In 1990 a Russian boy named Vanya was born prematurely in the city of Moscow. At the age of 18 months, his family fell apart and he was taken to a bleak orphanage called Baby House 10.
This was the start of a nightmare that would not end for eight years. Confined to one room with a group of silent children, he was labelled "imbecile" and "ineducable" by the authorities. At the age of six, he was sent to an adult mental asylum, where he spent 24 hours a day in a high-sided iron-barred crib, lying in a pool of his own waste, on a locked ward.
But even these dire surroundings could not destroy his spirit. Though cruelly robbed of his childhood, he refused to give up hope. He reached out to everyone around him, always believing that someone would rescue him.
The first person he touched was a young Russian woman named Vika. The second was Sarah, wife of a British journalist living in Russia. They both knew instantly that Vanya had been cruelly misdiagnosed and should go to school, not be locked away behind high walls. They began a long campaign to find him a home.
After many disappointments and false starts, Vanya came to the attention of a single women living in the United States named Paula Lahutsky. Overcoming a lot of obstacles on the way, Paula adopted Vanya and brought him to the US. It was there that John began a new life and embraced a new name - John - the English equivalent of Vanya.
John Lahutsky is now an honor-roll student at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He is a member of both the Boy Scouts of America and the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scouts' national honor society.
Read John's interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer here
Visit John's website here