While a prohibition on Americans adopting Russian orphans remains in place, one Shelter Island summer resident continues her quest not only to eventually adopt children from her homeland, but to inspire others to get involved to try to reverse the ban.
Anya DuVivier — herself a former Russian adoptee — is a 22-year-old student completing double major undergraduate degrees in Russian studies and mechanical engineering at Miami University in Ohio. She first brought her story to the Reporter in February 2013, when the blonde, seemingly all-American girl talked of being saved from a life in Russia that could have left her alone in the streets of Moscow.
Typically, older children in Russian orphanages — and at 5-and-a-half, Anya was considered older — don’t get adopted. She would have soon been moved out of the orphanage to make room for younger children and into an institution for older children where she would stay until she was about 12 or so.
That’s the age when many orphanages release children to fend for themselves, Anya’s mother, Roxanne DuVivier said. Without the adoption, she added, Anya could have been lost.
Anya never forgets the day she left the orphanage in Moscow. She was naked, holding a balloon.
Humiliation wasn’t the motive. Orphanage officials had little in the way of clothing for the children in their care and as one child was adopted, his or her clothes had to be given to a child left behind.
The tale told of her life in the orphanage where she was released to her new family captured the attention of readers here when the Reporter story appeared and in Ohio where Anya and her family live the rest of the year.
“How lucky you are to be living in America,” is the message she tells her friends at school.
She transferred last year from Wooster College in Ohio to Miami University to be closer to her family.
“Family is all I have,” Anya said.
While she once tied to forget the experiences of her early years, rapidly losing her Russian language, for example, she has now embraced her Russian heritage through her college studies and is open to tutoring those interested in learning the language.
Arriving at Miami University, she carried with her the Reporter story about her adoption and showed it to a teacher, saying, “I want you to know who I am.” The teacher shed tears as she read Anya’s’s story and then asked if she would give a presentation on her adoption to students at the school.
People she had met at college knew nothing of her background and were surprised to learn that their friend had been born in Russia and experienced such a painful early childhood. But having heard her story, they became inspired. Five friends volunteered to work at Eastern European orphanages this summer, while others formed a service club to raise money to help children “trapped in orphanages,” Anya said.
Students are also working to bring political pressure to bear, hoping to overturn the Russian ban on Americans adopting children.
Add to that Anya’s speaking at the July World Future 2014 Conference in Orlando, Florida. The WF is a nonprofit educational and scientific organization representing 25,000 members in nearly 100 countries.
Anya was the youngest speaker at the conference, relating her life experiences and goals to an audience of 500, all seeking to improve societies through better lines of communication.
Her attendance made an impression. She received a call last week from the head of the organization asking her to become a member of the World Future Society Council, which she quickly accepted. In her new role, she will continue to spread the word to her generation about the kind of world she wants to exist for her own family, she said.
There’s not a day when she doesn’t think about the past and wonder what happened to those left behind in the Russian orphanage that she was freed from, she said.
“But the amount of trauma I endured never will compete with the amount of knowledge I’ve accumulated,” Anya added.
As for her current decision to pick up a second major in mechanical engineering, it came from a lifelong desire to fix things that are broken, she said.
Anya continues to the goal of adopting her own children from a Russian orphanage and will “do what it takes” to make that happen, she said. By retelling her own story, she hopes it will put the thought of foreign adoptions in peoples’ minds.
Does she ever tire of those who don’t embrace her vision to try to better the world?
“I’m the angriest, happiest girl you’ll ever meet,” Anya said.