Autumn 2004 (12.3)
"Celebrating Our Families"
Third Annual Reunion of Adopted Children from Azerbaijan
(here with son
Home for Inara - Azerbaijan's First Adoption
- Adopting a Child from Azerbaijan
Airways Adopts Orphanage
Saving the Children: Mobil Undertakes
Games Build Bridges: International Women's Club Reaches Out
It was a warm summer day and the music
playing throughout the large dining halls of Baku Palace Restaurant
was unmistakably Azerbaijani. The food was identical to that
served in many of the restaurants throughout Baku. And the beautiful,
lively children who were gathered in the room were all from the
same country-whose flag of blue, red and green was prominently
But this was not a celebration on the shores of the Caspian.
It was a Saturday afternoon in a beautiful new restaurant near
the ocean off Sheepshead Bay, a residential neighborhood of Brooklyn
in New York City. The adults were speaking English, not Azeri.
And the red, white and blue of the American flag was also proudly
displayed next to Azerbaijan's flag.
Below: "Celebrating Our Families".
Third Annual Reunion of families in the United States who have
adopted children from Baku. This year the event took place at
the Baku Palace Restaurant, in New York on July 9-11, 2004
"Celebrating our Families," the Third Annual Reunion
of American families with children adopted from Baku, was in
full swing. The children danced spontaneously to the lilting
melody of the popular children's song "Jujalarim" ("My
Little Chicks") while parents, grandparents, siblings and
friends traded stories of what it had been like to adopt children
from Azerbaijan. Photographers and reporters from local newspapers
moved through the crowd, while a production crew from a Russian-American
TV station recorded the event.
Left: Flags from Azerbaijan and U.S. were displayed
together at the Baku Palace Restaurant in Brookly, New York,
where the Annual Adoption Reunion took place, July 2004.
Some families had traveled 3,000 miles across the entire United
States to be there, while others came from just a few miles away.
Some of the adopted children had joined large families, while
others had joined as the only child of a single parent. But all
the children had one thing in common: as infants and toddlers,
they had slept in the same rooms and played with the same toys
at an orphanage in Baku, Azerbaijan. Now these "Baku Babies",
as their families affectionately call them, were all American
citizens living with American families.
The three-day weekend reunion took place on Friday through Sunday,
July 9-11, 2004, at an event which had been organized by volunteers-adoptive
parents Gina Andriolo and Jane Bottner, both New York City residents,
with the help of Eileen Ordu. Tomris Azeri, President of the
Azerbaijan Society of America, of Newark, New Jersey, had also
provided significant support.
The weekend was full of activities. On Friday, July 9, some families
gathered in the historic South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan
and ate at Carmine's, an Italian restaurant. On Saturday, the
families, totaling about 70 people, gathered at Baku Palace,
an elegant restaurant about 30-minutes from Manhattan.
Families from Across the U.S.
The reunion drew families from across the United States-from
Connecticut (Beckett), Kansas (Kile), Missouri (Shifrin), New
Jersey (Caust, Grabowski, Lubicky, McDevitt and Munsche), New
York (Adams-Kahn, Andriolo-Contrino, Bottner, Ordu and Rudnick),
North Carolina (Soos), Pennsylvania (Segal), Tennessee (Abernathy),
Virginia (Cordts), and Washington (Boaz).
Below: Betty Blair, Editor of Azerbaijan International,
with children's art instuctor Galina Nikolayevna in Azerbaijan
International's office in downtown Baku, selecting art works
for the Third Annual Adoption Reunion in the U.S. - "Celebrating
Our Families". Fifteen works were selected from three art
teachers. More than $1,000 was raised at the reunion's Silent
Auction from the paintings and other handcrafts. The money was
directed to the United Aid for Azerbaijan for the care of children
in orphanages in Baku. June 2004.
For some families, it was their second reunion (Abernathy, Bottner,
Kile and McDevitt). The Shifrin family had attended all three
reunions-Nashville (2002), Kansas City (2003), and New York (2004).
