Monday, September 17, 2012

'I’m so sorry'- mom who rejected U.S. Paralympic star at birth

US Swimming sensation, Jessica Long. Images: Daily Mail

The biological parents of the Paralympic swimming sensation, Jessica Long who won five gold medals at the London 2o12 event have shown up, following her victory and celebration.

The Siberian parents rejected heroic Jessica Long as a new born baby.

Jessica, during her first swimming lesson

Until a few days ago they had no idea that the 20-year-old record-breaking swimmer was the disabled child they gave up to an orphanage as teenage parents.

Her biological Russian family had even watched her on TV at the 2012 Paralympics without knowing who she was.

Jessica was adopted aged one by American couple Beth and Steve Long from an orphanage in Bratsk, some 2,350 miles east of Moscow, and she grew up in Baltimore, Maryland.

Born without fibulas, ankles, heels, and most of bones in her feet, Jessica's lower legs were amputated when she was just 18 months old and she soon learned to walk with prostheses.

Jessica displaying her medal

Her adoptive parents showered her with love and enabled her to reach remarkable heights, she has become one of the United States' most inspirational sportswomen having won a dozen gold medals in three Paralympics.

After her latest clutch of golds in London, Russian journalists tracked down the Siberian parents Natalya and Oleg Valtyshev of Jessica Long, who on Friday was one of the Olympian and Paralympian stars hosted at a White House reception by President Barack Obama.

'I got scared': Jessica's biological mom, Tatiana 
Deeply emotional, Natalia, now 38, Jessica's real mother, stumbled as she tried to find the words to explain on Russian television how she felt two decades ago, at the age of 18, after giving birth to a seriously disabled daughter, reported The Siberian Times.

'I feel so sorry,' she said. 'At that time - there was some fear, I got scared. I had to leave her behind. But I did think that I would take her back.

'Of course I was against leaving her in the hospital but because of the circumstances we had to do so. In my heart I did want to take her home, and thought I would take her back later.'

Winner: Jessica Long puts her prosthetic legs back on
after winning the women's 100m Freestyle S8 event
during the London 2012 Paralympic Games
She stressed: 'I was alone in Siberia, without my mother and father. Where would I go with her, if I had taken her? Doctors told me to leave her behind - said that I could not help her... I called her Tatiana, after my elder sister.'

Her then boyfriend - now her husband - said the couple felt pressurized by doctors to make the decision to give her up. He was only 17 when she was born, and the couple - who have since had three more children including another disabled daughter, Dasha, 13, born with a similar condition to Jessica, who they care for at their village home.

'What could I have said? I couldn't say anything because I was not ready for this. I was very shocked with the whole thing,' he says now.

'I don't want to say anything bad about the doctors. They said: "The girl has deformities and you are young, it's going to be hard".'

Adoptive dad: Steve Long raised Jessica to grow up a
happy child and later develop her skills and shine on t
he world stage
He recalls that 'of course' he and Natalia wanted to take little Tatiana (now Jessica) home, but seemed to find recalling this moment too painful to find words to explain it fully.

He did, though, express his deep pride over Jessica's life and achievements in America, and very much wishes to meet a daughter he only even saw for a few minutes in the maternity hospital.

'Of course I'm happy that we found her, glad for her and I am proud. And of course I want to meet her,' he said.
Jessica's Siberian sister Dasha was born with a similar disability

Jessica Long's mother Natalia, right, and aunt Tatiana, left, after whom she was named at birth.

Adoptive mom: Beth Long raised Jessica as her
daughter in Baltimore, Maryland
Natalia said she was convinced she would be able to go back for Jessica later, despite signing away her parental rights in the days after her baby's birth.

'On 6 July 1993 I gave birth to my second daughter Nastya, and on the 9 July American parents adopted her,' she said.

'Babies are normally kept in the baby orphanage until the age of three, and I was sure nobody would adopt her. I was getting information about my daughter, that she was growing up pretty, that everybody loves her.

'And then I got information that she was being adopted to America.'

That Natalia suffered emotional turmoil over what happened is clear from a story Jessica's real-life sister Nastya - or Anastasia - has told.

When she was eight, Natalia confessed to her that she had an older sister who no longer lived with them. Nastya - now 19 - said her mother was too traumatized to speak about the missing child further.

'I was very surprised. Mama said that she was very beautiful. She said that it was hard for her to talk about it, and I should not ask questions. But sometimes I thought of her. I thought that when I grow older and get a job, maybe I'll find her,' she said.

It emerges that before giving her up Natalia named her Tatiana, after her own sister. Her name was changed to Jessica in the US, but the swimmer's real-life aunt - Tatiana Rusanova, who had watched her in the Paralympics, not knowing her true identity - defended Natalia over giving up her disabled child.

'I want to support my sister. Our lives were difficult. Our fate took us in different directions. Natalia was 15 when she had to go to Irkutsk region. I stayed in Kursk region. We lived a poor life. We had a stepfather. Our mother liked to drink vodka.

'Natalia was like an orphan. There was nobody around to help her. She wrote to us, telling us she had given birth to a disabled baby girl. We worried about her. We did not hope for anything good.'

Jessica's feelings on the discovery of her Siberian family are not known, but she has been quoted saying: 'I would like to go to Russia just after the Paralympics to find my Mom. I don't know anything about her besides the fact that her name is Natalia and she was 16 when she left me in the Irkutsk orphanage.

'I'm not angry with her. I just want to meet her. I think we have a lot in common. I know that one day I will have a family and I will have kids, and you know what, I would like to call my daughter Natalia, the name of my Russian mother who gave birth to me.'

At the weekend she Tweeted: 'Thank you for all the love and support from Russia!'

But it is not known if this relates to the discovery of her family or something else.

She has spoken frequently about her Russian background once saying: 'Who would have ever imagined that a girl with a "disability" from an orphanage in Siberia would be where I am today? I'm living proof that you can accomplish your dreams, no matter how great or small.'

Proud father: Jessica Long's biological father Oleg


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