Their mother told them they were going to Disney World.
She bundled the three children on a plane, all alone, and told them there would be someone there to meet them on the other side.
But when the plane landed, they were on the other side of the world. Returned, without explanation, to the Latvian orphanage where she had adopted them less than two years before. And there was no one waiting to meet them.
They were 9 years old.
* * *
That was almost 20 years ago. There was no international outcry over what had happened to them, none of the shocked news coverage like last year when an adoptive mother from Tennessee returned her 7-year-old son to Russia like a mail-order sweater that didn’t quite fit.
But if the Russian incident was a worst-case scenario for Tennessee international adoptions, Evalds, Inga and Ieva are the other side of the story.
Tennessee is where they finally came home, adopted at age 11 by John and Carole Bratcher of Murfreesboro, who had enough love and patience to convince three angry, wary children that this time they really were home and that this family was theirs forever.
* * *
The triplets turned 28 last week. Renamed Brendan, Catherine and Elizabeth, they’ve grown into smart, happy, poised adults who can talk frankly about the trauma they survived. The same trauma a little boy in Russia is living through right now.
“I wanted to reach through the TV and grab hold of him,” Brendan Bratcher said. “I would sit him down and tell him it’s going to be OK.”
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