This is the last in our blog series dedicated to Searching in Intercountry Adoption. These individual stories are being shared from our Perspective Paper that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts
by Raya Snow born in Russia, raised in Canada
I was born in the city of Ivanovo Oblast, Russia 1989. It is located North East of Moscow with a population of 361,641. After I was born, my mother and father moved to the Caucasus of Russia, Derbent. After I turned 3, my parents got divorced and my mother and I moved to Stavropol, North of the Caucuses.
Eventually, my mother met another man and we started living together in a two bedroom apartment. He was a very abusive and narcissistic man who would abuse both my mother and myself. I believe my mother one day left him, leaving me in his care. Not being his blood relative, he shortly dropped me off to my mother’s great-aunt’s place. This is where my journey really unfolded.
My great-great aunt ( Elvira), was a religious older woman whose life revolved around the church and God. We lived somewhat happily together, but I would always wonder about my mother and her whereabouts. Sometimes my mother would come to the house to see me, but those were always incredibly short visits. Due to her never being around, the neighbours started to question my health and education. Elvira then thought to start looking for a forever home for myself.
I remember, she would advise me to be on my best behaviour, to listen well, in order for a family to take me or to buy me off of her. Being only about 5 years of age, I was very excited to be able to visit other families with children, play with them, and get to know them. Deep down in my heart, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay with them because some were far worse off than I was, living with my aunt.
One day, there was a lady that came to the door, asking to speak to Elvira about a family from Canada wanting to adopt a little Russian girl. Elvira was so pleased about this news that she allowed the woman to take pictures of herself which she would then send to the family in Canada. The woman let us know there would be a man who would come in the following weeks to advise if the Canadian family was interested in the child, me. In the meantime, I was still going from home to home, to see if anyone showed any interest in purchasing me.
A month or two later, there was another knock on our gate and as the lady mentioned, there was a man (George) who came to see Elvira and I. George brought us fruits and sweets which I would eat while the two were speaking intently. He let Elvira know that the Canadian family took an interest in me and was willing to pay a big sum in order to adopt me. She let him know the process would not be an easy one as all my documentation was lost in a car accident where both of my parents died tragically.
According to her statement, I survived miraculously by the will of God. She then showed George the death certificate of my parents, leaving me, a little orphan in her will. George suggested we start the process by recreating new documents, stating my mother’s name and him as the biological father in my new birth certificate.
Me, being this little girl, understanding that my mother will never return back to me, as she had left and I hadn’t seen her maybe for months, I felt a new adventure was about to unfold. George started coming by the house more often, gaining my trust and I his. We became great friends and I enjoyed having a “father figure” in my life. On the weekends, I would go over to his house and meet his wife and children, who took me in with open arms.
A turning point was about to happen when Elvira spoke to our neighbours and let them know she was going to take the money and myself up West, to the Ural Mountains where the rest of our family resided. The neighbours were saddened by this news as I was a very malnourished little girl who needed attentive medical care, so they called George straight away and let him know the alarming news. George of course, called the potential family in Canada and let them know that they needed to save me and hide me while the rest of the documentation was being prepared. The Canadian family agreed and I was brought to a small city near Moscow, where the biological relatives of their family lived. There, I met my wonderful adoptive mom, with whom I gained an instantaneous attachment because of desperately wanting to feel loved and cared for.
I believe I lived with the family in Moscow for about 6 months. While my documents were getting done, I started attending pre-school, spent time with relatives on the weekends, went to church on Sundays and welcomed a new package from my Canadian family every few weeks or so.
It was sometime in June when George came back into my life again. This time, we were going to begin our travels to Canada. The process was a very tricky one, I had to learn to call him “dad” and he would call me “daughter”. George let me know that we had to fake a bond, where authorities would not be able to question our relationship to one another. Our lives were at stake if any one of us did something questionable, I could be sent to an orphanage and he to prison.
We first began our trip to Moscow, where we stayed at George’s blind father’s place for a few days before heading out on a Cargo ship to Turkey. I remember the ship well and I grew fond of the people in it. Once we reached Turkey, we took a flight to France which I don’t have any memories of, and from there we flew to Canada.
Once we got off the flight, I could see in the hallway above me, there were many people waiting to greet their loved ones. My adoptive parents were one of those people, who were waiting with balloons and a cam-recorder for that very first hug. George and my adoptive mom ended up getting married and this “happy” ending lasted for a couple more years until George and my adoptive mom separated (finalised the divorce) and then she claimed full custody of me.
Twenty-five years went by, I started on my search for my biological parents which I have found with great success. I had help through a friend of my adoptive mom who was able to help me find my biological mother on a Russian app. I have found my biological mother, who is still well and alive with a beautiful, big family who has been supporting her throughout the loss of her child, me. I have also reconnected with my biological father, whom I found through a Russian tv show and he had been at war in 1994 – 1996 between the Chechens and the Russians. After the war ended, he began his search for me, with no leading answers on my whereabouts or my biological mother from Elvira.
This is a true story. It is a story of grief, loss, abandonment and also happiness. I would like to bring awareness that abduction happens, that childhood trafficking exists and it needs to be spoken about. Adoptees are lacking support in those areas as we are terrified to speak about our truths and what the truth might do to those surrounding us.
This is a new era, a space to bring light to our journeys, to the eyes of our governments, our adopters, adoption organisations and our peers. Let’s start creating legal changes through advocacy and the support of our fellow adoptees! Together, let’s share our truths!