Marina Lareau's life is in Moline, but part of her heart remains in her native Russia.
Marina was almost 4 years old and living in a Russian orphanage when she was adopted by Hector and Liz Lareau 11 years ago. Now, at 15, she does well in school, runs track and volunteers with children at the YMCA with her adopted brother Andrei, whom the Lareaus also adopted from Russia.
"I had a very, very lucky chance to have a new opportunity to be who I am," Marina said Friday.
She said it's heart-breaking that other Russian orphans won't have the same opportunity.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that bans Americans from adopting Russian children. The law, which takes effect Tuesday, is expected to interrupt the potential adoptions of more than 50 children.
The restriction is believed to be a response to a new U.S. law seeking sanctions for alleged human rights violations by the Russian government.
UNICEF estimates there are about 740,000 Russian children not in parental custody, but only about 18,000 Russians on the waiting list to adopt a child. Currently, the U.S. is the biggest destination for adopted Russian children; more than 60,000 have come to America over the past two decades.
Terry Herbig and Terri Gleize were part of a 1999 humanitarian aid trip that brought toys, medicine, toothbrushes and other items to Russian orphans. They said the children they met were starved for attention and affection.
"They just hung all over us," Ms. Gleize said. The orphanage staffdid their best, she said, but the childrens' meals often were small bowls of soup and potatoes. Many of the children were developing teeth problems because of their diet, she said.
Many of the orphans had disabilities and were left to the system because of them, according to Mr. Herbig who documented the trip as a photojournalist with The Rock Island Argus and The Dispatch in Moline.
He called the adoption ban "absurd."
The Lareaus saidthe orphanages they saw in Russia were poor. Although the staff seemed to care and did what they could for their wards, the children didn't have much, the couple said.
Liz Lareaus said she believes the current need for adoptive parents is probably as great as it was when they were in Russia. Orphans are going to lose a chance for a better life, she said.
She said she's hopeful the adoption ban may be lifted. She noted this is not the first time adoptions have been the target of politics.About the time they were trying to adopt, new rules made getting Marina and Andrei more difficult.
Hector Lareaus called the ban a tragic example of political gamesmanship and spite.
"The victims are children," he said.
Marina Lareau sees herself as a bit of an ambassador from Russia. She does not want the adoption ban to define people's opinion of the whole nation.
It was a bad decision, she said, and is "closing Russia up."
Today is Monday, Dec. 9, the 343rd day of 2013. There are 22 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: All last week were favored with the most delightful Indian summer weather. The mercury ranged from 40 to 65 degrees and the ice is entirely gone out of the river. 1888 — 125 years ago: W.D. Reimers was given charge of the Weyerhaeuser-Denkmann mill in Davenport. 1913 — 100 years ago: Eight hundred or more tons of earth in six landslides, covered 38th Street for a distance of 200 feet near 7th Avenue and destroyed much property. 1938 — 75 years ago: Patrolman Joseph H. Schnelder, of Moline, has been awarded four medals for proficiency in marksmanship. He is the crack pistol shot of the Rock Island district. 1963 — 50 years ago: For the 83rd year, George Frederic Handel's "Messiah" was performed at Augustana College ushering in the spiritual aspect of the Christmas season. 1988 — 25 years ago: A water main break Thursday night, the fourth this week, affected 35 homes near the 2200 block of 39th Street, Rock Island, city officials said today.