during the adoption approval process, which took three and a half years, that was all he did.
It is imperative that couples support each other and travel together throughout thier adoption journey. Meeting your adopted child for the first time in thier country of origin, is an essential part of the initial and ongoing bonding process for both parents.
Feeling isolated and with no support where I was living, I sold the family home, packed up what remained of our belongings after a garage sale, and moved to Brisbane with my two daughters. Natasha, my adopted daughter had just turned one year old and my biological daughter, Melannie, had just turned seven years old.
After settling in to a rented house, I actively went about building my adoption support team. International Adoptive Families Association of Queensland, was an essential part of my support team. I was already a member, having joined the organisation at the beginning of the adoption approval process. During that time, I spoke with other I.A.F.Q. members over the phone and looked forwards to receiving thier regular newsletters, but had never met a member in person. I started attending regular ”chat and plays” with Natasha. These were held in the homes of I.A.F.Q members or Parks and Gardens around Brisbane.
It wasn’t long before I was asked to take on a more active role. I was asked if I would co-ordinate the first seminar on Intercountry Adoption, to be held in Brisbane, and subsequently co-ordinated two more. Coordinating the seminars provided me with the opportunity to become more actively involved in the adoption community.
”Our Country is Poor But Our Hearts Are Rich”, said my fellow train passenger, an engineer on his way to an early morning meeting in Bucharest. The sun was rising on a day full of hope and promise, after a nightmare journey, alone, across Germany, Austria, Hungary, and finally, Romania, on my way to adopt a baby girl. I had been thrown off the train at the border between Austria and Hungary by eight Hungarian soldiers with revolvers at their hips and one official. When, finally, I arrived at the Gara De Nord railway station, and after a lengthy wait, was met by Janet and Michaela, I was exhausted and relieved.
Janet and her husband were from Brisbane and were adopting a baby girl and a baby boy. We stayed together in Michaela’s house. When, eventually, I arrived in Brisbane, one of the first people whom I contacted was Janet. Another couple whom I had also met in Bucharest, Tina and Steve, were also from Brisbane and adopting a baby boy and thirteen months old girl. Tina and Steve arrived back in Brisbane after spending one year in thier original home country of England.
After the revolution, foreign journalists went into Romania and discovered approximately 100,000 abandoned babies and children living in horror institutions where they were neglected and abused. The New Zealand government established an adoption program with Romania and a group of New Zealand parents formed Intercountry Adoption New Zealand. New Zealand parents soon started arriving back from Romania with thier adopted children.
Narelle Walker, married to a New Zealand man whilst living in Brisbane and wanting to adopt, made enquiries and learnt that they could adopt from Romania as New Zealand citizens. Narelle and her husband were one of the first couples to travel to Romania. Narelle went to the media to tell her story. That’s how I learnt I could do the same.
Together, Narelle, Tina, Janet and myself formed the ”Eastern European Adoption Support Group”. Tina had a suitable home with a safe backyard with a fort-style cubby-house, a sandpit and a swing. There was a rumpus-room with lots of toys for rainy days. Soon, we were meeting every Thursday morning for playgroup. As a single mum with no family, this was another vital source of support for me. We still meet regularly, twenty-four years later.
In 2013, I wrote a short memoir; ” The Promise I Kept”, published by Memoirs Publishing in the U.K and available as a paperback from The Book Depository. It is also available to be downloaded as a kindle edition on Amazon. I followed this with my website; http://www.thepromisekept.co in which I publish articles about orphan advocacy and child welfare in Romania. I also have a community Facebook page of the same name.
Just a few years ago, Romania started a dirty and illegal business; they banned the adoption of the children abandoned by irresponsible people and put them in the hands of other irresponsible people!
At the age of four weeks after birth, I was abandoned at the No.4 Children’s House in Lugoj, Timis County. I was born on July 6, 1994, in the city of Jimbolia, Timis. My mother, Lili, wanted to get rid of me- she had postpartum. Mama, (Liliana’s mother), gave me to the children’s home.
At Lugoj, a Danish foundation annually organised a series of visits to families in Denmark, who wanted a child. I was one of the lucky ones in the project. I was admitted to a family in Copenhagen, the Elgard Jensen family, both employees of the Royal Danish House. The family had two sons, one of whom was a student in medicine. A very beautiful family who started my adoption. I was four years old. I knew that I was going to be theirs. I knew that I was going to be Danish. I wanted to get rid of the 120 kids in that ugly house, dirty and administered by bad people who beat me for no reason.
