'Loving Irish are my new family' beams orphan Kirill
Last week, the charity To Children With Love - formerly To Russia With Love - marked 20 years since Debbie Deegan led an Irish team to Russia to change the lives of the forgotten orphans. At the event in Clontarf Castle, Kirill Cherepanov, one of the first class of children to be helped by To Russia With Love, silenced the room with this story
'My name is Kirill Cherepanov. I was the biggest pain in the ass for To Children With Love for 20 years.
"I am 31 and really, I should be dead or in prison. I was a difficult child after my mother gave me away, I still do not know why she did.
"I was four when I went to the orphanage with my brother, he was a good boy, and so he was adopted by Americans. I was left behind.
"I resented everyone, sometimes I still do.
"I was six when the Irish came into my life. It was a strange thing. It was like our world went from black and white into colour.
"In the beginning, I did not want to know these strange, happy people, they annoyed me. They wanted hugs and kisses, they were always kind and respected us, we were not used to this. Orphans did not get much respect then. No one wanted us, not even our own mothers.
"Every year I wrote to my mother's address, she wrote and said she would collect me, every year, I waited, she never came. I still do not know why, she never wanted me. Three weeks ago I sent her a poem, it was about someone throwing souls away, she threw me away.
"Eventually, the Irish became my trusted friends. Debbie [Deegan] was in the orphanage all the time, we waited for her visits, we waited for the Irish volunteers, they did not judge us. They were always kind, even when we did not deserve it.
"I spend my life in the orphanage. A few years ago I asked Debbie to find my brother in America, she did after a long search, he is rich now, really he does not want to know me, and I do not want to know him. Our lives are too different. We will never be the same.
"The Irish are my family, Sophie Deegan is like my sister and best friend; in November, I will be at her wedding in Connemara.
"I have had many low moments in my life, Debbie was there for nearly every one, I have also had many high moments with the Irish in Ireland and in Russia. Irish are my family.
"Thank you all for giving me a chance, thank you all for being my family.
"Thank you Debbie and Trish, Noreen, Grainne, Dara, and everyone in To Children With Love. Thank you for all you have done for me and for so many children."
You can contact To Children With Love at (01) 853-2920 or email firstname.lastname@example.org