‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This Damn Longing

Sorry for the strong wording. 'Darn' just didn't cut it.

Yesterday we finally reached Anya again by Skype. Once she had been moved out of the hospital, it became impossible to reach her via Skype. So I did what any other resourceful mother would do -- I send funds to the people she is staying with to purchase the best wi-fi service that Siberia has to offer it.

It worked.

And so last night, as I typed away at a letter for D, I heard that familiar 'zherping' sound that tells you someone has logged into Skype. Lo and behold, it was Anya!

I hadn't realized how much I had missed seeing her and hearing her voice, so I started crying when the video came on and, in turn, scared her...she thought something awful had happened. 'No! I just miss you!' I said, and then she smiled and breathed deeply and added 'Mama, I miss you too...'

After we caught up as much as we could, I went up and got Nastia to come talk to her. Anya wanted us to meet her new kitten. The cat at their house had given birth last week, and her kitten was the tiniest, fluffiest little thing! Anya named her Vasalisa. Stupid me then asks her naively, 'Wow, the mom only had one kitten? That's rare.' I should have remembered the stories I had been told time and time again in Russia.

'Nooo, Mama, she had 8. We drowned the other seven today. Isn't Vasya cute?' Thud. My heart sank into my shoes and all I could think of was those poor little newborn kittens struggling in a bucket of water. But, as Nastia later scolded me with that harsh Russian POV...what are they to do? The kittens would all starve to death once they were weaned, or be eaten by someone. To Anya's mindset, what they did was an act of kindness.

Anya asked if Vasalisa could meet her American 'cousin', so Nastia traipsed upstairs and excavated poor Tink from the furthest corner under my bed. She brought her down and then forced the poor thing to endure a video-chat with another cat living 6,000 miles away. she was not impressed. At first Vasya was busy nursing, so I taped my two girls talking for a bit. I forgot how much Anya hates being filmed without makeup ('Mama, I am so UGLY without makeup!') Yeah,right.

I evidently caught her off guard when I asked her to say hi to my friends, as you'll see here:

Yup -- she hung up on us. But don't worry, we called her right back and I promised never to tape her again sans makeup. The kitties got to meet, the girls got to make faces at one another for an hour, and then I got another 20 minutes alone with Anya.

'Mama, I know you are trying, but will you please come soon?' I always dread these questions, because I don't know how to answer them without falling apart myself. It's not fair that we have 6,000 miles between us. It's not fair that I can't be there to nurse her while she recovers. It's not fair that we live in this supposedly modern world and yet the laws that keep us apart are so draconian.
After all these years, I still can't wrap my head around it.

Anya now waits for the court date where she will testify against the man who shot her. The police said she is not allowed to leave the country until the criminal case is over. By then it may be too late for me to get permission for her to come. It's a catch-22.

And on top of all this is the daily struggle with abject longing. I long to be there. For her. For D. For the kids at the orphanage. For my own sanity. This morning it stung me like a blade through my heart. I felt sick with my need to be there. I was ready to walk there, if needed. I wanted to be there, to see them and hear them and simply tell them all how much I still love them -- even if I cannot be there every day. Luckily today was so overrun with doctor appointments, urgent errands and the like, that I didn't have the luxury of nursing these sorrows. I had to just move past it.

Last night I dreamt that I was with Anya and D and we were trying to get out of Moscow by any means necessary and come home. As the dream progressed, D got younger and younger until he was an infant clinging to my side and trying to nurse on my fingers. Anya pushed her way through crowds of people, with a large patch worked backpack on her back, demanding someone help us. We had no phone, no money, and we would stop to sleep in doorways of shops when we got tired. At one point I saw an older gentleman with an iphone, and I asked him if I could use it to call home. We were sitting on the steps of a cafe, Anya leaning on me in a big black sheepskin coat, looking at a map, and D, now looking about 10 months old, wrapping his legs tightly around my waist and chewing contentedly on my hand. I kissed him over and over and smelled his hair and felt so scared of losing him. I remember thinking in my dream how I would give anything to be tucking them both in at home. I felt so alone and scared, and so shamed that I had no shelter for them. It started raining hard in my dream then, and as I waited for Nastia to answer the phone (I was calling her in my dream), my alarm went off and I woke up.

As sad as the dream felt, I would give anything to fall back into it tonight. Spending time with them, if even only in dreams, is worth the painful longing that comes with it.


  1. I enjoyed this post; It was so sad, (drowning kittens is "the norm" for these girls, your dream). And then i actually laughed out loud thinking of two cats "skyping"! Ha ha. My cat Oreo would not be impressed with that either!! It is nice to hear though that Anya has the desire and ability to bond with the little kitten that she kept.

  2. For a girl that feels her life mission is to educate people about wildlife conservation... this was a sad post!!! :( I love little kitties! Do you know why people is Russia do this to all but 1 cat? Is it just based on food?

  3. Keri,
    Maybe you are SUPPOSED to be in Russia! Like a permanent resident...... :) The video was precious.

  4. Melinda, I know, its devastating. but in this part of the world the poverty is so horrific that animal right are probably eons away from being a part of their mindset. They can barely keep themselves alive, so animals are often seen as things to be USED. Dogs are for security, for instance. Most dogs in this part of Russia are chained to a post their ENTIRE lives. Cats are eaten by those without the means to buy food. Its common for them to drown kittens and puppies and see that as an act of mercy. I saw packs of homeless dogs scrounging for anything to eat in the park near my home there. It is not a place for the faint hearted.

    Even those I knew who were educated, 'middle class' people saw nothing wrong with a dog spending his entire life on a 12 inch chain tied to a post, with little shelter. IN fact, I regularly saw people kick and beat their dogs. IT was horrifying.

    Until someone lives there and educated them, this will continue to be common practice. If I had another lifetime to live, I might do just that. But my life is about the children there. Hopefully someone similar to you will take up the cause of animal rights there some day soon.

  5. They do that to animals in Poland also. i was born there so I've seen it first hand. they don't have animal shelters if your from a village i don't know about big cities. There is a lot of homeless animals running around so they can only afford one. they dont do animal adoptions there. even if its freezing outside the dogs are chained up..its just part of there lives and thats all they know .

  6. Heartbreaking post - I hope Anya and D both make it home with momma

  7. Sad, heartbreaking, and a startling reality check of how different the two worlds and perspectives are. It was a good reminder to me to stop and look at my kids perspective next time they're doing stuff that's "inappropriate."

  8. I'm sure you feel just heartsick to be separated. Oh, dear. Maybe we need to find Anya an American to marry. How clever you are to get the internet going at her home! I wonder how expensive that was.... I'd love to do that for the kids' families, but I doubt they have a computer, either.


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