Zoé was in class when she came across my report. As a special education student, she had to write a research paper on attachment disorders. She had selected a number of press articles.
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That’s why this report, which I wrote in June 2014, was part of the package. Zoé lost her breath reading it. She grabbed her classmate’s arm. “I have to go out. I think that’s me, in the article…”
The report was entitled “Time Bombs”.. It was about a Quebec couple who “embarked on a hellish galley” after adopting twins in Russia.
They were the time bombs. Twins. Two children broken by multiple abandonments, unable to commit to anyone. “Uncontrollable, hyper-violent, lying, and manipulative children,” the article reads. Children who should never have been put up for adoption. »
Zoe recognized herself. Even if the report was about twins and not about twins. ” I would know. ”
In shock, she fled into the toilet. And cried all the tears in her body.
After 25 years at The press, There are reports that I hardly remember. Others I don’t remember at all. eh? Was it me who wrote that?
This one about twins adopted from Russia is still fresh in my memory. I remember turning girls into boys to cover their tracks – that’s what we sometimes do in journalism: changing a detail that doesn’t change the story to better protect people’s anonymity.
I remember the great need of her adoptive mother.
I remember this shocking detail: On board the plane that took them back from Russia, the twins had started sweating and shaking all over.
They were on withdrawal. With 3 years.
At the orphanage a few hours earlier, the little ones had seemed amorphous. They sat in a chair, not moving, not speaking. Her adoptive parents later learned that the orphanage used to treat her seizures with high-dose drugs.
But there, on the plane, it was the surprise. Shock. Kicks, punches, screams: the twins were unleashed.
The plane had not yet landed, and the parents were already having doubts: maybe they were wrong.
A tragic, irreparable mistake.
A few weeks ago the twins contacted me; They wanted to talk to me about the report they had just discovered eight years after it was published. We arranged to meet in a café in Longueuil.
The two women, now 24, broke off contact with their adoptive parents for years.
They were willing for me to publish their names and have their photos taken. But one of them lived in a youth center, and he Youth Protection Act prohibits the media from revealing the identity of children placed in care, even after they have reached adulthood.
And then, in 2014, I granted anonymity to the twins’ mother. We are not breaking this journalistic pact even after eight years.
So I asked the two women to tell the rest of this horror story from their point of view by giving them false names: Zoé and Anna.
This is a continuation, not a corrigendum. I admit the reporting was terribly harsh. The twins don’t dispute the facts, but clearly don’t interpret them the way their adoptive mother did.
And what was true in 2014 is not necessarily true today. The bombs are defused.
So it’s a sequel, but a beautiful one. A story of resilience. Proof that we can get out of there even after a very bad start. Even when everything, absolutely everything, seems to be against you.
At the age of 10, Anna was placed in a youth center in Longueuil by her exhausted adoptive parents. She stayed there until she was 18.
“I didn’t have a profile that we could leave out,” she admits. I was so angry that I became aggressive. I went to Saint-Hyacinthe three times in a closed frame. I went from youth center to youth center. I refused to take my medication…”
For eight years, she celebrated Christmas alone in her bedroom, staring at the Montreal lights. Her sister never visited her. Not once, in eight years. His mother maintained regular contact. His father was more reserved, more distant.
At 18, Anna was finally able to go out. The freedom made him dizzy. “I said to myself: what should I do if I don’t have any support from my mother, if I have no support from my father, if I don’t have any support from anyone? »
Anna discovered that there was a whole world out there to lean on. A social worker is to find him a sheltered apartment. A restaurateur who offers her her first job. community workers to support them. A web of remarkable people worked together to keep him from falling.
Anna wanted to see her twin sister again. An irrepressible desire, almost a need for life.
But Zoe hesitated. A lot. During her teens, her mother kept telling her that Anna was violent and would likely end up in prison. “I was still scared to see her again when I was 18,” says Zoé. I found her a bit pushy because she was dying to see me again. »
Eventually they arranged a meeting with friends. “At first, Zoé says, I was super stupid.
— Yes, very stupid, confirms Anna.
– I remember, it was quiet in the car. I checked my phone…”
The twins continued to this day. Gradually they realized how different they were. Zoé directs the film sets; Anna swears by ice hockey. Zoé wants to unravel the mystery of her Russian origins; Anna doesn’t care. Zoé keeps it all in; Anna explodes with anger.
What they have in common: a chaotic youth punctuated by school failures and appointments in Sainte-Justine. A long list of diagnoses: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Severe Attachment Disorder…
They moved in together when they were 20. “Our relationship today isn’t quite…” Zoe hesitates, searching for words. Anna takes over: “We still have a lot of injuries. It is indeed a life’s work. We’ve lived together for four years. Is it always easy? no But we are there for each other. »
Anna was determined not to end up in prostitution or in a street gang as too many girls end up in youth centers. “I’ve always said: I’ll outsmart your statistics! »
She dreamed of becoming a police officer, but school wasn’t for her. So she found a job that’s a little closer to her. Intervention agent in a youth center.
“We take calls when there’s a fight, a bit like correctional officers in prison. The first cases I had to intervene with young people were extremely difficult because I had to use the same restraints that I had done before…”
For the past three years, she has been tasked with mentoring Nunavik children who are housed in youth centers in Montreal. On the plane, she confides in them: “I was there. I know it will be difficult over the next six months, but tell yourself that there are people who will help you. Not everyone is mean. »
Zoé also wants to work with children in difficulty. “The past cannot be changed. But I say to myself: At least if I can help others…”
The climb was steep. She hadn’t graduated from high school. “My mother always told me, ‘If you’re a cashier in a supermarket, it will be nice.’ She fell.She passed a general development exam that gives access to vocational training programs.
Eventually, she enrolled in Special Education Engineering. “At school I was really scared at first because I was always in special classes. I had never attended a normal school. »
It went well. Well, until she came across an article that described her as an “unadoptable” child.
My report examined attachment disorder, a common phenomenon in children who have been repeatedly abandoned. Through the survival mechanism, these children will do anything to screw up their relationship with their new parents.
Anna admits she suffered from an “extreme” attachment disorder. She recalls filming a drama when her teacher at the youth center went on maternity leave. She also admits she acted “like a robot” in the presence of her mother, who she calls “madame,” without any emotion.
But even today, Anna is terribly angry with this woman, whose biggest regret seems to be adopting her and her sister. “If she had the opportunity to send us back to Russia in a box, I think she would have done that. »
Zoé called her social worker after reading my report. “Help me because it’s not okay. I am at the end of my life. I can not take it anymore. »
She ended up in the crisis center. “What hurt me the most was that it felt like it was all our fault. She was ashamed again. This feeling of guilt has nagged at her for years. “I have a psychologist and a social worker. We are working hard on that. My TS has agreed to see me at 5pm tonight, even though her work day will be over…”
As always, the net is stretched taut to catch the binoculars if they threaten to collapse. “We’re lucky to have people around us,” Anna acknowledges. But for me there will always be a void. »