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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…!

On the Morning of Bringing Them Home

A most unusual thing just occurred. As I sit out our mandatory ten-day wait in Starii Krai, the powers that be call me one night. I happen to be outside, in front of the hotel, speaking with another adoptive family. One of the desk clerks comes running to me.

“Vlad is on the phone,” she announces. So I come, quickly, there must be news. Today I anticipated something all day, sending him an e-mail, asking if perhaps I could visit the girls tomorrow. It’s been one week since court, seven days, seven hours, and seven minutes. Or something like that.



“Good news and bad news. I think you’ll like this, but it has some bad news associated with this.”

As I’m trying to figure out what in the world he’s saying, while I stretch my body across the front reception desk, new arrivals coming and going at the hotel, another clerk holds out the other front desk phone to me.

“America,” she says, like I’m supposed to be talking on both phones simultaneously.

“Just a minute, Vlad,” I say, calling out to the other, “ask him to call back, please.”

It’s the appointed hour for Benedetto to call from the US, but there’s latebreaking news on this side.

“Alexandra? Alexandra?” Vlad impatiently demands. “Can you hear me?”

“Da, Vlad, I’m here.”

“Okay, listen, I got your court decision, it’s in my hand. You can go and get the girls tomorrow, 9:00 am, understand? I need to consult with Alex right now and see what is possible, but I believe that you can get their birth certificate from ZAGS, plus their Russian Passport, all on Friday, and fly to Moscow on Saturday. I know that means changing your flights and everything, but overall it would be good, right?”

“Yes, yes, absolutely, that could save us four days,” I start calculating.

“So I will call you in half an hour, I am going to speak with Alex and I will call you. Will you be available?”

“Yes, I might be on the phone with Benedetto, but I’ll be in my room waiting for your call.”

And with that, the other family comes inside and I tell them the good news. They are in shock. Their court date was before ours, and they will not get their daughter until Friday, and here I get my girls on Thursday. In any event, we may all fly out together on Saturday, on the one flight out of Starii Krai.

Benedetto calls.

“Sorry, guys,” I say to my three guys collected to talk on the other side of the world, “I just got a call from Vlad when you were phoning.”

“What’s up?” Benedetto’s radar is in full swing. He knows it’s Something, even though he’s just driven seven hours with two boys and two dogs, and is feeling his own jet lag and tiredness. He returned home only half a week ago.

“Well, I’m not going to be staying my whole ten days. I’m getting the girls tomorrow, their documents the next day, and I can fly out over the weekend to Moscow!!!” I announce.


“Um, hello? This is good news,” I add.

“More changes? More changes?” He had finalized our tickets even though the travel agent said to wait a few more days, he wanted it done. I had been asking for our itinerary to print, as well, since I had no actual paper tickets. I knew he would be calculating change fees and penalties.

“Look,” I reason, “if this can shave off a weekend and another two days off the end of the trip, if I can do the medical for the girls and American Embassy stuff on Monday-Tuesday, do the registration of Russian citizens living abroad on Wednesday-Thursday, we can fly out on next Friday, about a week from now, rather than the next Wednesday, two weeks from today!”


“Uh-huh…. Va bene,” he finally says.

“Okay, listen, I had hoped that you would be supportive here. We’re all a little tired and surprised, but this is good. Even with any change fees, we will be saving an extra four nights in a hotel or apartment. Speaking of which, we need to see if the apartment is available, what flights are available…. I can handle the girls’ flights from here, but can you check on mine? Vlad will be calling back in a few minutes, can you call back in about a half an hour?”

“Alright, fine, here are the boys….”

I quickly send them love and kisses, they are only too happy to get off the phone and have lunch. It’s been a long day for them, too. Oh, how I miss them!

Vlad calls back. “Okay, it’s a go, but Alex said he is coming to you. Can you make yourself available? He wants to review everything with you.”

“Sure, where?”

“In the lobby, in your room, just so he can find you….”

So downstairs I go with my notebook, pen, reading glasses. I make a list of questions as night falls and no one bothers to turn on the hotel lobby lights. We are lighted from outside, but basically sitting in darkness. About thirty minutes later, Alex arrives with his wife, we go out to the cafe’ to discuss the day’s events over cappuccino.

“Do I need to bring their clothes?” I ask. “What if the shoes or something don’t fit?”

“You know what?” the wife suggests, “leave the clothes here, we can always return the old ones later.”

“A new room to accommodate all three of us?” I wonder.

“We’ll reserve it right after this,” and so we do, going to see it personally. It has two single beds, one mini-couch that will have to be Sashenka’s, and plenty of space. All I desire is airconditioning, we will have no need for a kitchen for all of two days’ time. So this means moving yet again tomorrow.

Photos, birth certificate, passport, they tell me not to worry about anything. They will take care of all of it with me on Friday. Be still, my heart. This is like a dream come true. In the past, we’ve been known to have to handle many things ourselves with less adept agencies.

“You can do it all in one day?” I want to make sure.

“We can do it all in fifteen minutes, if we have to!” Alex laughs, delighted that I am visibly impressed with their abilities. What a breath of fresh air.

I explain to them how important the official photos will be, the girls will have to hold onto these passports for five years. Mashenka will be 16 years old when it expires, Sashenka will be 13 before it’s time to renew.

“I want them to look great,” I muse aloud, “we’ll need to work on their hair and clothing, so they feel good about themselves.”  Specifically, I’m thinking of Mashenka’s orphanage hair coloring escapade growing out, but I don’t want to give too many details….

Alex responds that there are hairdressers in Starii Krai and I let him know that this is something I can handle for them, Lady Clairol tucked away in my bag for a reason.

And so it is that I rise four hours later, at 5:00 am, to touch-up my own hair color. No need for two (or three!) of us ladies dripping with chemicals at the same time. I don’t want to scare them…. I’m thinking more along the lines of a few slightly imperceptible highlights for Mashenka, simply to even out whatever damage was done from months ago.

Now it’s after 6:00 am, time to hop in the shower, throw the rest of my things in the suitcase, and be ready to go. We’ll change rooms after we get back. But for now, my life is about to change in a big way. We have come to the birth, and there’s no looking back.

I pull out the photo of my four Russian grandparents who will symbolically accompany us in spirit on this momentous occasion during the time of the wheat harvest in the south of Russia. As the sun rises, I glimpse a beam of sunlight penetrating the gathered clouds, spanning from heaven to earth in a most dramatic demonstration: the orphans are not forgotten.


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