Annals of Americans Saving Russian Orphans

More Russian children cast off by Russian society saved by big-hearted American famlies. The Cook County News Herald reports:

A Grand Marais, Minnesota, family with a big heart wants to bring one more Russian orphan to the United States so that he can join his twin brother and three other Russian orphans as the newest member of this extraordinary family. Mike and Laurie Senty and their youngest daughter, Hana, are determined to find a way to bring Ilya to the United States, but at this point, they can’t really afford to. Enter Marce Wood, a good friend of the Senty family with a big heart of her own, who watched as the Sentys went to Russia and brought home the first two teenaged orphans two years ago. Then, within months, a third Russian orphan joined the family and before the year was over a fourth. More about this later. So Wood, who wants Kostya re-united with his twin brother, Ilya, as much as the Sentys do, decided to organize a wonderful art fundraiser at Betsy Bowen’s Studio April 21 to begin to raise money for “Ilya’s Fund.” There will be music and art and pony rides as well as lots of good food — and everyone in the community is invited, she said. Kostya, a talented artist in his own right, will have several drawings at the benefit and Hana will have her “famous” hand-knitted headbands, which she’s been making for the last two years to help raise money for her new brothers. Her mother, Laurie, a talented photographer, will have a slide show of photos she took on her trips to Russia.

The story of how Mike and Laurie Senty managed to adopt four Russian orphan teenagers from Pskov, Russia, started innocently enough — they agreed that they would give an orphan in Russia a chance to live with an American family for the summer. But two weeks into Ilya’s visit, the Sentys knew they didn’t want to send him back. “We wanted to keep him,” Laurie said. She called the adoption agency she was working with and made the request, and was informed that Ilya had a brother. They couldn’t be separated. Did the Sentys want to adopt the brother, too? Hmmmm. But an hour later, this generous couple had made up their minds — “What the heck,” Laurie said. “Let’s take his brother, too.”

When they returned to Russia to complete the adoption, they discovered Ilya’s brother, Alex, wasn’t the least bit interested in going with them. “Alex didn’t like us. He didn’t want to see us,” Laurie said. They kept on trying to get him interested, but to no avail. He didn’t want to go to America with them, apparently. But then Kostya, who had just met the Senty family (including Hana, their daughter), intervened. The 16-year-old who had been in the orphanage since he was an infant, began talking to Alex on his own. This was a good family, he told his fellow orphan. You’ll never get another chance to go to America. Four days later, Alex came in to the room where the Sentys were waiting, sat down and counted to 10 in English. “It was his way of showing us that he wanted to come,” Laurie said.

The papers completed, the Sentys returned to America. But during a layover in Amsterdam, Hana and her mother looked at each other and said — we can’t leave Kostya. “We went off to this little cafe,” remembers Laurie. “And we kept asking ourselves — ‘What should we tell Mike?’” Mike, as it turned out, had opened his heart to the friendly young Russian, too, and he agreed. So now there were to be three. At this point, things began to get really complicated.
When they went back to Russia to get Kostya, they were told that adopting him would be fine, but he had a twin brother who had to go, too. It was a shock to find this out, Laurie said. The twin boys had been separated for schooling, with Ilya, the twin, being sent to an orphanage out in the country, while Kostya stayed in town. Kostya, who didn’t speak English, couldn’t tell the Sentys about his brother and since, at that time, the family had no intention of adopting him, no one at the orphanage mentioned it either. What to do? Their finances couldn’t handle adopting any more children, Laurie said. But there was a legal way around this, they soon discovered. When Kostya reached legal age, he could formally submit a request to have his brother join him in America. The courts agreed to this stipulation and Kostya flew back to the states with his new parents.

But the story doesn’t end here. Hana, who, Laurie said, was an important part of this whole process, couldn’t get one other orphan named Losha out of her mind. They had made eye contact during each of her visits to the orphanage, and she just couldn’t let it go. Finally, Laurie suggested that Losha come and visit them, just for the summer. “We tried the whole summer to find a family who would adopt him,” she said, but they didn’t have any luck. She contacted the adoption agency again and explained the dilemma. They didn’t want this Russian orphan to have to go back, she told them, but she and Mike didn’t have enough money to adopt him. And then, wonder of all wonders, the adoption agency offed to pay for his adoption by raising the money for it. “They just said, ‘We have this opportunity to help,’ and they did,” Laurie said. And so the couch in their living room in Grand Marais is full of happy, well-fed boys today. It’s been a struggle, certainly, but worth every minute of it, she said. The boys all had their own issues that had to be worked out before they felt they were truly part of a family, and the household that first year when the boys didn’t speak English and the Sentys didn’t speak Russian was rather hectic — but it has all worked out, she said.

She’s very concerned about Kostya’s brother having to stay in Russia. The country doesn’t have a social security system like we do, she said. When Russian orphans are 18, they have to leave the orphanage. They can’t find work, primarily because they haven’t been trained for jobs, and they end up on the street. It is a miserable and dangerous life, she said, and they’re worried about Kostya’s twin. At this point, they’re working with an attorney in St. Paul to determine the best way to bring Kostya’s brother to America. Any way you look at it, it will cost money, she said, and the fundraiser Marce Wood is organizing is the first step in that direction. Hopefully, Ilya can walk through that door by fall. Kostya sure hopes so. “I just want to open my eyes and he’ll be right here now,” he said.


4 responses to “Annals of Americans Saving Russian Orphans

  1. Leonid Perevozchikov

    Очень по всем скучаю!!! Я вас помню!

  2. Leonid Perevozchikov

    Help my find Losha Senty!!!

  3. I remember it like it was yesterday, our family being close but that all split apart, everyone went to school and moved on, i hope to have a christmas with the whole entire family!!!!

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