Thursday, February 12, 2015

Face to Face with Igor

Part Four  

 (Begin with Part One of the Family Connection series here)

I first encountered Igor Romanovich Sudzhashvili in January 2002, in a stack of official documents translated into English from Russian. He was just a name, and that name stirred no particular emotion in me, as we prepared to adopt his son.

In truth, I was preoccupied by the copious paperwork required for an adoption that already threatened to send me into panic mode. I had no time for additional sentiment. I was on auto pilot, skimming information, but interested only in completing required paperwork that needed to be done, yesterday,

From that same stack, Liana's name had tugged at my heart, as had baby Rostilav's. They were helpless children. But Igor was an adult. The record stated that he was incarcerated. The mother was charged with neglect. A family was imploding.  What responsibility did he bear on the unfortunate state of his children? But I had not walked for even a inch in his apparently difficult shoes. I could not judge this man I would never know. I was just required to love his son.  

Roma's stories about his father, unlike the animated, joy-filled stories of Liana, were rare. There were a few, and I will share those at another time. Mostly, my mother is the one who kept our curiosity alive about Igor. Many times over the years, she wistfully studied the handsome features of my youngest son and rhetorically pondered, "Wouldn't you love to see a picture of his father?"

My mother died in October. I have thought of her many times since this new story we are living started to unfold in late December. She would have loved to hear the details, and see the pictures. I start to call and tell her new updates, and then I remember that she is not there. I like to believe my Godly mother, Honey, is "in the know" in Heaven! 

Thirteen years would pass before I would learn new and surprising information about Igor. The information would come from Igor's cousin, Lia,

Shortly after we located Roma's sister Liana, Lia reached out to me on Facebook. She was overjoyed when learning from Liana that Roma, lost for so long, was found! Her family had tried to help from neighboring Georgia when the mother lost custody of the children. But they were not allowed to cross the border into Russia to the north. After several attempts to save Roma, they learned of his adoption.

Lia's first messages to me in early January were praises to God. She called us "heroes" for saving Roma and loving him, and now sharing his pictures and his life with them again. