We are on the final flight back to Boston from Rejkjavik and I am trying to process the events of the last twelve days. What began as some poignant questions from a young child six or seven years ago about where she had come from, and from whom, has culminated in a trip back to her birth place, to her orphanage, and especially, to meet her family of origin.
Despite some well meaning cautions from friends about what it might be like returning to Russia, and our own apprehensions and concerns as to how this might all turn out, there is simply no other way to describe our trip other than as a total success. Despite the political tensions that currently exist between the two countries, the Russian people we encountered were gracious, helpful, curious, compassionate, and so much more. Without our terrific translator, Andrey, there is no way we could have met successfully with our daughter’s birth family on four separate occasions during our stay. He did more than just pass words back and forth, he understood the initial awkwardness as the families met, and just knew how to help orchestrate our time together. He was invaluable in assisting us as we worked with the orphanage to present the gifts our friends, family and co-workers so graciously contributed. We are and always will be deeply indebted to Andrey for all his help, his humor, and his wisdom.
We would also be remiss if we did not mention and thank the people who housed us in their beautiful apartment, Tatiana and her mother Tamara. They patiently answered the countless questions we had, pointed us to the food store, which bus to where, what sites to see. They took a very genuine interest in our situation and truly became caught up in our meeting with our daughter’s birth family. They also make the finest blini (Russian pancakes) and ensured that our child would not starve during our visit.
The city of St. Petersburg itself was beautiful, incredible palaces, museums, places of worship, artwork, and so much history. Compared with our visit ten years ago, it appears now to be a bustling, enterprising city of 5 million inhabitants, many in quite a hurry to make up for the years of stifled creativity and enterprise. Try to imagine the size, energy and scope of New York City with the quirky, creative youthfulness of Boston, that might be the best way to imagine modern St. Petersburg. And then there is the food…blini, kasha, potato pancakes, hot or cold borscht, beef stroganoff, Russian black tea, baked sushi (who knew), broiled salmon made more ways than I knew existed…
Sydney of course loved it here, wanted to stay longer, drank in every moment she could of her time with her birth family. Sydney’s birth mother, half sister and aunt also could not get enough of her, not to mention Sydney’s 1 year old nephew and 4 year old cousin. Our daughter is already plotting our next trip back here, hopefully in a much shorter period of time than between her adoption and our first visit back. Modern technology will allow us to communicate on a regular basis with her birth family, and they have pleaded for us to stay in contact, to send more pictures, to include them in any way possible in Sydney’s life.
No trip is without one of “those” moments, and ours came this morning on the way to Pulkovo 2 Airport. Our cab driver was early to our apartment, cheerful, only spoke Russian and French, and his transmission blew on us literally within 100 yards of the airport front gates. What to do, help him with his broken down car, or make our flight? Sadly though wisely, we opted to make our flight, leaving him on the side of the road grinning apologetically.
In the spirit of our promise to each other to bone up on the Russian language before our next time back, and we will be back, das ve danye!