It wasn’t just any courtroom. It was a Russian courtroom, in Chita, Siberia – The City of Exiles. The famed city in Russia where prominent intellectuals, including the Decembrist and many more were exiled. A “closed city” that foreigners and many Russian citizens weren’t allowed to visit until the collapse of the Soviet Union. I dropped my pen and the courtroom echoed. Looking over to the steel and glass prisoner holding cell that lined the wall reminded me where I was standing and flooded my head (knees and stomach) with the overwhelming lack of control I had in swaying the judge’s verdict. His yes or no would dictate our fate…and hers.

We weren’t in trouble with the law. Although it felt as if we were fighting for our lives and in a sense, we were. It was this judge who would dictate if Princess Two would be allowed to legally join our family.

t was this judge who would formalize what we already knew – she was our daughter. It was this judge who an hour later hit his gavel and said “da”.

It was this judge who made it official; Princess Two was now legally our daughter, or at least she would be in a few weeks per the rules of international adoptions in Russia. (A few months after bringing Princess Two home Russia banned adoptions from the United States. My heart – and prayers – go out to the 46 families who didn’t complete their adoptions.)

international adoptions in Russia

After the celebratory shot of Russian vodka we headed out into the Siberian winter to go shopping and buy a few mementos from Chita to give to Princess Two. It was on our little shopping excursion The Husband reminded me he needed to buy me a “push present”. In case you’ve never heard this term – it’s the gift the dad gives the mom after she has a baby. Hence the term “push”. Since there wasn’t really any pushing going on with Princess Two – just a lot of paperwork and pulling of the heart-strings – a push present never really crossed my mind. I’m never one to turn down jewelry though and so we set out to find the perfect piece. Something symbolic. Something that represented Russia and Chita, yet it needed to represent the next chapter in her life – having a family.

We soon learned one’s selection of places to purchase jewelry in Chita is severely limited. After more than an hour on the quest, we were about to give up and wait to find something on our next trip into Moscow. And then I saw it. The bracelet.

The colors of the Amber rainbow. Yellow. Orange. Red. Green. All outlined in silver. Stunning. Simple yet elegant. The stones were mined in Russia; 90% of the world’s extractable amber is in Russia. They were perfectly shaped teardrops. The perfect representation of one of the many meanings the stone symbolizes – protection and assuring promises.

shopping chita russia

We paid for my new “push present” and I wore it proudly out of the store carrying photographs from local artists, stacking dolls and wooden carved boxes to give to our little girl when she woke up from her nap.

I practiced my Russian with our translator during the car ride back to the orphanage. How do you say, “Do you need a drink?” and “Are you hungry?” Am I saying “I love you” properly?”

Princess Two entered the room rubbing her eyes from having just woken up, saw the goldfish crackers in my hand and smiled. I asked her if she was hungry. She answered and came and sat next to me. Lifting her up and placing her in my lap I told her, for the first time my heart would let me say it out loud, and my tongue could speak it to where she could fully understand me – “I love you”. Playing with my new bracelet, she looked up into my eyes, and for the first time she hugged me.

It’s just a bracelet. It’s just a thing. But that thing represents so much…love and new beginnings.

international adoptions in Russia


Elaine Schoch

Elaine N. Schoch

Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.


  1. Beautiful piece Elaine! Yes, sometimes a souvenir means so much more than the item itself.

  2. Such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. One of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever read. Your hugging photo says it all – that is a hug that says “I am your mom” more than anything else I can imagine.

  4. yes when a travel souvenir goes beyond that to something cherished it is amazing, thanks for sharing

  5. Wow, Elaine, this is a heartwarming post. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story about your family. Yes, a material thing is not what is of true value–it is the memory associated with it.

    1. Yes, the memory is what is so valuable… Thanks for reading. =)

  6. Wow, this is an incredibly moving piece! Congratulations on overcoming such a big obstacle dealing with the scary court room and judge in the first place, but also in finding your perfect souvenir, or ‘push present’.

    I think the story of accidentally smuggling blow darts back in from Indonesia falls quite short in comparison. 😉

    1. Thanks. I’m a bit intrigued (and scared) to ask about you bringing blow darts back from Indonesia. =)

  7. Wow, what a great article! I love the bracelet, it seems perfect–it’s great when a “thing” can represent so much!

  8. This brought tears to my eyes. What a lovely piece and thank you for sharing it today on #TravelTuesday. I love reading about adoptions stories as it is something I wish we would be able to do one day. That last photo is so priceless! Love it.

    1. Thanks! If you ever decided to adopt and have some questions feel free to ping me offline.

  9. Wow. Thank you for sharing this story as part of Travel Tuesday. It was beautiful, and as Bonnie said, that last photo is priceless. What an incredible story….

  10. Malea Melis says:

    Beautiful, Elaine! I love that The Husband was so thoughtful! Princess Two has a wonderful family!

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