S: Anna Violetta Gilbertson - Your Adoption Story
BC: Our family is complete and we look forward to facing all the joys and challenges in our lives together. With God leading our way we have much to look forward to and many blessings to enjoy! 2011 brought us a daughter and a sister for which we are very grateful. We look forward to many years together.
FC: Born in our Hearts and Adopted into our Family on May 5, 2011 | Anna Violetta Gilbertson | Your Adoption Story
1: "I Am Adopted" ~Author Unknown I am adopted. I do not know the man and woman from which I came. I do not know the circumstances surrounding my birth, nor does it matter. What matters to me is that I found my family, or rather, my family found me. Not only did they find me, they chose me, and they longed for me. I must have longed for them too, for I love them so. For all I know and love comes from the actions of my adopted Mom and Dad – my real Mom and Dad. It is true our existence comes from a beginning, a beginning of which I am grateful for, but we grow and thrive with love, truth, and faith in God. I am blessed to be adopted by a loving and faithful family. Why God chose this particular path for me? Sometimes I ponder and I ask God. But why question a truly beautiful and happy ending. This is my adoption story and I am grateful to have it and I want to share it with you. | The writings in this Adoption Story are written by your Dad, Unless otherwise noted.
2: Dearest Anna, What we know about your birth mother ~ Your birth mom's name is Tatiana Sandykova she was 22 years old, dob August 06, 1988, and father unknown. She lived in a very poor and small village 30 miles outside of Pyatigorsk, (Village of Etoka, Predgorny Rayon). Tatiana was mentally unable to care for you nor did she have the resources. You were her first child and she did not receive any prenatal care before you were born. You were born during an emergency C-section which saved your life on March 29, 2010. We are happy to tell you more as you grow older, ~ Mom | And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. ~ Matthew 18:5
3: Our Family | Our family before you arrived consisted of my husband Bruce of 9 years and our daughter 8 years old. I have always loved children and wanted more. We were happy and always doing things together with friends and family. We so wanted to share our happiness with another child. We have a strong faith in God and prayed many many days and nights for a child to join our family. ~ Mom
4: The day we met! | February 28, 2011
5: Anna when I first met you all I could think of was that you were PERFECT!! You were so little and all I wanted to do was hold you. You were crying when they placed you in my arms and I remember kissing your tears. You were hot with a fever and looked so upset. I began to sing "Hush Little Baby" and laid you in my arms and you quickly fell fast asleep. I wanted to hold you forever and never let you go. I loved you at that very moment and prayed so hard that I could be your mommy forever! ~ Mom
6: Precious time with you. | April 30, 2011 Trip One
7: I didn't give you the gift of life, But in my heart I know. The love I feel is deep and real, As if it had been so. For us to have each other Is like a dream come true! No, I didn't give you The gift of life, Life gave me the gift of you. ~ Author Unknown | The orange dot on your forehead was used so the doctors could measure your head from photos. | Katrina our interpreter
8: March 1, 2011 Trip One
9: Email 4/20/11 Dear Family and Friends, We have received a court date and are traveling to Russia to pick up our little girl. We are so praying that we will truly be able to bring our little girl home. We will be traveling on April 27th- next Wednesday, we did not get much notice so we are preparing as fast as we can. Could you please say a prayer for us while we are in Russia. We will be there for 2-3 weeks. Gemma is coming with us and we cannot be more excited. I want to tell the whole world... but we need God and your prayers to complete this incredible journey. Thank you and I hope all is well with you and your family. Many Blessing to you, ~ Celeste Love, Celeste and Bruce | We traveled across the world to welcome you into our Family Forever
10: Our trip to receive you! | Our journey begins ~ We flew from Minnesota to New York and then onto Moscow. We ate our last American meal at a Burger King at the airport in New York. | April 28, 2011 Trip Two
11: Our time inRussia
12: Moscow | We had several hours to kill in Moscow so our driver Igor took us sight seeing in Moscow. He took us to an area which is similar to our amusement parks. This is where Gemma gets a Russian pony ride. From there Igor took us on a wild trip across Moscow to a commuter airport where we flew to Stavropol. When we finally landed, we are all exhausted. We meet our coordinator, Alex, who drives us to our first hotel. We went through a nine hour time change and traveled nearly 5,000 miles in two days.
