Trio of siblings reunite after overcoming the challenges of finding family in the Ukrainian countryside

Last week, I was so thrilled to start a search for the birth family of a Ukrainian adoptee named Sarah.

I thought this would be an easy case. Sarah gave me her mother’s full name and the village where her mother lived 18 years ago. Finding that village on Google Maps was easy with having the village’s region and neighborhood.

My challenge of bringing Sarah emotionally home to her family appeared when I only found one woman registered for the village on popular social network Odnoklassniki. That woman only accepts messages from friends so I messaged a woman in the next village for help.

It took 3 days to get a response. I explained the situation with Sarah and I was immediately given a phone number to a relative named Valentine. All she knew about this adoption was that there was a girl born 15-20 years ago.

My friend in Moscow, Katya, reached Valentine 3 days later on his cell phone. It was a quick call, due to the expense of international calling. Valentine confirmed that Sarah had 2 siblings and she had been left at the maternity hospital.

Even with Katya’s knowledge of Russian and Ukrainian, she could hardly understand Valentine. She asked him to message me on Odnoklassniki. We waited 48 hours and he never contacted me. Then I recruited my cousin, Tatyana, in Kiev to reach out to him.

Valentine didn’t answer his cell phone when Tatyana called three days later. She messaged him my profile page on Odnoklassniki. Sarah was feeling rejected again by her family but this was a language and lack of access to Internet problem. I was screaming in my head “Get on the freakin Internet and message me!”

With all this waiting, I was joking in my head whether I needed to contact a Moldovan on the other side of Ukraine. It has taken an American, a Russian and a Ukrainian to get this far.

Thankfully, it only took two more days to finally talk to Valentine on Odnoklassniki. He confirmed my suspicions from the database of all Ukrainians on nomer.org that the grandfather had lived in the village (but he died recently) and told me the family has lived 86 years in the village.

Valentine provided me with the names of Sarah’s four aunts and one uncle, but he doesn’t know anything about her father nor the whereabouts of her brother and sister. Much of what Valentine wrote I couldn’t understand even with using Google Translate.

Thanks to crafty searching , I found an aunt on  Vkontakte. I put the name of the family village in Russian and then site: http://www.vk.com in the Google search box and the aunt appeared as a result.

I had already tried to find anyone from the village on  Vkontakte, but “no one” existed. The aunt appeared through my crafty searching because she put the family village as her hometown, but not as her current location.

I messaged her immediately upon finding her and the waiting game restarted. It took 4 days to get a very excited message from the aunt. She provided me with the names of Sarah’s brother, Vladimir and sister, Svetlana, who is attending college.

Sarah jumped on finding her siblings on social networks after I didn’t have luck. She sent me a link to a girl, whose page I viewed before as a possible cousin. Once I went through her photos and saw she had a brother Vladimir and was friends with the aunt, I had some hope they were siblings.

Having problems sleeping at 5 a.m., I finally messaged the girl whether she had the same mother. She responded immediately and I informed her that she has an older sister. Svetlana is shocked, but overjoyed.

Yesterday, Sarah was wondering whether she would ever find her siblings. Today, she added a sister as a friend on  Vkontakte and saw a picture of her mother with the same nose and chin. She has some closure and a new beginning with her family.

* All names were changed for privacy. Search was done for free.

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An early birthday present for a Russian adoptee- a sister
Love and Faith reconnect Russian adoptee with birth family after 16 years

An early birthday present for a Russian adoptee- a sister

The best surprises in life come near birthdays. My grandmother’s sister was found alive 66 years after disappearing from her family a few days before my birthday. Photos of my grandfather’s grave in southern Russia arrived by e-mail on my birthday.

Now, I am the giver of a great early birthday present that I wasn’t sure could arrive in time. Two days ago, a woman born in Russia and adopted in the USA asked for my help. I was nervous because her 18th birthday would be in 3 weeks.

Hearing the stories of adoptees on Facebook, I know the 18th birthday is the big day for many adoptees who know of their adoptions to begin searching for their birth families. The adoptee I’ll call Anna said she only knew about her birth family from her adoption papers.

Thankfully, I kept up with my Russian from my childhood so I could absorb everything in her original and translated documents. Sometimes the tiniest details on legal documents are the most important.

Anna was born in a village and that village name repeats throughout Russia. I couldn’t find the region where her birth village exists. That was a major problem for the search until I read the official stamp to certify the documents.

