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Russian boys visiting here hope to make Hudson permanent home

Shaking hands with the two young boys staying with the Hawksford family, they look like they belong there, about the age of brothers Max and Cal, all sitting together having morning cereal.

But Dmitri Bondarev, 9, and Nikolai Fedrochenko, 11, are a long way from where they were born. The boys are here for a month as part of a program run by Reaching Arms International, an adoption service that matches American host families with Russian orphans ages 5-15. This summer there are about 20 children who are living with host families for three to five weeks. Most the children who come are adopted in the months that follow, including most of the children in this most recent group.

Dima and Koyla, as they like to be called, came to the Hawksford of Hudson after the family originally set to have them needed to pull out of the arrangement. A friend of the Hawksfords, Kelly Schnobrich, told Mary what had happened and she and her husband, Tom, agreed to have the boys come live with them. The Schnobrichs adopted their son Alex from the same orphanage where Dima and Kolya live. All three boys were friends there and had a chance to see each other again just recently.

Dima and Kolya will be with the Hawksfords for five weeks and after just two weeks, family is very attached to the boys. The Hawkfords, who have four children - Meg, 15, Jessi, 13 and twin sons Max and Cal, 10, also do foster care. But this is the first time they have taken in children who don't speak any English. But according to Mary and the rest of the family, the language thing hasn't been a big deal. They have a Russian phrase book and the children are quickly teaching each other the Russian and English names for things. When that doesn't work, there is always sign language. And according to Mary, smiles, hugs and laughter are universal.

The boys arrived at the Minneapolis airport after 26 hours of travel. It was after midnight when the family pulled into their rural Hudson home. But any fatigue the two felt disappeared quickly when they spotted the bikes the Hawksfords had borrowed for them to use during their visit. The orphanage only had one bike for all the children to use. Riding time was a precious commodity. The boys were so excited about their own bikes that they rode around the neighborhood until 1:30 a.m. The next morning around 6:30 a.m. Mary was having coffee when Kolya came downstairs. "I motioned like I was eating cereal to see if he was hungry. He shook his head and made a pedaling motion and went back outside and rode for more than an hour."

Tom Hawksford said the boys love being outdoors. They hunt with slingshots, play soccer, have gone fishing and swimming, and play with Max and Cal. One day Tom noticed Kolya looking at his tools. "I gave him a few things and within minutes he had turned over his bike and was tuning it up. He's very good with his hands."

The boys are well behaved according to Mary, have good common sense and very self-sufficient. They clear their dishes, pick up after themselves and are anything but picky eaters. They especially love fresh fruit and vegetables. Tomatoes, cucumbers and apricots were the breakfast menu recently. They also appear very healthy and strong. "At night at the orphanage, they wrestle one another for fun. They do it here too. They never get carried away but they have such fun doing it."

The Hawksford children say the language barrier hasn't been a big problem for any of them and all agree the boys "fit right in."

Finding a family

Both Mary and Tom Hawksford have clearly become attached to the boys and have considered adoption themselves. "They are in our hearts for sure. But as much as we might want them, we know there's a family out there who needs them and that would be the best thing," said Mary.

The Hawksfords are members of Faith Community Church and have put the word out in their church and in the community about the boys. The response has been very positive and they are hopeful that the boys will have a home to return to once they go back to Russia.

Once a family decides to adopt them, they will undergo a home study and all the other requirements of an international adoption. The boys must return to Russia at the end of the month and parents must go to Russia to adopt them legally there. Reaching Arms International will assist with the process. The cost of an international adoption can exceed $10,000 per child.

Mary said the boys want to stay together, although they are not biological brothers. "The truth is they are brothers in every sense of the word. They take care of each other and it is important that they stay together."

Tom says one of the best times of the day with the boys is after they have gone to bed. "They don't do a lot of talking around us but once they are in bed, you should hear them. It seems like they are kind of debriefing each other about the day. They talk and chatter away and then they laugh about something. It's a great way to fall asleep."

The Hawksfords are hopeful one of the families that has met the boys is close to adopting them, but they say anyone who might be interested in them is still welcome to come and meet them informally at their home.

Said Mary, "I wish we could sum up how good they are and how great it is to be around them. They are just the best boys and they would be great sons and brothers."

For more information about Dima and Koyla contact Mary or Tom Hawksford at 386-7403. For more information about Reaching Arms International call 763-591-0791.

Meg Heaton can be reached at

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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