The area around the nursery I work in has a fairly large Russian population. ?They mostly keep to themselves and somehow convince the Walgreens in the area to put up an “Apteka” sign. ?Every so often we get a stray shopper in the store and every so seldom I get up the courage to at least say thank you in Russian. ?That is often met with shock and further shyness. ?Today was a little different.
A woman came into the store today who, when she opened her mouth, was clearly Russian. ?She wasn’t like most of the Russians that frequent our establishment. ?She spoke remarkable English and asked questions. ?She didn’t dismiss me as this young thing that didn’t know anything. ?At the end of our conversation I had to ask where she was from. ?She said, “Russia.” ?Well duh I knew that (I totally did not say that to her). ?I asked where in Russia and she said St. Petersburg. ?I told her that my son was from Russia and of course that sparked the normal conversation asking if I had married a Russian. ?I told her my son was from Khabarovsk and that we adopted him. ?My statement stopped this very large lady in her tracks. ?She said that her father was from Khabarovsk and he was an orphan as a child. ?Me telling her that we adopted this little boy from her father’s home town nearly brought her to tears.
She asked to see photos, mentioned that Oleg looked like us and when she asked his name and I told him she coyly said, “ahlezhek.” ?She told me to be firm with him and not baby him too much. ?She said give him a very good education while he is young and he will turn into a good man. ?I have heard that from nearly every Russian woman I have encountered and I follow that advice to the tee.
I told her briefly about our work with Sweet Hope and she asked when I was in the nursery. ?She wanted to come back and talk to me about it and somehow wanted to help. ?Then she gave me a giant hug.
There are days that the thought of Sweet Hope makes me very tired. ?It is usually about the second week of chocolate making that I stop and think, what the hell am I doing. ?Then there are times like today that I remember why. ?I remember that my experience in Russia and becoming a Russian (Swedish/Irish) American family is so worth it. ?I thank God everyday for giving me the opportunity to create this beautiful project. ?It may not be moving at the pace that I would like, but it is moving forward. ?That is all I can ask for. ?And as for hugs from giant Russian ladies… bring it on.