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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…!

Russia’s Vox Populi

protestSome 20,000 protesters reacting to Russia’s anti-American adoption law marched through Moscow on Sunday, clearly spelling out that the “voice of the people” was not as unified as Putin’s pollsters would have some believe.  The rally was populated by urban, middle class types, the same profile as those participating in anti-Kremlin protests over the last two years.

These internet-savvy, young, urban adults stand in marked contrast to their less-educated, rural counterparts, said to obtain their news from Kremlin-run TV, suspicious of all things foreign.  We ran into one of these xenophobic Russian peasants when we were adopting our second son.

“These are Americans who kill Russian children!” the gold-toothed grandma, Olga Timofe’evna* screamed at the top of her lungs, hiding behind the orphanage boarding school gate, looking for all the world like a lunatic on the loose in the local insane asylum.

She worked in the kitchen and made her presence only too well known.  A crowd began to gather in the street and gawk, Russia US Adoptionsfirst at her, and then at us, sitting in a van across the street, waiting to collect our son’s documents.  Our driver, a professional man now retired, laughed at her and shouted a few things back in Russian.

This was in a remote region, far from big cities.  But everywhere else we went with the children, average Russian citizens admired us.

“Thank you, thank you,” men and women came up to shake our hands when the realized my Russian was not quite on par with our kids’.  They put two and two together.

“Always listen to your parents,” one shopkeeper urged our second son.  “They love you and will make a good life for you.”

“God bless you,” the group of ladies gathered, looking at my outfit, as well as how the children were dressed.

They approved.

“God bless you and may they never forget Russia.”

Rus131303e“It’s for you,” the costumed actors put the large Russian ruble bill in our first son’s hands.  “Morozhenoye (ice cream) money,” they winked, smiling and holding our hands in a freeze-frame, eyes gazing into ours, refusing to take any payment for us photographing them together.  They knew the score.

What is the voice of the Russian people?  It depends on whom you ask:  young, urban, and well-educated, or older, rural, and those more fearful of non-Russians.  It’s a divided, schizo Russia that needs to see a doctor.

One thing is for sure:  the winds of change are blowing, and cannot be calmed even in the coldest of winter months.

It’s my turn to say, “God bless you” to those tens of thousands of Russians having the courage to stand in solidarity with orphans whose only crime is that they have no one near the Kremlin to advocate in their best interests.  May God hear the prayers of those little hearts crying out for a family, no matter where it might be located.


*Name changed to protect the guilty.


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10 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Cassandra says:

    In Omsk, people put up a demonstration of 50 snowmen on the town square!

    They marched in Piter, and Samara, and probably other places too.

    I’ve been really sad about this, which is no secret, and have had many more mixed feelings than usual about returning to Russia from our annual winter holiday. But then in the airport yesterday waiting for passport control, one of the border guards (not usually the friendliest lot) was so cheery and funny and joking with our 4 little ones as the harried parents filled out the migration cards, and his colleagues in the booths helped us out too, I felt a little better. Most people we interact with don’t hate foreigners, they really don’t.

    • avatar admin says:

      You’re right, Cassandra, the average people in Russia (often non-gov’t. officials) have no problems with foreigners. Thank you for your insider’s view of what’s happening “on the ground”. I love the snowmen!

  2. avatar hoonew says:

    Alexandra, I am delighted to hear your stories of everyday Russian citizens who celebrated your adoption. Wish we’d had the language skills to interact with people the way you did.

    We are in touch with our son’s birthfamily, who would fit in the demographic of anti-foreign adoption xenophobes: rural, poor, limited education. It’s hard to know, with all the barriers, but I hope our continued communication about our loved, wonderful boy helps them to feel positively about how his life has turned out, so far. It seems to be acknowledged in our boy’s extended Russian family that his parents were not able to do a good job. I want to share with them what he has accomplished, and how proud we all are of him. Someday I anticipate we will meet them. I see our little first grader as a future ambassador of sorts- that is why I make him take his Russian classes, as well all the other citizenship duties we ask of him.

    • avatar admin says:

      Excellent point, hoonew! That’s a reason for even sporadic birthfamily contact. (We send new year’s cards– few sentenc brief update and a photo– might be to a kindly aunt or babushka, whomever they want, but I encourage it as long it’s not any former abuser. We never get any note in return….) Most of the adoptees fit into that profile background, so that’s reason enough to let them know that their children are doing well.

      Some of the birthfamilies will not understand due to mental health issues. There may be those who allege that children were taken from them for no good reason, etc., but yet court records speak of repeated warnings to feed and clothe the kids, or of birthparents who never showed up to court. They still feel that the children were snatched away on a whim by the police.

      But we can always try. Good for you for reaching out!

  3. avatar hoonew says:

    Yes, we have never received any reply to our letters and small packages. However, I know that the birth mother feels guilty for not sending our son a birthday card (her mother has told her she should). I think the reason for a lack of response is- what would they say? I want to spread good news about our son, and maintain some ties for his benefit. I think the family enjoys the news about him, and have not expressed any bad feelings toward us, though I would think our visits (via an intermediary) and our letters probably bring up mixed feelings.

    • avatar admin says:

      I understand, hoonew. I would never require of the birthfamily what I require of us– a simple attempt at contact. We also have an intermediary who made initial contact and the fact that they are not against hearing from the kids is enough. I try to put myself in their place and would value some news on the occasional basis. Maybe they don’t have money for a stamp, maybe they don’t have the education to write a simple letter, and as you say: What would they say?

      I could make anything sound interesting, but they’re not me: “The goat doing fine. We have snow as usual. The outhouse holding up. One neighbor in village now have cell phone. Happy New Year.”

  4. avatar Sybil says:

    Just to let anyone who doesn’t already know about the 2 videos put together by Karen Holt showing Russian and Eastern European adopted children in before and after videos. She is working on a 3rd video and my daughter will be in that one. Here are the links:
    Here is video 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzkDMcSSNJk
    Here is video 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EA4lMsprxUs
    Also, my daughter is in touch with her Russian parents and siblings. They have been loving and wonderful to her and us despite the fact that she was removed from parental care. In the 10 years we have been in contact, they have never asked for anything. I know we are lucky.

  5. avatar Cassandra says:

    This editorial puts the law in it’s proper context, I feel: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/expect-more-anti-americanism-in-2013/474155.html

    It’s going to be a rough year…

    • avatar admin says:

      Good op ed, Cassandra. It’s the same the world over. When times are difficult and there are many internal problems, find an outside “enemy”. America is very convenient in this instance and there are deep-seated, anti-American fears that may be easily fanned. How are they going to control journalists working from outside of Russia? (other than gun them down where they live and work, which has also happened…)

      And Russian brides? That’s a new one, for sure, that they’re suddenly dangerous for marrying foreigners and settling down to a quiet life elsewhere-! I’ve heard the same said in the Russian press about the orphans, “Stealing our best and brightest”– then why didn’t any Russians want these who are supposedly the creme de la creme?

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