World famous artist led her atheist family to God. At this point,
they are not Catholic, but the story is quite amazing.
Foreli Kramarik the mother of the acclaimed child prodigy, Akiane, was raised as an atheist in communist Lithuania. Religion was viewed, as unsophisticated--intelligent people did not fall for such wishful thinking.
Her father, a talented theater director, disdained all things religious. Since both the state and Foreli’s parents said there was no God, she did not question it.
One day, at the age of thirteen, Foreli woke up paralyzed in a hospital bed. Ironically, in a country where black and gray clothing was the norm, her prized red coat from Czechoslovakia should have been a red flag to the truck driver who hit her. But both Foreli and the driver were in too much of a hurry to notice one another.
The doctor delivered a grim prognosis: “You will not be going back to school and you will never be able to walk again or ever have children.” Yet, the determined girl refused to accept such a dire scenario. “I kept telling myself to move,” said Foreli. “I was determined to walk again. My brain was working fine so I used it to keep learning and to convince myself that I would get better.”
English Becomes Key
Since attending regular school was impossible after the accident, Foreli studied on her own. She also listened to the BBC radio and taught herself English. From the time she was seven years old, Foreli dreamed of going to the United States where she heard that opportunities were much better. Her parents wanted to go too but could not get permission from their communist government.
For studied a number of other subjects while continually pushing to move her unresponsive muscles. With no encouragement from her doctors or nurses—in fact they were usually indifferent and at times abusive—Foreli surprised everyone and healed within two years. During her time as an invalid, she had done enough independent studies that she passed a government exam qualifying her to teach at only 17.
Foreli continued honing her English proficiency through books and conversing with foreigners, the latter of which was forbidden by the government. She even spent a couple days in jail after getting caught talking with foreigners. “I went by the hotels and special parks where the foreigners were allowed to go,” she explained. “The KGB (part of the former Soviet Union’s secret police) noticed I was doing this. People like my father—anyone in the arts, university professors or of high profiles--were watched carefully so I too was under surveillance.”
Love at First Sight
When Foreli was nineteen, her father secretly paid a ransom to obtain a one-year visitor’s visa for her. Such visitors typically became runaways. The expectation was that she would send back money to help pay the ransom and also that she would likely never return. Her father made arrangements for Foreli to arrive in Chicago, and after she did, she worked at a number of jobs including babysitter, cashier, and waitress. But the people, customs, and environment seemed so harsh and unwelcoming compared to her homeland. Even though she spoke four languages and learned quickly, Foreli did not feel she fit. She was often sick with ulcers and missed her family terribly. Lonely and homesick, Foreli booked a return airline ticket to Lithuania for the following month. She continued on at her waitress job at a Lithuanian restaurant, planning to work up until the end.
One afternoon, a handsome young man caught her eye at work. Thinking she had nothing to lose, Foreli put on a big smile and brought a glass of water to his table. His name was Markus. He was teaching college cooking classes and had come to the restaurant looking for a translator to help with the Lithuanian dishes. The attraction was mutual and the two struck up a conversation. Unfortunately, all Foreli’s attention to this one customer resulted in her getting fired. Markus was actually not even her customer since he was sitting in another waitress’s section. On the bright side, they had made a date to visit the zoo together the next day where spontaneously Markus proposed marriage. Foreli and Markus were immediately infatuated. They felt they were always meant to be together.
“He was so charming,” explained Foreli “I had definitely fallen for him, but how could I make such an important decision on such short notice? I was scared to say yes and scared to say no,” she said. Foreli was 20 and Markus was 31 when she decided to “take the risk and get married.” That was in 1990. She never regretted it.
“I was fortunate that he was the best man in the world for me,” she stated. But they never could have imagined the incredible journey ahead.
Then Comes Children
Mark was agnostic, often wondering about a God, but never trying to influence his wife from her atheism. Foreli missed her family and homeland, but in 1991 with the birth of son, Delfini, she put down a little root. Two years later a second son, Jeanlu was born, and then Akiane, their first daughter arrived two years later. Unfortunately, health problems and job changes placed a heavy financial burden on the family. Foreli accepted the poverty without complaint and raised her children with love and wonder for the world around them.
When Akiane was just three weeks old, Foreli received a call from relatives informing her that a woman named Victoria from the mountains of Armenia was telling people about a girl named Akiane who would have an incredible future that would impact many others. Later that day, Victoria called Foreli herself. With a thick Russian accent, she tried to explain the spectacular future that lay ahead for Akiane. Since Victoria was a Christian and Foreli and Markus were not, they considered the woman a fanatic.
As Akiane grew, her easy affection and sunny disposition brought joy to the family’s simple life. Recently moved from Chicago to a small town in Illinois, they could only afford a shack on the edge of a cornfield. The neighborhood was rough and the home decrepit, but their abundant love for each other richly made up for it.
Markus commuted a long distance to his job as a chef while Foreli lovingly mothered her three children. With little money and no friends, the natural world supplied their entertainment. Watching the setting sun, counting birds in the sky, raising monarch butterflies from cocoons, writing books, making swords out of branches and wreathes from flowers and pine needles, tents from blankets, and forts from boxes or snow, filled their days.
After taking a second job to ease the financial strain, Markus developed severe asthma and other health problems. Although Foreli cherished her time with their children, she took a job in sales with a national nutritional products company and experienced fast success. They moved into a ten thousand foot home in Missouri. But in time, Foreli found her demanding work interfered with the sacred bond she had with her children. Money did not compensate for such a loss. Foreli eventually quit her job to devote herself full-time to motherhood. Markus found work, although his earnings were meager.
