Victoria's Journal
January 10, 2002 - Friday
Arrived Moscow January 11, 2002 - Saturday
Entry by Mama

Our journey is just beginning. We said goodbye to friends and family and then headed to the airport. Karen drove us to the airport. We arrived early because your dad hates to be in a rush. Our Lufthansa flight pushed back a few minutes late. At 4:56 pm. we were on the runway. This experience and the opportunity to bring you both home has been filled with heartache and joy.

Lufthansa plane at airport

We have had so many kind friends offer prayers and support. Comerica Securities sent an email to all of Securities and Bank staff informing them of our trip and your arrival. They have had bake sales and other fund raisers and outright donations to assist us with our travel expenses. Friends have loaned us things and showered us with new things too! Last night Jan and her son Drew came over to loan us a backpack to carry you in. Dad wasn't too fond of bringing a stroller. He already has given me a hard time about how much I packed. Donna and Marlina also came over last night to wish us well and brought lots of things to keep us busy on the plane. Marlina can't wait to meet you. She has been asking for months when were you coming home. After they left I met Karen and Tommy to pick up a few things for you for our trip. Leave it to Karen, I can always count on her. We have been best friends since 1st. grade. Anyway she gathered all kinds of things for you including a snowsuit and boots! She has also given me tons of advice on how to keep you dressed warmly. There are so many people anxiously waiting for you to come home.

Our trip begins by flying from Houston to Frankford Germany, a 9 hour and 55 minute flight, then on to Moscow after a 1 hour and 45 minute layover. The trip to Moscow is over 3 hours. Once we arrive in Moscow we will be met by Val our facilitator. He will take us to the Marriott Grand hotel to spend the night. We are hoping to meet up with friends at the Marriott who are also adopting, Walt and Jennifer Rising. Their daughter, Molly is just a little older than you are Victoria! They live in Georgia but I think we will continue to keep in touch. Well I am going to stop for now because the turbulence is making a mess of my handwriting. I want you to know we have loved you for months…even before we met you.

Frankfurt airport - Germany

We finally arrived at the gate in Frankford but with only about 30 minutes to spare. A gate agent met us and escorted us and several others through a maze and to a waiting bus. The bus took us directly to our connecting gate. We went in the exit at the gate, had our passports verified and boarded another bus which took us to another plane. It was cold and snowy. We boarded the plane on the tarmac. The plane was packed and reminded us of Southwest Airlines. After another 3 hour trip we landed in Moscow. The airport was very old and rather dark. It still had an air of oppression. We stood in line at Passport Control. We had to stand behind the red line on the floor and approach the booth one at a time. The agent in the booth did not say a word. She was very grim and simply pointed that we were cleared. Right through Passport Control was the luggage carousels. We had no trouble getting our luggage. Dad found the form we needed to fill out and we stood in the red Customs line to declare our money. We found out the green line was for people not declaring anything. Once again the agent did not speak to us. He x-rayed all our luggage and completed our declarations.

Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport

Moscow streets on way to hotel

Deplaning and walking toward Passport Control

Passport control at airport. Notice the red line and everyone dressed in dark clothing

We walked through another set of glass doors and were met by our translator, Tatiana and our driver Victor. They were both very nice. We purchased round trip tickets to Vladivostok for $1016. Dad stayed at the ticket window, Victor took our luggage to the car while Tatiana and I exchanged $1100 for 32500 rubles! All but $73 went to the airline. Victor drove very fast and wild through the ice and snow. Cars were lined up so close you could almost touch them. We didn't notice any stop lights once off the main highway. Cars just jumped out anyway they wanted. It was so bizarre to us. Dad saw a Russian police car and of course was checking it out. We also noticed many cars driving with dim or no lights in the dark.

We arrived at the Marriott at about 7pm. The fee for our driver and translator was $70 US for transportation from the airport to hotel. We checked in and had to leave our passports so the hotel could register where we were staying with the Russian government. We went up to our room, 927 on the top floor. Shortly afterwards Tatiana our translator came up with the Moscow agent also named Tatiana. Our translator told dad it's a Russian custom that if you make a wish while standing between two Tatianas, your wish will come true. Your dad later told me after she said this he made the wish that your adoption would be completed. Who knows how this wish came into play later with some of the problems we ran into. We then completed a bunch of paperwork for the Embassy. When they left, dad and I went to get our passports but they also needed our visas so we came back to our room to get them. (I forgot to tell you we paid another $10 for the translator's time as she was there about an hour). We asked at the front desk for a coke machine. The clerk repeated the words as if she never heard of one. So we went to the hotel bar and paid an astounding $9.50 for 2 regular size glasses of coke! Later we discovered the wet bar in our room and found Pepsi cans for $4.00! Remember how dad fussed about all I packed? He sure did enjoy the snacks I packed! Well we are exhausted - been awake well over 24 hours so our next stop is the bed. Tomorrow we are walking to the Kremlin!

Icy Moscow streets on the way to Red Square

January 12, 2002 - Sunday
Entry by Papa

Well I was TIRED last night after 13 hours in a plane and in transit about 24 hours total, we both fell asleep about 10pm. Your mother wanted to get up at the crack of dawn, 8am. today. She got up about 8:30 and I at 9:30. We got up, around, dressed and started our day with a walk to Red Square to see the Kremlin. It was about 30 minutes from the hotel. It was about 30 degrees F outside and snowing lightly. There was snow on the ground, ice on the sidewalks and slush in the streets. We learned shortly into our walk the sidewalks were covered with ice and very, very slippery. We were slipping, sliding and holding onto each other all the way there so we wouldn't fall. Thank goodness we did not fall once.

We were planning to eat at TGI Fridays that Tatiana told us about which was only a few blocks from the hotel. She said they took credit cards there and spoke English. We found it on our way and were planning to eat on the way back. The streets were busy and full of cars and the sidewalks had a lot of people on them. They seemed to be more used to walking on the ice than us. They all seemed to be walking fast although they were slipping and sliding too. Along the street there were many, many shops selling just about everything. There were small kiosks on every block selling drinks (Pepsi, beer, etc.) food and show tickets.

A history museum in Red Square

We were approached a couple of times by people trying to sell us things (at least that's what we thought) and politely said thank you, no (spah-see-ba nyet). A couple of times along the way we had to take an underground tunnel to cross a street at a busy intersection. In the tunnel there were more shops, each very small about 20' long and only 3' deep or so barely enough room for a person to sit inside. You told them what you wanted and they handed to you through an opening in the glass door. They were selling flowers, CDs, jewelry, toys and all kinds of small items. We saw what were guards or police in the tunnels and at one point they were checking some peoples ID's. We made it to Red Square and the buildings there were beautiful. We were approached several times by people trying to sell us stamps, fur hats and nesting dolls, one man even spoke English. All along the way we noticed how people were dressed, usually all in dark colors (brown or black), fur hats, no gloves and dark pants. We were told to expect this and dressed the same to avoid looking too much like a tourist. Once in Red Square it was easy to pick out the tourists in their bright jackets, hats and blue jeans.

St. Basils Cathedral in Red Square (The Rossija hotel is the concrete building to the left)

St. Basils in Red Square a beautiful building! We took a few pictures from a distance, decided we didn't have enough time to go inside and headed back. The trip back was just as slippery, slip slide, slip slide, oooh slippery! We got back to TGI Fridays to eat, went to go inside and the door was locked. We guessed it was closed for some reason. We later found out we went to the wrong entrance and should have gone to the one around the corner. We saw McDonalds one block down and decided to go there which turned out to be a good idea. It was a very large and very busy McDonalds. Of course everyone inside spoke Russian and the menu board was in Russian. Your mother ordered us some combo meals by the number and I paid 160 rubles for all (a little over $5 at 30 rubles per dollar). We thought that was a great deal after spending $9.50 on cokes the night before.

After eating we headed back to the hotel. Your mother got brave with her Russian and got us 2 Pepsis at one of the kiosks along the way. The clerk understood and we paid 32 rubles for 2 Pepsis - $1 sure beats $9.50. Back at the hotel we checked out and waited for our interpreter and driver. We thought it was odd and wondered why the interpreter couldn't be the driver also, a question we still don't have the answer to. Our interpreter, Michael arrived early, the same driver, Victor we had yesterday arrived at 3:00pm. and off we went to the airport. We went to a different airport (Domodedovo) this time for the flight to Vladivostok. Michael is a 20 year old student studying international relations at the University of Moscow. He was on vacation from school and had worked for Amrex for about 2 years. He told us there are about 9 million people living in Moscow and the city has a large circular highway around it that is about 100 miles long. He showed us a famous amusement park/skating rink called Gorkey Park and showed us the US Embassy as we drove past them.

McDonalds in Moscow where we had lunch

At the airport we found a parking space very close to the terminal, Michael took us in and got our boarding passes for us. On the in-country flight you have to pay if your bags weigh too much, your mom cut it close at 16 and 17 kilos (the limit was 20). Michael took us to the security check in but couldn't go through. He asked the security people where we had to go and then he told us. We went into a very large terminal with 2 gates and some shops at one end and a hall leading to other gates. We looked around and were confused when a very pleasant Russian woman (who spoke no English) motioned us over, looked at out tickets and told us we were in the right place, she also was going to Vladivostok. While waiting for the plane your mother asked her where the bathroom was (good-yeh toh-ahl-yet) and she was nice enough not just to point but she escorted your mother there and back. This is just one example of very kind Russian people we ran into who went out of their way to help us.

We had to take a bus to where the plane was on the runway. We walked up steps outside to the plane and this pleasant Russian woman showed us which seats were ours (we couldn't figure out the seat letters). On the plane we really felt alone as the only English-speaking people on the plane. Now we are 3 hours into the 8 hour flight (with a +7 hour time change forward). “Yah oo-stahl” (I'm tired), “Pah-rah spot” (time to sleep). We get in at 9am. on Sunday 1-13 and hopefully we will be picked up at the airport like we were in Moscow. On Monday morning we hope to see you for the first time!!!

Inside Domodedovo airport

January 13, 2002 11:00 am. Vladivostok time
Entry still by Papa

We have arrived Victoria! The flight went well but the flight attendants did not understand us too well. We were picked up in at the airport by our facilitator, Tatiana and her daughter Marina who then drove us to our hotel. Vladivostok is beautiful. Open spaces, open land, houses and snow on the ground, really beautiful, kind of like Media PA in the winter. Lots of police speed traps on the road, we went through 3 or 4 on the way to the hotel. We checked in at the Vlad Motor Inn, which is nice and set back in a wooded area. Tomorrow is the day we meet!

January 14, 2002 - Monday
Entry by Mama

We have dreamed of this day for so long now, I can't believe it is here! I was so full of anticipation that I was awake before the alarm went off, so was dad. We met another couple and a man that were there also adopting in the lobby. The couple, Rob and Margaret are from Biloxi, MS and the man, Chris is from Orlando, FL. We are all using the same facilitator & translator team from Amrex. Anyway we were to meet at 8:15am. Oksana (our translator) showed up at 8:25 and then we waited for Marina. She got here a little after 8:30 or so. Oksana said we were going to the Minister of Education and we would meet Tatiana there. Well….we left with Marina and drove to some back alley of a building. It certainly didn't look like the Minister's office but what do we know? We waited and waited. Marina said her mom, Tatiana would be there in about 10 minutes. After about 30 minutes, dad and I were concerned we were in the wrong place. Just as Marina was about to leave she got a page from her mom saying to stay put, Oksana and Tatiana were both on their way. We felt bad for doubting Marina because she was right and Oksana was wrong.

Anyway it so happened the back alley was where a notary was located. All 3 families had to have documents notarized. While we were there, we were asked if we were aware of your medical condition. On your medical report it just said, “healthy.” We were told today that you have a heart condition, a heart murmur. Dad and I just looked at each other and said “ok,” and signed the papers. Nothing could have kept us from you! (After we arrived home, Dr. Heidi at Texas Children's Hospital, pronounced you HEALTHY and no heart murmur!)

