Memories and Mourning – My Son From Russia

by Elisa Fleener

They called him ‘The Smiler.’ Then they mailed a movie of him. It was a personal premiere for my husband and I with the hope it would squelch the fiery frustration we were feeling after so many failed fertility treatments. The movie started with static then finally the screen flipped to an undernourished infant boy wrapped in a thin green blanket no bigger than a dish towel. When I looked at his face it became clear to me how he got his nickname.

After watching the movie I felt in my heart he was the right choice. When I was asked by the adoption agency if I wanted to look at other orphaned babies I said, “No, he’s ‘The One’. Five months later ‘The Smiler’ was ours. We flew from Alaska to Siberia to pick up our orphaned baby. While leaving the orphanage to go back home with him, the older children watched us with desperate looks on their face. I wished I could have adopted them all.

Two years later, I found out from a newspaper article the orphanage ran out of money and shut its doors putting the children that had lived there in jeopardy. I mourned when I learned a considerable number of these kids now are starving on the streets or worse many have been put in mental homes. Then several years later I was astounded when I found out Putin made it law to stop all American adoptions from Russia! If only Putin could see how our adopted Russian son has grown and flourished, how over the years he has given me a million snapshots of joy from his very first baby step to graduating high school. More importantly, Putin needs to know how being a mom and providing a good life for the ‘The Smiler’ makes me smile. And ‘The Smiler’ is happier than ever before.

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One thought on “Memories and Mourning – My Son From Russia”

  • I also have an adopted child from Russia, the Smolensk area. She is now 25 but only just 3 when we picked her up from the orphanage. And yes, you do want to take all the lovely children with you. They are so precious and innocent. But I have better news. We went back to the orphanage and to visit my daughter’s birth family two years ago. To our delight, it was still operating, looked a bit brighter to me, being run by what appeared to me a welcoming and caring staff and the best news of the ONLY 50 children living there the year before ALL were adopted by Russian families. Despite Putin, good people manage to make good things happen. Best of luck to you and your son.

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