I was adopted from Romania by a Canadian family — now I hope to inspire others to adopt
'I never knew the feeling of being embraced.'
In 1997, Camelia La Riccia got the news she had been adopted — by a Canadian family. At age four and a half, her life changed. Throughout 2017, we're asking Canadians, "What's your story?" La Riccia, of Ottawa, shares hers.
It was a hot summer evening in 1997, in Timișoara, Romania.
I was sitting at a campfire by a radio that was playing a song called Coco Jumbo, and before I knew it, my life was about to change forever.
I received a phone call from one of my orphanage workers who said, "Camelia, you have been adopted, you are going to go home to Canada."
I couldn't wait to meet my adoptive parents.
I could not believe that two people from halfway across the world knew that I existed, and that they wanted ME.
Early painful memories
For the first four and a half years of my life, all I had ever known were the four walls around me in the big orphanage for children ages three to 18 years old. Little did I know, that years before I was born, a man named Nicolae Ceaușescu ruled Romania and imposed laws that prohibited contraceptives, thus obliging women to have countless children — many who would end living in orphanages.
I never knew that I was one of the 100,000 children that would be abandoned in derelict conditions where I would have to sleep on cement beds, and where I would be taunted by food that orphanage workers would throw out the window and tell us children to "go fetch."
Little did I know that a big Italian family was waiting for me at the Ottawa airport, waiting to greet me with unconditional love.
I never knew the feeling of being embraced because the closest "touch" that I would receive was from a fellow orphan who would pinch my arm relentlessly or when the orphanage worker spanked our bare bottoms on occasion. All the orphans in my group would be put into a line, with our pants to our ankles and we would walk towards our orphanage worker sitting at the end of the line, waiting to hit us.
There are memories in life you will never forget, and as unfortunate as these memories are for me, these are the memories that validate my existence in this world.
When I arrived home … Canada
On August 7, 1997, I waited eagerly with my head peering outside the orphanage window. All I could see were two people walking down the street with toys and gift bags in their hands. I yelled, "Hello!" as I waved to the two strangers approaching the orphanage. I knew these two people would become my mama and papa.
On August 12, I arrived home... Canada.
Little did I know that a big Italian family was waiting for me at the Ottawa airport, waiting to greet me with unconditional love. I still laugh to this day, knowing that not one of the many family members that were there that night, had a camera to take a picture of that special moment.
I now work as a social worker supporting new families coming to Canada, whether immigrants or refugees. It is my way to give back to all those that helped me get to where I am today in my life. I hope to continue to tell my story in hopes to inspire those wanting to adopt.
Thank you, Canada, for giving me a second chance at life, love and happiness.
What's your story? What defines Canada for you? Is there a time that you were proud to be Canadian, or perhaps a time you felt disappointed? Is there a place, person, or event in your life that sums up what being Canadian is to you? Tell us at cbc.ca/ whatsyourstory.