Thursday, January 19, 2012

"I Feel Lucky"

Meet Anna.

"Every little girl loves a pretty new dress, and my daughter Anna was no exception. Trembling with emotion, she ripped open the department store bag that contained her new dress, tights, shoes, and undergarments. Then she pulled out the lavender floral print dress, caressing the silk lining and rubbing her face in the soft fabric. Platya, she whispered. Dress. The quiet was only momentary, though, as the reality of the situation sank in. Platya, she then cheered. Halya doma. Halya is going home. Although it was the first time in her life that she had ever owned any piece of clothing, it was not the dress that brought such emotion, but what it represented. The new dress meant that it was finally the day that Halya (whom we would name Anna) would leave the orphanage and travel home to live with her new family."

Anna was born with special needs in Ukraine and adopted at age 3 by Rob & Deb Amend. Their story is inspirational, as you will see in the videos, below. The quote above is from Deb's book, A Dress for Anna.

Here is a portion of one of Anna's poems, "Where I'm From".

"In an old scrapbook I can see
A lot of pictures with faces I know.
The faces of those who have changed so
But I wanted to capture you in one moment we’ll both remember.
From my best friend’s rare smiles to my parents radiating laughs.
It is from those memories that I know and love.
It is from those memories that I am from."
You can read all of it here. I really liked it.

The title of this post comes from something that Anna says in this first video: Most kids from orphanages never get adopted.

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Monday, January 16, 2012


OK so I'm a little late to this party, but I saw on someone else's blog that they had recently watched the Russian movie called, "The Return", released in 2003. It centers around 2 young brothers, living with their mother and grandmother, when their father returns after a 12-year absence. The kids don't know this man at all and there is all kinds of mystery and suspense when he takes them on a week-long trip to go fishing. What's the real reason behind this? The film ends in tragedy and leaves the viewer with a lot of questions. In fact, it reminds me of the Yozhik cartoon that I posted about last March. It's one of those films that causes you to search for the meaning of it all. As one of the commentators observed, "Americans in general do not tend to appreciate the ambiguous or 'unfulfilling' endings found in many foreign movies. We tend to like our movies to come in neat little packages with crystal-clear morals and messages. I love movies like this one just because it avoids the 'complete' ending that so many movie viewers seem to want or need."

I mention this in the context of this adoption blog because it is a story about two boys that have grown up without a father and the emotions that surface when he comes back. The kids that all of us have adopted have sad pasts. Though it is mostly kid-safe in terms of language, nudity, etc., a movie like this could dredge up feelings that are tough to deal with, so I would caution that you watch it without your kids.

The 143 IMDb reviews are very interesting. Reading some of them helped me to process the movie. I liked the way it ended because, rather than being told what to think, it is left to me to decide what it means. Rather than one ending, there are many, depending on how the viewer interprets it. I caution you not to read the reviews before you watch it so that it doesn't give away the turn of events. There are many interpretations that could be given, so read about them after watching.

The movie is in Russian, with English subtitles. This is a case where I wish I knew Russian, because the Russian-speaking commentators say that some of the double-meanings are lost when translated to English. Besides the story, the cinematography is breathtaking, being filmed entirely in Russia. As I was watching the wide shots, I was thinking how this scene or that would have made a great photo. And the movie goes on like this for 1 3/4 hrs. It is simply stunning. As one of the commentators wrote, "Pause any given scene within the film and you'll have a frame worthy of entering into photography contests! Every shot is astounding."

The film has won many awards at international film festivals. Sadly, Vladimir Garin, the actor who played the older brother, died shortly after filming, before it was released, and was never able to see its success. He drowned at age 16 in the same lake where this movie was filmed.

Don't be in a hurry when you watch it. Give it the time it deserves.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Одесса, одесситы и другие прелести города

Here's a music video filmed in Odessa by the Ukrainian singer Margarita Yanchuk. If you've spent time in Odessa you may recognize some of the popular sites such as the Opera House, Deribasovskaya Street, Potempkin Stairs, Duc de Richelieu Monument, City Hall, Privoz Market, and Vorontsov's Palace (where our son Sergey's Godmother is the director).

Oh and the name of the music video is the title of this post, "Odessa, Odessians and other flavors of the city".