Chapter Twenty-One:

Linda Wright and Yekaterina

“Go on, glare your eyes at me, and cry and plead, 

and talk to me about money and what it can buy. 

But it can’t buy back a child once he’s dead.”

–Virginia Cleo Andrews


    Once back up in our room, Linda informed us that she would not be accepting Yekaterina after having seen the child in the orphanage.

    This is a decision that Linda Wright would like us to make clear to every reader of this narrative, because Denise Hubbard has tried to spread the disinformation that we talked her out of it.  

    Linda said that she made this decision, not because of Cyril’s death, but because, when Yekaterina was presented to her at Dom Rebyonka No. 2, the baby appeared too sickly and something was “off” about her.

    Had the evening had progressed as planned, she had every intention of informing Sergei Tolkoch and Gennady after Thanksgiving dinner that night that she would not be taking Yekaterina back to the United States.

    She told Daniel first, while I was talking to the police through Lena with Cyril’s slowly-mortifying body in the corner. We both tried, in our horrible states of mind, to tell her not to make that decision yet, but Linda had made up her mind.

    She told me right then that something wasn’t “right” about Yekaterina; the baby was too thin and sickly for her to handle. Her eyes, Linda later said, appeared yellowish to her (a condition not even Cyril had had) and that she had not anticipated a baby being so sick and thin.

    She, too, said there had been some unrelated occurrences all the way from Indiana to Russia that just gave her the feeling things would not go well. 

    Her first plane had to be evacuated before takeoff because of a fuel leak or some similar problem. She hadn’t slept a wink in the almost 20 hours it had taken to get from the Midwest to the Urals. And then there was the tableau we and our late son had presented in the hotel lobby upon her arrival.

    Like us, she had done her research about Russian babies in orphanages; she too had been told that the babies would be thin and off the charts as compared to American infants.  

    But the reality was that when Yekaterina was presented to her, she had been complete shocked to see a baby so thin and underweight at eight months of age (just like we had been). That was a risk she was not willing to take with the child’s health.

    Lena informed us that there would be an autopsy done the next day on Cyril’s body by the orphanage director. We were instructed to stick around the hotel, for the next day would be a busy one for everybody involved — except us, really. (This was all that happened. Unlike Automne’s Amrex-placed adoption, the facilitators did not feel a need to try to get us to say something that would or could put some of the blame on us). 

    Linda was then driven to the Hotel Nichols. What happened to her there will be told presently.

    Finally, at 10 p.m., everyone had left and we were all alone in our room. Without the slightest hesitation, we took down Cyril’s travel crib, folded the blanket up, and took all of the clothes and toys we had brought for him out of our suitcase. We piled everything on the chair he had died on.  

    It was quite a nice stack. We even added the formula, diapers, baby wipes, the German diaper rash ointment that had made a noticeable dent in his horrible inflammation and all the bottled baby food we had bought for him as well.

    Somebody’s child was going to be well-dressed and -fed once the Cases left Perm, and it probably wasn’t going to be the babies left behind at Dom Rebyonok #2.

    We barely had time to ruminate on all that had transpired when the phone calls began.

    Dennis Gorontsaev, BBAS’s Russian facilitator in the United States, was the first. Whatever else we can say about him now, the first thing he did was a favor by any standard.

    He offered to call our parents in the United States; Daniel gave him our parents’ information and telephone numbers. I was physically unable to speak to anybody.

    We were to later learn that Denise was in North Carolina, celebrating Thanksgiving, and had been driving. She took the call from her cell phone and had to pull off the side of the road when the news hit her about Cyril’s death.

    True to his word, Mr. Gorontsaev notified our families via telephone.  We needn’t tell you it ruined everybody’s holiday.

    My father was pulled out of work after his boss received a hysterical telephone call from my mother; he thought I had died and that the Russians had killed me; Daniel’s mother slid to the floor upon hearing of Cyril’s death, recalling the death of one of his brothers from Hodgkin’s disease nine years earlier; Daniel’s father and brother were all set to put the turkey into the oven when the call came.

    Daniel’s mother adroitly asked Dennis if we would be getting our money back — a smooth move on her part that would have repercussions later.

    Do you know what it is like having to hear your mother and father sobbing 5,000 miles away for the grandchild they never got to see or hold?  Do you know what it is like being so far away from home at a time of great tragedy and not having your family there to help comfort you? Daniel and I do.

    We attempted to sleep that night, but only Daniel actually did, and then only for an hour or two.  

    I lay awake, my stomach still aching, my head still pounding. Cyril’s face in death wouldn’t leave my mind. 

    I knew his soul was resting, but there was still an unease I felt in the room, the question of why he had died and why nobody had been upfront to us about how sick that baby really was.

    Then another thought entered my mind. The image of Anguel lying there dead as well.

    Was this what being an orphan was all about — sickness, greed and death? What if we traveled for Anguel and he died too? Was adopting him worth going through all this chaos, heartache, and spending all the money only to have him die just like Cyril?  

    Daniel advised me not to dwell on it. There would be time enough for that when we got home.

    The calls resumed. My parents called again from a friend’s house after Thanksgiving dinner; Daniel’s mother called, Daniel’s father, my uncle. It didn’t stop, and we were grateful for our families as never before.

    At approximately 2 a.m. Perm time, we received a telephone call from the agency.  Wendy Stamper was on the telephone asking for “Linda.” 

    I knew who was on the line and informed her that it was Elizabeth on the line at the Hotel Mikos. 

    Denise Hubbard then got on the telephone and asked what happened. I lay in bed and said “The baby died. That’s what happened.”

    She said the Russians might try to offer us another referral. Was Cyril some sort of interchangeable commodity?  

    If we said yes to this preposterous offer, would they want another $5,600 out of us?  And why would we accept another referral from Dom Rebyonka No. 2? (As if, also, we would take a child without having a doctor review the medicals. It was just asking for trouble).

    This was truly disgusting. I told her that under no circumstances would we accept another referral from Perm. We didn’t have the money or the inclination. We had gone to Russia to pick up Cyril — not a replacement to be handed so callously over to us. 

    She then asked about Linda Wright and her situation. Word gets around fast when people fail to sell children. I said that I would not spread Linda’s information and that they should speak with Linda directly (which they later did, and that’s a story in and of itself). 

    Denise then asked me about Anguel. We could not even think about Anguel right then and I told her that in our present state of mind we could not begin to think about him and to deal with us when we got home.

    I did tell her, though, that it would mean the world to us if she could at least get us a video and photos of him when she traveled in a few more days to Bulgaria to hand out the Christmas gifts. She said she would, and she did.

    She asked what they could do for us; I said get us the hell out of Perm and Russia. She also made arrangements with the travel agency to get our flights updated, and for that I am thankful to her.

    This hellish Thanksgiving ended with a bizarre final note. Since the desk staff had left the phone to forward to our room, on the reasonable assumption that we would be the only guests receiving any calls, we wound up fielding a call from a man in Milan, Italy, trying to book a room. 

    He knew enough English for us to establish who he was, but not enough to figure out that we weren’t the hotel staff. He had to call twice before Daniel got him to understand that we weren’t the people who could help him and he’d have to call back later.

    It actually gave us a laugh, and a brief distraction from the otherwise unrelenting gloom.

    Then at five a.m., my stomach rebelled. I told Daniel, “Oh, no. I have to vomit!” and ran to the bathroom, naked and retching into the toilet.  Daniel followed me in, looking down at me. I said “Why are you watching me vomit?”  He said, “I was worried about you and thought that you might really be sick.”

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