Ussuriysk Baby Home entrance

Finally we were on our way to see you. The orphanage is in the town of Ussuriysk about a 2-hour drive. Ussuriysk is a town of about 170,000 people. We arrived in town and picked up a translator at an apartment building who would be with us in the orphanage. We arrived at your orphanage and saw it had several playgrounds and was clean inside. We met with the director, Dr. Tatiana. She is the same lady on your video and was very nice. You could tell she sincerely cares about all the children. After we were introduced she gave us 2 pictures of you taken in December 2001. You have really grown. As dad and I sat there listening to the director Tatiana and our facilitator Tatiana talk and not having a clue what they were saying a lady brought you in the office and said there's your mama and papa. You came right to me! I picked you up and will never forget how you felt that very first time in my arms. Dad was pretty overwhelmed too. You sat on my lap, looked at dad and the first word you said was “Papa!” I asked dad to get one of your toys out of our bag. You liked playing with a duck that springs forward in the air and makes a funny noise.

They then took us to a playroom so we would have more room to play. It was a large room with chairs all along the walls and a big piano too. The Christmas tree was still up but all the decorations gone. We later found out this is called the “music room” and most orphanages have one. We were told you were starting to get sick. We gave Marina about 800 rubles and she went to the drugstore to buy medicine while we played. We sat on the floor and continued to play with the duck. I also pulled out a green wristband with an elephant on it. If you press its chest it plays music. You got the hang of that real quick. Dad showed you how to use both of your thumbs so you can make the duck jump up all by yourself. We also played with bubbles. You enjoyed letting dad catch them, then you popped them. We also had a ball that lights up when you bounce it. We all sat and rolled it back and forth. You figured out there were goodies in our bag and tried to get in it. We discovered you love chocolate! Hmmm, just like mom and dad.

Victoria in the music room, the first day we met

Mama & Victoria, together at last!

I forgot to tell you they brought your photo album I sent to you before we traveled. The first page has us on it and you pointed to dad's picture, said “papa” then looked directly at him. Then you pointed to my picture, said “mama” and looked at me. Oh, you also liked and wanted, had a very firm grip on and didn't want to give up our digital camera! Victoria, you are so beautiful, our hearts just melted when you walked through that door! You have your dad's baby blue eyes and we were both so impressed with your curiosity and by how quickly you could figure things out. We only had just less than 2 hours with you and it flew by. It seemed like only 10 minutes. We had to leave because it was snowing very hard. We were told it was best to keep your toys with us and bring them everyday to help you remember us. When it was time to put the toys up, you got upset and started crying. Dad and I both wanted to pick you up and run. You came right to me, I held you close and whispered “I love you” and “I'll see you tomorrow” in Russian to you. Your tears slowed when the director said you could keep the ball. They led you away as tears filled my eyes. Dad is still bragging about your first word being papa, saying that was great!

It was snowing a lot when we left. We dropped off our interpreter and she invited us to tea at her house after we visit tomorrow. Next we went back to the Minister of Education. When we were there at noon before we came to see you no minister or social worker was there, just 2 ladies in the office. Tatiana wasn't too concerned, spoke to someone on the phone and took us on to see you. On this second trip to the Minister of Education's office Marina went in and left dad and I in the car. She said she would only be gone 5-10 minutes, it was more like 30-45! She and Tatiana came out together. Tatiana explained that your social worker was on vacation and there were important papers your social worker needed so Tatiana took them to her home. While we were waiting we saw several police officers stopping and talking to people. Tatiana told us that if pulled over by the police you pay the fine right away to the officer and some officers keep the money. On our way home we witnessed a terrible accident right in front of us. We barely missed sliding into it ourselves. It was pretty scary.

Victoria, I want you to know you are everything we hoped for and more! We have loved you from across the world since October 8, 2001 and now we have the live connection. That love is even deeper now. We are so blessed that God chose us to be your “forever parents”. Tomorrow can't come soon enough - until then, I will replay every moment of our time together at least a zillion times.

Ministry Of Education building - Ussuriysk

January 15, 2002 - Tuesday
Entry by mama

We met Tatiana in the lobby of the hotel at 12:30pm. and headed for Ussuriysk. On the main road at the entrance to the city of Ussuriysk there is a police checkpoint when cars are stopped and checked. The police hold out a stick and you stop your car. The “stick method” was used by all the police we saw and people stopped right away. There was a checkpoint at the entrance to Vlad also. The police carry machine guns at these checkpoints. Today was our day to get stopped outside of Ussuriysk. They stopped Tatiana, checked her papers and sent us on our way after a minute or two. They didn't bother checking us at all.

When we arrived you were still napping. They told us you had for sure come down with chicken pox. Later we discovered everyone in your playgroup also had chicken pox. While we waited the director mentioned her computer wasn't working. I couldn't help myself, before I knew what I was saying I volunteered dad to try and fix it. Tatiana took us to the repair shop where it was left. The building had tight security. They made a sort of alcoholic tonic there that was “famous”. It was called Ussuriyyskiy balzam, 90-proof vodka based but with added ingredients like raspberry, mint, chamomile, ginseng, schizandra, red linden berries and others. Anyway we went up about 4 flights of stairs and met 2 people holding the computer. They said the person who was to repair it was ill and apparently no one else had looked at it. They gave dad the computer and we walked down the 4 flights of stairs. As dad exited the stairway a security guard stopped him. It was kind of scary because we couldn't understand what the guard was saying. I could just see us winding up in a Russian jail. Tatiana came down and got things cleared up with the guard and we went back to the baby home. Dad tried and tried but couldn't fix the computer, he thinks it's the hard drive or the motherboard. Tatiana said she knew a place to get it fixed and took it with her.

