Julia Bryan, 19, has traveled around the world and is learning a new language.
Bryan was born in Ukraine. As a 6-year-old she was abandoned by her mother and left in the care of an orphanage.
“There were 130 children there,” Bryan said. “It was always busy.”
About three years ago, New Horizons, an international organization that places orphaned children with families, connected Bryan with a family in Coeur d’Alene.
“I visited them for a month here,” Bryan said. “And then I went back to Ukraine hoping I could live with them.”
A short time after her return, she got the phone call she was hoping for. She was nearly 17 when she got on a plane in Ukraine. At the airport in Spokane she was received by a huge group of friends and family.
“They were all cheering ‘Julia, Julia’ and I was just so scared,” Bryan said. “They were hugging me. I didn’t know what to do.”
Considering all the change in her life, she’s very composed and her classmates say she’s developing a great sense of humor.
“I didn’t know any English when I got here,” said Bryan, who’s fluent in Ukrainian and Russian and understands some German. “I didn’t know what to say to anything.”
She was first home-schooled by her new family but missed the hustle and bustle of busy orphanage life – the only life she’d known. So she spent the year at The Oaks – A Classical Christian Academy in Spokane Valley.
“I don’t like it too quiet,” she said. “School has really helped me learn English.”
At Christmastime, she asked her schoolmates and their families for donations of shampoo, pajamas and school supplies to send to the orphanage in Ukraine. She collected several big boxes full of donations – so much stuff that it was too expensive to ship it via airmail.
“We sent it a long time ago and it’s not there yet,” Bryan said. “Hopefully they will get it soon. They will have Christmas in May.”
Because she is still mastering English, she won’t earn her high school diploma yet. She’ll continue to work toward it elsewhere and plans to eventually study at North Idaho College.
She’s not sure what she’d like to study later, but mentioned becoming a translator.
When she first arrived to live with her adopted family, she said she missed her friends in Ukraine. She missed Ukrainian food – especially the sausage – and she didn’t like American staples like pizza and peanut butter. She laughs while talking about her first days here.
“And I’d never called anybody Mom and Dad. First I almost couldn’t say it,” Bryan said. “But now I can and it feels OK. All is better now.”