Politics seem far away  at Russian adoptee event

Photo by Karen Baker -- Russian dancer Anastasia Sherbakova, left, shows Elsa McKinney a few steps at  the Louisiana Eastern European Adoptive Families cultural exchange.
Photo by Karen Baker -- Russian dancer Anastasia Sherbakova, left, shows Elsa McKinney a few steps at the Louisiana Eastern European Adoptive Families cultural exchange.

When you put Russian dancing together with the Mardi Gras mambo, how can you miss? All of that and more was on display at the Fleur de Lis event center in Mandeville on Jan. 21, when the Louisiana Eastern European Adoptive Families group hosted a group of Russian entertainers.

The LEEAF group had planned a day to celebrate Russian culture for the many children adopted from that country who are living in the New Orleans area. When the opportunity came to host the Russian Golden Gates performers, “We jumped at the chance,” LEEAF coordinator Karen Bordelon said.

Three LEEAF families hosted 13 children and two chaperones from the entertaining troupe, which is touring the country and stopped in Mandeville on its way to New Mexico.

“The event was about cultural exchange,” Bordelon said. “We sent the Russian kids information about Louisiana and Mardi Gras traditions to read beforehand.”

After a rousing performance by Russian musicians and dancers, the Russian adoptees taught their new friends about the second line, king cake and Mardi Gras masks.

Adoptive families from all over the New Orleans area were in attendance, Bordelon said.

“We are a group of families with a special bond, and our group has been going strong since 1997, when my husband and I adopted our first daughter, who is now 15 years old,” she added. “A main goal of our group is to make sure our kids experience Russian culture.

“Another goal of LEEAF is to raise adoption awareness in general, regardless of a child’s country of birth. All children deserve to have a family.”

Suzy McKinney, also a LEEAF member, has adopted six children from Russia, including three who are siblings.

“We wanted a girl,” she said. “And we found out the girl we wanted had two brothers.” And the rest is history for the McKinney family. How can you take one and not the others? “You see your own kids in the kids who are waiting,” she said.

The celebration of Russian culture came just weeks after Russia officially outlawed U.S. adoptions from that country.

“Advocates for children are up in arms,” said Stephanie Beard, who was at the event with her sons, Tyler, 11, from Russia, and Nick, 14, from Ukraine.

Although the LEEAF event celebrated Russian culture, Martha Osborne said she attended even though she does not have any children from Russia; in fact, she has adopted four daughters from China and one from Korea. “But I run the largest website on international adoptions (www.rainbowkids.com) and a lot of parents learn about international adoptions through that.”

For more information on LEEAF, visit the website at http://www.LEEAF.home
stead.com.