Our Legacy scholars come from many different backgrounds. It’s what makes our school so interesting. One scholar who has a particularly interesting life story however, is Nicholas Aagesen. Nicholas (or Nick, as his friends call him) is a 17 year old junior who was adopted from Russia at the age of 1 along with his older brother, Chris. Nick is very vocal about his past, so many Legacy scholars already know his story. I sat down with Nick recently to gather all of the information about his fascinating tale.
Nick was born in the southwest part of Russia in Europe. His original name was Valeriy Shapovalov and his brother was originally named Vladimir Shapovalov. Since he was so young when he was adopted, he doesn’t remember what life was like when he was in Russia. He says that his parents have told him stories, though. According to him, when he was adopted, his parents noted that he and his brother smelled like cabbage. “My birth parents only fed me and my brother cabbages, so it took months for my new parents to get the smell of cabbage out of me and it was pretty bad. I do not eat cabbage anymore.” He also claimed that there were kids in the orphanage, as young as 7 or 8 years old, that were smoking. It really puts into perspective of how different children in Russia are treated compared to those in America.
Nick and his brother were abandoned as children by their birth parents, which is why they were adopted in the first place. “My dad left and so did my mom at the same time. Just left me and my brother, just little babies in an apartment and we were crying for like a day. And then our neighbors heard and went to the people that owned the apartments and were like ‘hey there’s just a bunch of crying, can you go check that out?’ and then they went in there and found us and put us in two separate adoption centers. I was in one in Rostov and my brother was in Moscow.” Nick was in a facility that they called a “baby house”, which was an orphanage specifically for younger children. Thankfully, the two brothers were reunited when they were both adopted by the same family.
Nick’s mother, Jennifer, and father, Stephen, were living in Louisville, Kentucky when they decided to adopt children. Their adoption agency was “Families Through International Adoption”, located just an hour away from them in Evansville, Indiana. This particular agency specializes with helping U.S families that wish to adopt children from various foreign countries. Some of these countries include Russia, China, India, and Vietnam. They are also big supporters of Humanitarian Aid and Development projects that help orphaned children that live in underprivileged countries. Jennifer and Stephen decided to adopt children from Russia because they both had roots in Eastern Europe. “We felt that children from Russia would best fit into our family.”
According to Jennifer, “The adoption process was not really difficult, it was just time-consuming and tedious. There were mountains of forms to fill out, certified documents to obtain, and social workers to meet with. Then there were the trips to Russia - two in all. The first to meet the children, which was about a week. The second trip came a couple of months later, and this time we were there for almost a month. All in all though, the adoption only took 12 months, start to finish. Not a whole lot longer than the 9 months needed to bring a newborn into the world.” When they first met Nick, he was unable to walk, even though he was 19 months old, because he was very sick, shy, and afraid. On their second visited, the orphanage was proud to show Jennifer and Stephen that Nick had improved greatly and could walk. “They held him by his fingers and he toddled to us like a big boy.” On this second visit, they visited Nick and Chris everyday so that they could begin the bonding process of parent and child. Jennifer and Stephen brought the boys back to Louisville in the June of 2002. “Our lives have never been the same,” said Jennifer.
According to PBS.org, there are about 135,000 children that are adopted by U.S citizens every year, with 26% being from other countries. PRB.org states that, in 2002, a quarter of all children adopted by U.S parents from foreign countries were born in Russia. According to Intercountry Adoption, there were 4,950 children adopted from Russia in 2002. Exactly 2,049 of those children were between the ages of 1 and 2 and 48.8% were male.
“I’m very happy that I was adopted”, said Nick. “If I wasn’t, I’d be the new dictator of Russia. Just kidding. But seriously, I’d be in poverty in a little town in Russia, not even three thousand people. Just trying to get my way through life, drinking vodka by the age of 14 (cause that’s the legal age). I’d definitely still be in the orphanage. I’d probably smoke too. If I wasn’t adopted, life would be very different than it is right now. I wouldn’t be this guy, who’s being interviewed for the ‘Wolf Insider’, I’d be the kid in Russia who smokes, drinks, and smells like cabbage.” He feels very strongly about adoption and when asked if he ever thought about adopting kids of his own someday, he said “Yes, cause I want my kids to have something in common with me.” Nick believes that all children put in orphanages, like him, should be given this incredible second chance at life. If you are looking for more information about the FTIA, you can go to https://www.guidestar.org/profile/35-1961430 for more information.