The idea for a reunion came from Kimi Abernathy, whose daughter
Inara was the first child adopted internationally from Azerbaijan
in 2000. Kimi also was the driving force in creating the Yahoo
Internet ListServ-AzerbaijanAdopt-to which many adoptive families
subscribe. She also hosted the first reunion in 2002 in Tennessee.
In 2003, Kathleen and Jim Shyrock, along with Judy Shifrin, coordinated
the reunion in Kansas City, Missouri.
In New York City, reunion coordinators were thrilled to have
Baku Palace-the only Azerbaijani restaurant in the United States-as
a venue to provide the tastes, sounds and atmosphere of Baku.
The menu was full of Azerbaijani favorites: fresh vegetable salad
(chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and greens), red lobio (fried eggplant
in vinegar garlic marinade topped with chopped walnuts), feta
cheese, dolma (grape leaves stuffed with ground lamb and rice),
gutab (crepes stuffed with ground meat or greens and gently pan
fried), sigars (thin layers of dough stuffed with feta cheese),
lula kabab (ground lamb wrapped in pita bread) and chicken kabab.
Pakhlava (bakhlava) and Skakarbura were offered as pastries for
dessert. Live Azerbaijani music kept both the children and adults
on the dance floor for much of the afternoon.
Following the precedent set at the 2003 reunion, a Silent Auction
and Raffle were held. Together these activities raised more than
$1,000 for United Aid for Azerbaijan to help fund programs to
strengthen the care of children still living in orphanages in
The Silent Auction consisted of more than a dozen artworks created
by Baku child artists, selected and brought from Baku by Betty
Blair, Azerbaijan International's editor. Again this year, the
children's art works were offered by three teachers-Katana Sharifova,
Galina Nikolayevna and Inna Kostina. Javid Mammadov's pen and
ink drawing of Baku's Old City was so much sought after that
it attracted nearly 20 bids and brought more than $100. Tomris
Azeri also organized for several handicraft items to be auctioned,
including two dolls in traditional Azerbaijani costumes.
On Sunday, some of the families gathered again-this time in Chinatown
in downtown Manhattan for a Dim Sum Brunch. From there, they
visited the Central Park Zoo. It had been a weekend full of fun,
food, music and camaraderie, which brought together people from
all parts of the United States who had shared one very important
adventure-their journeys to Baku to fulfill dreams for their
Yet, despite all the similarities shared by families who have
adopted children from Baku, each story is unique. Some of the
families who attended the New York Reunion share their stories
Brooklyn, New York
Left: Benjamin Rovshan Bottner
Back in May 2002, a little over two years ago, I brought my son,
Benjamin Rovshan Bottner, from Baby House No. 1 in Baku. It was
the beginning of our life's journey together as a family. Ben
was almost two years old, but he was so much like an infant both
in size and ability. He could not walk, or even stand up or crawl.
He had no expressive language skills. He weighed only 17 pounds
and had only four teeth. Yet Ben's big bright brown searching
eyes and his warm smile indicated an intelligence, curiosity,
and keen sense to learn despite his weak physical state and developmental
Today, Ben remains that curious, observant, intelligent little
boy that I brought home two years ago. Now these characteristics
extend far beyond the intensity of his searching eyes and are
always present in the way he moves his body, the questions he
asks, the things he observes and in his joyful enthusiastic spirit.
Ben loves to talk and explain how things work. He runs, climbs,
pedals a tricycle, loves to swim and draw. He has a funny sense
of humor, and an infectious laugh that lights up a room, bringing
smiles to all.
Gina and Charles
Left: Charles Contrino and son Andy
There are so many precious things
about this little boy, our son, Andrew Mario Contrino, that we
can hardly believe our fortune that he is a member of our family.
His sleepy eyes light up first thing in the morning when he sees
us. Then there's his funny little jokes, his laughter, his kisses,
his endearments-"You know what? I love you SO much!"
Andy's adoption from Baby House No. 1 was such an adventure.
