(MOSCOW) — As she prepared for the biggest journey of her life, a 5-year-old Russian girl named Polina asked visitors, “Are you coming to America with me?”
She had only the slightest idea that her adoption by an American couple from Arkansas barely survived Russia’s ban on adoptions to the United States.
Polina is one of the final adoptions allowed to proceed. Russia banned adoptions to the United States starting Jan. 1, but allowed about 50 adoptions that had already received court approval to proceed. Polina’s case received court approval on Dec. 24, sneaking in just under the wire.
Hundreds of other cases, even ones where the parents had met the child, remain frozen. Some of those prospective parents have decided to challenge the ban in the European Court of Human Rights.
But whether Polina would be allowed to travel became clear only in recent weeks. After the ban was announced, various Russian officials issued contradictory statements about how the ban would be enforced. Some officials suggested she might be still be allowed to travel. Others said definitively not.
Finally, Kendra and Jason Skaggs traveled to Moscow in late January, nearly certain they would be able to bring their adopted daughter home, but girding themselves for the possibility that after the ups and downs of the previous month, something could come up at the last minute.
After a long, snowy drive to the orphanage, they were able to see Polina for the first time in over a month.
“Momma, do I get to go with you?” the girl asked immediately. A giant smile burst on her face when she was told yes.
“It’s a dream come true,” Kendra said later. “There is still an unreal element to it. It hasn’t quite hit us yet that we have her and she’s ours.”
“It’s really a sense of relief. We had been waiting for so long,” Jason agreed.
The prospect of never seeing their adopted daughter again was agonizing, but Kendra said imagining that Polina would think they had abandoned her was worse.
“To know that she might be worrying and wondering why didn’t my mommy and daddy come back and that she might be in an orphanage for the rest of her childhood and not knowing how she would do as an adult here, that was really the torture,” she said.
Polina suffers from spina bifida, a birth defect that left her numb below the knees and unable to walk. Had she remained in Russia, she would have faced an uncertain future in a country that often lacks ramps or infrastructure for the disabled.
In the United States, she’ll receive several hours of physical therapy a week to strengthen her legs, something she only rarely received in Russia.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN
Andreas Preuss, CNN