This story begins in 1990 when my husband, Phil, and I decided to adopt a child. We already had been blessed with two wonderful boys: Aaron, age 10, and Evan, age 4. As other adoptive families can confirm, it took some time to complete the process! But by January 1992, we had completed the home study and the paperwork required by the United States and Minnesota governments. It was then that we contacted MAPS International regarding adoption from Russia. At the time, Russian adoption was still new and evolving. We proceeded to complete the forms, send in the fees, and wait. Finally, late on a lovely June evening in 1992, the telephone rang with the news we had been waiting for– there was a little girl in Russia that needed a family! Phil and I and the boys jumped up and down, hugged each other, and were simply overjoyed at the prospect of adding Olya to our family.

After a few months of additional paperwork and preparation, I was able to travel to Russia to bring Olya home. Phil, Aaron, and Evan waited impatiently at home in Minnesota! What a thrilling time for all of us! Olya and I arrived home on Thanksgiving Eve, about one month after her 5th birthday.

Although so much could be said about the following years, the story now jumps forward to August 2002; nearly 10 years after Olya became our daughter. This time, Phil, Evan, Olya, my mother, Marilyn, and I were all in Russia for a return visit.

Wow! What an exciting moment when we walked up to the Yegorevsk Children’s Home and met Margerita and Tatiana. They were two of the beautiful and loving caregivers who remembered Olya from 10 years ago! They told us how delighted they were to see Olya again. Margarita remarked on how tall and beautiful Olya had become. She remembered taking Olya to her own mother’s home when Olya was small. Her mother would read to Olya and play with her and try to “fatten her up a little.”

We walked through the children’s home and met several of the children there. Olya remembered the bedroom that had been hers, and even a few of the toys that were still in use! Olya’s dad, brother, and grandma finally got to see the place Olya had lived in before coming home to Minnesota. Because the women working there rarely have the opportunity to see a child who has been adopted from the children’s home, Margerita and Tatiana treated Olya like royalty. Of course she loved it! We were even able to give Margerita a ride at the end of the day and see her home and meet her granddaughter! Returning to Russia was definitely a positive experience for Olya and our family.

Our time in Russia wasn’t over yet. Stella Starkova, the MAPS representative in Moscow, also made arrangements for us to meet with some of the officials at the Russian Adoption Center in Moscow. Stella translated for us at the children’s home and again at the Russian Adoption Center. She also arranged for the necessary transportation! The people we met with at the Russian Adoption Center were also extremely happy to meet one of the children who had been adopted nearly 10 years before. We brought several pictures of Olya’s “growing up years” for them. Once again, she was treated like royalty! We were grateful to be there and to demonstrate the success of MAPS Russian Adoption Program.

Because of our wonderful experience, we encourage other international adoptive families to make a trip back to their child’s homeland, if at all possible! We are very grateful to Mercy Reed-Marchuk for all of her assistance in making our travel plans and to Stella Starkova for her hospitality and assistance while we were in Moscow. We are forever grateful to God for bringing Olya to us and for giving us this opportunity to return to Russia.