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"You'll Like it Here.": The Story of Donald Vitkus-Belchertown Patient #3394

4.53  ·  Rating details ·  77 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Abandoned by his unwed mother during World War II, Donald Vitkus becomes a ward of the Commonwealth of Mass­achusetts. He is 27 days old. Six years later as "Patient #3394," he is committed to Belchertown State School, where he is labeled a "moron" with an I.Q. of 41. Like hundreds of other institutions across the country, Belchertown is a de-humanizing environment of barr ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published by Levellers Press
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Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Vitkus overcame more obstacles than I can ever fathom. A strong, genuine person. This story is humbling. I had the pleasure of knowing him briefly, and this story is wonderful, capturing his spirit for readers to understand him on a personal level.
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It was sad and disturbing of course but ultimately it is inspiring.It is unbelievable ...but true that people were treated like this in the USA so recently.Donald Vickus is an amazing man and I admire and respect him.I am glad I was able to read his story.
Michelle Smith Biron
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thank you for telling Donald's story. I admire his resilience and determination to overcome the label placed on him. ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Good memoir. The State School closed in 1992, and I attended third and fourth grades in two buildings that were once dormitories from fall 92 to spring 94. I never knew much about the place aside from the fact that it was a residential facility for people with developmental disabilities, and that they were treated pretty horribly there. Since the book is about one person's experiences and recollections there is little in the way of exploring the systematic abuse and exploitation of the people wh ...more
Christine Smith
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I made many trips to college driving past Belchertown State School. I never realized the horrors they were happening in there. So sad. This book describes a lot of them as described by a patient at the school. This is the story of his journey through the school and finally making it , through perseverance , out of the school and into the "real world". ...more
Karen Forsyth
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
"you'll Like it Here by Ed Orzechowski, is a wonderful memoir full of funny and sad moments of this amazing boys life.
The book is very well written and a very interesting read that will leave a lasting impression.
Irene Tanzman
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For anyone concerned with human rights and dignity, Ed Orzechowski's book, "You'll like it here." is a must-read. This biography describes the life of Donald Vitkus, an illegitimate ward of the state, who was mislabeled as a "moron" at the age of six. The book chronicles his experiences growing up at the Belchertown State School, a Western Massachusetts institution for the developmentally disabled.

Orzechowski transports the reader to the unconscionable, inhumane, and nighmarish conditions in the
A personal account of a very dark period in the treatment of mental health, developmental disabilities, orphans, and other people society would rather remain out of sight. Diagnosis is a double edge sword-one, it can help with treatment, two, it's a label, a box that people can't see through. For Donald Vitkus, he was defined by his label. His life was dictated by the box it put him in, by the authorities and institutions who were not working in his best interest (did anyone really believe that ...more
Jamie Wickenhagen
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
The painful rendition full of an inspirational reminder of the strength and our basic human rights.
Lisa Zarcone
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Donald for being a voice and bringing awareness to this difficult subject that must be continued to be talked about. Also Thank you Ed for bringing Donald's story to light!!
When I worked for CHD two of my clients were in Belchertown and their stories are harrowing as well. It is heart breaking to think of the abuse that continues to go on. This was a very educating and eye opening read. Thank You.
Charlotte Cassidy
Jul 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
"abuse, neglect, the regimentation, the dog house, the beatings, solitary confinement, bars on the windows, no toilet paper, no talking allowed? how could that have happened? They had no idea that imbecile, idiot and moron were actually clinical labels for the developmentally disabled half a century ago. They didn't realize the hurt inflicted on mentally handicapped individuals, their parents and siblings when the word "retard" was tossed around in casual conversation, on tv or in movies."

If it'
Oct 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a compelling story about triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds. I live in Belchertown and see the deserted ruins of this abominable institution all the time. Many locals wax poetic over it, having worked there or having family members who did. I never understand that. It’s a shameful era in our history, no matter how well-intentioned its origins. I wish I had seen Mr. Vitkus speak before he passed. He was interred in the Turkey Hill cemetery in 2018, according to his wishes to rest wit ...more
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You can read the synopsis elsewhere. My thoughts:
I stumbled upon the now-closed Belchertown State School a few years ago. Solid brick-faced buildings, now abandoned and starting to crumble. My original thought was that this was a waste of land and buildings. But the real story was the waste and destruction generated inside these buildings. The book presents the issue of what does a society do with those who are either abandoned, or too difficult to manage? The thinking of the day was to house th
David Oliveira
Sep 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be an extremely well written book about a subject that still exists today. That subject not being what you may think, but rather the subject of the treatment of people whom we find different from us, and the need to characterize people who we find different, to be inferior.

It is also the story of one person's struggle to be what they can be, and not accept a definition as inferior.

May Donald rest in peace.
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
"You'll Like it Here" excellent read! Kept my attention from beginning to end. It was atrocious what happened to Donald Vitkus and others who lived at the Belchertown State School. Thanks for writing a book with such clear insight into the horrors that alot of children and adults endured while living in state facilities years ago. Jan Lewis, Host, "Be My Guest!" Upton,Mass. ...more
Ron Dunn
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, well written, horrifying, and yet inspiring.
Grace St. James
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Aug 30, 2020
Patricia Coupal
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Oct 09, 2020
Robert J Stone
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Oct 24, 2021
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Aug 28, 2020
Nic Rice
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Mar 24, 2020
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May 14, 2017
Teresa Roy -Sheppard
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Feb 08, 2020
Jennifer Carlson
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May 22, 2017
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Apr 21, 2017
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Feb 13, 2018
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Mar 05, 2020
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Apr 10, 2017
Mandy Harfst
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Jun 10, 2018
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Ed Orzechowski is the author of You’ll Like It Here—The Story of Donald Vitkus, Belchertown Patient #3394, a narrative nonfiction book recently published by Levellers Press of Amherst, Massachusetts.

His features and columns have appeared in The Journal Register, The Springfield Republican, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Early American Life magazine, and other publications.

Ed is a retired high schoo

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