In 1996 we adopted our first daughter, Oksana, from Novosibirsk, Russia; she was two years old. When we returned to Canada, we had our documents translated and found a limited amount of birth family information. What we read piqued our interest and we contacted the authorities in Novosibirsk asking for more information. They declined our request.
As Oksana grew up, she began to ask questions about her birth family and, in an age appropriate way, we shared the limited information that we had. Then the birth mother of a friend of Oksana, who was also adopted from Russia, was located. Oksana's excited for her friend led us to renew our inquiries about her birth family. We ask the Canadian CIS Friendship Society's Novosibirsk Coordinator, Tatiana, to conduct a search.
Though we didn't find Oksana's birthmom, we did find her 12-year-old sibling, Natasha, who was living in an orphanage. We immediately wrote to her, asking if she would consider coming to live with us in Canada. We waited fretfully for a reply--after all, she was old enough to make up her own mind, and she would be the one that would have to undergo an enormous change. There was no reply for over a month.
At long last a letter arrived. I twas addressed, "Dear Mom and Dad."
In April 2003, we proceeded with the onerous task of completing and processing the adoption paperwork. Finally, in January 2005, we climbed on a plan to Russia. Twenty-six hours later, we arrived in Novosibirsk. It was 5 am, freezing cold, and snowing lightly. We were totally exhausted. But there we was, standing on the other side of a wire fence staring in at us. We yelled, "There she is!" and went hurrying across the tarmac to an opening in the fence. It's so hard to describe our feelings; we had been waiting for so long--especially Natasha. She was ready. So were we.
The paperwork continued in Novosibirsk--we had planned to stay for three weeks but ended up staying for five. The weather fluctuated between -35 and -10 degrees. We travelled around the area, went skiing at Tatiana's family Dacha, went swimming, spent an hour each day at the playground sliding on a huge ice-slide, and shopped for groceries.
We also wen tot he orphanage several times. It was a large, very clean place, and the kids were happy and friendly. Natasha's caregiver "Mom" was extremely pleased for Natasha. She loved those girls, and the girls loved her back; she wanted the best for them.
Then finally, we were almost at the last step (there was always one more piece of paper to produce) which was a trip to Court. It was an intense experience; the Judge closely interrogated both of us about the adoption of Natasha. Then Natasha was brought into the courtroom and asked if she wanted to leave Russia and move to Canada. She replied, "Are you nuts? Of course I want to go and be with my sister!" The adults int he courtroom snickered and the Judge pronounced, "Then, so be it."
During the long journey home, Natasha realized that she had left everything behind--her friends, the orphanage staff, and her country. We didn't speak her language, know her friends, and she was heading toward life in a completely different place; she was shy and afraid.
Thankfully, shortly after arriving home, we ran into two women who spoke Russian. This really brightened Natasha up and, much to her joy, they agreed to help us with communication.
Natasha stayed home from school with me for about a month to learn the ropes of life in her new home, and so that we could start eh process of attachment.
Eighteen months later, Natasha continued to work on English. She has done incredibly well, partly due to the full immersion in our family; she speak in English all the time now, except when she meets other Russian people. She is now in Grade 7 at a local middle school; there are only five other kids in her ESL class, so it is very intense. She is also slowly making friends and is working hard on assignments and homework. We have fiction books in Russian in our home for her to read and Russian music to listen to, and we visit many Russian websites.
Natasha seems to be able to take almost everything in stride--not very much seems to surprise her. She has a good sense of humour, is extremely helpful around the house, and is kind and generous.
Oksana now has a sister--they are definitely sisters in looks, expressions, and sibling rivalry.
Natasha now has a forever family.
My husband and I? Well, we have it all.