Mankato, Minnesota: (July 11, 2010): When
Nick and Natalie Jewison were toddlers they would chatter with
each other in Russian, then giggle at their parents’ puzzlement.
Mike and Carol (Eustice) Jewison had nary a clue what the pair
was saying. Now both 13, the children’s grasp of their mother
tongue has all but disappeared as their Americanization has
taken full root.
The rural Janesville, Minnesota residents, often mistaken for
twins because they’re virtually the same age, are typical
eighth-graders. They play multiple sports, do chores on the
family farm, and Natalie has taken a liking to the guitar.
But recently the family spent eight days in the children’s
native Russia, a trip that included a visit to the orphanage
from which they were adopted. Natalie said the facility’s
director of nearly 30 years, a woman named Olga, was stunned.
"Her eyes got wide when she saw us. She said we were the first
(adopted) Americans who ever came back to visit."
The family spent a couple of days at the orphanage, interacting
with its 75 children and assisting in small ways. When it was
learned the facility’s refrigerator was on the blink, the family
went out and bought one. The orphanage is in a Russian city
that’s a 14-hour train ride from Moscow and a place where young
orphans rarely come in contact with adult males.
"Every time my dad got within 20 feet, they’d start crying,"
Natalie said. Carol Jewison said the timing of the trip was
right for the children. "We’d been talking about doing it for
years, but we didn’t know what age would be a good age for them
to visit."Nick said he and Natalie made it a point to hoard
their loose change and were able to present orphanage children
with more than $140.
Nick and Natalie were adopted when they were two. Neither has
knowledge of their biological parents. The Jewisons also have
two adult children who were adopted in America. Their decision
to look to Russia to adopt anew was driven by that country’s
daunting number of needy children.
Russia has about 700,000 orphans in
more than 2,000 orphanages. The percentage of declared orphans
is four to five times higher in Russia than in Europe or the
United States. Most are children either given up by their
parents or removed from dysfunctional homes by authorities.
Moreover, the number of abandoned children is rising, and the
Russian system calls for children to end their orphanage stays
by age 16. At that time they’re given a small government stipend
and essentially must fend for themselves. More than 1,500
Russian children were adopted in the United States last year,
and Americans have adopted nearly 50,000 since the early 1900s.
Nick and Natalie say they’d like to revisit Russia, and Nick
already is toying with the idea of someday spending a college
In the meantime, they have thoroughly American tasks to tend to.
The Waseca County Fair is fast-approaching and they must get
their ducks in a row — literally — because 4-H livestock judging