I was deluded. A family promised. I was sure that I would be adopted. I was in the courthouse or in the courtroom. I do not know exactly. I was asked if I wanted to be adopted by Eva and Flemming. I said my first ”da” and they took me out of the room. After a few minutes, I was told to return to Lugoj for a while. It was a short time because in December 1999 I was visited by the Herbold family from Germany who wanted to open a family home in Checea. They got me in their house. It was very nice. It was hot and I had food and I did not have to hurry when I ate. I could sleep without being touched by the older boys and I said for the first time, ”mother”. Unfortunately to a person not worth it.
At Checea, the Children’s Safety Foundation in Romania became my home. It became the place where I feel safe and appreciated for what I do.
I am twenty-four years of age. I graduated from the Social Assistance Faculty and I only have six months to complete the dissertation. I want to study more. I decided that after graduating the Mastership, I will enrolled in the PhD.
In 2017, helped by two friends, we set up an ong; YouHub Association, and in December 2017, I was elected President of the Institutionalised Youth Council, the national representation of children abandoned in Romania.
My mission is to promote and protect the rights of the child. Adoption is a fundamental right through the right to family. The Romanian government, encouraged by a Baroness, blocked International adoption on the grounds that it had become organ-trafficking. Checks, inquiries, and other inquiries and …nothing!!
I don’t understand Tiriac’s involvement in this story! But one thing is certain. Romania boasts about 57,000 abandoned children. 19,000 in children’s homes.
Are we a statistic or are we people who could change our story if we were supported towards an independent, dignified and better life.
In January, Adoption Law should be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies, was voted unanimously in the Senate. I hope that the article on the reopening of International Adoption from Romania is voted for and so gives the chance of a family to all abandoned children.
25 October 2018.
The love and care of his adoptive parents changed the world for Alex Kuch, but he also gives credit to the University of Auckland, which “opened up so many opportunities” to learn and then to apply the knowledge he has gathered.
The story of Alex Kuch, a recent University of Auckland graduate in Politics and International Relations, begins half a world away in an orphanage in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Given the basics of life but deprived of any affection, warmth, stimulation or love, Alex suffered from a condition called hospitalisation.
He habitually rocked, had no language and could not make eye contact with another human being.
His life changed forever when his adoptive parents Heidi and Walter Kuch rescued the 18-month-old and gave him a second chance at life in Germany, later relocating to New Zealand when Alex was 11, attracted by our education system.
“When I met Alex he was very quiet,” Walter says, as he recalls the “basic and overcrowded” institution where some 200 children were housed.
“He had a black mark on his cheek. We were told it was from another child who bit him when he tried to pinch an apple. There was not enough for them to eat so they fought over food. Alex couldn’t walk. Nobody cared for him.”
Walter bundled Alex up and took him to Bucharest for three nights while paperwork was finalised, while his new mother Heidi waited anxiously in Germany for their arrival.
“On the first morning in our hotel he woke up and I dressed him and he started rocking. That was a scary moment, it was a symptom of hospitalisation. We didn’t know if he would recover, but regardless I thought ‘he is our child and I will take him home’.”
After a few weeks in a loving home with responsive parents, the rocking stopped and never came back. But the long-term outlook for Alex was grim. A psychologist advised that he would never lead a normal life, complete high school, or have the social skills to integrate into society.
With the help of intensive speech and fine motor therapy, Alex walked at 22 months and began to talk around the age of five.
This year Alex completed a Bachelor of Arts degree and is now an accomplished public speaker, researcher and adoption advocate.
My parents weren’t going to let a prediction determine who I was going to become.
“My family is really proud of me, especially as I’m the first person in my family to have gone to university. It has been challenging; however the University has been very supportive. I had a writer for exams as I still have some fine motor challenges such as not being able to write neatly and quickly. But coming to university has opened up so many opportunities for me.”
Alex’s full list of achievements is lengthy and constantly growing. Standouts are speaking twice in Romania’s parliament, the first time when only 18 years old, being named a finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year, and completing research looking at the experiences of adoptees.
He is also an advocate for re-opening Romania’s borders to international adoptions. After the overthrow of the Ceau?escu government in 1989, thousands of abandoned children were adopted by overseas families, but corruption was rife and the world’s attention was drawn to the terrible conditions. Romania closed its borders to international adoptions in 2001.
“Just because there have been bad instances, entire countries have closed international adoptions as a result.
