'Uncle Frost' helps children embrace Russian roots

RYAN MAYE HANDY Updated: January 5, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: January 5, 2013

Kate and Mark Gosling stood in the audience at Holy Theophany Orthodox Church proudly filming their two children in an annual Christmas pageant on Saturday.

Sasha, and daughter, Alyona, uttered their single Russian lines in the play — in a language the two children had left behind when they were adopted from southern Russia five years ago.

Last year, the Goslings enrolled their children, ages 8 and 9, in a Russian language class. On Saturday the children acted alongside Russian-speaking children in the church’s second annual Christmas play. The play was based on the Russian fairy tale “Twelve Months,” and honored the Jan. 7 Russian Orthodox Christmas.

Russian-speaking parents, mostly immigrants, and children thronged the church’s small auditorium. Mothers in tall boots exchanged Russian greetings while children dashed around chattering in Russian and English.

The Goslings see their children, who are biological siblings, as part of two worlds — American and Russian.

“We just have felt that (Russia) is their home country,” Kate Gosling said. “It’s part of who they are.”

Others also feel their adopted Russian children represent a link to another culture that should be encouraged. Pam Bassett, head of the local chapter of Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption, or FRUA, adopted two boys from Russia, one of whom proudly identifies with his Russian heritage — he rooted for Russian athletes in the Olympics and he attended the church’s last pageant with his mother.

Russian politicians accused Americans of tearing adopted Russian orphans from their culture. The concern was raised by members of Russia’s parliament,  in banning American adoptions of some of Russia’s 750,000 orphans. President Vladimir Putin signed the ban into law on Dec. 28.

The ban put thousands of  orphans in limbo, and left families uncertain if they can adopt the children they have traveled across the world to meet.

The Goslings haven’t broached the ban with Sasha and Alyona, adopted when they were 2 and 4 years old, respectively. The children’s Russian teacher, Natalia Dineen, who immigrated 12 years ago, said  the ban “is awful.”

For the past two years, Dineen has invited the adopted children of Americans to participate the church’s pageant, which she organizes.

Americans have welcomed Russian culture into their lives for years by adopting Russian children, according to Jan Wondra, national vice chair for FRUA.

“In America we have more than 60,000 Russian children adopted by Americans,” she said last week. “They have planted Russian culture in our psyche, more than anything else has ever done.”

Dineen ushered a passel of young children through a Russian dascha, a thick forest to meet Ded Moroz, or “Uncle Frost” the Russian Santa Claus.

Sasha, wearing a white rabbit hat costume, hopped across the stage to utter his Russian line swiftly, if softly.

He found his mother’s face across the room and beamed at her. She gave him a thumbs up.

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