‘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

Monday, January 30, 2012

An Anya & Orphanage Update

Kisses from Anya...in gratitude for your cards and letters
I've been skyping with Anya more regularly -- about 3 times a week. I'm so relieved she is staying at her friend Ira's house and hope that doesn't change for awhile. I can see via skype that it is a clean, fairly modern apartment. I didn't realize how worried I was about her staying at her cousin's, until she moved to Ira's. Oksana, her 1st cousin once removed on her father's side, lives with an older man names Sasha in a very tiny cottage down a dirt road. I think I mentioned before that it had no bathroom, just an outside toilet, and was very run-down and inaccessible. It wasn't so bad when Anya was mobile, but since the shooting, it's become a tough place for her to live. She even started to admit that to me, which is not something she is wont to do -- she's far too proud.

So, her spirits seem up, but she does remind me often how lonely she is. I tell her we will visit as soon as I get back on my feet financially. She knows I'm trying my best. She is such a sweetheart; every conversation we have she manages to turn the tables and ask me all the questions. How am I? Am I sure I'm okay? How is my health? Am I eating right and taking my vitamins? She's my own little baboushka:)

Please let me know if you have sent, or will be sending a card to Anya. It is helpful for her to know. Although Ira lives in an apartment, it is still in the same neighborhood and it is very crime-prone. If they know a letter or card is on its way, they will watch the mail more carefully. Packages are safe, because they are not delivered to homes, but to the local post office.

The orphanage is another story altogether. Their internet service has never been fixed, so I cannot email them. I've called and not had good service for weeks...no connection. It seems to happen every winter. Perhaps the weather is a factor? None of the older kids have been on Russian facebook since December, so I can't get any news about anything. I DO know that photos were taken on January 7th of the Feast...I just don't know when we'll get to see them.
I do have some photos of the older orphanage kids that Vanya sent me in late December/early January. Just forgot to post them! Some are a year old, some are from this past summer. I'll write a description under each. Enjoy:)

Natasha, Vika, Nastia, Alina and Marina on their graduation day last May. 
They are 16 years old. Some have already left the orphanage for good. 
Natasha and Marina remain for now, as they have no place else to go.
Sidozha, Andrei and Marina outside their school on graduation day.
A photo of last year's Thanksgiving dinner in the boys group. 
That is Stas in the no-sleeve shirt. You can just make out D 
at the table behind him, standing and leaning over the table.

More of the graduates. This was taken just inside the school. 
None of these kids have hope of a job, except the boys that get 
jobs as coalminers. But their life expectancy is about the same 
in the mines or out. Most of these kids will not see 
their 30th birthday. Sobering fact.


  1. Oh how frustrating. I'm very glad that Anna is living in a better situation. I would love to know if the Orphanage got the two boxes we sent for Christmas Time. I hope they got them! Lots of candy, toys etc. How is your adoption going? Thinking of you!

  2. Interesting photos, esp. of graduation. Looks like the Thanksgiving feast was plentiful. I hope to get my little card/package out to Anya this week.

  3. It's hard. It's so, so hard.

    When I heard about children aging out of the orphanages at 16 and what their lives would be like, I was so heartsore. Then I met my girls who were 10 and 11. Now, THOSE are the 16 year olds who are out on the street and my heart, oh, my heart is in a million pieces.

  4. Keri, I wish I could e-mail you, but I don't see an e-mail link. Have you thought of getting Anya a study visa to Canada? If she gets an undergrad in Canada, she can pretty easily be taken to the US for a master's program, or even for a job. It's possible she could even transfer from a Canadian college to a US college mid-program.

    Has Nastya considered sponsoring her sister into the US as a close relative, rather than you guys persuing the adopting route?

    Also, is it even possible at this point that you yourself could live in Russia or Canada for two years, with Anya living with you, so that you can adopt her in her home country, which may qualify her for a visa into the US? This may not be possible any longer because of their ages, but maybe there is a way to do this as a sort of retroactive adoption (if you qualify with the two-year live-in requirement) since you applied for her adoption when she was still of-age. It's possible you could even live on the border US side, while she lives close to the border Canadian-side, and then you can see each other very very often.

    My husband is from Russia, and we have done a lot of juggling to make his immigration to the US and Canada work.

    e-mail me if you care to. this is my e-mail (minus spaces): cokhmatov (at) gmail (dot) com

    blessings -

    1. Carmen, my email is kericahill34(at)gmail(dot)com.

      We've tried everything youve mentioned and about 1,000 other paths, too. We have left no stone unturned. Nastia is not eligible to sponsor her until she(Nastia) turns 21. Anya cannot be adopted in her home country bc of her age. Anya is nor eligible for a student visa in canada (too long to explain) and we TRIED to get her one in the US over two years ago. The US Embassy higher-ups told us in no uncertain terms that she would never get a visa - student or otherwise -- because of her orphan status. I have spent over $30,000 of my own money over the last 6 years trying to get her home. I have spent over $30,000 of OTHER people's money as well these past 6 years, trying to get her home, supporting her, and trying to adopt her in 06 and 07. I'm so glad you were able to work with immigration to get your husband here, but it is not the same for someone with orphan status. I'm sure your husband has told you about the stigma of orphans in Russia, even once they grow up and are out of the system.

      It isnt possible to list everything we've done, but in the 75 months since we first found Anya, I have chased down every single possible way of getting her here. I have met with or spoken with or been in conference with over 15 different immigration attorneys. I have petitioned governors and senators and diplomats and presidents. I have started online petitions and letter drives. Senator kert's office alone got so many thousands of letters that they called me and begged me to put a halt to it -- it was interfering with their work. I have inundated immigration and the state dept with letters and phone calls and meetings with 3rd party supporters that work closely with the "Super Powers.'

      I have exhausted my self financially, physically, emotionally and even sometimes spiritually. Both Anya and myself have come to the point where we are done pushing and begging and fighting. We're worn out. We're all worn out...anya, her sister and me.

      Our last hope is a medical visa, but Anya is not allowed to leave the country until her court case is over, so if we send in the application and she gets the visa, HER country will now not allow her to leave. so, we wait. We wait until we feel the timing is right to submit the paperwork for the medical visa so that she might get approved AND be able to come. if we apply to early and she gets approved and cannot come, we are at square one again.

      For now, I try to keep her safe and warm and fed from afar, and we talk as often as possible via skpe. And I ask others to help her by writing her letters, sending cards...anything that will help her to remember she is loved. I hope and pray that is enough for now, because I have nothing left to offer her. My love and my meagre support. God will have to see to the rest:)

  5. Anonymous11:24 PM

    Hi Keri!!! This has nothing to do with the post... I just know that for a long time you have been focusing on eating healthier and thought I would post a website for you to visit -- the green smoothie is the #1 thing she recommends to drink daily, so if you are interested click on that link... she also has other smoothies and tips!! Just thought Id share! I am going to start doing the smoothie daily :)


    (or just go to kimberlysnyder.net and click on "read blog" thats where all the good stuff is at :) )

    1. Thanks Alysa:) I'll be sure to check it out!


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