It’s like saying just because a small proportion of a population has inflicted violence towards children then everyone should be prevented from having children. What we need is to develop better policies to protect children during the adoption process.”
To this end, Alex is helping to establish a framework for global adoption policies at the third Asia-Europe Foundation Young Leaders Summit on ethical leadership, and will work with other global adoption experts at the International Conference on Adoption Research in 2020 in Milan.
He will also share his joint research with Dr Rhoda Scherman from AUT, which compiles the experiences of other adoptees published on the New Zealand based ‘I’m Adopted’ website.
“I’m Adopted is a place where adoptees from around the world can connect and share their stories,” says Alex. “With the permission of the adoptees, we have gone through dozens of stories to pull together the common themes of what adopted children go through. It’s valuable knowledge for agencies and families, for example knowing when to intervene or what to expect, and to provide better support.”
In an unusual twist in Alex’s own story, he met his birth mother three years ago on a live Romanian talk show.
Alex has visited Romania twice to advocate for reopening international adoptions, but has never sought to connect with his birth parents. While he was speaking on television about his advocacy work, the show’s producers blindsided him by bringing his birth mother and half siblings onto the stage.
“It could have been done more professionally, but things are a bit different over there,” Alex says.
“After I visited some orphanages and was then surprised by my biological family, I began to recall some visual impressions of my time in my orphanage. It was very emotional.”
Alex has chosen not to stay in contact with his birth mother.
“Why would I? I have a mother and father in New Zealand,” he says.
Heidi, his adoptive mother, says there was never an expectation that Alex would attend university. His younger brother Colin, also adopted from Romania two years after Alex, is more hands-on and has started a building apprenticeship.
“Alex just loves to learn. Once he learnt to talk, whoosh, it was like a waterfall that never stopped. He was always asking questions,” Heidi says.
“But we never put pressure on him to go to university. We just supported him in whatever he wanted to do. We didn’t spoil the boys or give them lots of toys, but we spent lots of precious time with them playing games and doing activities as a family.”
But Heidi says Alex was a challenging student and the German schooling system held him back.
“The New Zealand school system has been very good for Alex. When they discovered he was good at maths they pushed him, and then he was away.”
Alex was a top student at KingsWay School, on the Hibiscus Coast where he grew up.
Now back living in Europe, he has begun an internship with children’s rights and development organisation, Aflatoun International, based in the Netherlands. He also plans to return to Romania to continue to advocate for the re-opening of international adoptions, and is writing an autobiography chronicling his journey from the orphanage to New Zealand.
“Alex’s background, interests and experience will help us to scale up our focus on children that are living in alternative care and will have to stand on their own feet as they reach the age of 18,” says Roeland Monasch, director of Aflatoun International. “We want to make sure this specific group of children are empowered with these essential social and financial skills in order for them to be resilient and successful in their adult life. Alex will be a great resource for us.”
By Danelle Clayton
Ingenio: Spring 2018
This article appears in the Spring 2018 edition of Ingenio, the print magazine for alumni and friends of the University of Auckland.
When Romanian orphan Alex Kuch was adopted at age two, his new family was told he would never finish high school or lead a normal life.
This week, Alex finished his final semester of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and International Relations with a minor in Sociology at the University of Auckland.
Now 23-years-old, Alex is an established children’s rights advocate and is invited to speak around the world. Next month, he will co-present research into the experiences of adoptees at a major international conference in Canada.
“My parents weren’t going to let a prediction determine who I was going to become,” Alex says. “While never pushing me, they always encouraged me to give my best in everything I did. My family is really proud, especially as I’m the first person in my family to go to university. I’m really looking forward to using my degree in the real world.”
Alex will be one of the youngest presenters at the sixth International Conference on Adoption Research in Montreal and has received a grant from the University of Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor’s Student Support Fund to attend.
His research, completed with Dr Rhoda Scherman from AUT, analyses the stories of other adoptees shared on the New Zealand-based I’m Adopted website.
“The stories have helped us to pull together the common themes of what adopted children go through. It’s valuable knowledge for agencies and families, for example knowing when to intervene or what to expect, and to provide better support.”
Alex was adopted in 1997 from an orphanage in Cluj- Napoca, Romania by a German couple. He also has a younger brother adopted by the same family. The family moved to New Zealand in 2006.
At the time of his adoption, a German psychologist advised Alex’s family that the emotional damage from spending his formative years in an orphanage meant he would never lead a normal life, complete high school, or have the social skills to integrate into society.