Akiane Meets God
During this time, when Akiane was four years old, she came to her parents to share an amazing experience.
“Today I met God,” Akiane whispered to her mother one morning.
“What is God?” Foreli questioned. Even the name “God” sounded primitive and ridiculos to her.
“God is light—warm and good. It knows everything and talks with me. It is my parent,” the young daughter answered.
Foreli wanted to know about her dream but Akiane insisted it was no dream; she insisted that she had really been taken to heaven. Foreli wondered how her daughter even knew the word “God.” The kids were homeschooled and her playmates were her two brothers. The family never prayed or talked about religion. Nor did the children watch television. Akiane’s sudden and detailed descriptions of God and heaven were startling and unexplainable. And they did not stop.
With deep sincerity and wisdom surpassing her tender age, Akiane spoke often of the spiritual world and of God. At the same time, Akiane began drawing on whatever surfaces were available to her. One morning at 4:00 a.m., Akiane woke her mother by waving a drawing before her.
“Look! This is her—this is my angel,” she said.
Akiane’s sketches were those of an experienced and gifted artist not the scribbling of a young child with no formal lessons. Foreli and Markus were amazed but also confused. How could this be? What did this mean?
Watching the wonders unfolding before them, and hearing of Akiane’s encounters with God brought Markus and Foreli face to face with the Divine. They had no idea why this was happening to their daughter, but it was clear that she was not making it up.
|"Prince of Peace" age 8|
Faith Comes to the Family
Foreli felt directed to quit her job and devote herself full-time to motherhood. The family returned to a life of economic difficulty, but because of Akiane, their newfound belief in God brought a harmony and joy they had never experienced before.
Markus found work, although his earnings were meager. The family returned to a life of economic difficulty but because of Akiane, their newfound belief in God brought a harmony and joy they had never experienced before. At this time, in spite of the financial hardship, Foreli and Markus had a desire to have a fourth child. Another son, Ilia, was born in 2002. A difficult pregnancy for Foreli led them to put the children in regular school for a time.
Akiane’s artistic abilities were advancing daily. By six she was painting. At this point, when her artwork was entered in local art shows, no one believed a child so young had actually created such pictures. Markus and Foreli moved their family to Colorado thinking the mountains would provide a wholesome atmosphere but instead it proved disastrous. Health problems pursued the whole family and attending public school left the children begging to come home again. Akiane had begun writing poetry and aphorisms at seven, her poems often coming to her fully conceived. Ironically, she had no prior interest in reading and writing. Akiane revealed that always she first prays and then sees words and images in her head. Sometimes, she is not even sure of the meaning herself. The compositions were astonishing for their level of sophistication, rhythm, imagery and beauty. Up until that time Akiane had read only nursery rhymes.
As Akiane’s interest in poetry and art blossomed, her interest in school dwindled. She begged to be able to study at home so she would have the time and energy for art and poetry. Foreli was scared. Health and financial problems dogged at their heels and she feared the responsibility of schooling four children at home. For the first time, they began praying together as a family. Before long, the family packed up and moved to Northern Idaho close to a lake and amid nature.
Surrounded by family and nature, Akiane flourished. God and prayer comprised the core of her being. Foreli felt strongly that God wanted her to relax and not fret over subjects and grades.
“I came to understand that God is really there and He loves me,” she explains. “God (also) revealed a simple thought to me: Why are you having such a big burden? Are you going to please the world or please me? Akiane’s experience changed the way I homeschool because no longer am I fearful of the outside judging what I am doing… In a nutshell, I have learned that we should train our children to get a skill and with wisdom, find their interests and talents. Each one will develop on their own path.” While Akiane is notably talented in art and poetry, her three brothers also have a number of interests and talents including architecture, real estate, cooking and producing plays, which they pursue at home.
The World Meets Akiane
|Akiane invited to Oprah Show|
when we need him.”
Later a Russian television host, Jurij Sizenov Nikolaevich would say of this portrait: “We are all in total awe…. We compared Akiane’s extraordinary painting “Prince of Peace” with the computerized image taken from the Shroud of Turin that was hanging in my office. To our complete
|Shroud of Turin|
Akiane’s paintings were displayed in individual showings at art galleries. When she was nine, she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show. As a result, the media and the world learned of this amazing child prodigy. Since then, Akiane has been featured on television and in newspapers and magazines around the world. Her art exhibits typically bring long lines that sometimes snake around the outside of the building. By the time she was ten, some of her artwork sold for upwards of $100,000. She uses proceeds from her two books and sold art to help needy children all over the world. Akiane has been internationally recognized as the only known binary child prodigy, accomplished in both realist paint and poetry. Her website, www.artakiane.com averages 150 million hits a year.
In spite of the fame, Akiane remains a humble and gentle soul. She explains, “I have been blessed by God. And if I am blessed, there is one reason and one reason only, and that is to help others.” If she had but one wish it would be: “That everyone would love each other and love God.” She says that her goal for each painting and poem is to be a gift to others and a gift to God.
In the book akiane, her life, her art, her poetry, Foreli summarizes Akiane and her family’s incredible journey: “Akiane is convinced that the greatest gift we could give to God, who has everything and does not need anything, is for us to love one another and walk in faith, day by day, hour by hour. Now we as her parents believe that too. For by trusting Akiane and by listening to her messages, which were divinely inspired yet masked with childish laughter, we were rewarded with one of the greatest gifts of all-- faith.”
For more inspiration check out Patti's latest book: Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to Heaven. Other books include: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and the best-selling Amazing Grace Series.