We were so eager to bring him home as our special Christmas present-this
little boy whose birthday is December 25th. When he arrived just
a few weeks prior to his second birthday, there were so many
fundamental things that he couldn't do. He couldn't walk, talk
or even crawl. And he was so small. But Andy had a charismatic
personality, a smile that would not stop and an overwhelming
charm and charisma that immediately captivated his parents, grandparents,
family and friends.
His progression from that sweet little baby to a rollicking,
talkative, inquisitive and confident little boy has been amazing
to watch. At 3 12 years old, Andy can now name and recognize
every bridge in New York City. He can recite the American Pledge
of Allegiance to the flag. He knows his numbers, letters and
colors, and talks all the time-sometimes even sprinkling his
conversation with some Spanish and Italian. He certainly keeps
us on our toes!
Danielle and Dan Lubicky
Sicklerville, New Jersey
Left: Katarina Lubicky
This is a story of a great love.
It is Katarina's story who was adopted from Azerbaijan. She's
really no different from any of us, but she does have a special
beginning, one that enabled us to become a family, 17 months
into her life. We met Katarina for the first time in the spring
of 2002. For us, it was the most important moment of our lives.
Katarina's referral came on a day just like any other. The most
beautiful words we've ever heard were: "We have a little
girl for you. Shall we send her picture?" We had waited
for that call for so long, and when we finally saw Katarina's
photograph, she took our breath away. She was perfect. We couldn't
hold back the tears when we realized that she was to become our
daughter. We will always have a special place in our hearts for
the city of Baku and for the staff at the Baby House who cared
for our daughter all those early months of her life. Our baby
girl has blossomed into a wonderful little girl full of life,
full of love and, most importantly, full of happiness.
Terry and Peter
Glen Rock, New Jersey
Left: Zaccary Caust
It has been two years
since we arrived home with Zaccary. He has changed so much since
then-as all babies do. But seeing the solemn tike we brought
home blossom into a mischievous cute little flirt makes us marvel
every day when he greets us in the morning.
He has recently started singing, mostly nursery rhymes that he
hears so often. His favorite is "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little
Star" and he launches into this little melody every time
he sees a star of any kind.
He's our star. Time and love change so much. And, with Zaccary
Caust, we are having the time of our lives!
Lyn and David Cordts
Left: Cordt Family - David, daughter Alaina, Lyn and
We've just been sitting here
working on Alaina's scrapbook and marveling at how much she has
grown and developed in one year. A year ago in 2003, we were
in the waiting stage between our first and second trips to Baku.
I look back on those photos that we made of her on the day we
took her from the Baby House. She was crying so hard. It makes
us almost cry to think about how scared and confused she must
have been. Here were these strangers taking her away from everyone
and everything that she had ever known.
But as soon as we got in the car to drive away, she stopped crying
and since then, she has eagerly embraced all the new things that
have come her way. She is a sweet, good-natured, funny, smart,
delightful girl. We are so blessed to have Alaina Cordts in our
Left: Stephanie Boaz and son Jacob
I first met my son, Jacob Chalmers
Rufat Boaz, on July 21, 2003, when he was 10 months old. That
day I spent two hours with him at Baby House No. 1. I remember
he was so very quiet. He would just sit still. He didn't crawl
or move around very much. He just looked at me very somberly.
Within an hour of bringing him with me on that second trip to
Baku in September, he was a completely different baby. Jacob
was smiling and inquisitive and immediately started taking his
first steps! Within 24 hours, it was clear that Jacob understood
that I was more than a temporary caretaker. No one else could
hold him-he only wanted his Mama!
From the beginning, It was obvious to us that Jacob had a strong
intellect. He loves books, whether it's having someone read to
him or just looking at them on his own. Now he is nearly two
years old; and he can recognize all the letters of the alphabet,
knows about 15 colors, and he's starting to count. He is passionate
about cars and trains. He's very sweet and gentle and has a wonderful
sense of humor. I can't imagine my life without Jacob in it.
