Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spaso House

On Sunday we received an invitation from the U.S. Ambassador to Russia to join him at his residence (called Spaso House) for the inaugural celebration/Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration.  We were told that the Ambassador wanted to speak to us about everything that was going on.  The U.S. Embassy official in charge of adoptions here, Mr. Haley, told us he would meet us at the front gate and escort us in.

We arrived about 7:45 p.m. to the beautiful and historic home.  We took these photos on our way out:

Spaso House

We greeted Mr. Haley at the gate, where we had to show our passports and verify that we were on the guest list.  The Ambassador's secretary was also waiting for us at the gate, and was so kind to us.  We made our way up the stone walkway and into the entrance where we hung our coats and were escorted to the library (on a red carpet!) to wait for the Ambassador with Mr. Haley.  I wish I would have taken some photos of the library because it was so beautiful.  It had tall ceilings with large bookshelves and an ornate fireplace with framed photos scattered around the room with casual pictures of President Obama and the Ambassador together.

The red carpet.

As we waited we spoke with Mr. Haley about all that they had been doing at the Embassy for families like us.  They had already processed 21 families with their children who were on their way home.  I found out I was the only one of "the six" left in country who had passed court and the 30 day appeal period in 2012.  What a kick in the gut.  It wasn't supposed to be like this!  Mr. Haley was very kind and told us that they were doing everything they could for us.  The staff at the House brought us in fancy hors d'oeuvres made of small pieces of toasted bread with salmon and cheese on them and a variety of drinks.

Finally the Ambassador arrived and greeted us very warmly and after making introductions he first told us that our situation (meaning all of the adoptive families in the country) was his highest priority.  He had just left meetings that day with his Russian government contacts and he will not stop working for us until this is resolved.  He also assured us that the U.S.'s official position is to get all families processed who had begun the adoption process, whether they had passed court or not.  There has been mention by officials here that those who haven't been to court yet would not get to bring their children home, even thought they had already met their children and signed official documents to adopt them.  They have said that the orphans "call everyone they meet mama and papa" and wouldn't know the difference anyway.  It is infuriating.  I was so proud that the Ambassador was sticking to his guns on this issue and will not back down and only accept the adoptions of the kids whose parents had passed court.  We have been blessed to stay here at our hotel with one of the families who are in this stage of the process.  Their original court date was week before last, and so they came as planned, even knowing things would not go well.  Their hearing was postponed until yesterday, and then at yesterday's hearing it was postponed again until after the Supreme Court makes a ruling. They flew home this morning to wait for news there, I'm sure you can only imagine their anxiety and emotions.

He also told us that last week he met with Hillary Clinton in Washington and that this issue was also one of her top priorities before she left her office as Secretary of State.  He also has spoken with President Obama's staff and they assured him that the President is staying on top of this and that they would continue to keep it on his dek.  This was all very comforting and it was good to feel that our government had our backs.

We had a good twenty minute talk with the Ambassador before we were all whisked away to watch the inauguration together.  Since we had arrived early, it was a surprise when they opened the library doors and suddenly there were hundreds of people mingling about eating their hors d'oeuvres.  We were led right into the viewing room with the Ambassador and Mr. Haley, who was sure to stay with us and make us feel welcome the entire time we were there.

I loved that they served pizza.  Just like home.

The crowd and one room of the beautiful Spaso House.

That's the Ambassador in the middle of the photo. 
Walking in to the viewing room.  That is Mr. Haley, from the Embassy, to the left.

People waiting for the live feed of the inauguration to begin.  We were surprised that they had saved some seats for us.

We took our seats and the Inauguration began.  I have to say it was an experience I will never forget to watch the swearing in of our President from another country, especially from another country who doesn't have the same freedoms that we do and whose elections are riddled with cries of corruption.  To hear the speaker talk about how incredible it truly is that when we swear in a President, it isn't under any kind of duress or coup or corruption, but it comes as the will of the people.  No matter whether you are happy or not that President Obama is our president for the next two years, you have to feel patriotic knowing the freedoms we enjoy and the safeties we are afforded in America.  As I sat and listened to President Obama speak, especially when he spoke about how it wasn't long ago that our own children with disabilities had no where to go, but that we rose up as a people to provide for these children and people in our society, I had tears in my eyes.  Truly our country is so great because of the people, and the blessed opportunity we have to raise our voices against our own government if needed and to be heard without fear of being killed or extorted out of our life savings.  This sounds dramatic, but I can tell you it is not!  I have talked with people here who have had to pay bribes to receive medical care for their children!  They have had to pay a bribe to traffic police to not write a ticket for thousands of dollars that they would never be able to afford to pay.  I will never again take for granted the freedoms and obedience to the law that we have in America!  I can't wait to kiss the ground there when we finally land on U.S. soil again!

There were people here from all over the world.  I heard many languages spoken.  Some shouted out with agreement when the President spoke on various issues.  Others obviously didn't suport this particular president, but all were respectful.  
After the President spoke,  Ambassador McFaul gave a short speech in Russian and then everyone got up and began to mingle again.

Ambassador McFaul.  His Russian is impressive!

Mr. Haley found us again and told us to feel free to wander around and see things and he would escort us out when we were ready to leave.  We took the opportunity to meet the Ambassador's wife, who was so kind and supportive and assured us again that her husband's top priority right now is this issue.  (For my friends who are in process, please feel free to email me to get more details about what he told us that I don't feel comfortable posting on the blog).  She took the time to visit with us and ask us about our children at home and our children here.

We walked around a bit and took some photos to remember the night.

The architecture and detail in the residence was just amazing.

Maybe my favorite shot, because of two things: it appears that the President has his arm on my shoulder in a sign of support for this fighting mama, and two, because the looks on his face and mine.  I was thinking, "hey, look who I ran in to while in Russia..."

Jeana and I after the crowd left the viewing room.

They had photos and literature of Martin Luther King, Jr. all around.  It was very neat to see and read his words.  What an American hero.

I picked up a copy for myself of the book above called "Free at Last," a whole compilation of the civil rights movement in America.  I'm excited to share it with my 8-year-old when I get home, showing her the great history of people in our country who fight for the rights of the human race. 

And so here we are, the beginning of the new day here.  Today we are getting a call from the U.S. State Department at 3:00.  It will be a conference call for those families who are in Russia right now.  I can't imagine we'll hear anything we didn't hear last night already from Ambassador McFaul, but it is good they are keeping in touch.

Another day down in the history of this surreal story....


  1. WOW!! How wonderful to truly have support by officials in country!

    Praying always! Sally

  2. Wow that is so amazing. You two beautiful ladies are Ambassadors too. Continued prayers your children come home soon. Thank you so much for sharing your story.