American Parents Save Russian Girls from Horror

The Michigan Daily News reports:

When Russian sisters Christiana Muratova and Alyssia Nikitina lost their mother back in August 2002, their lives took a totally different direction.

That path has led them to Belding.

The girls’ mother was slain in a vicious attack by her boyfriend. They then went to live with Nikitina’s father. Times were not good at the household.

Muratova, now 16, never knew her father. The father of Nikitina, now 15, soon lost custody of the girls due to alcoholism, a common problem in Russia.

The girls were under state care for several years. Their bond of sisterhood was tested when a rich Russian family wanted to adopt Nikitina but not Muratova.

“I didn’t want to be without Christiana,” Nikitina said. “We had always been together through our whole life. She is my sister. You can’t go without your sister. Your heart won’t let you.”

The girls waited for almost year before hearing that an American family, the Andres in Belding, wanted to adopt them. Diane Andres said she had been “touched” when she found Nikitina’s profile online. It said nobody wanted her because she was older.

“I saw that they only adopted babies,” Andres said. “I know what it is like to have older kids. People might think of them as a problem but they need a home just like a baby needs a home.”

The Andres were all set to come to Russia to pick up the girls. But a telephone call in the middle of the night back in June 2005 changed all that.

The adoption would be delayed because the girls were having second thoughts.

“It was a really hard experience,” Andres said. “We were devastated.”

The sisters were scared. They had heard rumors from family members and their community that Americans only adopted Russian children to use their organs for transplants.

“Our director said the people who would adopt us are good,” Nikitina said. “You can trust them, she said. You can trust them.”

So the girls decided to move forward with the process and that trust paid off.

“See, I am still alive,” Muratova said, gesturing broadly. “I am.”

It was with that leap of faith that the sisters came to Belding in September 2005. The Andres family now has grown to include Dave Andres, 54, Diane, 47, 20-year-old Ashley, 17-year-old Matt and the two girls.

The sisters’ first stop after arriving in America was the Twilight Parade during Belding’s Labor Day Homecoming Celebration.

“It was all different,” Muratova said. “We got off the airplane and went to the parade. I thought it was cool. It was my first parade.”

Now, one year later, the girls still are adjusting to their new life. This includes a new language, new culture and new food, among other things.

“In Russia we had more freedom,” Muratova said. “When you don’t have a parent, you go outside all the time.”

“You don’t have to worry that your parents are worrying about you,” Nikitina added.

The Andres’ house has changed with the fresh air the girls have brought in.

“It’s a little more time to get ready in the morning or to go somewhere,” Diane said. “There are a few more expenses, like food. They eat like teenage boys, not girls. That’s good.”

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