This morning Jeana and I took advantage of the health club here at the hotel and ran off a lot of the stress and frustration. I don't know what I'd do without Jeana here with us. And with Brian flying home in the morning, I am especially grateful that she is here, though I'd rather she already be home with her beautiful new daughter. Another blessing amidst the heartache, I guess.
Our facilitator was meeting us at 10:00 am so that we could go to the Notary to sign the official appeal papers we planned on turning in to the court later this morning. When she arrived her face looked grave yet again, and she sadly told us that she had watched the press conference from the day before and realized that both the reporters and the Ombudsman had their information wrong. She said when he had suggested we file a request at a certain court, that it was a court that never even processed international adoption paperwork! Essentially, he did not know the facts and she was so frustrated about it. She said it was just more words. My heart sunk as yet again, another hopeful moment had been turned into a frustrating dead end. But I reminded her that we had his phone number and we could try to call and set the record straight. I had called him the day before and left a message. We agreed to call him after we had filed our appeal at the courthouse.
When we arrived at the courthouse, it took a good hour for her to read us the appeal papers in front of the notary, to ensure we knew exactly what we were signing. I was so impressed with the legal papers she had drawn up for us with the assistance of a legal professional from the baby house. Everything was laid out so clearly, and as she read it to us, the complete ridiculousness of the situation seemed so clear. Surely someone with authority would recognize this and immediately grant us relief! I again felt immensely grateful for Alla, our facilitator. This woman is a hero among heroes. She has opened up to us so much during this trip, telling us things that I think she wouldn't have shared before because she is so humble. But this woman deserves some kind of medal for the work she does, so much of it without any recognition, in fact, sometimes with the opposite of praise.
As part of the United States' adoption agreement with the Russian Federation, parents are required to send post-placement reports explaining how the newly adopted child is doing in their new home. These include photos and health records and such. Most facilitators receive these reports and are happy to see the child is doing well. They turn in the report to the Department of Education, where it is filed away with the rest of the adoption paperwork and locked up. But Alla, she always makes sure that she takes these reports and photos back to the orphanages to show the staff there, so that they can see and become aware of just how well these children are doing.
At one point, after a terrible tragedy involving a child adopted from Russia, she was visited by an official who demanded to see her credentials for working with an American agency. She was extremely upset and understandably wanted to ensure that facilitators like Alla were ensuring the adoptive parents were qualified to have these children. Alla gave her the papers she requested, but then she also pulled out her box of photos of the children that families send to her often, just as their own way to say thank you and to show how well the children are doing. She showed her a photo of one girl, who had been severely abused and mistreated by her biological parents, who then had their parental rights terminated. An American family came for her and adopted her. She showed this official a photo of this girl, now a young adult and student at Juilliard, the most prestigious school of music in the country. This girl had been described as the most talented violinist in all of New York. She then showed her more photos, and more. This is Alla, always trying to advocate for the children. She is a firm believer that yes, a child should be brought up in their own country, of course. But she also believes that if that is not possible, a child should STILL go to a family. I just couldn't ever say enough about this woman. Jeana and I told her today that we wish she was the Children's Rights Ombudsman! Who else could be more qualified to advocate for children than someone who has worked tirelessly for children for more than 15 years? Even now, without any pay or employment since January 1st, this woman is determined to see us through. No one would fault her for abandoning this job and searching for new employment. But she refuses. She says she plans to still visit officials, spreading the word in her humble manner about the plight of orphans in her country. God bless this woman. She is a true hero.
We finished up at the notary after about an hour, and went straight to the courthouse. After asking which building was the correct one, we filed our paperwork as per protocol and headed back to the front door. The gentleman who had registered our appeal gave us the standard speech about how the court now had 15 days to issue a response to our appeal. Fifteen days. Oh my heart ached, again, but tried not to dwell on such a long time of being in limbo again.
Before we exited the courthouse Alla asked if I still had the phone number of the Ombudsman's spokesperson that we had tried to speak to after the press conference. I gave it to her and she called it. She received the same voice message that I had heard when I tried to call him the day before, and left a voicemail. Then she asked for our phone back so she could get his phone number off of it to have on her own phone. On a whim she hit redial and called his office again. By some miracle someone answered the phone and it was the spokesman himself! You should have heard Alla begin to speak Russian with such force and speed as I've never heard her before! We were all standing behind her silently cheering her on! Oh how we prayed as she spoke to this man that his words from the day before wouldn't just be empty promises!
When she got off the phone, she told us told us that she gave him all the correct information for our case, and that he said he had put our papers on his boss' desk just this morning, and promised to remind him of it later today! He said he would call her, he hoped very soon, with news. She had given him her phone number and told him we would be ready at a moment's notice with anything he required of us. Go Alla, go! Oh it was such a relief to now have something immediate to look forward to, instead of thinking about waiting around for fifteen days for the court system to respond.
Through all of this, we have joyfully watched as new "old" friends we have known through adoption groups have successfully picked up their children, and through some hard work of their own, had gotten the necessary paperwork from their regions to bring their child to Moscow and the Embassy to be able to get the final paperwork done to take their children home. Just tonight, we were lucky to meet a family I have come to love through our Facebook group, who have worked tirelessly to bring their sweet daughter home. What a motivator to keep up the good fight, to see these children with the families who have sacrificed so much to bring them home. Safe travels to America!
So,now it is 11:30 pm here and we did not receive any news from the spokesman today, but we are still hopeful that on Monday we will hear SOMETHING from the Ombudsman's office. Please, please let this be so!!! I am getting so tired, emotionally. My heart is breaking every time I look at Gabe's photos or watch a video we have of us together. It is such a helpless feeling to be so close to him, and yet so far away. But I remain as determined as ever to do whatever it takes to make sure the rule of law is followed, and that these officials follow up on their promises. Many reporters are checking in to see what the latest news is, and I am so grateful for their help in putting pressure on the government to act on our case! I think had we not spoken up, we may have just been swallowed up in this new law and forgotten. Finally, my complete stubbornness has been put to good use :-)
Can't keep my eyes open, so good-night for now. Paka Paka, friends.
[This is a photo of a beautiful quote that hangs next to Gabe's bed in our home. Can't wait to read it to him as I tuck him in at night]