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Family Ties: An Adoption Story

American girls

Then, in October 2004, the connection was reestablished, with a bang: Irina's young husband had died, she wrote; so had Yelena's mother—hence the gap in communication. And then I arrived at her letter's bigger shocker—the news that felt like a one-two punch to my stomach: Yelena had given birth to two more baby girls, in 2000 and 2003. Both, like Anya, had been left at the orphanage.

I knew, immediately and certainly, that I had to find those babies. They were my daughter's sisters, and I needed to see them, secure, in someone's home. So I recruited my Ukrainian friend Jurii, and we got busy searching the Internet and calling phone numbers to track down the right official in Vladimir. We did, and in a wonderful turnabout from the infamously unhelpful Russian bureaucracy, Mrs. Z., the Vladimir regional adoption official, located the records and delivered the welcome news that both babies were out of the orphanage.

Not only that—both had been adopted by Americans. Would Mrs. Z. do me one more itsy-bitsy favor, I pushed, and get in touch with those families for me? She complied almost immediately, and in one 24-hour period I received a near-frantic phone call and an e-mail from the two American mothers. "Who are you?" "Why is your name on a Russian letter I can't read?" they quite reasonably demanded to know.

I still wince at the worry I must have caused them. But I quickly explained our unusual, exciting relationship. And I was able to turn to Anya, 8 years old by then, to deliver the precious news: She had two birth sisters—here, in the United States! -- healthy, aged (at the time) 1 and 4, in Greenwood, Indiana, and in the New York suburbs.