He is the greatest joy and blessing I could ever hope for, and
I look forwarding to watching him grow and develop through the
Philmont, New York
Left: Eileen and daughter Julia Ordu
My daughter, Julia Edith Ordu (named after my own grandmother),
was adopted from Baby House No. 1 in Baku in December 2002. Despite
it being the coldest winter Baku had experienced for decades,
I had the fortunate opportunity while the adoption process was
being finalized, of spending the waiting period in Baku instead
of making two trips there. My stay extended into two months.
While there, I was able to meet and talk with Azerbaijanis from
all walks of life, and to learn a bit about Azerbaijan's rich
culture and history. I was also able to visit Julia regularly.
At that time, she was very weak and stiff and had the skinniest
little arms and legs. She used to twirl her tongue and her wrists,
and she could neither sit up nor roll over.
We arrived home in February 2003 and Julia was soon babbling
away. She began to crawl at 13 months and was walking at 16 months.
People commented about how strong, sturdy and confident her steps
Today, Julia is bright, athletic and extremely social. She laughs
heartily and loves to talk and tell stories. She is also very
musical. She loves to dance and sing loudly as she marches around
the house, elbows out, and knees drawn high. She is generous,
loving and affectionate and always in good spirits. Julia is
so much fun to be with. She's a joy, a treasure, to me and to
all the loving people in her life.
Noreen and Michael
Left: Soos Family: Noreen, daughter Katrina and Michael.
Who would have thought it possible? When we first received our
adoption referral and learned of our daughter Katrina's birthday,
we could hardly believe it. But it was true. Katrina Soos was
born on the 4th of July in Baku, Azerbaijan!
We made two trips to Azerbaijan
in October and November 2002. From the first time that we met
Katrina, we knew she would be a very happy child.
She was always giggling and laughing. She had a great big smile.
The orphanage and our in-country coordinator told us that since
this was our first child, they would choose one which easy to
raise. How true that statement was! Katrina always wakes up with
a big smile and loves to hug (especially other children). She
is extremely adventurous and loves to swim and will even jump
off the diving board by herself. She also loves to dance and
We are so blessed to have her. We're very grateful for the country
of Azerbaijan in giving us the opportunity to adopt Katrina.
We are currently awaiting our second adoption from Azerbaijan;
Katrina can't wait to meet her new baby sister.
We are also very fortunate that there are four other families
near us in Charlotte, North Carolina, who have adopted from Azerbaijan
as well. We get together monthly so that our kids can play and
socialize. We all have become great friends. It is a great way
to share our adoption stories and keep our children's culture
and heritage present in our lives.
Chanell and Mike
Left: McDevitt Family - Roxanne, Eamon, Chanell, Mike,
Leyla, Ethan and Miranda (long hair)
Leyla Nargiz and Aydan Roxanne both joined our family two years
ago in May 2002. Both of them were three years old at the time.
Now, upon looking back, it's hard to remember a time when they
weren't part of our family.
The girls truly are typical family members, doing everything
that siblings love to do together. They have blossomed tremendously
over these two years and are thrilled to be entering kindergarten
this fall. Leyla loves to swim, play with her dolls, color and
play with her brothers and sisters. Roxanne loves all kinds of
sports. Her favorite toys are a toy horse and her roller blades.
She loves running around and playing outside games with her brothers
We are a rather large family with five children now, but the
love we have for one another just keeps growing bigger and bigger!
Those interested in learning
more about the adoption process in Azerbaijan are invited to
join the AZERBAIJANADPT ListServ at YAHOO.com
where it is possible to read nearly three years of previous discussions
and concerns dating back to 2001. Currently, the group has more
than 400 members.
Links: Search "Adoption"
at AZER.com, the Web site for Azerbaijan International magazine.
Articles include Inara Abernathy, the first child adopted from
Azerbaijan, the previous reunions, and adoption concerns. Also
you can find the words and music to the popular children's song
"Jujalarim" ("My Little Chicks") as well
as the story of its most famous Moscow performance at the "Decade
of Azerbaijan Arts" in 1959.
From Azerbaijan International (12.3) Autumn 2004.
© Azerbaijan International 2004. All rights reserved.
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