Elena Lachewitz knew she was born ill and premature.
“I was very sick, and within a few months [my family] had put me into an orphanage,” Lachewitz told TLC.
This was what Lachewitz knew of her earliest origins. The two things she suffered with her entire life were her chronic illnesses, and the sense that she didn’t know where she came from.
At 14 months old, Lachewitz was adopted from Russia into a loving American family.
By the time she was 18 years old, Lachewitz had been cured of her chronic pain. Through numerous surgeries and three experimental drug trials, she lucked out on a drug that cured her hepatitis C along with her chronic liver and blood disease.
Her life-long ailments had disappeared, but she still had no answers as to why her parents gave her away in the first place.
“I had so many questions going through my head about who I was as a person and where I came from. And they were the main questions that drove my curiosity to find my family,” Lachewitz.
The only thing she did know was that she was given up a couple of months after she was born, she was adopted at 14 months, she knew her birth mother and father’s names, and she knew she had a sister.
Lachewitz learned to use a computer when she was around 10, so she would secretly Google her birth parents’ names, but not come up with any clues. She would also write letters to her sister that she could never send.
“I wonder if you have any idea who I am. I’m Elena, I’m your baby sister,” read one letter. “Actually, I don’t know if you exist (or even care), but I know you do, and that matters to me.”
Looking back at the letters, Lachewitz told TLC she realized this was her way of pleading with the birth family she couldn’t contact for answers and acceptance.
“But why? Why did they give me up? Was I really that bad?” she wrote in one letter.
“I still think about you, mom, and dad. You’ll always have a place in my heart … You’re still a big part of my life even if I’m not a part of yours.”
At age 18, Lachewitz turned to social media, hoping that her story would get out and answers would return—she knew there was a slim chance of a miracle reunion happening because of this one video, but she also knew that she had to try.
At midnight over Christmas break, Lachewitz went to her high school to film and upload her “Adoption Christmas Wish.”
Finding more about her birth family had been her Christmas wish every single year, but nothing had ever manifested.
“I think maybe this might be my breakthrough,” Lachewitz said.
She told her story, then made a heartfelt plea for anyone with information to contact her, as she had not even one photo of her birth parents or sister.
The video only got 975 views in total—-but one of these people ended up contacting Lachewitz and leading her to the right path.
It was a 15-year-old girl from Spain: She contacted Lachewitz through Instagram and said she herself had also been adopted from Russia, and now went by the name Julia.
Even though her message to the world ultimately got fewer than 1,000 views, it ended up being the link to her family.
“I saw your video and want to help you,” Julia wrote. Julia shared her own story and then helped set up a Russian language Facebook page for Lachewitz to track down any relatives.
After some hours of work, she hit upon a biological great-uncle of Lachewitz’s, which led to the names of Lachewitz’s other relatives. She found out her older sister’s name, and the existence of a half sister and half brother. She also learned that her mother had passed away five years prior.
Lachewitz and Julia sent information about Lachewitz to her relatives, including baby photos and a copy of her birth certificate and the orphanage name where she was adopted.
It made its way to her biological father, Sergey Kislyakov—and he wrote back.
It turned out that Lachevitz wasn’t given up for the reasons she thought—it wasn’t that her parents didn’t want to keep their ill baby, they were just so financially strapped it would have been impossible.
“Here is a present. !!! and I did not expect to ever see you daughter !!!” her father wrote upon receiving a photo of her. “… there was no work, factories were closed, people cut back, but I had all sorts (and illegal means) to produce a living … it turned out that I was in prison …”
At that point, Kislyakov did not have any legal rights to the child, and her mother Vera Krestinicheva could in no way afford to raise her daughter. When they found out she was adopted and taken overseas, they assumed she was “lost forever.”
“Thank God, you yourself found me !! It’s a miracle !!! I love you, docha!” her father wrote.
Lachewitz held dual-citizenship in America and Russia, but there were complications that did not allow her to fly to Russia to see her birth family members. For one, she was informed that if she set foot in Russia, it was possible that officials would make it very difficult to leave. So for the immediate future, she was content video chatting with her older sister, Katya, and her younger half-sister, Dacha, and her younger half-brother, Danya.
But as they kept talking and details about Lachewitz’s family kept emerging, it was about two years later that she discovered another bombshell.
She had a twin.
It came completely out of the blue when her younger half-sister mentioned it.
“I totally didn’t believe her, and she just kept insisting it was true,” Lachewitz said in a video diary.
“Then she told me that she had been looking at medical records our mother Vera had written,” she recalled. So when Dacha finally got her hands on the rest of the records, she took photographs to send to Lachewitz. It was all in Russian and difficult to parse, so Lachewitz forwarded them to her older sister and her biological father.
Katya had no idea there was yet another long-lost sibling, but Kislyakov told her the truth.
“He told me that it was true—that I had a twin brother and at the time, so December 17th, 1994 … our mother was influenced by drugs and because of this my brother and I had a lot of complications,” she said. Her brother had actually been a stillbirth, and passed away at birth.
When Lachewitz was born, she herself was only 4 pounds. Shortly after, she dropped to just 2 pounds.
“It is a miracle I was alive,” she explained. “Just finding out that I actually had a twin just—it touches my heart. I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason.”
Throughout her journey of discovering her roots and reconnecting with family members, Lachewitz had a gut feeling there was one more secret to uncover. And learning that she had a twin? That had to be it.
“That’s what I was missing all these years,” she said. “I remember when I was younger I just had a gut feeling that I had a twin, I just knew.” As a child, whenever she played with dolls, it would always be a boy and a girl that she said were twins.
“It’s crazy, because now I’m finding out I’m the girl—I’m the twin of my brother, it all leads up to this,” she said. “I have a twin brother and maybe he’s not here physically but he’s here in other ways, and that’s really, really important to me. And I know he’s looking down on me, and I know now why I am the way I am, why I fight so hard, why I do certain things, why I like certain things.”
“It’s exciting for me to find out the truth and the pieces of my puzzle,” she said. “But I also wish he was here, every day.”