In November of 2013, 21-year-old Alex Gilbert set out to meet his birth parents for the first time. He travelled for over 30 hours from New Zealand to Russia and then drove six hours more to the Arctic circle and finally to Rybinsk on the Volga River. That is where his biological mother, Tatiana, lives.
Over two decades before, Mikhail and Tatiana had met and had a one-time affair. Tatiana got pregnant and decided to give her child up for adoption because it was the thing to do and many other young women had made that same decision. In fact, Tatiana herself had grown up in an orphanage. She didn’t tell Mikhail that she was expecting his child, though.
After he was born, Alex was taken immediately to an orphanage where he remained for two years. Finally a couple from New Zealand, Janice and Mark Gilbert, flew to Russia and adopted him and another boy of the same age. They left behind 22 other little babies at the orphanage.
Forty-year-old Tatiana, a waitress, now lives in a tiny apartment with her new husband Andrei. It was inevitable for unanswered questions to surface in Alex’s mind along with the nerves of finally meeting her. Alex walked over to where she stood at a corner near her apartment waiting for him and spontaneously hugged her. Then he took out some gifts from a small backpack and handed them to her. With the aid of an interpreter, they were able to communicate the rest of the afternoon. It was obvious that Tatiana was having mixed feelings about the whole situation as she tried to connect to her biological child.
Then Alex flew to Saint Petersburg where he met forty-four-year-old former soldier Mikhail, his biological father. The experience at this encounter was totally different. Mikhail, or Misha as he’s called, was much more expressive and relaxed than Tatiana had been. Mikhail introduced Alex to his wife Liana, his mother, mother-in-law, and his 8-month old baby girl. He showered Alex with gifts for himself and loved ones back home. Alex and Mikhail bonded immediately as if they had known each other all their lives and discovered all the things that they have in common.
How would Alex’s life have been different if he had not been given up for adoption?