DIRIGO STORIES: Chebeague Island family reflects on unique adoption 20 years later
CHEBEAGUE ISLAND (WGME) – Life on an island has proven to be an adventure for a family that formed half a world away.
Beverly Johnson has lived on Chebeague Island most of her life, and has quite the resume: lobsterman, master plumber, and Olympic Torch Bearer in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.
“I had always wanted to be in the Olympics at some point,” Johnson said.
“It's one of the most exciting moments of my life.”
Or so she thought. Little did Johnson know, nearly 20 years after that game between the underdog United States hockey team and the Soviet Union, she’d adopt three children from Russia.
“I think back now, and I think, ‘What if we hadn't done that? How boring our lives would be?’”
For all the adventures she has taken, Johnson’s greatest accomplishment is her family. Her daughter, Vika, is now the Chebeague Island Town Clerk.
“I got adopted to an island off the coast to a fisherman and a master plumber, who happens to be a woman,” Johnson said. “I think it's very unique and very different, but I'm very grateful for it.”
She’s grateful because Johnson was almost left behind. Originally, the Johnsons only adopted Vika’s younger brother, Denis, and sister, Dasha, in 1996. They didn't know Vika existed.
“One night I was putting them to bed, and Denis said, ‘Can we find my sister, Vika?’ Then he started to cry,” Beverly Johnson recalled during an interview with CBS 13 in 1997, at the time of Vika’s adoption.
They tracked down Vika to an orphanage and adopted her in 1997.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Vika said. “It doesn't feel like it was me, or it was my life.”
In Russia, Vika found herself acting as a parent to her younger siblings when she was only 9-years-old. Both their parents suffered from substance abuse.
“There would be two or three nights in a row where it'd be the three of us,” said Vika. “It was up to me to do what a parent-figure had to do.”
Social workers separated Vika from her brother and sister. She found they got adopted, and was crushed.
“I remember for many, many weeks after that just lying in bed and crying because I was so sad. Then, it was about six months later, the same person came to the orphanage and said the same people who adopted them, want to take you.”
20 years since the adoption, Vika and Dasha still live on the island. Their brother, Dennis, lives down south.
“It was a remarkable time,” Beverly Johnson said. “It was a good move, I was really happy we did it.”
So is Vika, who know has a daughter of her own, and is getting married this summer.
“I don't feel there's been a void in my life even though for the first 12 years I had nothing.”
It’s a life now full of family and island adventures. When asked what adventure the family will take next?
“I don’t know yet. We’ll see!” said Johnson.