From Russia with love

by Beth Shepherd
( November 23rd, 2009 )

I scoop up a teaspoon of stuffing with one hand and grab a flimsy round piece of dough in the other, and carefully tuck and fold until a tortellini-like Pelmeni emerges. Ten eager adoptive or prospective adoptive moms stand around a table with me, scooping, stuffing and folding.

Ladies listening-aPelmeni are a Russian national dish. These dumplings are made from a filling wrapped in thin unleavened dough. We are using a minced meat (beef and chicken) mixture, but Pelmeni can also be made with ricotta cheese or potato filling.

My comrades in Pelmeni are all members of FRUA-INC. FRUA stands for Friends for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption. The ‘INC’ is, in my case, the significant acronym since it spells out, “Including Neighboring Countries.” FRUA is an international parent support network for families who have adopted or are in the process of adopting from the former Soviet Union. These republics include Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Krygyzstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Tadzhikistan, as well as Russian and the Ukraine.  FRUA families have also adopted children from Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and other Eastern European countries.

Hands onThis is the first time I’ve participated in a FRUA event, although I’ve been receiving the newsletter for the past year (and even contributed an article about Armenia in the October edition). Two women, one Russian and one Ukrainian volunteered to show us how to make both Pemeni and Kotleti (a Russian hamburger) so that we could share this favorite cuisine with our kids.

Of course our kiddo will hail from Armenia, not Russia or the Ukraine. While the cuisine from Armenia is distinctly different from that of much of Eastern Europe, our child will share the common bond of being adopted from that region of the world, so I wanted to check out what a FRUA event was like.

TKotletihe Kotleti and Pemeni were pretty darn tasty. We ate the cute little dumplings and burgers we made with a side salad of tomatoes and peas and some yummy Kasha (which I’ve been jonesing for since leaving the event).

Shortly after we finished our meal, our gracious hostesses put out a ‘fishbowl’ with numbers in it on the table in front of us. We each pulled a number and then took turns selecting a Russian food gift item from a box on the table.

Pick a numberHanging out with a bunch of women who have been down the path I’m on was the highlight of the evening for me. We chatted about how we all went crazy during the waiting period, the insane amount of paperwork required, and all the uncertainties and changes to the process along the way.

About eight of the women already have their kids (some have reached their teen years, in fact) and each shared their unique adoption journey. For the three of us who are still “ladies in waiting,” it was comforting to hear these women express the same doubts and anxiety that we feel while we wait and wonder, “Will it ever happen?”

Gifts to goAs I drove home, I thought about the evening. I definitely had more in common with some of the woman than others. I could imagine scheduling a “play date” with one or two. That’s always how it is in a group. You connect better with some folks than others.

One thing is crystal clear. These women, adoptive moms all, have walked in my moccasins. This is my tribe.

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