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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Holiday Letters to Russia

The content varies between terse, prison-fare reports, and fantastical missives from Mars.

“We get up and do school.  The food is good, write soon.”

“I visited Great Wolf Lodge and went on the Double Barrel Drop, then the River Canyon Run.  I watch The Electric Company.  Bye.”

There is rarely any mention of parents, brothers or sister, nor any descriptive words used, no matter how many times we do creative writing exercises.  Our kids exist in a grey and cloudy expanse of time and space, not fathoming how to make the bridge between a former life in the orphanage, and a new life with a family.  No wonder so few adoptees ever write letters to their former teachers or friends.  What’s there to say?

Pain in the popa that I am, I insist on a rough draft or two.  The fact that we’re writing these in rusty Russian doesn’t help.  When I suggest that the kids might want to jot down their thoughts in English first, that’s just as rough as the Russian, and practically incomprehensible.

“Is this the Russian or the English version?” I inquire, looking at the odd letter from the other alphabet in the middle of a word or two.


“Just asking…” I mutter as I put on my reading glasses and try to decipher more.

We are an odd family for this fast-paced era, writing timely thank-you notes, sending a card to friends or family who may not be feeling well.  Let’s put it this way:  we keep Hallmark, or their cheap knock-offs, in the dough.  The dollar store has caught onto our paper-pushing ways and recently started changing over their eight-for-a-dollar cards to four-for-a-dollar.

They thought we wouldn’t notice.

Ours is probably the only family that got into trouble with the Russian government for writing letters. When attempting to adopt our second son for years, there were some of the vertical powers that objected to our knowing about Pasha’s existence.

“Why is your son writing to this boy!???” they demanded on more than one occasion.

“They were friends together in the dyetsky dom,” we replied to the inquisitors convened on our behalf.  “Petya is a horoshee tovarisch (good comrade), why would he forget about his friend?”

“Nyelzah!”  they shrieked at the very thought.  Forbidden!

“Why would it be forbidden for our son, a Russian citizen, to write to his friend, another Russian citizen? Could you show us the Russian law, because we would never wish to break your laws?” we sweetly asked.

“It’s forbidden for you to know about such activities!” they insisted.

“I believe it would be very strange if we did not know the activities of our own son,” Benedetto replied.

A tribunal was convened (I kid you not).  We were brought before them and asked the date of every letter we had written to this poor child isolated in one of the most notorious orphanages in Russia.

“The dates?  The dates?” I replied in slow and measured tones, indicating just how crazy was their line of questioning.

“Holidays,” one of the good guys on their side responded, knowing we had to come up with something, anything, to satisfy them.

“Yes, we did write on holidays…” we picked up on the tip.

And here we were, years later, trying to compose holiday letters that, for all we knew, might one day be Exhibits Ah, Beh, and Veh, in some other trumped-up trial.  Best to intervene and assist the children in expressing the everyday life realities that they would never even think of mentioning:  that they had parents, brothers and sisters, describing exactly what activities and sports they enjoyed, what an average day was like….

“Dear Kolya,

Happy New Year!  How are you and everyone else?  I think of you and hope your life is going well.”

We will slip in one or two small, lightweight presents from the dollar store.  They may, or may not, get through to the children.  But at least we tried to brighten the day for those who have no one.


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