Victoria coming down with "chicken spots"

Victoria's playroom and some of her playgroup

Finally at 3:00 they brought you to us. You still had the ball (m-yah-ch) we gave you yesterday. The caregivers told me you got up this morning, got your ball and told everyone your mama gave it to you and you were going to see her today. You may have said “papa” first but you thought of me first this morning. You looked so sad with all your chicken pox. They put green stuff on them that reminds me of our old “monkey blood”. You were also running fever, although when I converted C to F I figured it to be 106 which I knew was wrong because you weren't that hot. We could tell you didn't feel well but you still played with us. Again you came right to my arms! We tried on your snowsuit and boots. The boots fit fine although the snowsuit is a tad small it will work ok. Just after we took it off Tatiana come and told us we were taking you to get your passport photo taken. So we put your snowsuit on again and left. You did fine in the car ride, didn't seem afraid at all. Once we were there dad carried you since it was kind of icy. I undid your suit and sat you on the chair. You did fine until they turned on the very bright lights. Then your little eyes teared up and it was all we could do not to cry as we sat and watched those tears run down your sweet face. Finally it was over and I got you out of there.

One of the caregivers and some of the children in Victoria's group

Sergey in Victoria's group who was adopted January 2004!

When we got back to the baby home we got to see and meet your playgroup. There must have been at least a dozen with you. We got to see where you sit, play and sleep. It was clean and orderly. There was a very nice older woman who took care of you. All of the children wanted our attention. I was holding you and several wanted me to hold them too. We asked if the children could have candy and were told yes. So I asked dad to get the bag of miniature chocolates we brought. They all loved it. However as dad opened the bag you recognized him as your dad with your bag of candy so we gave you the first piece. It was hard again to say goodbye but we know it is only 2 more days until you are ours. Oh, you even said goodbye to us quite loudly.

One of the caregivers and children in Victoria's group

On the way back to the hotel Tatiana stopped and bought some fresh fish from a man along the side of the road. We saw quite a few people selling fish by the road from Vladivostok to Ussuriysk. They were out in all kinds of weather, freezing cold, heavy snow it didn't matter, I guess they were tying to make money any way they could. A little further toward Vladivostok Tatiana stopped again along the side of the road this time near an area of small roadside shops selling all different kinds of things. She bought a 1 liter used plastic soda bottle full of fresh, I mean really fresh from the cow, milk. I asked her how she knew the milk was good and she said she knew the man selling it and had bought from him before. I mentioned your dad liked and drank a lot of milk and she offered him some. He declined knowing it wouldn't be anything like the milk he was used to drinking. It was interesting seeing people selling all kinds of things along the road everyday.

Once we got back, it was late and dinnertime. We met another couple, Larry and Susan who were stationed over here on business with Caterpillar and invited them to join us and Tatiana for dinner. We went to a Casino toward town and enjoyed a dinner at the Casino restaurant. Your dad had “Steak Las Vegas” and a couple Russian beers and said everything was very good. Tatiana explained how things were before the fall of communism in the early 90's. It was all very sad. I am so glad you glad you are going home with us.

Larry & Susan

January 16, 2002 - Wednesday
Entry by mama

We are picked up by Tatiana and head toward the orphanage. Tatiana likes to drive fast and usually goes over the speed limit. Today it caught up to her and she was stopped for speeding on the road to Ussuriysk. The police officer had a police car on the side of the road and was using a hand held cordless radar gun. We couldn't understand what the police officer was saying to her when he approached the car but showed her the speed locked in on the radar. She gave him her license and went with him to his car. Now your dad and I are sitting in the back of her car getting kind of worried about what is going on. A few minutes later she comes back to the car with a ticket in her hand. We asked her what happened and she said she paid the fine (100 rubles I think). We asked her what happens if you are stopped and have no money, she said you always carry money when you drive. She said she asked the police officer about the accident we saw on Monday, the officer said he had responded to the scene and 2 people died in that accident. We thanked God it wasn't us another 2 seconds and it could have been.

We had been asking the director of your orphanage what else we could do to help or if there was anything the orphanage needed. The director never asked us for anything. Finally after asking everyday she told us the children could use some fruit. We stopped not far from the orphanage and went into a large building and it was like a huge open air farmers market. They were selling all kinds of meat and food. We found a person selling fruit and bought 40lbs. of apples, oranges for only $12. This was most of the fruit this person was selling, a good sales day for them! We took the cases of fruit to the orphanage and gave them to the director who gave you an apple and we went with you to the music room.

Today is the first day you laughed with us. We played quite a long time then you seemed to get tired. I think you must be about in the middle of your chicken pox by now. It was so much fun playing with you today. You would sit on your dad's lap then come back to mine. Dad had a puppet that amused you. The puppet grabbed my finger and I would pull my hand back real fast and say “nyet”. Then you started doing it with your hand too! You were so entertaining. You liked to nearly stand on your head and when we looked at your upside down face you would grin. As you started to get tired I rocked you in my lap, then I laid you down on the floor with you at my chest. I thought you were about to go asleep until dad started tickling your leg. That's when you laughed. In fact you laughed so hard you got the hiccups. When dad would stop you would stretch your leg out for him to do it again and again.

Victoria & Mama

As quickly as Tatiana dropped us off she was there to pick us up again. When we left the director hugged me and wished us good luck, which I thought was odd. When we got to the car our hearts began breaking. Tatiana said there was a problem and we could not go to court tomorrow as planned. She told us your “Ba-boosh-ka” (grandmother) who is 64 years old, has diabetes and is a former nurse needed to sign a release to allow the adoption to go through and until it is signed we are in limbo. Tatiana told us your babushka lives a 6 hour drive away in country one way. At first she asked dad to help her drive and of course we said yes. We drove the 2 hours back to the hotel in total silence as we were so upset. By the time we arrived at the hotel she knew how worried we were and told us she would find someone else to drive with her, a Russian who knew the roads. If she couldn't find anyone she would call us. We really wanted to go to reassure babushka how much we love you and that we would always take great care of you. We couldn't sleep or eat all night. We called Tatiana's phone number and left messages at 11pm. and 4am. to see if she needed us to drive and go with her but we didn't get a call back.

