Monday, April 29, 2013
The Sasha Project
In 2004 I accompanied my brother and his wife to Russia as they adopted two children. It turned out to be quite helpful having 3 adults managing two active 2 year olds, navigating the transportation systems, completing documents, and overcoming all the other challenges which we encountered.
During my visit, I became acquainted with Alexander (Sasha) Romanov. He was our driver, translator, shoulder to lean on and so much more. He was a very helpful and humble man. Sasha was working as a translator to earn a few extra dollars, but more importantly it gave him the opportunity to speak live with Americans and practice his English. Sasha is passionate about learning the English language.
In the past 9 years Sasha and I have kept in touch periodically via emails. He would sometimes ask for clarification on one of the American books he was reading or a phrase he had heard. I was so inspired by his desire to learn. My husband and I teach at the local university, so education is important to us. It is exciting when you encounter a student who is on fire to learn (versus those who are there warming a chair). It makes you desire to work with them and see them succeed!
For many years I had a quiet dream to bring Sasha to the US and immerse him in the language. I didn’t figure I had the time or the resources to do that. There were many other things demanding my attention.
At the end of last year I had an idea …
My husband and I had saved up our frequent flyer miles (from purchases made in constructing our retirement house) and were planning to use them on a trip to Australia to celebrate our retirements. What if we used some of those miles to bring Sasha to CA? I timidly asked my husband if he was willing to do that? He agreed!
When I tentatively asked Sasha about visiting the US, he said that was merely a dream of his. Persons like him do not just hop on a plane and go to America. I probed further and asked him if there were any other adopting families he kept in contact with. (Christmas cards or emails?) He mentioned 3 or 4.
Earlier this year I made phone calls to several families regarding a possible visit by Sasha. I was absolutely blown away by their responses and stories. Each of them wanted to see Sasha again and to host him for a few days! They spoke of how much Sasha had helped them while they were in Russia. They wanted to thank him and have him share in the Joy of their now established families. One lady even named her daughter after Sasha!
What initially began as a 2 or 3 week trip to visit me, has now mushroomed to include 12 families over a five week period! One family (who now lives in Ireland) is scheduled to meet Sasha in San Francisco for dinner. Sasha’s Itinerary has activities for each day including visits to the Space Shuttle, Queen Mary, the Getty Center, Home Depot, a California Mission, the Golden Gate Bridge, a 4th of July Parade, horseback riding, a drive along Route 66, a Giants baseball game on July 9th and so much more.
Since Sasha tutors 20 students in Basic English skills, we thought it would be a great way to promote Russian / US friendships. We planned to set up a Blog where Sasha could share his experiences while in the U.S.
This is like one of those “Make A Wish” stories. The Ripples of goodwill are reaching far and wide. It is going to be such a positive journey for all the people involved.