It's been a long time in the planning, but tomorrow, it will turn to reality! I've waited for years to bring our now adult (well, 18 anyhow) children back to their homeland: "Mother Russia".
Mario and Olivia couldn't have appreciated the impact of the trip when they were young. Now, with a high school home-education saturated in history is behind them, it is time.
Getting the kids visas was the single most important miracle that God performed for this trip. Above is Laurie, from Swift Passport Services in downtown Chicago, who had to navigate all the red tape to procure them for Mario and Olivia. I warned her that things could change at a moments notice, and that the process and paperwork is never easy when dealing with Russia. Since she had just processed the entire US ski (I think) teams passports, (including the former USSR coaches) she figured I was just a bit over anxious. We found out soon enough that it wouldn't be that easy, now that there was unrest in the Ukraine. The Russian government wanted to know if the kids were still Russian citizens before they granted them their visas. If they were, M&O would have had to apply for Russian passports first, then renounce their citizenship, and finally, apply for the visas. There was not enough time for that, so it looked like we weren't going.
Soon after, the kids were asked to fill out a form for the Russian Embassy in DC, to help them determine their citizenship. We didn't hear for ten days, so Laurie called numerous times each day, to no avail.At the beginning of April, Laurie "happened" to have a wedding in DC, and decided to take our paperwork herself to the embassy. It was a long and amazing story, but in the end, she was given a hand-written letter from and official which allowed us to bypass the citizenship issue (promising I would do it when we returned), and process the visas. This NEVER happens! Only God could have done this for us, for which we are grateful. So, as we take off on our journey tomorrow evening, I want to share a few pics to set the stage for our adventure . . .
Looking over the photos of the adoption process for both Mario and Olivia brings tears to my eyes. What a sweet time it was . . . I love this photo! Mario was exactly 5 months old the day we legally adopted him in the Russian courts. He had never had solid food, but I fed him two bottles of baby food I had brought with me, and he devoured them both in a matter of minutes!
The adorable children outside Mario's orphanage in Kovrov. They were as fascinated with us as we were of them!
Larissa our interpreter, and Michael, our driver while we navigated the legal process of adopting our kids. They told us when to meet in the hotel lobby each morning, and the rest was taken care of. We never had to think or worry about what to do next! We hope they will be available to take us around on this trip. In Michael's hand is a sign that says, "Del Boccio" which was used to locate us at the Moscow airport.
The ladies at Vladimir Children's Home where we will be visiting. We may even have the opportunity to meet Olivia's birth-mom! They took such good care of Olivia, and seemed truly sad to see her go.
Our dear Tania, the Russian lawyer who took us through both adoptions, each time, running in and out of offices and courts for two solid days, as we did the paperwork and applied for passports and visas. It was a miracle that God brought us together again . . .she is arranging our entire trip back to Vladimir and Kovrov for the first few days of our trip!
Olivia, Dan and I at the Moscow Circus. We were asked what we wanted to do while in town, and we suggested this. And we were glad we did. Where else can you see a pair of cats walking obediently behind a parade of zoo and farm animals? Only the Russians can train a cat! We plan to go back on Friday to see another great show.
Here is Olivia, all dressed in the clothes we brought for her. The Doctor in the white coat called her "Princesa Anna" (her birth name). Everyone was impressed that I remembered to bring a "Chapka" or hat. Even in late April, heads must be covered to keep warm. . .
Papa helps Olivia dress and get ready to leave. We found her already removing her overalls (she was dressed like a boy), in preparation for her new wardrobe!
Here we are in Red Square, in front of St. Basil's Cathedral. I'm looking forward to seeing it all again.
So, if you have read thus far, please join us tomorrow evening (vicariously, of course) as we take off on American Airlines flight #46 To London. We have less than a two hour layover to get through customs, and from Terminal 3 to 5. (Prayers would be appreciated!) Thankfully, we are all taking carry-ons only, to facilitate things.
Then, on to Moscow on British Airlines flight #235, arriving at around 6pm. We then will be whisked away to Vladimir, arriving around midnight. Paul, a representative from Russian Ministries will also meet us to give us Russian Gospels and tracts to pass out on our way. The Good News is the best news!
Below, you see my use of "space bags" which squeezes the air out of clothing to allow more space in your bag:
After our two day trip to the Orphanges in Vladimir and Kovrov, we will return to Moscow for a few days, then board our river cruise which will take us to villages along the way to experience and savor the local customs and history.
I am not sure if we will be able to access FaceBook while in Russia. If not, this blog will be your best bet. So, if you want to keep in touch during our journey, you can save this link, and return to it occasionally, to see if there is a post, or, even better, fill in your email address in the box to the right. Each time I post, you will receive an email telling you so, along with a link. It also will show up automatically on my FaceBook feed as well.
I am writing all these things for two reasons: to entertain and educate you AND, most importantly, to leave a "trail" much like Hansel and Gretel. Although we don't expect to be eaten by a witch, we never know what we will encounter, so we want friends and family to know of our whereabouts. If we drop off the radar completely, just pray for us!