By holding on tightly to the edge of the coffee table, one-year-old Minela has just discovered that she can stand up by herself and even take a few steps. Now that she has her mum, Lana, to encourage her, she is learning and developing every day. But this is a new experience for Minela, who spent the first precious months of her life, alone in an orphanage with no one to comfort or cherish her. Here, Lana shares how she lost her baby daughter – and how she fought, with our help, to get her back.
The hardest time in my life, something that I never imagined would happen to me, was when I had to leave her in the orphanage because I had nowhere else to go. I didn’t have the support of my family. They simply said, “she has no place here.” My partner, he also made it clear that he was not interested. I was on my own.
The fight began as soon as I went to the hospital to give birth. They said, “your baby will go to the orphanage”. I will never forget those words. It is by official procedure only. These are people who have probably been doing this all their lives and they have no emotions. They tell you that you must make a statement, saying that you give up your baby. Everything’s screaming at you, you don’t want to do it, but what can you do? They didn’t bring me Minela because of that statement. They said it was in her best interests.
Everything’s screaming at you, you don’t want to do it, but what can you do?
After two days, I left the hospital. You come home as you are and it’s just like nothing happened. That was the worst moment. My family didn’t even ask me what gender my baby was. They told me to act as if nothing had happened, to put her up for adoption and get on with my life. I just couldn’t do it. We’re talking about a baby; we’re talking about a living human being. She didn’t deserve it, this child didn’t deserve it. That’s when I straightened up. That was when I came to terms with it, and I said, “Okay, you write your story now, you write your story with your child.”
I went to the social services department the day after my baby was born and then I went every other day after that until they got sick of me. I could tell they weren’t really listening to me. They looked right through me. The State tells you that to keep your baby you must have a place to live, a job but they don’t help you do this. Days go by, you’re simply choking. It can be like that for the next 100 years, as far as they are concerned.
Even to get permission to see her in the orphanage was a battle. At first, they would only give me a pass for one short visit a week. I could see their plan. They thought I would forget about her and go away and then they could put her up for adoption. She’s a healthy baby girl. They had it all worked out. Those institutions, I can’t understand how anyone ever thinks that this is the way to help children.
My soul was torn apart.
I used to go to see Minela in the orphanage, but I could never tell my family because they didn’t accept her. They just didn’t care. I used to feel like I wanted to go up to the mountain outside the city just to scream, just to get out of myself. Hope and Homes for Children were the only ones who helped me. I met two of their social workers, Mirjana and Adnan and they said “We can see the frustration that is boiling inside you. Sit down with us, take a deep breath, tell us everything and we will try to help”. They were the only ones who listened to me. I can’t tell you how that felt. They said, “We’ll help you find work and a nursery place for you baby.” They really are my favourite.
“We can see the frustration that is boiling inside you. Sit down with us, take a deep breath, tell us everything and we will try to help”.
Mirjana is a psychologist and she really helped me to cope with my emotions. I found work as a care assistant for an elderly lady and I earn enough to pay rent on a small flat and to cover my expenses. Hope and Homes for Children found a nursery place for Minela, even though the waiting lists are really long.
“Enrolled in day care”.
On a form, it’s just one line. It looks like nothing. No one sees the work behind that. The time, the phone calls. And it was Hope and Homes for Children who did that for me.
I brought Minela home from the orphanage on her first birthday. Honestly, it took so long to get permission and I simply had to set myself a limit and with the help of Hope and Homes for Children, this is happened. There was nothing better for me when a social worker from the local authority called me and said, “You got your permission, come for the paper and take the baby.” I literally went straight there. Simply, I had to. She’s more important to me. Nothing better happened in life.
Hope and Homes for Children help me pay for Minela to go to nursery when I am working. They also help me with food and other essentials. Because Minela was already a year old when she came home, it took time for her to adapt. In the orphanage, there were so many carers and children, it’s noisy and then all of a sudden, she’s left alone with me. We needed some time to establish our connection.
Minela is part of me and I don’t want her to grow up in the orphanage. I don’t want to wage any more wars. It was hard, but now it’ll be good. It’ll be better.