Concentration camp survivor pays it forward

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by SHELLY SLATER

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaashelly

WFAA

Posted on May 6, 2013 at 10:03 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 7 at 1:46 PM

This is Alexandra Goode's favorite quote:

“I believe in the sun even when I don't see it.
I believe in love even when I don't feel it.
I believe in God even when he is silent.”

There was a time that Goode rejected God.

Her family died in World War II. At 13, she was alone, an orphan, and just another number on paper.

Goode was herded in a cattle car headed for Dachau, the German concentration camp.

"They did a lot of experiments," she recalled. "They did injections. They took out our tonsils without anesthesia... they just yanked it out."

By day, she dug mass graves for the dead. By night, she hoped to lie in one herself.

"One night, I crawled on my bed and prayed God would take my life," Goode said. "Instead, what He did... He didn't take my life... He gave me a new heart."

Goode found God again, and with it a deep need to help others.

The war ended, she made it to America, and has since rescued more than 250 orphans from Russia.

She brings them to the U.S., gets them medical attention, and ultimately finds each child a mom and dad.

Kids like Mason. He weighed just 8 pounds when he was 9 months old, starving to death and in need of multiple surgeries.

Goode worried he was too frail to live through the plane ride to Dallas. Now he’s a thriving six-year-old in Keller.

His Russian has given way to English, except for one word.

"Babu!"  Mason exclaimed.

Short for "babushka," "babu" means "grandma" in Russian. And while Mason's babu is almost 90, her aging hands won't slow down.

Perhaps the most unique story is that of Alena. She was left in an orphanage with children who were considered outcasts -- they had deformed faces, missing body parts, even kids confined to bed for life.

"There were Down syndrome children playing on the floor, and they would grab your leg, because they didn't walk," Goode said.

Alena stole her heart that day, a child whose face was in some sense unrecognizable.

Babushka connected Alena with Dallas plastic surgeon Dr. Craig Hobar to transform her face.

Alena's first surgery lasted 12 hours, a delicate process of protecting her brain while moving facial bones.

“I had like four-thousand-million surgeries,” Alena said. 

Now she's nine years old... perky, funny,  and downright happy.

And while Alena has a loving adoptive home,  her family tree starts with Babushka.

“Babushka, she says, 'I love you and miss you,'" Alena said. "I usually give her a hug, and then she says, 'Kiss me!'"

Goode hopes that the adoptive parents and the former orphans will carry on her legacy when she's no longer able to.

“I do pray that God allowed us to have a part in their lives, would recognize that they've been blessed, that they need to pay it forward,” she said.

Alena literally has dreams of when it’s her turn to save others.

“If somebody was in Russia, wanted to bring that child to somebody''s home, and so I do -- like the same thing that happened to me," she said.

It's that promise that gives Babu a sliver of peace. Because when she closes her eyes at night, the faces she hasn't been able to save haunt her.

“When you're blessed and you survived, how can you not do something?” Goode asked.

The God she turned her back to as a young child. Is now the core of her strength. Nearly eight  decades later, she recognizes her courage and bravery didn’t just change her life.

In December, the Russian government stopped allowing these adoptions. Some believe it's because Russia is retaliating against U.S. sanctions over a human rights violation.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

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