Adopted at 4, freshman is now a well-adjusted honors student and Rocket cheerleader

Madison Doran

In this photo, Sobie was four years old. The photo was taken by Araz Artinian who worked in the orphanage in Gyumri Armenia

Born with spina bifida, in a completely different country, her youngest years spent in an orphanage, is a history freshman Milena Sobie has overcome and embraced. 

Sobie was born in Armenia, a European country next to Turkey and Iran. Laws are not as strictly enforced there as they are in the US, she explained. People who live there smoke a lot and it is partially polluted, she recalled.

She went on to explain that Armenia does not have huge stores or malls like in the U.S. It is city-like, she continued, but mainly just buildings. People sell items from little tents and shops on the streets.

“It’s kind of like New York with a black filter on it.” she said.

Sobie’s birth parent put her up for adoption when she was six months old. Her mom wanted to divorce her husband, leave, and take Sobie with her because he was not a very good man, Milena explained. When her biological dad got news of this, he paid the government to tell his wife their daughter had died. He then put Milena up for adoption, never looking back.

Sobie said she is not very interested in meeting her birth parents, mainly because she does not know what she would even say to them. 

She said she is happy and content with the life she has now and does not want to worry about meeting them. 

Her father, Scott Sobie, said, “It’s up to her if she wants to ever meet her biological parents; we won’t mind.”

Sobie was in the orphanage until she was 4. One of her childhood memories is having a little toy phone with makeup in it and a stuffed animal that would speak if its hand was pushed. 

Sobie at age four in Gyumri Armenia in the orphanage. She was adopted also at age four by Jeanne and Scott Sobie. (Photo by Araz Artinian)

Milena had numerous surgeries done when she was young. She was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which a developing baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly (according to Doctors had to correct this early on, or else Sobie would be completely paralyzed. 

She had three surgeries in Armenia, and then more when she came to the US. Her surgeries were made possible by donations, she said. 

Milena was officially adopted at the age of 4 by Jeanne and Scott Sobie. Jeanne had worked for the adoption agency, advocating for children with special needs and matching them with waiting families, she explained. Part of her job was to travel to different countries, meet and familiarize herself with the waiting children, take photos and videos, and write up their descriptions. 

Jeanne ended up traveling to Armenia for her job, and volunteered at the orphanage where Milena lived.

“The minute I saw her photo, I felt a connection to her,” Jeanne said. “I called my husband over and he felt the same way.” 

“We fell in love with her,” added Scott.

At the time, Armenia was poor in the resources needed to live comfortably, Jeanne recalled. Running water was scarce — hot water even more scarce, electricity only at certain times; corruption and bribery ran rampant in the government, she added.

Children were crowded into orphanages, and not allowed to play with toys. They were not provided with medical or dental care. They had a limited amount of food. 

“In volunteering, you had to witness all that,” Jeanne said, “but taking kids out in the sunshine, who would not normally leave the building, was worth it.” 

Jeanne Sobie’s first impression of Milena was that she was “very smart and beautiful. She was very guarded and protective of herself and her emotions.”

“I saw so much of what she could be, if given the chance,” Jeanne recalled.

Sobie recently cheering for the football team even through the mask. Even with the mask on you can see her positivity and smiling face (Photo by Liv Rhinehart)

When Milena was first told she was getting adopted, she was scared. She had been told that her new parents were taking her to cut her up and take her organs. This gruesome and horrible story was actually commonly told to children by the orphanage staff, Jeanne explained. The staff did not want to see the children adopted, because that meant they would lose the monthly fee they collected for that child. The government paid these fees to the orphanage, and those who ran it did not want to lose that money.

In their first few weeks together, it was difficult for Milena’s parents to convince her that they would not harm her. 

“She was fighting for what she thought was her life and we were the enemy,” recalled Jeanne.

At one point, Milena tried to defend herself by hitting her dad on the head with a broom and pouring a glass of cold milk on her mom while she was sleeping. 

“These random people were just taking me away from all my friends,” Milena recalled thinking.

“The two things that seemed to settle Milena down in Armenia were buying nail polish and new clothes,” her mom said.

Her father recalled knowing how Milena was not in great situations at the orphanage, so she was bound to be nervous and scared.

“But she was a silly girl, she laughed a lot…We called her our little giggle princess,” he said. 

When Milena and her parents got on a plane to fly home to the U.S., a switch flipped inside her, and she became calm and happy, Jeanne said. At one point on the plane ride, “I fell asleep,” her mother recalled, “and Milena left her seat and the flight attendants were watching her fascination with flushing the toilets for over an hour.” 

Sobie has came a very far way. With her positive mindset, she can do anything she wants (Photo by Milena Sobie)

One particular holiday memory from those early years stands out to Milena. “Our first Christmas, there were so many gifts for me, and I didn’t know why these people speaking a different language were just handing me all these boxes,” she recalled. 

Scott said Milena has always been “smart and sweet.”

Jeanne noted their daughter, now a Rocket JV cheerleader taking all advanced classes, has the best sense of humor, laugh, and that she is fun to be around. 

Jeanne said she can always count on Milena to be forthright and honest. “She has always, and continues to make me, immensely proud…I could not love her more than I do,” she said.