14: On | Our | Way | to | meet | you! | Before we could meet you we had to undergo medical diagnosis at four different clinics in Stavropol. While in Stavropol we met another couple, Chris and Jennifer, who were in Russia to adopt brothers, 3 and 7 years old. April 29, 2011 It is a three hour car ride to Pyatigorsk. Once we get out on the road, as we get closer, we watch for the mountains to appear. When we see the mountains we are close to Pyatigorsk. Anna's orphanage is right next to one of these mountains. We arrived at our hotel - The Intourist Hotel. After settling in we met our translator, Nona, who lives a short walk from our hotel. She doesn't drive but she orders a taxi and we are at last on our way to meet Anna Violetta.
15: Meeting Dad and Sister Gemma | April 29, 2011 | We arrive at the orphanage. We see some officials who sign us in and give us permission to visit Anna. We arrive at her cottage and the workers are busy dressing Anna in some clothes Mom had left on her previous visit. The worker handed Anna over to Mom. Anna seemed to remember Mom (so she didn't cry). We all took turns holding Anna. Our first visit was short but Anna seemed interested in all of us. She was very alert and curious.
16: Sisters | Now & | Forever
17: Email 4/30/11 Hi Everyone, Just a quick note and a couple of photos to let you know we have made it to Russia all in one piece. We visited with our little girl Anna for the second time today and all is going well. She is a calm and sweet little girl. We will be going to court next week on the 4th and 5th of May. Please keep us in your prayers for we have already fallen in love with her and want to take her home ASAP! Much love and we'll send more in a few days, ~ Celeste Bruce, Celeste and Gemma
18: May 1, 2011 | Visiting with You | Prior to our visit today, we stopped at a market to look for shoes, as the shoes we brought Anna from Minnesota were too small. However, we didn't find any we liked. Today after signing in at the orphanage we were able to see Anna again. This time, we left Anna's cottage and went to a different cottage for our visit. | We were placed in a room with toys and we sat on the floor and played with Anna. We brought some toys from America with us. Anna liked a green mechanical caterpillar that moved like an inch worm when it was wound up. She was happy to see us return. We stayed with Anna for about an hour (the usual visit limit) and then took a cab back to Pyatigorsk.
19: May 2, 2011 On our third visit with Anna we played outside. The workers use a covered porch for a play area. The porch had a sitting area, some cribs, and some outdoor things. We put Anna in a mobile walker (one with wheels) and watched her scoot around. | Nona our interpreter
20: Pyatigorsk | Our time in
21: Outside our Hotel | Gemma liked to walk and play at the park just outside our hotel. The park was filled with fountains and a large statue of Lenin (one of Russia's big heroes). Gemma also liked to climb the 107 steps up to the Lenin statue. We watched some local teenagers practicing their marching and carrying a flag for a May day parade. | Gemma's pet snail.
23: Our Hotel
24: The Orphanage | May 1, 2011 | May 3, 2011 Alex returned to Pyatigorsk for our return trip to Stavropol. We would check out of the Intourist Hotel, make a brief visit to Anna and hit the road. We needed to return to Stavropol for our court hearing to adopt Anna.
25: At the orphanage we met with the social worker and the orphanage supervisor. Gemma got to push Anna around in her stroller. Anna was happy to see us and started to cry when we had to leave.
26: We arrived back in Stavropol in the evening and got our same old hotel room down the hall from our new friends Chris and Jen from Apple Valley. Alex told us to be ready for court early the next day. May 4, 2011 Thursday was our first of two days of Russian court. Alex and Vlad picked us up at the hotel. On the way to court, Vlad gave us some instruction on Russian court room etiquette. We were told to always stand-up when the judge wanted to get our reply to her questions. | Court Days in Stavropol
27: We also were told to always look at the judge when the judge addressed us. Vlad would interpret for us. We were always to begin our reply with the address "Dear Judge." We arrived at the court house early and quickly got through one security check. We walked up four flights of stairs to a small court room. When everyone was in place, the Judge entered the courtroom. Two days in court ended with our final adoption. What a relief, now we can return to Pyatigorsk to pick up our little Anna. | Gemma's pet bug.
