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From Russia with love | Bellevue couple fulfills dream with adoption

The Hayes family, clockwise from left: David, Grisha, Luisa, Pat, Ildar, Larisa, and Victor. - Chad Coleman / Bellevue Reporter
The Hayes family, clockwise from left: David, Grisha, Luisa, Pat, Ildar, Larisa, and Victor.
— image credit: Chad Coleman / Bellevue Reporter

Pat Hayes warned her 14-year-old daughter not to eat green plums from the backyard, but there was no use in scolding Luisa as she approached on the verge of tears, her stomach wrenching and full of unripe fruit.

Instead, Pat's eyes were full of pity and her words reassuring.

"It's alright," she says. "We can go."

The tears never came. Pat, volunteering at Luisa's science camp, excused her for the day and took her home.

It's a parenting moment, one that wouldn't be possible in this case without adoption.

Pat and her husband David, who live in Bellevue, were past the age of childbearing once they got married. They considered adoption time and again, but American agencies overlooked them for younger, wealthier couples.

"Everything was a closed door," Pat said. "We decided to just bag the whole thing and retire."

Time passed and the Hayes' decided to consider international adoption. They had wanted only a single child, but that desire played out as though they'd opened a nesting doll.

The couple met at a restaurant one evening to discuss a list of potential matches they had reviewed separately. Both, it ended up, were drawn to the same group of five orphaned siblings from the Russian republic of Tartarstan.

The children's biological father had died of cancer, and their mother couldn't support them on her own.

Ildar, now 16, remembers the day he became an orphan.

"Some people came by and said they needed to take us to the hospital," he said. "We thought they just wanted to check on us. We thought we'd come back to our house, but we didn't."

Ildar and his siblings spent more than a year at the orphanage before the Hayes had their dinner meeting. That night, the couple wrote down all their reasons for and against adopting five kids.

The negatives took up both sides of a napkin – no money, too old, we don't speak the same language, so on and so forth.

There was one positive: it's God's plan.

The Hayes carried through with the adoption, navigating a bureaucratic nightmare and finally bringing the kids to America in April 2004.

There were endless concerns as the new family united. Pat was so anxious that she scribbled her thoughts in a journal for the entire 11-hour plane ride home.

The kids were equally nervous.

"I didn't know what to expect," said 18-year-old Larisa, who, as the oldest sibling, had taken on a sort of mothering role at the orphanage. "I was scared at first."

Luisa says she didn't even know other countries existed before leaving Russia. Yet she and her siblings found themselves far from the dreary landscape of their hometown, where there was more mud than grass and the snow was still melting in spring.

A surprise greeted everyone when they arrived in Bellevue. The Hayes' yard was bursting with the color of tulips and rhododendrons that had bloomed early.

The family would soon leave for Pacific Beach, so the kids could see the ocean for the first time. Ildar, in particular, was ecstatic about the trip.

"As soon as he hit the beach, he started running in circles and yelling," David recalls.

That first year wasn't all flowers and beach dancing, though. The kids were well behind American standards with their education, and they couldn't communicate in English.

The Hayes' neighbors spoke Russian, which helped everyone make the transition, but it still took three years before all the children were fluent in their new language.

There were other challenges, like buying clothes for everyone, tutoring, and getting the kids to their various after-school activities.

"It's not easy," Pat said. "You have to just deal with things and have a sense that you're going to do the best you can do.

"Time is the most important gift you can give them."

Pat and David give generously in that respect, working as volunteers with many of the groups that their children participate in.

Today, the Hayes siblings are like a lot of other American families – busy, engaged, and incessantly teasing one another.

Each also has a unique personality.

Victor, 11, is an opinionated talker whom Pat believes will make a perfect lawyer one day, while Grisha, 9, loves studying bugs. Ildar penchant for for problem solving and building, while Luisa is a people-helper, and Larisa is a science-lover who cultivates her interest by working as a volunteer at Overlake Hospital.

As for the fact that they're all adopted, it's hard to tell these days. None of them speaks with an accent, and they refer to their parents as "Mom" and "Pop."

"These are truly our kids," David said. "There's no question about that."

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