S IS FOR ŠIAULIAI, LITHUANIA

S

A STORY OF SUBSISTENCE IN ŠIAULIAI, LITHUANIA

She threw the rock into the lake and watched the ripples spread across the calm surface. The warm sun beat down on her face. She lay back on the pebbled ground and closed her eyes, taking a draw from the cigarette she had smuggled away with her. How long before they came for her? She didn’t care, right now she just wanted to enjoy the moment.

The American couple would be at the orphanage by now. The alarm would have been raised when they had been taken to her room and found it empty. Sofija wasn’t sure if this would put them off adopting her or not. They hadn’t been put off by her special needs status.

‘Just act normally,’ the Director had told her before the first meeting. She understood the paperwork said moderate developmental issues, she had overheard the doctors and carers talking. It was needed to allow someone from another country to adopt her through the international programme. It was easy to act dumb when she knew no English, when the man and woman spoke to her she just smiled or frowned or stared into space.

The Director explained that Mr. and Mrs. Robinson had come to take her away to a better home, where she would be loved and cared for with toys and a good school and new friends. She would go to America and start a new life. She could forget about the life she had survived so far in Šiauliai. There was little hope for her future in Lithuania, The Director explained.

But Sofija had heard enough on the television, even at twelve years of age, to understand that America was not the land of light and promise it was made out to be. They didn’t want immigrants there. Besides, she was comfortable where she was. Abandoned when she was born she knew nothing about her mother or father. She had lived her whole life in the orphanage, her world consisted of her room there and the streets of Šiauliai. All the friends she had ever known had been at the orphanage with her. She knew nothing else, so could not appreciate what else she could have. Of course, she saw the smartly dressed children in the streets going to the better schools, she saw the expensive cars and the glamourous ladies around the town, but she was happy where she was.

Rėkyva Lake was one of her favourite places to visit. She had come on the orphanage day trips before, and now liked to come on her own, especially in the summer. Every time she did abscond she would face punishment when she had been retrieved. Perhaps no evening meal, although given the quality of food they served in the kitchen, that as not so much a punishment as a godsend. Perhaps locked in her room for a day or two, but she had her books and a pencil and paper, she could occupy herself.

The sounds of the town hummed in the background, almost drowned out by the noise from the nature reserve that was behind her. In four years she would be old enough to work, she would have to leave the orphanage and make her own way in the town. She lay and imagined what her life would be like if she worked as a waitress, or an artist or a cleaner. Maybe she could work at the orphanage and look after the younger children.

For now she was content to lie in the sunshine and avoid the Americans who wanted to take her from her home. There were plenty of other children who would be happy to leave Šiauliai behind, but not her.


Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.

Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today its Šiauliai in Lithuania – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.

Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.

For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.

75 responses to “S IS FOR ŠIAULIAI, LITHUANIA”

  1. For some, it’s just impossible to go away. Hope she has a better future awaiting her. Loved the characterization, Iain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Varad, home for her is all she has ever known.

      Like

  2. A touching story…wonderfully written..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. She was clearly contented with her lot and wanted, nor needed anything more. Let her be, for her sake.

    A-Z of My Friend Rosey!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is all she desires, thanks Keith.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. But she seems to have illusion about her life in America I wish she reconsidered it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately I think given the media coverage of America that we see, a lot of people would be put off from seeking a move to America at the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True as of now I dread going there too

        Liked by 1 person

  5. What a touching story. A young unsophisticated making a bid not to be taken away from the place she had always known as her home and the numerous friends she had there.A true home is where we spend our childhood and an artificial home with a school and plenty of toys never makes sense to children. Captured the feelings of an orphan beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jai, you are right, home is where your bonds are with people and places.

      Like

  6. Excellent. Such insight for a young girl (11? 12?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. About 12 in years, but wise beyond her years thanks to the life she has led.

      Like

  7. I am the sister in law of a developmentally disabled man. I loved this story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Alana, so pleased it meant something to you.

      Like

  8. A heartwarming, beautifully written story, Iain.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. a nice little moment in time. I like it.

    have a lovely day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lissa, and you.

      Like

  10. Appreciate the clarity in thoughts of the young girl. She sure knows what she wants and I suppose she will live her life to the fullest on her own terms.
    My heart however ached at she being orphan. Life is not easy for all to begin with for many.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true, hopefully surviving her tough start will help her deal with whatever comes in later life.

      Like

  11. Loved this one the most, of all your works I have read so far. It has so much depth and layers to it. I actually read it twice. Great writing, Iain – you have made Sofija come alive for me.
    Im curious – is she based on someone your know? And why Šiauliai – have you been there?

