Here is the final travel log of our trip to Yaroslavl this summer I did not get to send these pictures while I was there since the internet connection was not good. I have included about ten digital photos here.
Steve’s public photostream at Flickr includes these photos and others.
The day we arrived in Yaroslavl we met with Galina. Galina is involved in trying to improve the local orphanages in Yaroslavl and is the local director of Friends of Russian Orphans. She had also taught English in local schools and Russian in Boston; she had agreed to help us during our stay. Without her our trip would have been impossible. We hope to help her raise much needed money for the Children in the Orphanages of Yaroslavl.
The next day, Saturday, August 21st we drove out to meet Masha’s birth family, Olga, Alexander and Katya and a very big Rotweiller that was their family pet. They live outside the city in a large apartment complex on the first floor. There is a family garden just outside the building and they said they also had another garden several miles away. They had grown lots of potatoes and were planning to harvest them the next day in order to help make ends meet. We spent the afternoon with them talking There were lots of tears and they were very happy to see us all. They said they had no idea what was really wrong with Masha or what had become of her. They told us they had been told that they would never be able to care for her and provide all the help she needed. We have agreed to all keep in touch with each other. We suggested Katya learn some English and think about visiting us in NYC.
The next day we went to visit the Yaroslavl Children’s hospital.
After Masha was given up at the maternity hospital she was moved to the Regional Children’s Hospital of Yaroslavl. The nurses at the hospital took care of Masha until she was adopted. They would not let her go to the local orphanage because they feared she would not do well there as she was unable to walk until she was 3-1/2 years old, just a few months before we adopted her. We were told that the nurses would take turns taking Masha home on the weekends so she would know what family life was like.
Each of these woman had a story to tell about Masha. One told us she used to feed Masha; another told us about Masha’s imaginary conversations on a broken phone with her mother. Another one was still angry with the orthopedic specialist(more about him later) that she took Masha to repeatedly. That doctor, Valery Blandinsky, told her he feared for Masha and would like to help her but did not have the resources to do so.
When we arrived at the Children’s Hospital of Yaroslavl we were greeted by the Regional Director of the Hospital. A big celebration with champagne and food had been planned for Masha’s return. They showed us a wall of pictures that had been taken of Masha when she was a little girl living there. We were then taken to the room where Masha spent most of the time at the hospital. They explained to us that this was the room Masha lived in. It had been freshly painted and it was a great improvement from the last time I had visited in 1992. They had set up a large table with food for us and many of the retired nurses came back to see what had become of the little girl they had taken care of. Many of the nurses stood up to talk about that little girl. Masha also stood up to thank all the wonderful woman who had helped her. It was a happy and tearful reunion.
Before we adopted Masha we had contacted a doctor in Seattle who seemed to have published the most about Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, the syndrome Masha has. At the end of our conversation with him, he told us that he had just had a Russia orthopedist spend three months in a fellowship with him in Seattle. "Why don’t you fax his cousin in Moscow and see if you can get him to evaluate this little girl," the Seattle-based physician suggested. It was a long shot but an AMAZING thing happened: Dr. Blandinsky knew all about Masha and had been following her since her birth. His written report on her condition immensely simplified matters with the immigration service when we adopted Masha. This visit, Dr Valery Blandinsky, got to see Masha again in Yaroslavl. He was thrilled to see her progress.
We knew when we arrived that a local newspaper was interested in our visit. Adoption of Russian children by foreigners has become a very touchy subject recently as two adopted Russian children in the past year had been killed by their adoptive parents. Our story was a big surprise to many. Before we left Yaroslavl, the Yaroslavl Regional newspaper interviewed and photographed us. The day we left Yaroslavl we were so surprised to see our picture on the front page of this newspaper.
The trip was a really wonderful experience for all of us. It was a great feeling to be able to go back and say thank you to all those wonderful women and to meet Masha’s biological family and let them know how well she is doing. We want to help raise money for the orphans of Yaroslavl and hope we have helped the people of Yaroslavl learn we are all one global community.