Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Power, Dignity, Sorrow And Beauty

Wife kitteh and I are pondering moving to a new house, once we find one, that is, so I'm starting the process of getting rid of things to lighten the moving load. With the death of my mother, I've increased our load by bringing home memories from the folks' house, so I've got extra work to do.

A lot of the material I need to cull is in the form of photos, which I am scanning and discarding. Yesterday, I came across a set that I thought I had lost. It's from Russia in January of 1998.

Way back when, I traveled alone to Russia to adopt a little girl. Plenty of stories are packed in that sentence, but I won't bore you with them here. Instead, I wanted to share a single photo with you and include two lead-up photos as a bonus.

My daughter came from Astrakhan, which is in southern Russia, y'all. 1998 was shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and times were tight all across the nation, but most particularly any place more than five miles from the center of Moscow.

Moscow in January was and remains the most beautiful city I have ever seen. Well, at least the center of it. At the time, it was celebrating the 750th anniversary of it's founding. For 750 years, Moscow had been a parasite on the surrounding lands, sucking tax money into itself. The result was a gorgeous city center and a horrible country outside of it.

Anyway, on with the show.

This was Detsky Dom, the orphanage in Astrakhan that had cared for my little girl for the first fifteen months of her life.

I was there with a translator, a guide and another couple who were adopting a girl as well. We were shown into the orphanage and asked to sit in a waiting room while they brought out the children. We explored a bit and found this bathroom right off of the waiting room. It gives you a sense of the state of things.

This is the payoff picture. Our translator was Marina, a middle-aged Russian woman from Moscow. Here, she's holding my girl. Take a look at Marina's face. It's filled with power, dignity, sorrow and beauty.

The sequence of events was to meet your child in the orphanage and have a last opportunity to back out. If you still wanted her, you were taken to the local court where you adopted her according to Astrakhan law. While the judge had no problem with the couple adopting, he was dead set against me adopting without my wife (who was not wife kitteh of today, but that's another story).

The judge was going to deny me my child. It was beyond unusual for a man to come alone to adopt and it was totally unacceptable. Marina went into action. She was like a lioness taking down a zebra. The judge was a tough guy as well, so I watched them argue like beasts for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only five minutes. It was all in Russian, so I had no idea what was being said. I sat there in despair, thinking I was going to have to stay in utterly miserable Astrakhan for two weeks while my wife flew out. In the end, Marina won and the girl came with me.

Back to the photo.

I hadn't seen these pictures in nearly twenty years. After scanning them, I cropped them and looked more closely. Look at that face. What stories are written there! When she was a little girl, the KGB roamed the streets, arresting enemies of the State. You can be sure that relatives disappeared into the gulags. After that, what little there was of the economy failed and the country fell into turmoil. Through all manner of trials, Marina ended up helping Americans adopt Russian babies.

How bittersweet that must have been for her. On the one hand, she was saving Russian children from probable death in overworked orphanages*. On the other hand, it was helping Americans, victors over her nation in the Cold War, take them away to live in relative luxury.

What a face.

* - Don't get the wrong impression of the people running the orphanage. The women there were sweetness personified. Angels, every one of them.


Mostly Nothing said...

I remember when you were over there. Thanks for this story.

Ohioan@Heart said...

That’s a beautiful story. Just what we all need right now. Thanks for sharing.

Oh, and good luck with the impending move.

One Brow said...

It was very courageous just to take the risk of getting a child in that fashion. Thank you for the story.

K T Cat said...

Thanks for the kind words.

As she grew up, I would tell my daughter that I think she chose me, not the other way around. I couldn't love her more. As far as I'm concerned, she's flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood.

Foxfier said...