    Do stop by my #AtoZChallenge post for S and share your thoughts:
    https://lonelycanopyblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/salam-singh-ki-haveli-a-house-of-luxury-and-decadance/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Seema, very kind, glad you liked this one, especially as writing a young female character is always tricky for me! Not based on anyone, all completely fiction. Šiauliai because I needed a city in Lithuania and an a city beginning with ‘S’, no other reason, but it seems a lovely place, one day I may visit!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you’ve gotten the perspective bang on for this one. Looking forward to more such stories 🙂

        Someday, I hope to do a backpacking trip across Europe and see these beautiful cities.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I hope you get the chance, I would like to visit more of Europe too. Hope you enjoy the remaining stories next week.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Adoption is a way to provide permanency for children who otherwise would be raised by the government, but almost all adopted children are special needs, if for no other reason than their early bonding experiences were interrupted or never occurred. Some people adopt and have fantasies about how they can provide a better life, but then they encounter what living with “special needs’ is like day after day and some of them balk, making it worse for the child.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a minefield on all sides. I have every respect for parents who take on adopting and foster caring, especially with children who may have special needs. There is no easy answer for these children.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I have several friends who adopted foreign children and that’s what first comes to mind. Who are we to say our life is better? Maybe. Maybe not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such a difficult thing to judge what is best for the child. I have tremendous respect for those who choose to adopt or foster care, it cannot be easy.

      Like

  14. What a thought provoking post. I’m enjoying exploring places I’ve never heard of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Wendy, so pleased you are enjoying them.

      Like

  15. Good point about America not being the end all for everyone. Especially now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Denise, I think it is definitely a perception across much of the world now.

      Like

  16. I am a member of a board who raises money for the benefit of a local Ecuador orphanage. The lady who started the orphanage 27 years ago came on a trip to Ecuador from her native Germany. Instead of returning to her former life, she started the orphanage and is the executive director still today. I often call it the happiest place on earth because of the love the children receive from the live-in staff.

    They all arrive broken in one way or another (some removed from abusive parents and others just lost their parents). The orphanage showers them with love (and psychiatrists). I have so much respect for the people raising these children. The government is supposed to provide $4 per day per child but are often months behind on their payments. Many of the girls working at the orphanage are former orphans themselves, choosing to pay it forward for the rest of their lives.

    Your story reminded me of the girls who choose to dedicate themselves to raising children like themselves. Well told.

    Emily In Ecuador

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Hi, Emily! I’m in Ecuador, too!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Egyirba! Wow, I’ll find your blog! Thank you to Iain for introducing us!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you Emily, and for the story of the Ecuador orphanage. I completely agree, the people who dedicate their lives to helping these children have my total respect.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Ah, the old frying pan or the fire conundrum. Sometimes the devil we know is better than the one we don’t. Okay, enough with the idioms. Like Sofija, I find that going on a walk is sometimes the best way to pause your problems and just enjoy the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, get away from all the noise of life for a while.

      Like

  18. Sad that life in an Orphanage seems more appealing that the opportunity for a family and new home although I can understand where it could also be scary to leave what you have always known. Weekends In Maine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly that, the unknown is always scary.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Not much left to be said after all those posts but I enjoyed reading this story very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Linda, much appreciated.

      Like

  20. Presents the adoption story from an unexpected perspective. And seeing that gorgeous picture of the city, I can kind of empathize with the girl.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does look glorious in this photo 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Poignant and atmospheric. Loved it Iain Thank you.
    S is for Street Art

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Thank you Arti.

      Like

  22. A tinge of sadness to this piece. It is interesting how there is a perception that they are helping this girl by adopting her and changing her world completely, but to the girl this is not the case at all. I wonder how her reaction would be explained by somebody outside of herself?

    The setting is great, perhaps a reflecting of the girls own feelings: ripples within the calm.

    https://writingiscommunication.wordpress.com/2018/04/21/surrounded-the-space-between-bookstore-presented-by-a-to-z-100-word-stories/

    Like

    1. Thank you. It’s interesting that of course no one asks the child what they would like to do, until they are older.

      Like

  23. Well done, Iain. I sense the classic hero’s journey where she has just rejected her quest, so will she end up in America in spite of herself? I couldn’t help wondering what was going to become of her. Well done. You painted a touching portrait.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, she would be an engaging hero to spend some time with.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Really hope she has something better awaiting her! Beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Awesome read as usual

    Sorry, i have been unwell last week and could not comment on your posts.

    Tongue Twister’s

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope you are feeling better. Thanks for stopping by again.

      Like

  26. Touching! Its great that despite her tender age she has a clear mind and knows what she wants and challenges involved. Super writing as usual!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, she does seem wise beyond her years

      Like

  27. A sad story. She has no idea what else there is out there that could be good. But that’s a 12-year-old for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Worldy-wise, but only her own small part of the world.

      Like

  28. Its one thing to aspire for great things and spend your life in the pursuit of happiness and yet another to be happy and content whereever you are!

    Loved it Iain

    Tale Of A Woman’s Career

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true, it’s all a matter of perspective. Thank you for visiting.

      Like

  29. True contentment is so rare, but it looks like she found it. Well written 🙂

    https://katseaholm.wordpress.com/2018/04/24/s-is-for-surroundings/

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Lovely and sensitive. Nicely unexpected twist on the usual. One of my favourites so far.

    A-Zing this year at:
    FictionCanBeFun
    Normally found at:
    DebsDespatches

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thank you Debs, one of the ‘quieter’ stories where not much happens, so pleased you liked it.

      Like

  31. So heartfelt. A clear example of those seeking to do good forgetting to ask what the person they are trying to help actually wants. I hope Sofia gets what she desires.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, the best intentions sometimes lead to the wrong conclusions.

      Like

  32. Aww, what a hard life for the poor girl! I hope she finds what she’s looking for. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too, she seems tough enough to handle anything 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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