I learned the exact location of her village from the stamp, giving me more hope the birth family could be found. I searched women with Anna’s birth surname who were living in the family village on popular social network Ok.ru.

Only three women had active accounts that allowed messages from strangers. I sent a simple message of looking for Anna’s birth mother who had a daughter in 1998 without saying this was an adoption search. I did the same on more popular social network vk.com.

A 20-year-old woman very quickly responded to my message. I almost didn’t contact her because I thought she would be too young to know anything.

But lo and behold, the woman I’ll call Svetlana was her full-blood sister and only sibling of Anna. Sadly, the mother is very ill and the father died three years ago.

The best advantage of this sisterly reunion is that Svetlana knows English. A common language and Skype will bring Anna and Svetlana back together as siblings.

Now, the countdown begins for Anna’s entrance into adulthood when she turns 18 years old in less than 3 weeks. She has been blessed with a wonderful American family and now she will be blessed with knowing her Russian family.

Two days ago, Anna wondered whether it would be possible to find her family. Now, she gets to look forward to her 18th birthday, knowing the best gifts this birthday will be her sister and the chance to acquaint herself with an armload of relatives.

Svetlana has lived most of her life as an only child. She probably doesn’t remember celebrating a birthday with Anna. Now Svetlana has her sister back and she will have many birthdays to share with her little sister.

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On a journey to connect Russian adoptees with their homeland family
Love and Faith reconnect Russian adoptee with birth family after 16 years
Build the best mousetrap to find long-lost family this holiday season

Love and Faith reconnect Russian adoptee with birth family after 16 years

Truth is stranger than fiction, especially in the latest adoption case where I volunteered to help with finding the birth family. Five possible relatives were contacted on two Russian social networks to help give the adoptee information on her life and family in Russia.

No one, except for a woman named Lyubov (Russian for Love) would help the adoptee, I’ll name Sara, get answers about her birth family. My name Vera is Russian for Faith. So it really took Love and Faith to end the mystery of Sara’s adoption.

At a last resort, I contacted Lyubov on popular Russian social network VK.com. The relatives on OK.ru weren’t interested in helping Sara. Lyubov‘s pictures showed friendliness and kindness in her face. The truthfulness of her appearance was proven when she responded with so much excitement that Sara was looking for her birth family.

To make Sara’s reconnection with her birth family emotionally safe as possible, I had her create a profile on VK.com with her birth name, birth date, birthplace and a photo from her adoption. Her birth family doesn’t know the name she was given by her adoptive family, her e-mail address nor phone number.

Information has been exchanged a few times and the process of completely reconnecting will take time but I made sure this is the correct family. As in the last adoption case I voluntarily helped with, I withheld information to see whether Lyubov would give it up.

Sara knows she has a brother, whose name and birthdate are known. I wrote to Lyubov that Sara knows of a brother and that is it. Lyubov knew the brother’s name immediately. That was the confirmation that Sara needed that Lyubov really was family. She is her aunt but very close in age to Sara.

The final confirmation that proved Sara has found her birth family was the photo Aunt Lyubov share with Sara that shows Sara, her mother and brother. Sadly nothing is known about where are Sara’s parents and her brother.

The brother was adopted in Russia and likely has a new name but there is hope that Sara could reconnect with him. If he remembers her personal details, her profile is on VK.com, waiting to be found.

Sara was adopted about 16 years ago and it only took about a few minutes to find her relatives on social networks, thanks to my knowledge of Russian. Finding family in the former USSR is as simple as learning the Russian alphabet from Wikipedia, copy the new name in Russian and paste it into Google or Russian social networks.

Nothing beats the feeling of experiencing the excitement of long-lost family being just as enthusiastic for being found again and told that they were not forgotten.

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On a journey to connect Russian adoptees with their homeland family

A bonus find for the adopted Russian brother and sister

 

Playing the waiting game to connect a Russian adoptee with her birth family

It took about a minute to find the family of a Russian adoptee on popular Russian social network Odnoklassniki. The struggle has been waiting for someone from the family to answer my message.

The situation has been a lucky break so far. Thanks to the adoptee knowing the name of the village where she was born in the 1990s, finding the family on Odnoklassniki was as simple as searching the village name and birth surname in Russian on Google.

