GREECE — Andrei Fusilli, a fifth-grader at St. Lawrence School, still remembers life in a Russian orphanage.
“I remember my first toy was a big (stuffed) dog,” he said. “I got along with my roommates. I remember every day, for supper, we ate soup.”
Memories of Russia came back to the child when Inna Spiridonova, a dancer with the Moscow Ballet, visited the school Oct. 13 to talk to the students about her work. Spiridonova said she was touring the area to audition child dancers for a performance of “The Nutcracker.”
Andrei said he enjoyed meeting the Russian dancer. However, he couldn’t remember that much Russian, he said.
“It wasn’t like I was a grown-up, because I didn’t know all of the words in Russian,” he said.
Andrei may have forgotten his Russian, but his parents, Mary K. and Tony Fusilli, will apparently never forget the trip to Russia that led them to adopt him five years ago. The Fusillis, who also have a 22-year-old adopted daughter, had long searched for another child to adopt in America, but no one seemed to be the right fit for their family, Mary said.
“As we’ve explained to Andrei, we were looking for our child, and we thought our child was in America, but he wasn’t,” she said.
The Fusillis learned about Andrei’s existence through an adoption Web site, and found out that he was living in the Children’s Home of Cheboksary, 400 miles east of Moscow. The Fusillis flew to Russia to visit the state-run orphanage, and were introduced to Andrei, who had already learned of them through a photograph book the Fusillis had sent him. Mary said that when Andrei’s caretakers at the orphanage introduced him, he made sure the Fusillis’ appearance matched the photos they’d sent.
“My husband’s a retired policeman, and I said ‘It’s the right one alright, he’s already IDing people,'” Fusilli recalled with a chuckle.
Although the orphanage was somewhat spartan, and its children wore ill-fitting, donated clothes, they all appeared to be well-loved, according to Fusilli. She added that after flying home to America, the boy took a couple of weeks before he grieved leaving the orphanage, which Fusilli actually expected, since it was sign that he had been treated well by his former caretakers.
Eventually, Andrei began adjusting to his new home, and learned the English alphabet in about two months, she said. The Fusillis and Andrei both have taught each other words from their native tongues, she said, adding that he was excited to meet the Moscow dancer.
“He was just happy to talk to someone from Moscow,” Fusilli said, noting that one of her boy’s fondest memories was of the Fusillis taking him to the Moscow Circus when they first met him.
Fusilli said their faith kept them going through the arduous process it took to adopt Andrei.
“Russia is one of the hardest, most demanding countries to adopt from,” she said, remembering a judge’s thorough grilling before she allowed the Fusillis to take Andrei. “If it weren’t for faith, I don’t think we would have gone through the ropes.”
For Andrei, the Fusillis’ perseverance has apparently paid off. He said that he likes St. Lawrence, and favors soccer, bowling, swimming and spelling. He noted that his “lowest grade in spelling was an ‘A’.” The boy also said that he likes his family and schoolmates.
“I have a lot of friends, and I’m expecting to have the same friends when I get older,” he said.