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Black son, Black daughter, Cambodian brother and White parents

Norwich — Brian Miskiewicz has the dark skin that sustains his Ethiopian heritage.

Perhaps your brain just stalled trying to make the connection between "Miskiewicz" and "Ethiopian heritage." Because really: How many people named "Miskiewicz" do you figure inhabit the country of 112 million in East Africa known for archeological digs, ancient culture and good coffee?

"I always tell people I'm Polish," Miskiewicz said through a wry grin last week at Dickenman Field, where baseball practice was happening for Norwich Free Academy.

Brian Miskiewicz: A young Black man whose family is a cultural blend with his Black sister, White parents and a Cambodian brother. He is the adopted son of Mark and Kerry Miskiewicz of Norwich, a left-handed senior pitcher at NFA and living proof of those miraculous times when fate meets destiny, reiterating how we're all more united by similarity than divided by difference.

Mark Miskiewicz, a designer at Electric Boat, and Kerry, a Senior Manager of Finance at Charles River Laboratories Avian in Norwich, learned early in their marriage they would be unable to have children biologically. So they began their journey through the adoption process to start a family in Cambodia, where they brought home their son James when he was seven. He's now 22.

"I had always wanted to be a foster parent. I wanted to adopt kids or foster kids that needed a home," Kerry Miskiewicz was saying. "We took the (adoption) classes. Got through the home inspection. We went overseas and brought home James. Then we started searching for a family. It was quite the process. Ethiopia was a more transparent process going through court systems."

Mark and Kerry Miskiewicz traveled to Ethiopia to a village near Awasa, a city in the southwestern part of the country. They came home Dec. 24, 2006 with their new daughter, Emnet, 5, and Brian, 3. Emnet is now 19 and Brian 17.

"From the first time I saw my parents, I connected with them," Brian said of Mark and Kerry. "A meant-to-be kind of thing."

Adoption stories are awash with words like kismet, destiny and fate. Yet conversations about adoption — let alone about mixed race adoptions — often become awkward. Adoption, from the process to the result, isn't always easy to understand. There is also a tendency for well-meaning people to inform the child of how "lucky" he or she is to be in this new, wonderful family.

Turns out "lucky" applies both ways.

"Almost every day is like we won the lottery," Kerry Miskiewicz said. "Every young person is entitled to have a family and support system. I'm not entitled to have the years of being part of their lives. But that's where this is so great. I get to share it and I value it every day."

"I'm beyond blessed," Brian Miskiewicz said.

Not that there haven't been challenges. The Miskiewicz family, much like many other adoptive families, get what can be loosely translated into "The Stare" on occasion. People can't help themselves sometimes.

"People are going to look at you when they see two or three different races in one family," Brian said. "They're going to be curious. I've never gotten any rude comments. But you can see people look. It's very noticeable. Usually, they're not brave enough to ask a question. If they want to ask, I'll answer honestly."

The Miskiewicz family, as many other families have in recent months, spoke openly about the death of George Floyd and the subsequent national narratives about race relations. Except few families anywhere are their own version of the United Nations, perhaps making their viewpoint more poignant.

"One of the things the kids did mention to me during the summer was how heartened they were that people from all ethnicities and age groups were out there protesting," Kerry said, "and that they were thankful police here seemed supportive."

Brian said, "We were pretty open about it. I feel like I can talk to my parents about anything. Lots of open discussions. I am a young Black guy but I look older than I am. We had conversations about things like what I've experienced just driving around. They were very supportive."

Or put another way: It's what families do.

Miskiewicz is a starting pitcher for the Wildcats, who begin play in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Tournament next week. He said he'll attend Three Rivers Communit College next year "and try as many new things as I can."

"I think about what my life would be like in Ethiopia all the time," Brian said. "The opportunities I had to come here, I'm beyond blessed. I mean, if I want something, I ask and I'll probably get it. I don't remember too much from Ethiopia. I remember here. Everything's been pretty chill."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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