“The conditions weren’t the greatest. My parents were told that I had started to rock backwards and forward due to a lack of emotional and physical stimulation and I could not look people directly in the eyes.”
Alex received specialist support such as speech and fine motor therapy, and against all odds, has now completed high school and university.
“It was challenging, however the University of Auckland has been very supportive. I had a writer for exams as I still have some fine motor challenges. Also many of my assignments were tailored to reflect my advocacy work.”
Alex is passionate about lobbying the Romanian Government to re-open international adoptions, which were closed in 2001.
In an unusual twist, Alex met his birth mother on live television during a lobbying trip to his birth country. While speaking on a talk show about his adoption experience, producers blindsided him by bringing his birth mother and half siblings onto the stage.
Alex is now concentrating on his long-term aspiration is to establish a children’s rights consultancy that collaborates with different sectors to have a positive impact on the wellbeing of children.
In October Alex will speak in Brussels at the third Asia-Europe Foundation Young Leaders Summit on children’s rights and international adoptions.
Danelle Clayton | Media Adviser
A horse pulls a cart down a dirt road. Geese flap their way through the dust.
In a small Romanian village on the border of Moldova, 26-year-old Cristina Graham walks apprehensively with her adopted mother, Jonquil Graham. They are there, thousands of kilometres from home, to meet the woman who gave Cristina away 25 years ago.
She is small and toothless, waiting with her hands clasped tightly behind her back in front of a barren, cobb house. Next to her on crutches is her husband and Cristina’s older half-sister, Maria-Magdalena. Until now, they have never met.
Cristina hugs her birth sister first, then her birth mother. Cristina doesn’t cry, but Cristina’s birth mother sobs as she holds her tightly, swaying her back and forth.
She tells Cristina she didn’t have the conditions to care for her, that her violent husband at the time, Cristina’s father, did not like children and that her sister had pushed her to give Cristina up.
“I felt sad for her,” Cristina says later. “It was hard seeing her like that.”
After that first meeting, Cristina explores the bare neighbourhood of Bivolari that would have been her’s had she stayed in Romania.
She didn’t expect to see her birth family living like this. She is beginning to grasp what poverty really means.
Her birth family’s health is suffering due to alcoholism. There is no running water in the house, no power, and they bathe from a bucket.
It is far from the idyllic childhood Cristina had being raised on a kiwifruit orchard in Golden Bay, among the loving, hustle-and-bustle of a sprawling melting-pot family.
Jonquil and her husband Bryan were one of the first New Zealand couples to attempt inter-country adoption, which included three girls from Romania. Cristina was one of them.
Together, the pair have adopted and raised nine children and fostered 20 more.
Unable to conceive children, Jonquil and Brian first became “accidental” adoptive parents when a relative could no longer care for their difficult 3-year-old daughter.
The Grahams took in the girl, and in the years following nearly 30 more children flooded into their care.
“We thought we could just love any child,” says Jonquil. “It doesn’t matter what colour or what creed. We had a big house, and we thought, ‘why not?’ Fill up the house.”
A FOUR-MONTH BATTLE
Jonquil remembers the putrid scent of boiled cabbage, urine and cleaning products as she entered a room lined with cots.
“What struck me was the quietness,” she says. “Babies don’t cry in there, and they don’t because nobody is going to pick them up. Their needs were not met.”
In Romania’s orphanages, babies and children were so severely neglected they had learned not to cry, because no one would answer.
Jonquil recalls the trip they took with Cristina last year as a part of TV3’s Lost and Found which aired in March. It was there that Cristina was reunited with her roots. But 25 years ago the process for inter-country adoption was full of unknowns. Bringing baby Cristina home was an arduous journey.
“It was an absolute nightmare,” Jonquil says.
It was 1989, after the overthrow and execution of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, that news began to filter out about a vast human tragedy happening to Romanian children behind closed doors.
Among the most disturbing were images of tens-of-thousands of abandoned children suffering abuse and neglect in Romania’s orphanages.
Confined to cribs, babies lay wallowing in their own filth, their cries going unheard and ignored.
There was outrage in the West. Western couples flooded in to adopt unwanted children and charities poured in to help.
Among those parents, were Bryan and Jonquil.
It was supposed to be just a three-week trip in order for Jonquil to bring their seventh child to their Golden Bay home in 1991.
“I had already been to Romania before to collect our other two Romanian twins, Johanna and Natasha,” says Jonquil. “And I was going back to adopt a boy we had left behind.”
