To be chosen and loved


“She’s going to die, why waste our time?” Maria Michalski remembers her doctor saying while she was sick with Leukemia, a cancer of the blood. She was living as an orphan in Vladivostok, Russia, and she wasn’t expected to survive under her circumstances. On the other side of the world, Brent and Christine Michalski heard about her from some friends in a letter and knew they needed to do something to help.
“We had some friends in Russia in the process of adoption, and they posted a picture of Maria on their blog and I read her story and I cried and I knew right then what I needed to do,” Maria’s mom Christine Michalski said.

Before living in an orphanage, Maria was abused and taken advantage of by her step-father. When her mother could no longer care for her she brought her to an orphanage with the promise of returning for her. Maria soon became ill and began seeing doctors. She was moved to 11 different hospitals and three different orphanages during this time.

“I needed people in my life that would be positive with me, but I grew up with every teacher telling me how stupid I was, and every doctor telling me I needed to die and quit life before I made any more hardship on anybody else, and that was hard because it’s just, you know, selfish people,” Maria said.

Maria compared her experience with cancer like trying to run by yourself and stay motivated, it was hard. At each hospital that she was brought to, doctors injected her with numerous shots, and gave her different intravenous medications and pills, only to realize eventually they didn’t know why she was sick or how to help her. She was taken between the hospitals and orphanage by random people each time. At this time in her life she was 7 or 8 years old. She said that sometimes the hospital rooms, which she spent much time alone and sick in, felt like jail cells.

“Most of the time what happened with me is I would be in the orphanage and get a fever of 103 and it will not go down with anything so they have to send me to the hospital,” Maria said. “They would have to all the time, send me to the hospital because my immune system was just down all the time, but it would be every time, random people, random nurses.”

Her cancer came in waves. She would feel healthier for a while, then more and more sick. She recalls painting a picture one day in class, the next night she was in poor condition and was sent to a room in the hospital where she spent the next three weeks alone. While being there and on the verge of death, she heard doctors talking, glad that she was almost dead and that they wouldn’t have to worry about her or care for her anymore. That night, after thinking this was the end of the road for her, she pictured her painting of the angel and sensed a feeling of hope. The next morning she began to improve, and she was able to pull through.

While she made it through that struggle, all her news wasn’t good. One very defeating day for her came when she was at the orphanage and she found out that her her mother, had passed away.
“For all those years I was waiting for her to come back and I was hoping, you know, for something, but you know like you say, there’s bigger things to happen afterwards,” Maria said. “Once God closes one door, he opens the other. After she died, a month later they told me I was getting adopted.”

It was time for another mother to step up to the plate and provide love and a family for this poor, dying and weak girl who needed someone desperately. Maria testified in court that she wanted Christine and Brent, whose names she couldn’t even remember at that time, to be her parents. Her parents said that she quickly began to love and trust them, and that she was willing to try new things. They said loving her was easy and adopting her seemed right.
“It just felt like the right thing to do, it didn’t seem weird at all, it was just normal,” Brent said. “I don’t view any of my other kids different; biological or not.”

With these two new parents, Maria ventured on her first plane ride to go home. At the airport in the US she was greeted by her new family with a sign in Russian to welcome her, and a scrapbook describing many things about her new family and her new life. Maria said that her family really knew how to make her feel comfortable and settled into the family.

Five years later, Maria is living like an American teenager, attending high school, and planning for her future. She now is involved in track and cross country and is a senior at FHN. In her eyes, her mom is passionate and good at giving advice, her dad is also passionate and protective of his kids, and her family as a whole is loving and crazy. In her mother’s eyes, Maria is kind, strong willed and loving. She is very open about her life and isn’t afraid to tell people about her past because it doesn’t define who she is now.
“I love when people ask me about this,” Maria said. “The funniest part about my life is that I’ve gone through pretty much anything scary movies could show you, and some people go through that and they shut down but I’ve went through that and I talk about it more than I ever thought I would talk about something.”

After high school Maria plans to use her two free years at Saint Louis Community College through the A+ program to become a nurse. She hopes to work her way from a nurse’s assistant, to a registered nurse, to a doctor’s’ assistant, and finally to a doctor. She wants to become a doctor so that if someone was suffering, much like herself when she had cancer, that she could help them. Maria said that she is willing to set down money if people are struggling. She believes by saving one life many more lives could be saved, and that is the best thing in life.

“I want to experience all of the fields because sometimes they say when you go into nursing you don’t understand the struggle of a nurse’s assistant because you’ve never been one… I would be a doctor who understands the nurses because I’ve been in their shoes,” Maria said.