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Adoption stories

Lisa Kastor
Cleveland, OH

Birth Country: Russia
Decade of adoption: 1990s

My husband and I have been very fortunate to have traveled to many places in our lives. Between the two of us we have toured over 30 states and 12 countries. Throughout our travels, our minds have been opened to so many new cultural experiences. We greet each trip, whether for study or pure fun, with a sense of adventure. Without those experiences, we probably wouldn't have opened our minds and hearts to adopting a child from Russia. When my husband and I ventured into this decision we relied on our past international learning experiences. We took a Russian language class and read voraciously about the culture of Russia. We met with other families who adopted children from Russia. We participated in Russian cultural events held in Cleveland and other cities.

After months of preparation and mountains of paperwork, we finally received word about our travel date to Moscow and then to Chelyabinsk to meet our daughter and to fulfill our obligations in the Russian court system. Our excitement was at an all time high as we prepared our visas, made copies of all our paperwork for court, packed our bags, and gathered clothes, medicine and toys for gifts to be given to our daughter's orphanage.

Eight days before we were to depart, our home was destroyed by fire.

About 4:00 a.m. on a very warm September evening I woke out of a sound sleep to find our front porch on fire. I screamed for my husband. We picked up our pets and ran out the back door of our home in our pajamas and bare feet, where we stood safely outside. Neighbors called the fire department and within minutes they arrived. As we stood in horror watching this unbelievable event and thanking god we got out alive, we started to realize just what was burning inside the house. All the orphanage gifts and our traveling papers were left in the dining room, the second room the fire destroyed. We both started to cry as we thought about the months of preparation that must have gone up in smoke. Noticing our change of demeanor, the fire chief came over to us and asked us if any living creature was still inside. We said no, however, we described what we were losing in time, money and effort in the adoption process.

The adoption paperwork and visas had been placed in Federal Express envelopes that we left on the table. The fire chief said he would look for these envelopes as soon as he thought it was safe to enter our home. Forty-five minutes later, two firemen entered what was left of our house. One emerged with four very fire-singed Federal Express envelopes. He had a tear in his eye as he said, "You two may not have any clothes or furniture, but you have your paperwork to travel to Russia!" A strange calmness came over both of us. My husband could not speak and I could not let go of the envelopes for hours. All other possessions did not matter at this moment. We were safe and, by some miracle, so were our essential travel documents.

That night we stayed at a Residence Inn. Our families and co-workers brought us clothing, food, and gifts for the orphanage. Our travel agency issued us new plane tickets. Our friends helped us pack our bags. Eight days later we boarded the first leg of our flight. Five flights and thirty-two hours later we touched down in Moscow. We were greeted by our Russian agency worker who knew nothing about our fire. It was a relief not to speak about it for a little while. We stayed overnight in Moscow and traveled the following day to Chelyabinsk to meet our daughter. It is very difficult to describe the emotions you go through when meeting your child for the very first time. We were anxious and excited at the same time. All anxiety left when we could finally hold her. We knew we were doing the right thing, despite the lack of a home to return to in the United States.

We were pleased and surprised by the warmth of our Russian host family, agency representatives, court officials, and orphanage employees. Everyone we met welcomed us with open arms. We immediately felt a very strong mutual bond with our new Russians friends. In fact, on our last evening in Russia our host family and a few others threw a surprise dinner and party for us to celebrate our daughter's adoption. We are forever bonded with the people of Russia and so grateful to them for sharing one of their most precious possessions.

Upon return to the U.S., we stayed for a month at the Residence Inn with our new daughter and then moved into a temporary apartment for six months while our home was being rebuilt. We didn't have a crib or many toys or clothes for her. During this time we lived simply without many materials possessions. Our minds, bodies, and spirits healed slowly throughout our first months together. Our small daughter helped us touch base with what is important in life. Spending time together, collecting colorful leaves, making snow angels, swimming, dancing, and just going for walks have built our family. Our newly renovated house is now a home, complete with a child. Our next addition is now in process: we plan to adopt another child soon. We share this story in the hope of convincing anyone considering adoption that there may be many challenges to overcome but the joys far outweigh the hurdles.

P.S. Since this writing, we have adopted another daugther from Ukraine.

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