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June 1996 - Preparing For Trip To Russia
Russian Adoption Experience
After I picked up the documents with the apostille seals I drove to the agency to drop off the paperwork. (Fortunately the agency was only 10 minutes from the Dept. of State. (this saved 2 days and the cost of Federal Express).
During the entire process we had requested an extended medical (this is offered for an additional $350). Since you get VERY sketchy, if any, information from Russia we were told we would get the medical and the next week we were told we couldn't. This went on for a few weeks. But a week before we were leaving for Russia we received a call that we would have the extended medical on 6/17. This was five days before we were leaving!! When I first received the medical I was emotionally distraught. The medical history had diagnosed this child with perinatal encephalothapy and hypertension. Well I looked this stuff up in the dictionary and CRIED. Anyway I called Dana Johnson back (Univ. of Minnesota) and sent the report to him. He explained that some of the medical problems are exaggerated and that he did not feel (based on the video) that this child showed any signs of these conditions. While this calmed our fears somewhat we were still concerned when we left on Friday, June 21st.
You need a VISA to travel in Russia. For a business VISA you need an invitation which should have come from the orphanage but our agency had not requested this soon enough so we had to take another route. There is an agency that for a small donation ($200) you can get an invitation from a company in Russia stating that you are there for adoption and humanitarian reasons. We were traveling in 1 week so we didn't have a choice but to pay. My husband drove to the Russian Consulate in NY to bring the invitation and passports to obtain the VISA. We needed to bring cash for everything so we had to go the bank to withdraw money (be sure to let the bank know ahead of time so they can order newer bills - especially $50 bills). Credit cards are only accepted in the hotels in Moscow. We also had to bring our final payment ($5000) in cash. Fifty dollar bills and smaller are acceptable but they should be newer bills and may of the banks would not accept a bill that had writing or lines on them.
We flew Scandanavian Airlines (SAS) WONDERFUL - we left from Newark, NJ and had a stopover in Stockholm, Sweden. We landed in Moscow at 6 PM on June 22 and was greeted by a gentleman named Dimitry. We were informed that we could fly to Rostov that evening with another American family or spend the night in Moscow and fly the next day. We were so desperate for an American conversation that we went from the International Airport to the Domestic Airport that night for a 10 pm flight (via Aeroflot) arriving in Rostov at 12 midnight. Had we known better, we would have stayed in Moscow instead of going to Rostov. Moscow was much nicer and there would have been more to do. We travelled with Iris Smoley, her sister Diane and niece, Deanna. They were going to Rostov to adopt a 7 year old boy.
We were all met at the airport at midnight by our agent Natasha and her barely English speaking friend. Natasha also spoke some English. Guy and I were sent to Natasha's in-laws house who were assigned as our host family. They lived in an apartment (as most Russians do). These apartments are very small and most have pets so if you are allergic to animals like I am bring Benadryl. We were showed to our room which consisted of a single bed, a closet and 2 chairs. Iris, Diane, and Deanna stayed with Natasha (in her much larger apartment) I think she was referred to as rich. Our first day in Rostov was a Sunday so we couldn't go to the orphanage, so we toured with a temporary interpreter who was an English teacher in Rostov (our interpreter flew to Rostov the following day). We did a lot of touring but felt we should've stayed in Moscow instead of flying right to Rostov. This guy had such a bad attitude about his country and made it well known to us. He probably would have been shot if any heard him.
Eugeny, our interpreter arrived. What a wonderful kid (his parents must be very proud). We met with Natasha at her apartment to discuss some of the financial arrangements. We agreed to pay our host family $80 a day (this went up to $100 when our interpreter came to stay), $30 a day for the interpreter, and $5 an hour for a driver. If you like to be adventurous you can walk or take the trolley buses you'll just need some instructions on the process. It is also very helpful to know some Russian phrases. I used a translation book quite a bit.
On Monday, June 24 we went to the Department of Education to show our invitation and get approval to go to the orphanage. Our orphanage was in Novocherkassk so we took our first (of many) 40 minute car rides to the orphanage. We got there around 2:30 (of course they were not expecting us) so it took about 20 minutes for them to locate the director to get permission to see the baby. Well, they finally brought Christopher (AKA Vladimir) out and we got acquainted for about an hour. We were able to ask the doctor questions through our interpreter. We found out that Christopher was born in the City of Shakhty Russia (also spelled as Shahty or Shahkty. He was given up for adoption after 5 months because his mother could not care for him. His father died of unknown causes when Christopher's mom was still pregnant. Christopher also has 2 siblings but after 5 months he was brought to the orphanage because his mother could not care for all 3 children by herself. After this meeting we were asked if we still wanted to adopt him and we had to sign something that stated we had seen the child and wanted to adopt him. We were also able to see copies of his mothers letter relinquishing all rights to him. The director said we could visit him daily from 12-2 until the adoption was complete.
We visited almost every day. We were able to go outside on the grounds. Eugeny accompanied us and translated for us when we wanted to speak to the doctor or director. Each day the baby was more and more comfortable with us though it was difficult to make him laugh. We met a couple from Oregon at the orphange who were adopting a baby girl. We videotaped him at each visit. On June 26th we all sang Happy Birthday to Christopher and drank Juice. This video will be a wonderful keepsake. We look back on the video periodically and can't believe the difference in him in only a few months. When it was getting nearer to completing the paperwork we were informed that we needed to get a passport picture for Christopher. We took Christopher to a photographer in the town. Here is his official passport photo. Chris was also truly amazed about being in a car.
Iris also had some difficulty. They called the orphanage and found out that their child was on vacation at the Black Sea. Iris had to fork over a few hundred dollars to have someone bring him home on the overnight train. (Not very good planning on the part of the agent). Since the caretakers were at the Black Sea Iris was given permission to have the child, Denis, stay with them at Natasha's apartment while the paperwork was being completed. Due to the language barrier it was good for them to have an interpreter around especially to help discipline him.
We had expected to be in Rostov for a week and Moscow for a week but I guess you can call it bad timing because we ended up getting delayed which pushed us into the week of the presidential election (held July 3). The governor who needs to sign the papers was in Moscow campaigning with Yeltsin. We spent alot of time touring Rostov and Novocherkassk. We visited many cathedrals, museums and shops. We also went to the beach, well, their version of a beach, the river Don. (As in Rostov-on-Don). We made the most of especially with the extreme heat. It was generally in the 90's during most of the trip. It was also good to be with another American family. We shared our trials and tribulations and provided each other with support.
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Where to go from here!
What happened in July
1997-DeFazio Family Updates(last updated December 30, 1997)
1998-DeFazio Family Updates(last updated January 6, 1998)
Return to Beginning Page
Christopher Thomas's Story(updated January 6, 1998)
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