January 17, 2002 - Thursday
Entry by Mama

Our phone rang about 8am. It was not Tatiana but a Russian who just happened to speak English. She was kind enough to call to tell us our message sounded important but unfortunately we had the wrong phone number and left the messages on her machine. We thanked her and waited for a call from Tatiana, feeling ill all day long from the stress. Today was supposed to be our court day. We didn't hear from Tatiana until very late in the evening. Dad and I stayed in our room all day long waiting for the phone to ring. We also had the “do not disturb” sign on the door since we were in our pajamas. Apparently Tatiana did call about 3:30pm. but we didn't know it because the front desk saw the do not disturb sign on the door and did not want to disturb us with the message when she called. Anyway when we talked to her later she told us everything is ok and she got us a court hearing for tomorrow. Babushka did sign the papers. She loves you very much and wants you to have a happy life with us. She was just too old and too sick to care for you. We were so worried something would happen and we wouldn't be able to adopt you. We emailed Laurie and Theresa last night and they forwarded the email to everyone else to pray for all 3 of us. God is so good, he heard the prayers all over the world. Tomorrow can't come quick enough! We missed seeing you. We should get to bring you home tomorrow!

Standard room at the Vlad Inn

Vlad Inn dining room

January 18, 2002 - Friday
Entry by Papa

COURT DAY! Well Tatiana says everything is ok and she will pick us up between 12-1 for court. Of course we couldn't sleep last night due this time to the anticipation and we were in the lobby ready to roll at 12:00 sharp. We thought we were going to court and then to pick you up right afterwards, we had all our gifts with us for the orphanage. 12:00 turned to 1:00 to 2:00 to 2:30, we were wondering what was going on, no Tatiana. We did see Chris and his daughter Lara in the lobby. He, Rob and Margaret went to court yesterday on Thursday. Chris and Rob said court was very formal but not to be scared and told us some of the questions they were asked.

At 2:30 Tatiana showed up but told us to put all our gifts back as we could not pick you up today. We got in the car to go to court and in the car was a social worker who we were taking to court to testify she saw you and us together and we interacted well. We arrived at the courthouse that was a very old building. We went up to the second floor and waited in a hallway as Tatiana got everyone together. Oksana came to translate as her English is better than Tatiana's. After ½ hour we went into the courtroom, your mom, me, Oksana, the social worker, a doctor who first looked at you, a prosecutor, a clerk and the judge. The judge went through all the basics checking our passports and verifying the paperwork. The prosecutor and judge then asked some us questions. I got to answer first as we found out the man always does. When being asked questions or addressing the court we stood up. They asked us if we were going to change our mind about you (answer, absolutely no way!). Asked what you looked like (brown hair, blue eyes….and absolutely beautiful). Asked how you were with us, how you liked us. Asked your mom who you liked better her or me. Your mom stumbled a bit answering this question. I was sitting down pointing to me (which your mom couldn't see) and everyone in the courtroom was laughing.

The judge asked me twice what we were going to do with all the land we had (I didn't think 4 acres was that much but I guess the judge did) if we were going to have horses. I got myself into trouble with this answer saying we may get a horse if you wanted one. They asked if we were aware of your medical condition, asked what your personality was like, how we were going to communicate with you and if we were going to keep up with our Russian. They asked if we had any other children and if we knew of anyone in our town that had been adopted from Russia. They asked who was going to take care of you. I told them I was going to quit my job, stay home and take care of you. They thought that was unusual but they all liked it! They asked what our family thought about us adopting from Russia and what we thought about Russian people. Of course we answered our family thought it was great we were adopting from Russia and we said we found the Russian people to not be what we expected, we found them to be very kind and helpful.

The doctor and social worked testified and we had to go out of the courtroom for about 5 minutes while the judge made her decision. We came back and finally you were “officially” our daughter. We learned we wouldn't be able to pick you up until Monday due to your chicken pox. We also learned your babushka is 64 years old, ill with diabetes and not able physically or financially to raise you. I'm sure she loves you very much and she said she wanted to keep in touch with you, hopefully she will. We also learned your babushka is raising your bio-brother who is 11 years old and named Sergey. At the end of the hearing the judge made a beautiful speech about parents and children and our new life together.

Wayne, the Judge & Nancy

January 19, 2002 - Saturday
Entry by Papa

A short entry for our journal today. Marina picked us up in the morning and we went to Ussuriysk to visit you. We visited for about an hour and had to go. You didn't seem to be feeling too well and didn't want to play. Your nose was running and you probably didn't feel well because of your chicken pox. At one point you started to cry, mama picked you up and you went “pee-sit” (pee-pee) on her leg. The saying in Russia is if your child goes pee-pee on you, you will be there to see the child's wedding. So I guess your mom will see your wedding! After we got back we went to the hotel gift shop and ran into Larry from Caterpillar. We went back to Larry & Susan's room and spent a couple of hours with them. They gave us a very nice Russian fairy tale book (written in English & Russian).

At 6:00pm. we met for dinner at the hotel dining room. Rob, Margaret and their child Grayson (9 months old), Chris and Lara (7 years old), your mom and me, the judge, her sister, the prosecutor, Tatiana, Oksana and Marina. The only person missing was you! Darn chicken pox! We had a nice dinner and took some pictures. The judge was very nice and even gave you a gift, a Russian fairy tale book, this one all in Russian. Hopefully we will all be able to read it one day.

