Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/glendale/articles/1108kennedy06Z2.html

Brave kids in a new world
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 8, 2003
Pat Flannery

Once orphans, 3 from Russia adjust in Glendale

Three-year-old Anya Kennedy is a vivacious bundle of energy, and when she throws herself on a chair in the living room and announces, "I'm a pumpkin," there isn't a person alive who'd argue with her.

The fact that she's able to say it in English, in the comfort of her new family's Valley home, is amazing. Four months ago, she and brothers Kostya, 12, and Yuri, 7, were worlds away, living as orphans in northwest Russia.

Today, they are easing into a new life courtesy of Loren and Kevin Kennedy, 41-year-old Glendale professionals who adopted them and brought them home in July.

"We're sort of atypical," Kevin Kennedy said. "We were definitely, in the embassy in Moscow, the only ones with three kids."

The Kennedys are heroes to their friends for taking responsibility for three youngsters at once, but Kennedy shrugs off the plaudits. He said it was a perfect match for the childless couple, who have been married since 1999. They wanted a family but were not prepared to start with an infant. Instead, they were able to adopt age-appropriate children.

Their journey began last year when the Kennedys spotted a newspaper ad about Family Hope. The international organization brings orphans aged 4 to 12, usually from Russia, to the United States, where they stay with host families for three weeks. They attend day camps crammed with activities, from English lessons to crafts.

It gives the kids some sense of hope, but "it's also a great way for families . . . to experience the child for three weeks in their home," said Morgan Bates of International Family Services, an adoption agency associated with Family Hope.

The Kennedys hosted Yuri last summer and grew attached. They found out he had a younger sister, and embraced the idea of adopting her as well. Both were living in an orphanage in Velikije Luki near Latvia. Then the Kennedys learned of an older brother living at boarding school and camp a few hours away in Opochka.

"The oldest was adamant about being adopted along with his siblings," Kennedy said.

The children had been taken from their mother by Russian authorities because of severe neglect. Their father had committed suicide. Sometimes, Yuri resorted to begging for food in the street to sustain them.

"That story can be told 100,000 times over there," Kennedy lamented.

Once the decision was made to adopt all three, there were10 months of paperwork. Kennedy visited Russia once, then returned last summer with his wife for adoption proceedings. The biggest hitch was calming little Anya as she screamed for most of the jet ride home.

Today, the brothers are ensconced in public schools while Anya is attending a church preschool. Kennedy said "they're all learning English . . . and developing friendships," adjusting quickly to the change in culture.

But they're also getting a taste of rules that they weren't used to in Russia. Kostya, for example, often was free to roam the woods near his camp. That doesn't work in a city like Phoenix.

"It's all about safety until they get the language down," Kennedy said.

They've taken to their new life, and they're glad they're together in sunny Arizona.

"They think America is like a big playground," Kennedy said.