Jonquil was haunted by the memory of two-year-old Bogdan whom she seen on that first trip but left in Romania. She was back to bring him home with her.
Jonquil left Bryan in Golden Bay in care of the kiwifruit orchard and the tribe of children.
But upon arrival, Jonquil was told the paperwork to adopt Bogdan had become invalid and she could not adopt him.
“But I always suspected foul-play,” Jonquil says. “The little boy was promised to me but I actually think they hid the papers.”
She spent the afternoon cuddling little Bogdan goodbye.
Determined not to return home empty-handed, it wasn’t long before Jonquil met Cristina-Laura.
The five-month-old baby girl had been abandoned in an orphanage by a teenage mother who did not have the resources to care for her.
But during the process of doing the paperwork, the local court threw out Cristina’s adoption application after badly translated papers stated Jonquil as being “infantile” instead of “infertile”.
Jonquil was then forced to endure three expensive and lengthy court hearings and a landmark decision in the Romanian Supreme Court involving some of the country’s most prominent lawyers in order to bring Cristina home.
She was robbed at knife point by a group of men during her stay and had her bag slashed open.
The prosecutor tried to convince the judge that the Grahams were only interested in adopting slave labour for their kiwifruit orchard and that the children would be raised for organ transplants or sold as slaves.
Jonquil appealed the case in the Supreme Court and won. She finally left Romania four months after she arrived with baby Cristina in her arms.
“I couldn’t believe I had been through that nightmare and I just wanted to get out safely and return back to my family.”
At the time of her leaving, riots were breaking out in Romania after the country’s central ruling committee decided to stop all further overseas adoptions.
Western couples who were waiting for their adoption papers to be approved panicked, creating dramatic and angry scenes. Just in the nick of time Jonquil and Cristina slipped out of Romania and into a new life.
Among the adopted brothers and sisters that Cristina would join in Golden Bay were two Maori boys, one Rarotongan boy and a pair of Romanian twins.
A second pair of twins from Russia, a girl and boy, would join the family a few years later.
Their historic house sits at the base of Takaka Hill and is much quieter than it once was.
All but one of their nine children have left home, although grandchildren keep spilling through the doors now.
Jonquil says the most remarkable part of the trip back to Romania to meet Cristina’s family was finding out that their Romanian twins, Natasha and Johanna’s birth family, lived just streets away from Cristina’s birth family.
“I was absolutely gobsmacked,” she says.
Jonquil and Bryan had bought the tiny malnourished twins back from Romania when they were 10-months-old.
But in 2009, tragedy struck the devoted parents.
One of the twins, 19-year-old Natasha, was hit by a car in Nelson and died of her head injuries months later.
As the TV3 crew were filming on the street outside Cristina’s birth mother’s home, the twins’ own birth mother had been watching from across the road. She recognised Jonquil. She walked up to their interpreter to say: “When is that lady bringing the twins back to see me?”
The interpreter had to tell her that one of the mother’s daughters had died.
“It was so hard,” says Jonquil. “How do you tell a mother their child is dead?”
They returned a few days later with albums of the twins’ life to show the birth mother.
The last page of the album showed a photo of Natasha’s headstone.
“It was very emotional,” says Jonquil quietly. “I wish I would have had the language to tell her about the kilometre-long line of cars at her funeral.”
A NEW HOME
Jonquil says that although most of the couple’s adopted children have left home they still seem to keep adopting people.
“We have kind-of taken on the half-sister, Maria-Magdalena because she needs a family and we want to help her kids,” says Jonquil. “Now I will make a greater effort to learn Romanian.”
The Grahams say they are still in daily contact with her.
“She didn’t have the good start like Cristina. She’s a solo mother and doesn’t have much to do with her own mother.”
Jonquil says everyone is special and often they can’t help their circumstances, like those who are not loved properly.
“But that happens to millions of youngsters in the world, sadly. Everyone wants a rock.”
Cristina lives in Christchurch now, a solo-mother with a daughter of her own.
She has stayed in daily contact with her birth sisters by Facebook, but has struggled to keep the communication up with her birth mother.
Jonquil says a lifetime of questions for her have been answered for Cristina.
“It was a real eye-opener for Cristina. She is more settled now somehow, more at home in herself,” she says.
“I think she finally understands now why she was given the chance at a better life.”
Jonquil Graham is the author of the book, How Many Planes to Get Me? A story of adopting nine children and fostering 20 more.