"From Russia, with love"

"Life has been hard. After having an alcoholic father that ran out on the family, a mother that died of cancer two years ago, and spending every day since in a Russian orphanage, young sisters Svetlana, 13, and Marina, 12, deserved a wondrous twist of fate. Little did they know that on the other side of the world, Peter and Dee Thomas, of Oak Harbor, were waiting for them. Peter, a civilian engineer/business consultant for Navy Region Northwest at Whidbey Naval Air Station Island, and Dee, a seventh-grade teacher at North Whidbey Middle School, didn't plan on becoming the parents of two adolescent girls from a foreign country. But for them, it was a wondrous twist of fate. Peter and Dee had been thinking about adopting a child for about five years. They checked into a variety of adoption avenues. Then came the fateful connection. Last spring I found a non-profit organization out of Washington, D.C. called Kidsave International, explained Dee. Through a program called Summer Miracles, Kidsave brings about 250 Russian orphans to the United States each summer with the cooperation of American adoption agencies. The children, ages five to 13, stay with host families that are either considering adoption or that want to host the children, perhaps resulting in adoption by another family within the community. The children stay in the United States for a six to eight week period on temporary visas. Peter and Dee were initially told that the children coming for the summer had all been placed. I thought it would be a great thing for us to experience and decided to do it (the) next year, said Dee. Suddenly, in late July, the Thomases received a call from an adoption center in Portland, Ore. There were two girls, sisters, placed with a family in Portland, that had been there for approximately two weeks, explained Dee. The mother had gotten sick and the adoption agency needed to place these children in a home for the remainder of the time. The agency asked if Peter and Dee could help. We automatically said yes, Dee said. It turns out the adoption agency asked the Thomases if they could host a third child, as well. They readily agreed. Svetlana and Marina arrived two days later, along with Tatyana. The three girls stayed with the Thomases for the next four weeks. Peter and Dee formed a strong bond with the girls as they shared family life. Needless to say we fell in love with these kids, said Dee. We wanted to adopt them all but knew that three was a lot to take on. The decision was made easier when the Thomases learned that another local couple is in the process of adopting Tatyana and her brother. Peter and Dee immediately began the process to adopt Svetlana and Marina. With heavy hearts they had to put the girls on a plane back to Russia at the conclusion of their temporary stay in America. However, they were able to send the girls with the assurance that they would go to Russia as soon as possible to bring them back to their new home. They have remained in contact with the girls through faxes and letters. Originally we were supposed to get the girls in November. Then it was Christmas, and then January, explained Dee. Russian government paperwork delays had pushed the date further and further, and the Thomases began to wait anxiously by the telephone for good news. The call came just a few days ago. Peter and Dee will be traveling to the Tula region of Russia, and then to court in Moscow, on March 27. After the adoption is finalized in the Russian court, the Thomases will return to Oak Harbor with their daughters.The first order of business will be to get the girls settled at home. Peter and Dee will help them improve their English-language skills, and Dee said she will have Marina placed in sixth grade and Svetlana in seventh grade.Peter beamed as he spoke of the girls, stating that Marina was already a big fan of singer Brittney Spears, and Svetlana was crazy about boy-band The Backstreet Boys.Sounds like the girls will fit in just fine. "

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