Saturday, July 5, 2008

finally . . . we meet her

This post is about what happened on 27.05.2008.

Today Vlad picked us up at 9:15 and drove us to the adoption committee. It was only several blocks from our hotel, but took 30 minutes to get there. There, we met Galina, our rep in Russia, and Anja, our official translator. We had left the copies of our passports in the hotel safe (as it said to do in the letter we received about safety), sooo, Galina had to run and make copies of our passports because we needed them here (we should have had 2 copies of everything just to be safe and prepared). There was an American couple also in the waiting area. When it was our turn, we went into the office and went through the formalities of getting permission to visit Orphanage #4 and visit with Anastasia. It was very formal - we had been told to only answer yes or no, and that it wasn't a time for us to ask any questions . . . Then, the woman turned the computer screen and we saw Anastasia for the first time. The tears started from my eyes immediately - she was so beautiful. The photo was taken in January 2007, so she was dressed warmly for outdoors, and she has a little blond curl on her forehead that had fallen out of her hat. Once everything was signed and official, we all walked to the car and headed to the orphanage on the southern edge of the city.

We arrived with several bags of gifts; for Anastasia, the staff, her playgroup and some gently-worn clothes that Joel had outgrown. First, we were taken to an office and met with a teacher, the social worker and a caregiver (the doctor and director were absent for the morning). They gave us a lot of her medical history and social background. We were able to ask lots of questions and were given many answers. At some point during the meeting the official guardianship representative showed up. Anja had told us earlier that she was to be there to supervise our contact with Anastasia.

When we were done, we were taken to the drama/play room where Anastasia was waiting for us. What a great moment. She ran up and hugged us, and said (according to the translator), "I've been waiting for you for a long time!" Galina said, "Show her the pictures of the boys!" (I had shown the photos in my wallet during the earlier meeting which the ladies oohhed and aahhed over). Then we moved over to some tiny little chairs where she opened her gifts. The clothes were just the right size (116) an the shoes too (28). I think she was a little disappointed with the paper doll set - she was not interested in opening it or playing with it. Her long blond hair was in french braids with big white puffy lacey bands fastening them. She is so adorable. She giggles a lot. She looks back and forth, smiling at us. During this first meeting, Anja was there to translate, and Tatiana, the social worker, was also there to help direct what we should do. In all honesty, it was a little bit awkward. At some point, the guardianship lady disappeared. We spent about 15-20 minutes with Anastasia and then they said she must eat and nap. She already calls us Mama and Papa.

We were to be gone a couple hours, so we drove to a mall, part-way back to the city (Anja was dropped off before the mall - we were not told why she wasn't going to translate anymore. Stefan thought she was fired because she had made some mistakes at the committee, but we don't know for sure . . . ). We bought lunch (Blinis) for Vlad and Galina and then shopped while they ran some other errands. We found a great toy store where we bought a doll set for Anastasia (earlier she said she hoped she would one day have a doll and a crib). It's a small set with a crib, high chair and stroller.

When we got back to the orphanage, Vlad was our translator. Just before we went inside, Galina presented us with a paper and said that if we were already sure about Anastasia, we could sign the paper now and it would hurry things up a bit - of course! Inside, we met with the doctor and director in the director's office. There, we officially signed the paper that we agree to adopt her. We also got more information about her. They told us that they had been worried about her future, but now were happy that she found a good home. For some reason, the staff seems to really like us:) Then, we were taken to her group's playroom to meet with her again. The children were eating the bananas we brought. I got a very mushy handshake from Vanja. . . Anastasia was thrilled with the doll set and happy to see us again. She had hardly slept, waiting for us to come back. The other children stared at us. Big grins when we smiled at them. Asking, "What's your name?" "That's Nastia's Mama and Papa." After some oohh's and aahh's, she showed us where she sleeps and then put on her coat and toque(she was dressed in the clothes we had brought) and we went out to the playground. I helped her open the doll set and then she set to swinging and running around.

I had asked her what colour she wants us to paint in her room. She said brown. Vlad thinks it's because Stefan's jacket is brown. But pink is her favourite. She's really taken with Stefan. "Papa, Papa." She wants him to be with her on the swings, hold his hand, play hide and seek, etc. We realized it was hard to get a really good picture because she's on the move constantly.

After about 45 minutes, Victoria (Tatiana's daughter) came out to get Anastasia because they were rehearsing for their pageant celebrating St. Petersburg's 305th birthday. Does she want to show us? Yes! Vlad has some place to go, so Victoria will translate for us for awhile . . . Anastasia's part in the pageant is dancing with scarves with the other bigger girls. Stefan and I were both very impressed with what these children can do. Unfortunately, our presence was a little distracting for some of the children - they had to be reminded to watch the performance, not stare at us! When she wasn't performing, Anastasia came and climbed up in Stefan's lap. When the rehearsal was done, the actress inside her came out and she performed just for us . . . some sort of speech . . . . some dancing . . . "Papa! Papa! Come dance!" We rolled a big ball around, too and played in that room for awhile before going outside again.

The other children were so curious about us. "Do you love me?" "Are you the mama?" They loved it when I flipped the viewfinder on the camcorder so they could see themselves.

We climbed on the monkey bars, played hide and seek and spent time with our little girl until it was time to go. We took her back inside, but she would not let us go yet. She insisted on showing us every one of her drawings before we left. She had a folder of them - there must have been close to 100!

Back at the hotel, we reflected on the day. Anastasia really made a strong connection with Stefan - already Daddy's little girl - but not so much with me. So, I feel a little bad, but at the same time I realize that she has so many females in her life already. The staff seems to be entirely made up of women. For her, she found the men most interesting (Stefan and Vlad). My time will come. I just need to be patient.

Stefan and I ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, looked at the pictures of Anastasia and crashed for the night.

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St. Petersburg

Saint Petersburg: Sankt-Peterburg, Russian pronunciation: is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. The city's other names were Petrograd (1914–1924) and Leningrad (1924–1991). Founded by Tsar Peter I of Russia on 27 May, 1703, it was the capital of the Russian Empire for more than two hundred years (1713–1728, 1732–1918). Saint Petersburg is home to more than two hundred museums, many of them hosted in historic buildings. The largest of the museums is the Hermitage Museum, featuring interiors of the former imperial residence and a vast collection of art. Celebrating the 300th anniversary of its foundation, Saint Petersburg was selected as the main motif in a recent Finnish commemorative coin, the €10 Mannerheim and Saint Petersburg commemorative coin, minted in 2003. The reverse of the coin features a view of Saint Petersburg, with the Peter and Paul Fortress and its three turrets. In the coin the words "St. Petersburg 1703-2003" can be seen.