28: For court and more paperwork. | May 5, 2011 | Email 5/4/11 Hi Everyone, We've made it through our first day of court. It was nerve racking but we think it went well. We are also very hopeful that the judge will rule so we may bring Anna home on the 12th of May. We are very excited. So tomorrow we will go to court one more time and find out what the judge will rule. If she rules in our favor we are on our way to pick Anna on Saturday... we will be heading home next week. We will be so happy to be home. We love little Anna so much already and just can't wait to bring her home. Gemma says Anna is awesome and can't wait to get home to play with her friends and classmates. Here's a couple of pictures, please keep us in your prayers, Thanks and much love, ~ Celeste Bruce, Celeste and Gemma | Stavropol
29: Returning to Russia to pick you up was so hard. We wanted you so much and were so afraid the Russian officials would not let us take you home. We were nervous knowing we would have to stay in Russia for at least 2 weeks. We felt that we would endure what ever we needed to bring home our little girl. It was so much fun to watch you and Gemma meet for the first time. Gemma instantly felt connected to you. Gemma said, when picking you up it was "better than Christmas, her golden birthday and all the holidays put together". When the judge made her decision and said, we would be allowed to bring you home, I had to ask again, "really" and I began to cry. I could not stop the tears, we were so happy!!! Knowing you would be our little girl forever, it is a miracle and you will always be our little miracle!! Thank you God. ~ Mom
30: Email 5/5/11 Hi Everyone, Court is behind us and we are now proud parents to another precious little girl, Anna Violetta. We are so relieved that this part is over and that they have granted us custody. Also, our 10 day waiting period has been waived and we except to be home on May 12th. We will be picking up Anna on Saturday! Gemma is unbelievably excited, she is now a big sister. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support. We are so excited and honored to be able to adopt our little girl Anna. We cannot wait to get home and settle in but for now we are enjoying Russia and the idea of being new parents again. Much love and many thanks for your prayers, Bruce, Celeste and Gemma | On our way to pick | you up forever!
31: May 7, 2011 Early on Saturday, Alex picked us up at our hotel and we drove non-stop to Pyatigorsk. We went to the orphanage and only needed to sign a few documents before we were able to go to Anna's cottage and pick her up and drive back to our hotel in Stavropol. When we got to Anna's cottage, Anna's favorite worker handed Anna to Mom. Mom finally started to believe that Anna was truly our child. Anna's favorite worker was very happy to see Anna placed with our family. She even gave Mom a big hug and kiss and told us we got a good little girl. Alex had all our paperwork in order and we left the "orphanage by the mountain."
32: All things grow better with love. | Our van was not equipped with child car seats. I held Anna in my lap for the first hour of our return trip. She was very calm and slept most of the time. Soon we saw the last of the mountains of Pyatigorsk. I knew this would be our last look at that nice country side. Mom and Gemma took turns holding Anna for the rest of our journey. We made good time getting back to Stavropol. This time we had an extra passenger - little Anna. Back at our hotel Mom set up the Skype computer equipment (the Skype system allows anyone to see each other on the computer) so we could communicate with our neighbors back home. We introduced Carlen, Steve, Rachel, Nick and my niece Melodee to Anna. Gemma liked seeing her friends at home and admitted she was getting anxious to return home. We would start the last leg of our journey on Sunday, May 8, 2011. We needed to return to Moscow to finalize our adoption. | May 7, 2011
33: Email 5/7/11 Hi Everyone, We went this morning and picked up Anna. She is so good and such a happy baby. We are really enjoying her and she seems to know us from our visits. Gemma has said, this is better than Christmas and birthday put together. She really likes Gemma and Gemma is such a wonderful big sister. It is such an incredible feeling having her with us... it still has not quite sunk in that she is truly ours. We will be traveling early tomorrow morning to Moscow to finish our paperwork. We will not have internet access in Moscow so this will be our last email until we return home on the 12th. Please say one last prayer for us for safe travels. Can't wait to get home then she will really be ours. Hope all is well with everyone at home! ~ Celeste Bruce, Celeste and Gemma | In our hotel the first night. | First bottle.