Four people carrying the same surname in the same village appeared on the first page of search results as Odnoklassniki members. I immediately wrote to them about the adoptee’s situation and provided two photos of her when she was adopted by a U.S. couple.

The biggest advantage of using Odnoklassniki is that it can become the mousetrap for finding family in the former USSR. I know the exact time when one relative viewed my message, when she visited my profile and when she views the website with a blinking dot even without being friends with her.

I sent that woman a second message stating that the adoptee had a brother and his birth date. Hopefully, that woman will realize I mean business in trying to connect the adoptee with her birth family.

The rest of the family on Odnoklassniki will know I am determined to have the adoptee’s dream come true. If the four people identified as relatives won’t respond to my message, I will contact other relatives listed as friends in their profiles.

Someone in the family will eventually give in and respond to my message. I found another relative on another Russian social network, VK, giving my chances of a response higher.

It has been frustrating that I have not been able to find the birth mother nor father online. The adoption was finalized when the child was 5 years old so relatives had that time to connect with the child.

This adoption would be hard to hide. A relative in the village will recall this adoptee and have pictures of her hidden away. The brother was also adopted. A major event caused these adoptions.

All these factors hopefully will increase the chances someone will answer my plea for information so the adoptee can finally get answers about her birth family.

And no, I am not taking money to help the adoptee. It was my dream to adopt a Russian child. Due to finances, that will never happen for me. I am almost as happy to help Russian adoptees find their birth families.

Related posts:
On a journey to connect Russian adoptees with their homeland family

A bonus find for the adopted Russian brother and sister

A bonus find for the adopted Russian brother and sister

I am crossing my fingers an orphanage director will answer my e-mail message to help the Russian-born brother and sister who are looking for their mother. Sadly, the father died soon after his kids were adopted in the USA.

The brother and sister have copies of their birth certificate but the maiden name of the mother is not mentioned. But it seems as if they have more information than American-born adoptees. I have several cousins who were adopted and it seems American-born adoptees have to do cartwheels to get their birth certificate.

While I wait for an e-mail message from the orphanage, I am so excited that I discovered online information on the brother and sister’s paternal grandfather. He was a decorated WWII veteran. I have tried so many ways to document my grandfather’s service in the Soviet Army so this success for the brother and sister is a bonus in this journey.

The grandfather’s service is so notable that his biography and photo are posted on the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation website. The biography includes his birthdate and birthplace so that opens the door to obtain his birth record for genealogy research. I am 100 percent confident that this man is the grandfather because a relative e-mailed the same picture as posted online.

I was even more thrilled when I found the five military award citations for the grandfather posted on Подвиг Народа. This wonderful website is such an asset for researching Russian WWII veterans. Such an online database does not exist for American WWII veterans.

Now, the joy I will have when the mother is found will be incredible. I never expected to find the father’s family so quickly. If only the maiden names of mothers were included on more civil records, I could find the mother much easier.

 

On a journey to connect Russian adoptees with their homeland family

Today, I am learning about what is involved for a Russian adoptee to connect with his/her birth family.

The journey started simple. The fiancée of a guy who was adopted from southern Russia in the 1980s asked for my help to find his birth parents. Luckily, the guy has an official birth certificate with the parents’ full names.

So I went onto Odnoklassniki, a Russian version of Facebook, and e-mailed a few people with the same surname who are living in the guy’s birthplace. I am grateful that the surname is not too common in the city of more than 1 million people.

Within four days, I got a response from a very excited man who called himself the guy’s uncle. Russians who are older cousins call themselves uncles/aunts to their younger cousins.

The Russian cousin knew the name of the American adoptee’s sister without me mentioning the sibling who was also adopted in the USA. For me, this is a good sign that he really is related to the American-raised brother and sister.

The amount of enthusiasm coming from the cousin and his wife makes me hopeful that this could be a successful reunion. There are a lot of questions to ask and more relatives to find.

It was quite a task to instant message two women on Facebook  in English and the cousin on Odnoklassniki in Russian at the same time. I was using Google Translate to write to the Russian cousin, then I had to translate his messages, pass on the information to the two women on Facebook and then I passed on their questions after using Google Translate to the Russian cousin. It was an intense two hours.

This journey with this family will teach me a lot about what it takes for Russian adoptees to find their families and how helpful local and regional government will be in providing information to their former Russian citizens.

I am so excited to see to where this journey will lead me and the American-raised brother and sister.