The Boy from Baby House 10 by Alan Philips and John Lahutsky is a captivating read. Once I started reading it, I could hardly put it down. I think the only thing that kept me from crying throughout the entire book was its subtitle, From the Nightmare of a Russian Orphanage to a New Life in America. I knew it had a happy ending. But many times in the book, I wondered HOW?
It's the story of John Lahutsky (his American name), and the people in his life who fought for him to have a life. We first meet Vanya when he is four years old and in a Russian orphanage. The situation is horrifying – it’s amazing that Vanya can even speak because the women who care for him hardly interact with him. I cannot help but admire Vanya’s unquenchable spirit which fights against all odds to be noticed, to interact with adults and children around him.
It’s this spirit which attracts the attention of some adults from outside the baby house, women who work tirelessly to rescue him from his classification as an “imbecile” because of his slight physical disabilities. His journey is a long one, and includes a horrifying, though mercifully short, stay in an adult mental asylum when he was six.
As John says in the Preface, “I am told I may be the only child to have survived the worst type of institution n the Russian children’s gulag and gone on to live a normal life in America. These institutions created by Stalin continue to devour children to this day.” (emphasis mine)
It is heartbreaking, this devouring of children. As you read this story, you’ll agree that is the only way to describe it. The people who fought the Russian bureaucracy on Vanya's behalf are heroes in my mind.
I was struck by something Philips wrote about halfway through the book, and its implication. “This was the monstrous logic of the Soviet state childcare system. The Communists had downgraded the family, decreeing that the state should take over the care of children who were destined never to grow into able-bodies workers, which in reality meant hiding them away and depriving them of contact with their families, education, and medical treatment.” (emphasis mine)
This is the logical conclusion of current theory that states parents are not qualified to parent their children. The logical conclusion that child-rearing is better left to “professionals.”
The Boy from Baby House 10 is a powerful testament that such thinking is destructive – it destroys parents, siblings, and children... thereby destroying society.