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. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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:

    Liked by 1 person

    • 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

      • 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

  4. 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

    • 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

    • 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.


  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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.



  8. 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,

    Liked by 1 person

  9. 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

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