While we were in Poland, Internat staff discovered that Marina, 23, is five months pregnant. We were told about this 'emergency situation' (their reference to Marina's pregnancy) once we returned to work last Wednesday. Thankfully Orest was with us that day, translating through the chaos... we would have been lost without him amid the confusion.
I'm sure some of you (most of you?) might be thinking, How does a girl get pregnant at an isolated, all girls orphanage?! I'll explain what I can, which isn't actually a whole lot. I encourage you folks at home to read Jessica's blog, as she has posted her reactions to this situation and explains it well.
There is an Internat for boys that occasionally partners with our girls' Internat. When these boys reach a certain age, they are 'graduated' or transferred to an old age home. The old age home that they move to happens to be around the corner from the Internat for girls. According to Bogdan, a certain young Casanova named Sascha frequently visits our girls. Sascha has had relationships with several girls; some of these relationships have also resulted in pregnancy. Yet these pregnancies were discovered early on, and were immediately 'taken care of' (read: terminated, aborted).
Bogdan has done his best to discourage Sascha from visiting the Internat. But as Sascha is bigger and stronger than Bogdan, he can easily intimidate him, usually pushing him around and by making other threats of violence. There is only so much that Bogdan can do. The staff of the Internat also need to be held accountable for ensuring a safe and secure environment for every one of the girls who call the Internat home.
In the past, all girls of a certain age were regularly checked for pregnancy on a monthly basis. As mentioned earlier, if a pregnancy was discovered, an abortion would immediately follow. Marina's pregnancy had not been 'discovered' as these monthly checks have not taken place for the last four months. Others noticed Marina's fuller figure as she worked in one of the gardens recently, and sure enough, Marina is approximately five months along. This is why Internat staff refer to the circumstances as 'The Emergency,' and girls over 12 were made to take pregnancy tests right away.
The Internat director has since sent Marina away, to an orphanage in a smaller village. We have been told that this other orphanage is worse off: the conditions are poorer, and the girls there have less resources/support then even our girls do. Marina left the Internat at some point over the weekend; the last day that we saw her was on Friday. Apparently, the director was also upset at how far along Marina's pregnancy is - for it is too late to abort, and he had suggested giving Marina some sort of drug that would kill the baby. (Again, I am just explaining the circumstances going on the limited information that we have been given.)
So, it was decided that the best 'solution' for 'The Emergency' was to dismiss Marina. We have also been told that she will have a C-section and will have her tubes tied (I apologize for not knowing the appropriate term here!). I am unsure as to whether they intend to schedule the C-section soon, assuming that the baby will not survive, or if they will allow Marina to carry the baby to term and then place the baby in yet another orphanage. Either way, Marina does not have a voice in the whole scenario, over her own body, her own child, or her own life.
This unexpected turn of events has led to a million questions, with very few (if any) answers. We are no longer allowed to take the girls into Ternopil for further excursions, we assume that this is to limit outside contact and to keep a tighter rein on the rest of the girls. We have instead held mini-excursions for small groups of girls within the Internat campus, to make up for the fact that we can no longer visit the city with them. At this point, we are not even sure if we will be allowed to invite our host families, friends, and other community members to the concert we are holding in August.
As Jessica writes on her blog, the three of us are completely, absolutely overwhelmed with this situation, how it has been handled, and the issues that are related.
We debated posting this story on our blogs, but I firmly believe that in order to improve conditions at the Internat we must shed as much light on the circumstances as possible. If we do not share their stories and experiences, they remain hidden and any future change is impossible. Awareness is something, a step forward, and is at least better than sweeping the ugly bits under a rug.
I hope that there is truth to what I said to Jess and Miri on Monday, "The more light that we can shed on the Internat, the more accountablity we hold them [director, staff, etc.] to."