Nancy, Tatiana & Wayne at dinner

January 20, 2002 - Sunday
Entry by Papa

It's snowing here in Vladivostok today! We didn't see you today because it's hard and dangerous to drive in the snow. We went with Larry and Susan downtown into Vlad. We walked to the train station (about 5 minutes from the hotel) and took the train into town. The train went along the bay at one point and we saw ice fisherman out there. When we got off the train it was snowing hard and was very windy. We went to a souvenir shop called “The White House” but it was closed. We walked several blocks to the Vlad train station and went across the street to an indoor “farmers market”. There were individual vendors selling meat, cheese, alcohol, food, etc. It wasn't quite as big as the one in Ussuriysk but a little more “permanent”. We walked a few more blocks to a shop called Nostalgia. It has a very nice gift shop on two floors. Your mother bought a bunch of souvenirs there and we could even use a credit card. There is a restaurant attached to the gift shop that is supposed to have good food and menus in English. Larry's driver, Vitaliy met us there and drove us to the other stores. We went to a Gzhel porcelain shop and bought some handmade pieces there. We then went to the Versailles Hotel where your mother bought your matrioshkas and some other things.

We went to two stores called Big Gum (pronounced “goom”) and Little Gum. They were large department stores that sold just about everything. We then went to another shop called “The Green Room” where Vitaliy found me a Russian hat for only 400 rubles ($13). It's black fur and I love it. I look that much more like a Russian now. We were getting tired and headed back to the hotel. On the way back stopped at the “Vlad Club”, a small modern “supermarket” that had fake palm trees in front of it. It was a nice store, well stocked, you pick out what you want, put it in a basket and went to the checkout where they scanned the items. This is the only store like this we were in, very modern compared to the other stores, kind of small but like a “real” supermarket. It was very busy and had about five armed guards inside it. We stocked up on supplies to take back to the hotel.

Nancy, Susan & Larry shopping in the snowstorm

Papa bought 3 Russian beers to try…they were all terrible! Papa did like the Russian Baltika #3 beer at the hotel though! We got back and ate dinner with Larry and Susan at the hotel restaurant. We had the “Canadian Cheeseburger” on the menu and it was excellent! The manager of the hotel, John even sat down and talked to us for awhile when we were eating dinner. Tomorrow is the day we pick you up!!!!!!!! I hope it stops snowing.

January 21, 2002 - Monday
Entry by Mama

Although it is snowing very heavy and the roads are terrible nothing could keep us from you. Tatiana and Marina picked us up about 8:30am. We went to begin the process for your passport. Then we went to pick up the computer for the orphanage. Dad went with Tatiana while Marina and I stayed in the car. Dad told me he and Tatiana walked up about 100 icy stairs up this hill to a road above the parking lot where we were parked. He said the railing to the stairway was missing or loose on most of this staircase. Dad said then they walked up this steep hill on a road about a couple hundred yards past some residential houses. Remember now there is about 2 feet of snow on the ground. Dad said they went through a gate to the front door of one of these houses, and a lady in the house came to the door with the computer. Tatiana gave dad the computer while she paid. Tatiana said the woman at the door thought dad was Russian because he had a Russian face and because of his fur hat. As dad was carrying the computer down the hill he fell twice but fortunately didn't hurt himself or the computer.

Director Tatiana says goodbye to Victoria

Next we went to the local pharmacy to get medicine for the orphanage. We got 3 or 4 full (Wal-Mart) sized bags full of medicine for 3999.50 rubles - a little over $100. Finally off to get you. Because the roads and weather were so bad it took a little longer to reach Ussuriysk. Once we arrived we picked up the journal because we asked the director and your caregivers to write something to you in it. I had to go to the restroom and while I was gone dad started dressing you. When I got back I had to laugh because he had your shirt on backwards! You are so smart and helped us dress you. We had to leave in a hurry because the government offices were closing early due to the weather. We gave everyone at the orphanage our gifts, took a few pictures, hugged and said pa-kuh (bye). On the road again in the blizzard Marina pulled over several times to get the ice off the wipers and windshield. The drive home was even worse. It is a terrible storm. The airport is even closed. Good thing our friends all got out yesterday. Later we found out it was the worst snowstorm Vladivostok had in the last 40 years. I think dad and I both alternated praying to arrive safely and staring at you. You slept most of the way.

The snow came down heavy in Vladivostok

And it kept snowing and snowing!

Finally we got back to Vlad. They dropped you and me off at the hotel while dad went with Tatiana to get your passport. When you and I got inside you started crying. You wanted shoes on your feet since I took off your snow boots. Thankfully I had slippers here. You still cried so I asked if you needed to go potty (tee-ho-chish pee-sit?) which you did. After that you were fine. We played with all your toys. You are so smart! Awhile later dad came back and said we had an hour to kill before getting your picture taken (for the US Embassy paperwork) and doctor's appointment.

Tatiana picked us up and we were driving into town and suddenly Tatiana stopped on the side of the road. We all got out and walked through 3 feet of fallen snow while it was still snowing all to find out the photo shop was closed. We did this approximately 3 more times. Finally we gave up and went to see the doctor. She looked at you without your shirt, listened to your heart and lungs. The whole thing took about 15 minutes including her completing paperwork. It cost $100 US. We walked back to the car through lots of snow. Thank God dad was carrying you because I fell this time. Tatiana had a hard time backing out. I thought we were stuck. Dad stayed outside to try to guide her back. We took the doctor home but still needed a photo to go with the doctor's report for the Embassy. Don't know if we are going to do that tomorrow or in Moscow. Finally we crept along to the hotel. We tried to get Tatiana to stay at the hotel because the roads were so bad and said we would pay for her room. She refused saying she had work at home. We all came inside, got out of our coats and headed for dinner.

It was hard walking through all the snow

And it just kept getting worse!

This was our first dinner together. We blessed the food and thanked God for you! You were amazing at dinner. We ordered mash potatoes and veggies. You fed yourself, ate everything and didn't' spill a drop. Finally off to our room for the night. I gave you your first bath and washed your hair. You enjoyed playing in the tub. We improvised because I forgot bath toys. We had a “stress ball” and two ice buckets to play with. Bedtime is the only thing you don't like. We put you in the crib and you just kept crying. After about 10 minutes you were out and slept all night. This was our first day as a real family. Dad and I are soooo happy!