34: Our First Night in Moscow
35: May 8, 2011 Today Anna takes her first airplane ride. Our flight takes about three hours. As usual we arrive at the airport early and make our way through security. We take a bus out on the runway to the waiting airplane and climb on board. Anna sits on Mom's lap awaiting take-off. We have plenty of snacks and formula for her. She handles take-off and altitude change well. We land without any fussing from Anna, get our luggage and meet Igor, our Moscow driver and coordinator. Igor drives us to down town Moscow to an apartment where we will be staying. We had made arrangements to stay at a high-rise apartment rather than a hotel. Zina, our adoption agent back home had a friend named Nina who was willing to rent us her apartment for our four days stay in Moscow. We arrived at Nina's apartment complex and Igor introduced us to Nina, who spoke a little English. She showed us the apartment and how to light the water heater in the bathroom. She made us a nice chicken dinner and said she would return tomorrow at noon to cook for us again. | We were now on our own in the heart of downtown Moscow. After unpacking and settling in we decided to take a walk. With Anna in the stroller and Gemma doing the pushing, we were off on our first Moscow adventure. We strolled down the main street and took in the sights (row upon row of high-rise apartment building and lots of traffic). After about six blocks we decided to turn back and find some quieter streets to explore. The cross-street by our apartment was much more to our liking. There were many more apartment buildings to see but we also came upon a small park with a swing and climbing bars. Gemma loved this area. It became a daily must-stop attraction. By now, it was starting to get late. We purchased some groceries at a nearby store and returned to our apartment. Monday was another national holiday so all government offices were closed. Igor had told us that a military parade would pass by our street on Monday. That would be our big event of the day.
36: Typical Russian Apartment
37: Our stay at the one bedroom apartment in Moscow felt like we had gone back in time to the 1950's. It was nice to have a kitchen and some other amenities of home. But there truly is no place like home and we could not wait to go home, to take you home to be with us forever. ~Mom
38: May 9, 2011 We awake on Monday, looked out the window and saw that main street was blocked off for the big parade. People lined both sides of the street and were waiting for the parade to start. We ate breakfast, then left for the parade. | These pictures were taken while we were in Stavropol.
39: We were not sure what time the parade was supposed to start but we assumed it would be soon. We stood outside with the rest of the crowd for about an hour. We seemed to blend in well with the on-lookers. Several men tried to strike up a conversation with me. As soon as it became obvious that I couldn't speak Russian, they moved on. One older lady scolded Mom for not having shoes on Anna. Mom had Anna snug in her Baby Bjorn harness and had her wrapped up tight in a blanket. Anna's feet were exposed and this concerned the woman. Baby bundling was expected in Moscow. Finally, we heard the sound of helicopters. Several helicopters eventually flew past, each one carrying a large Russian flag. This signaled the parade was about to start. Soon we heard the sound of diesel engines. Large military vehicles made their way down the street. There were tanks, trucks hauling cannons, and trucks equipped with large missile launchers. Anna did not like the noise nor the smell of diesel fuel, but she did not cry. After the parade had passed, we returned to our apartment to wait for Nina to arrive. She prepared us another fine meal, then left. We had a lot of free time that day for walks and time at the playground. Tomorrow, the government offices would open for business and Igor told us to be ready early.
40: Victory Day Parade | Victory Day marks the end of World War II in Europe, specifically the capitulation of Nazi forces to the Allies.
42: Victory Day Parade May 9, 2011
43: Sisters are blossoms in the garden of life. ~Author Unknown | May 9, 2011 | Dearest Anna, ~ “If you ever need a shoulder to cry on, I am her for you, if you ever need someone to laugh, and share memories with, I am here for you, if you ever just want someone there without ever saying a word, I am here for you, because in the truth of it all, I will one day need you for those very same things, and you know why it would be easy, because dear sister of mine, we're family, and I love You” ~ Angelica Brogan ~ Gemma
44: May 10, 2011 Igor arrived early as promised. Anna needs a physical exam. She needs to be pronounced healthy for travel. We meet our Russian doctor and he conducts a brief physical exam. He pronounces her fit, signs the official documents and we are done for the morning. | Photos May 9, 2011
45: These pictures are taken outside our apartment. In the afternoon we traveled a short drive to the American Embassy to get Anna's visa (her ticket into the USA.) The visa was the last official document we needed to get Anna out of Russia and into the U.S.
