Belarusian Girl Won't Leave U.S. after Experience Trip

By Raymond Fitzmyer

Tanya Kazyra, 16, from Belarus, left her country for the United States eight years ago as she was to stay with the Zapatas in a wine country town. Tanya and 2,000 other children from regions affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident received dental, health and vision care through such programs since 1991.

Tanya said it is too hard to leave away from the place she called home for eight years and she refuses to return to her home state. Her decision caused a rift in diplomatic circles and obliged her country to halt its exchange and adoption programs to the U.S.

Debra Zapata said that Tanya has called her and her husband mom and dad since she was eight years old and that she would help the 16-year-old with all she needs.

Authorities say that Tanya is too old to continue with the program, but the girl says that the life that expects her home is worse than the one she had here. When she was an infant, a court order removed her from her parents' house and she went to live together with her grandmother who protected her from her father's violence.

"There, my life is too hard. I love my country, and I love my grandma. But life is not really good. I have a family here," Tanya added.

Tanya visa expired in December and she was asked to extension by immigration authorities. Still, this seems to be the first time an exchange participant refuses to return home.



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