January 22, 2002 - Tuesday
Entry by Mama

In Vlad seems that nothing goes according to plan. We were supposed to fly to Moscow today but the airport is still closed. We just hung out all day. We even played in the snow for just a little while. Dad dropped our suitcase keys outside in the snow. He looked and looked and couldn't find them. I went back out to look one more time before he picked the lock. Fortunately I found them in the snow! Bedtime was better tonight. After your bath we all laid on the bed, you on my chest. You fell good and asleep and we carefully placed you in the crib. Tomorrow we go to Moscow if the airport is open.

The view outside our hotel window - snowed in!

January 23, 2002 - Wednesday
Entry by Papa

Departure day from Vladivostok! We get to leave the Vlad Motor Inn and go back to Moscow with you. We got a nice surprise, John the manager gave us a discount on our room, and instead of $125 per night it was only $95 per night. In 20 years when you read this, that probably won't sound like much then. All the people at the hotel were very nice. The girls at the front desk even translated what your caregivers wrote in this journal (in case you don't keep up with your Russian). We met Oksana and Marina in the lobby and off to the airport we went. Oksana changed our tickets for us and checked our bags in. At the airport there were a bunch of ticket windows and about 100-200 people huddled in front of them checking in. No lines, everyone wanting to go first. Oksana just pushed right up to the window and got us in. That's the way any crowded place here seems to be, no lines, one big herd of people all trying to go at once. They let Oksana through security so she could tell us which bus to get on, which is good because there were about 7 or 8 busses before ours arrived, nothing in English, all Russian.

We took the bus to the plane and got out. I had our carryon bags and mom had you. The runway was slippery and mom fell on her butt holding you. Two men helped her up after I grabbed you. Your mom's butt hurt later that night. On the plane and away we go. A German shepherd dog (in a cage) was on our plane and you enjoyed watching him, pointing and going “arf, arf”. Guess you will like Jesse and Jamie. When the food was served we did not know what they were saying. A man in the seat behind us translated for us. We talked to him on the flight and found out he was a co-pilot on the airline on which we were flying. His name was Sergey and he was visiting friends in Vladivostok and coming back to Moscow. He was also looking at buying a car. He said the used car prices run $2500 to $6000 and the cars are all from China or Korea. He said only the wealthy people own cars. We talked to him quite a bit and he was quite friendly.

Inside Vladivostok Airport

Nine hours later touchdown in Moscow, off the plane, on the bus to the terminal and to baggage claim. We met a man from London while getting off the bus, he was living in Vlad and talked to us while we waited for our bags. Tatiana our translator met us, we got our bags and off to the hotel. We stopped on the way to get your picture taken for your Embassy paperwork. We were all very TIRED when we arrived.

We met Tatiana (agent) in the hotel lobby at 5:00pm. Moscow time (12 midnight Vlad time). We gave her your paperwork for the Embassy and arraigned to meet your brother, Jacob the next day. We were supposed to have some Marriott reward points to pay for the room but no one could find them. Your mom gave them a hard time today and the next day until they finally found them. The doorman was real nice and gave you a teddy bear before he took us to our room. We unpacked a little and went to bed. You went to bed great! Mama put you in your crib and you laid right down with no fuss. We all went to sleep about 6-7pm. Oops forgot, we stopped at a supermarket on the way to the hotel and bought a bunch of Pepsi, water, chips, yogurt and chocolate for $9, sure beats $9.50 for 2 Cokes at the hotel!

January 24, 2002 - Thursday
Entry by Mama

You woke us up early today about 3:30-4:00am. singing ba baba, ba baba. After about 10 minutes of us thinking how cute you were I got you up and in bed with us. You were wide awake. So finally at 4:30am. I took a shower then fed and dressed you. Our day started very early with you singing, who knows maybe you will be a famous singer.

Our room at the Marriott Grand

January 24, 2002 - Thursday
Entry by Papa

Today we get to go to Dom Rebyonka #23 to see your future brother Jacob. We met our new translator, Galina and driver in the lobby at 9am. and go to the orphanage. We met the director Svetlana, you were crying, she gave you a toy and you soon quieted down. They wouldn't let you come back with us since you were getting over the chicken pox. We left you with the director and tried to sneak out of her office but you caught us and cried. The director soon calmed you down. We met Jacob and he has pretty blue eyes just like you and me. We played with him awhile, he seemed so light after carrying you around. We left, went back to the hotel and had a 2 hour break before we went to the US Embassy to get your visa at 2pm.

Jacob and Papa

What a cutie!

We were well prepared by our Amrex translator Galina as to where to go and what to do at the Embassy. While at the Embassy we noticed other families did not have any idea where to go or what to do, Galina even helped some of these families telling them what to do. We were in the first group of 4 couples to get there and the first ones done. There were about 12 families there getting Visas. We were there only about 20 minutes and then went to the Russian Consulate to register you. We just had to drop off some paperwork with another Amrex person, Val who took care of the registration for us. You will have actually have duel citizenship. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Charro pizza and ate. The pizza looked good but did not taste good at all, I think it disagreed with all 3 of our stomachs. Galina came in and got our pizza and drinks for us since everything was in Russian. We probably could have done it by pointing (ett-a y ett-a pa-zah-looss-ta) but she was nice enough to come in and help. We ate and walked about ¼ - ½ mile back to the hotel. You started crying about a block from the hotel and we could not figure out why. A man came running up to us with your shoe in his hand….you were crying because your shoe fell off, as soon as it was back on you stopped crying.

Back at the hotel things finally started going our way. Val came with your paperwork right on time. Your mom straightened out the reward points issue and we were finally able to get confirmed on a flight out tomorrow at 7am. for Frankfort then Houston. We have to leave for the airport at 4:30am. it's 9pm. now and time to say spa-coin-a no-chee, yah tib-yah loo-bloo (Good night, I love you)! Entry by mama - Mommy would have written today but I was given the job of packing, so dad wrote for me. When we touch down in Houston tomorrow you will be a US citizen!

January 25, 2002 - Friday
Entry by Mama

Going home day!

