Wallaces know home is where heart is

Published 9:03 pm Thursday, October 7, 2010

Eight-year-old Alyssa Faith Wallace is pulling up stakes again.

This time, it’s different.

When Alyssa was eight months old, she moved to the United States from the only home that she had ever known – a crib at an orphanage in Azerbaijan.

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Sandie Wallace could not have children so she and her husband chose an international adoption because she realized the grim plight of babies in foreign orphanages.

She and Chris Wallace chose to go to the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia in 2001 to bring their baby home.

“In the United States, there are many people willing to adopt but in some other countries, there are many more babies than people who want them,” Sandie said.

The couple went through all the hoops necessary to adopt and made the long flight to Azerbaijan in an effort to make their lives complete.

“There were 120 kids in the orphanage and only eight caretakers,” Sandie said. “When I saw that precious little girl and that sweet smile, I knew she was our little girl.”

The couple was told that the baby they wanted for their own had tested positive for Hepatitis B.

“I said that sick babies need love, too,” Wallace said. “She was the one for us.”

Wallace said after that, her daughter was tested four additional times for the disease and each time the test came back negative.

The Wallaces stayed in Azerbaijan for three days and were able to take Alyssa with them to the hotel.

Except for two days, she had spent all eight months of her life in the orphanage and most of it in a crib.

“She had never been outside,” Wallace said. “She couldn’t sit up or even hold her head up. She didn’t want Chris to hold her because all of the caretakers were women and she had never been around men. She had to get used to Chris.”

After three days, the Wallaces had to say goodbye to their baby but with the promise to be back in three months.

“Before we left, we donated an extra thousand dollars that would feed six children for three months,” Wallace said. “When we left Alyssa, she weighed 11 pounds. When we went back to bring her home, she had gained two pounds. It’s so sad that the children don’t have enough to eat and what little they have is fed to them in about two minutes because there are so many children to feed.”

The Wallaces had to fly to Moscow with Alyssa to finalize the adoption and then they were homeward bound.

“That was the happiest day of my life,” Wallace said. “Because she was so under-developed when we adopted her, we got to see all of the firsts in her life. The first time she sat up, the first time she rolled over. She was like a newborn and she was the joy of our lives.

“Alyssa is my life. I can’t imagine life without her,” Wallace said. “Some people said that she wouldn’t fit in, that she would be accepted. But that hasn’t happened. She loves school and she has so many friends.”

Alyssa is in the third grade and she couldn’t be happier. She knows that she is adopted and that her native home is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south. But she knows her heart home is wherever her adopted mom is.

And, now that it’s time to move to a new home in Pensacola, she is excited about the new adventures ahead.

“I can’t want to meet new friends and have a new home,” she said. “It’s going to be fun being in a new place. One day I want to go back to Azerbaijan – where I was born but not where home is.”

Editor’s note: The original publication of this article omitted the fact that subsequent tests showed Alyssa Wallace had tested negative for Hepatitis B. — added by staff, 10.27.10.