46: May 10, 2011 After we finished our official work for the day, we ate lunch at our apartment. Nina had prepared another fine meal for us. After lunch we went out exploring the area around our apartment building. We walked past our familiar playground and found another play area down the road. We were chased by a pack of vicious "junk yard dogs" before we found an entrance to the play ground. Gemma liked this park because it had an old fashioned merry-go-round. We spun Gemma around and around on the merry-go-round and then headed back. We stopped at the grocery store for some ice cream bars and juice and headed back to our apartment. Tomorrow we would pick up our visa and pack for our return trip home.
47: Finally time to bring you home! | Not flesh of my flesh, Nor bone of my bone, But still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, You didn't grow under my heart - but in it ~ Fleur Conkling Heylinger
48: Happy Day Going home! | May 11, 2011 We awoke with a sense of relief. This would be our last full day in Russia. We had a leisurely breakfast, took a short walk and waited for Igor's arrival. Igor got us to the U.S. Embassy and we made our way up to Window Four to pick up Anna's visa for our return to the "good old" U.S.A. There were several other couples waiting for visas for their adopted children as well. We exchanged stories of our adventures in Russia until the window opened. The Embassy worker greeted us and collected our paperwork. He informed us that Anna would have dual citizenship (both Russian and American). If Anna was to return to Russia for a visit between the ages of 19 to 29, she could be inducted into the Russian Military. To prevent this possibility Anna would have to relinquish her Russian citizenship prior to her visit. After his speech was over he gave us the visa. Another hurdle was out of the way. We returned to our apartment, ate dinner and started to pack our bags. Igor would pick us up at 4am and drive us to the airport for our early morning flight to Amsterdam.
49: May 12, 2011 We didn't mind waking up early since this was the last day of our journey. All our bags were by the door and we were ready for Igor's arrival. The bell rang at 4am, we buzzed Igor into the apartment building, and soon we were on our way to the airport. Things were looking good. We were ahead of Moscow traffic tie-ups and we made good time to the airport. After some trouble getting Anna's name into the system and trouble at the Russian customs window, we were running very late. Time was running out for making our first flight out of Russia! With an escort to our gate, we arrived just in time. It felt good to step inside the plane and find our seats. It was not long before we were airborne and out of Russian airspace. We all felt a sense of relief that we were at last on our way home. We had a three hour layover in Amsterdam. Gemma ate lunch at the Amsterdam McDonalds and was very happy. The next flight would take us to Minneapolis. Getting on-board again was a challenge. This time, there was a problem with our luggage. After that was worked out we boarded our flight. Celeste took care of Anna, while Gemma and I killed time watching movies and going to the bathroom. I watched three movies and took Gemma to the bathroom about once an hour. We finally landed in Minneapolis. All we had to do was get through customs. They would take the sealed envelope with Anna's paperwork and she would be a U.S. citizen at last. We had much better luck with the U.S. customs agent. When we told him Anna was healthy and had no contagious diseases, she was allowed into our country to begin her new life. After picking up our luggage we were met by our friends Jenny and Jason who have adopted four children from Russia. They welcomed us back and knew just how emotional this trip has been, having experienced it four times. They drove us home and we could finally relax.
50: Through the entire journey Anna was amazing. She was a real good traveler, just like her big sister Gemma. The Americanization of Violetta Ilinichna Sandykova to Anna Violetta Gilbertson has just begun. What a ride it has been and it can only get better! Welcome home Anna! | Welcome home Anna!
51: Email 5/14/11 Dear Family and Friends, We have made it home safe and sound. We are all doing well and Anna is adjusting to her new surroundings very well. We are still suffering from jet lag but all is well. Thank you so much for your support and prayers. We are so happy to be home and we feel it is a miracle that Anna is home with us. Much love and thanks, ~ Celeste Bruce, Celeste, Gemma and Anna! | Home Sweet Home
52: Isn't God awesome - He knew that you would make a perfect addition to our family and so He brought you home to us! | Your first days at home. | May 13, 2011
53: Sisters we are - God sent us to each other. We will brighten each other's days, be a companion at night. We will teach each other how to live a good life and be a caring friend to listen to. We may sometimes argue as sisters do, but we will always know that sisters are life long friends to always hold on to, to talk to, to laugh and pray with. Thank you God for making us sisters! ~ Author Unknown | May 15, 2011 First bike ride and swing ride at home.
54: Paper Work | Pictured here is Anna sitting on the moutain of paperwork that was required to bring her home.
55: Happiness is having a home, a family and laugher every day!