Well my little singer you woke us up at 3am. this morning with your precious singing. It wasn't too bad because we had to get up at 3:30am. to get ready to check out by 4:30am. Galina our translator met us with yet another driver to take us to the airport. On the way to the airport we were stopped by the police who just checked the driver's papers and let us go on our way. We arrived at the airport at 5am. You and I sat down while dad and Galina got our tickets changed for today's departure. I had called to change our tickets and they said it would cost $150 per ticket to change. I cried on the phone explaining we were adopting and got stuck in a blizzard with the Vlad airport closed for 2 days. Dad could see the ticket lady's computer and it had on it I cried and said we didn't have any more money so they did waive the fee! Yeah!

US Embassy - Moscow

We left Moscow around 7am. no trouble finding our gate this time. One of the couples we met at the Embassy yesterday (one who adopted two 4 year old girls) was on our flight. We also me a lady on her first trip visit who is adopting an infant girl. You didn't want to sit in your seat with the seatbelt today. From Vlad you did great but today I had to hold you. Dad wasn't too happy because he knows it is much safer to have you belted in. The flight to Frankfort was a little over 3 hours or so. As we got ready to land a flight attendant insisted you be belted in your seat. We then witnessed your first temper tantrum. Finally we landed and I got you out. As we left the plane a German immigration officer was checking all passports. The airport in Frankfort was very nice and very big! I carried you most of the way and dad carried out two carryon bags. We found our gate with no problem. It seems that the other airports in the world have much better security than the ones in the US.

We boarded the plane for the 10 hour and 45 minute flight. This time you were very good and sat in your own seat with the seatbelt on. We were hoping you would fall asleep pretty fast but you played for the first half then slept on a pallet in front of me for the last 5 hours. When we got ready to land I had to pick you up, wake you up and it just wasn't enough sleep for you. All of our body clocks are really messed up. We got off the plane and once we hit the ground you officially became a US citizen! We went straight to INS to be cleared. We were standing in a long line. You and I let dad stand in line while we walked around. As we were standing in front of a closed station, it opened. Dad came rushing up and they let us in. A lady said we were in the wrong line! She took us to another one with no waiting. We got finished there, got our luggage then cleared US customs which was a piece of cake.

We then walked through a corridor. Aunt Laurie and all the family were waiting for us. When she saw us she jumped at least 4 feet in the air. Everyone was there except Uncle Ed and Aunt Andrea. There was grandmother, grandpa, great- grandmother, Ethel (the caretaker), Aunt Laurie, Uncle Joe, Dusty, Garrett, Aunt Terri, Aunt Joyce, Uncle Dan, Howard, Donna & Marlina! Then all had flowers, balloons and stuffed animals for you. Dusty was video taping and everyone was taking pictures. Grandmother and grandpa gave you a pretty purple teddy bear and a finger puppet. Grandmother also brought mommy and daddy a diet Pepsi that tasted so good! Great-grandmother gave you a rose with a balloon that said “I love you” and a small teddy bear. Dusty and Garrett gave you a cute giraffe which you wouldn't let go of. You really like it! Aunt Terri, Aunt Joyce and Uncle Dan gave you a singing bear that sings “My Girl” and a bunch of balloons. Marlina gave you a little doggie, she has one too just like it.

Inside Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport

Nancy, Victoria & Wayne at the airport

Victoria with gifts - home at last!

We visited at the airport for awhile then headed home. You were tired and hungry and wouldn't sit in your car seat, so I sat in the back with you. You slept on the way home. When we got home we had balloons on the front door and a banner on the fence that said: “It's a girl”! We drove into the garage and Kelli, Brittany and Aunt Karen came running out to meet us. You got out of the truck and walked to the back of the driveway checking out all our land, probably thinking about that horse dad promised you in court. Aunt Karen and I were hugging and crying a lot. When we came inside we found flowers and presents from Aunt Karen. She also went shopping, stocked our fridge, and bought a bunch of BBQ for dinner. It was all in the oven and warm. You had a blast going from one room to another. You love your little play kitchen and played and laughed with Kelli and Brittany for a long time. Guess you got your second wind because you were very wound up. Our next door neighbors the Murrays stopped by. At first you were scared of Mr. Murray but then you figured out he was ok. After everyone left we ate dinner and you took your bath. We all said good night and put you in your bed with your dolls and stuffed animals. You slept with your hands tight around your baby and giraffe. Oh, I forgot you really liked playing with the musical “my girl” bear. Anyway you went to bed very easily, laid there and played awhile then went to sleep. Welcome home love!

The following entries were written by the director and Victoria's caregivers:

Dear Vica,
It's too sad to say good-bye to you but you have mama and papa. You'll stay with them permanently. We love you so much and we'll remember you forever. We wish you happiness in your new family, be the dearest and a sweetheart. Remember us. When you grow up come visit us in Russia. We'll be very happy to see you again.
Kiss you, God bless you, Tatiana Demchouk

Vica was sent to our orphanage when she was 2 years old. It took her a long time to get used to it. She was crying, didn't talk to other kids and was isolated. Now Vica is a very friendly and smart girl. She talks a lot and clearly. She keeps herself busy, likes to play with dolls, feeds them and puts them to bed, sings songs to them. She pretends to be a mother pushing the baby carriage. She is very happy that now she has mama and papa. She is never without her photo album in her hands, even when she goes to bed. The ball given to her by her mama is shown to everybody and she says it was mama who gave it to her. She also says she will go by plane soon. We are all happy that now Vica will have a loving family, it's a very important thing. We wish your family happiness and all the best. Maria Pavlovna

I am very happy that now you have mama and papa. Vica, be happy, healthy, always the dearest and a sweetheart. It's too bad to say goodbye to you. Don't forget about us. Come to see us when you grow up. We'll be very happy to see you.
Kiss you, Aunt Ira

Vica my sunshine,
I am very glad. You are a kind, careful and hardworking girl. Be the same, affectionate and kind. Be happy and healthy. I hope to see you one day.
Kiss you, Aunt Valyn

Victoria's referral picture, our first look at our daughter - October 2001

One day after being home in the USA - January 2002