The big news today is that we have the boys’ visas, birth certificates, and adoption decrees all in hand (well, Olga’s hands actually), and we are now authorized to bring the children into the USA! The last step in the process here is to register the boys with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which Olga will do for us tomorrow. Since the boys will remain Russian citizens, registering them with the MoFA will tell the Russian government that they will be living permanently in the US.
Much of our day was spent getting to and sitting around the US embassy. That was quite an experience. We were both surprised by how many Russian nationals staffed the embassy. We assumed that we would run into a bunch of American’s (and native English speakers) the minute we walked in the door. In fact, we only met one American all day long. How strange. They embassy cashier couldn’t even make change of $820 for our $808 fee. We had to have exact change or use a credit card!
Some of the challenge was that Olga was meeting us there, and didn’t come there with us. Our hostess and guide, Mila, dropped us off out frount and told us to ask any guard where to go for adoptions. Of course any of them would know! Well, we were directed from one door, back to another door, and almost sent away again before they finally let us in. At least we were shepherded past the multitude of Russians applying for visas. After clearing security, we were sent to a little waiting room, where we met a family from Indiana adopting two boys (6 & 7 years old). This was their second adoption (also two boys back in 2004), so maybe we aren’t done with this country yet! Evan quickly fell in with the older boys, who did their best to trash the waiting room while we waited for our names to be called.
We both were comforted by having another American family to talk to who was going through the same challenges. Actually, based on the behavior of the two boys, I’d say we were doing alright. Coincidentally, this family will be on our same flight on Thursday. Oh, how I pity our copassengers!
The only American we spoke two was a woman who first came out and finally explained the immigration process and papers that we would need. She also conducted a brief “interview” with us, which basically consisted of us confirming that the boys pictures, names, and birthdays were correctly entered into the system. We were given the boys original Russian birth certificates, and adoption decrees stating us as the parents. We received some documents to show the Russian immigration officials at the airport that we are allowed to take the boys out of the country. We also received a sealed package for each of the boys that we will present to the US immigration officials when we enter the country at Dulles. Finally, they gave us back they boys’ Russian passports, with visas to enter the US for each of them. That was another one of those “wow” moments.
We’ve had some bad scoop along the way. We don’t actually receive US passports until we get home. The boys will become US citizens when we pass through customs at Dulles. They will also retain Russian citizenship forever unless they renounce it. This means that in theory, they could choose to travel on either the US or Russian passports. The catch is that they could be drafted into the Russian army between the ages of 18 and 36 (as of today). Military service is not mandatory (as we were led to believe), but if they are drafted and do not report, and subsequently return to the country, they could be put in jail. Of course, that is all based on the laws as they exist today. Who knows what they will be 15 years from now.
So that was it for the embassy. We then had arranged with Mila to take us around the city and get some pictures at various sites. Unfortunately, that became limited to just red square, for a number of reasons. One of which is that the sickness, dehydration, lack of exercise, and lifting children in and out of the back seats of small cars finally caught up with me. I wrenched my back trying to jump out of the car with Alex as we dropped by red square. Luckily, it wasn’t debilitating, but it was painful enough! Just one more item for our list of challenges…
Anyway, we were able to snap a few photos around the square, but since I could barely bend over, and Alex wasn’t in much of a picture taking mood, we didn’t really get to take full advantage of the once in a lifetime opportunity. You will find a few photos below, however, that will at least prove to the boys that they were here. Notice that Evan finally decided to start hamming it up for the camera!
So tomorrow we have one more free day, then we’re off to the airport at 8am Thursday. That’s when the real challenge begins! I’m feeling pretty confident that the boys will handle the airport and boarding process OK, but I am equally confident that they will not enjoy being buckled into their own seats for more than 15 seconds. It’s going to be fun.