Alexander Krutov was born December 6, 1977 in St. Petersburg, Russia. When his teen-aged mother left the hospital three days later, she discarded him in a nearby dumpster. Thankfully God allowed someone to hear his crying, and since he still had his hospital bracelet on, they returned him to the hospital.
He spent the rest of his growing-up years in various orphanages. His humor shines through when he mentions Orphanage Number 9 and comments, “Though the Russians have written some of the greatest works of literature and music, our creativity apparently does not extend to naming orphanages.”
He describes growing up in the orphanages, the general lack of individual attention and care except by a few, the physical lacks (no hot water or shower, only a bucket of water once a week) the lack of individuality (three sets of new clothes once a year that looked exactly like everyone else’s). Yet there were bright lights along the way in a few close friendships and a special caretaker named Melana. He was adopted at one time, but it was a horrid experience resulting in his running away several times until a couple found him asleep in a park, intervened for him, and the orphanage took him back.
He had some experiences with the Russian Orthodox Church, even rising to a level of leadership, but found after a crisis that “my religion had nothing to offer me when I needed it most, and I in turn had nothing to offer the others. I turned my back on the Russian Orthodox Church that day, and accelerated my journey into darkness, despair, and hopelessness.”
The collapse of the Soviet Union 1991 brought many changes to the orphanages, some good and some not so good. But one significant difference was that missionaries were allowed to come into the country. Several encounters with short-term missionaries planted seeds in Alex’s life. Though at first he was not convinced that there was a God who cared about him, he did see a difference in the lives of these people and felt drawn to them. Some missionaries from the Navigators came, and Alex was able to spend much time with them and go to church with them and began reading the Bible on his own. When he was 16 he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. His faith was still fragile at first, but gradually it grew and became firm. He had a teachable spirit when the American Christians had to talk to him at times about wrong attitudes.
The Soviet system did not really prepare orphans for any kind of productive life when they became adults. Alex says in one place “the Russian society honestly believed it would be better for everyone if they just died.”
Eventually God led Alex to help in the formation of a ministry to help prepare older orphans for life as responsible adults and tell them of Christ, and it is my understanding that he is still involved with that ministry today in his 30s.
I don’t know if I am doing this book justice, but it was a wonderful read. It was hard in places, seeing what Alex and other orphans went through, but there were so many times the grace of God was manifested in his life, protecting him and bringing him to Himself. I highly recommend it, five stars and two thumbs up!
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)