Some life stories are more touching than others. They might begin a bit dark—but many times, thanks to hope and faith, they go places that no one would have thought possible.
This is the story of one such miracle—and it begins in 1992 in Siberia, Russia.
The day was February 29, 1992. In a small village near the Bratsk, Russia, a baby girl was born. Her parents named her Tatiana.
The girl, then named Tatiana, had a congenital abnormality called fibular hemimelia.
It meant that she lacked fibulas, or calf bones, as well as ankles, heels, and various other foot bones. As such, it was highly unlikely that she'd ever be able to walk.
Both of Tatiana's parents were very young, just 17 or 18 years years old, and they were convinced that they couldn't take care of their newborn daughter.
Instead, they left the poor girl to an orphanage in Siberia.
There, Tatiana spent the nightmarish first years of her life.
But one day, everything changed.
An American couple Beth and Steve Long saw Tatiana in an international adoption database, and after hearing about her tragic history, decided to act.
They traveled to the other side of the globe and adopted the 13-month-old girl.
They brought her to Baltimore, Maryland, where the girl now had a new home, a new life, and a loving family.
She was given the name Jessica and immediately got the best possible care.
Five months later, when Jessica was 18 months old, both of her legs were amputated—and she learned to walk on prosthetic legs.
Jessica quickly mastered the new skill.
Her competitive spirit was strong, and despite her physical limitations, Jessica developed an interest in sports.
She learned to swim in her grandparents' pool.
Swimming soon became Jessica's passion.
She made steady progress—and in 2004, she became the youngest American to participate in the Paralympics, which was held in Athens, Greece that year.
Despite being younger than the other competitors, she won three gold medals!
Jessica Long's success didn't stop there. She raked in medals, smashed world records, and soon became one of the world's top swimmers.
In 2012, when Jessica competed in the Paralympics in London, Natalia and Oleg Valtysheva watched her compete from their home in Russia.
But they had no way of knowing that the swimming superstar was their daughter.
That was about to change, though.
After Jessica's success in London, Russian journalists heard about her story. They knew that Jessica was keen to meet her birth family and immediately began the detective work to locate them.
It soon turned out that Jessica's parents live in Bratsk. Contact was made with them, and they agreed to meet Jessica.
Twenty years after parting, Jessica was reunited with her mother, father, and three siblings.
It was an emotional meeting that none of them will ever forget.
"Met my Russian family. I love them more than words can say. My heart is so full," Jessica Long wrote on Twitter.
At one time, it was unthinkable that Jessica would celebrate huge successes in the pool—but the determined swimmer defied all odds.
She has proved that nothing is impossible, and her life has come full circle by reuniting with her birth family.
"It's a trip I'll never forget. This picture says it all... I just love her," Jessica Long wrote on Facebook.
Hope is the last thing that dies, as proven by the incredible Jessica Long. Don't forget to share her story with your friends on Facebook!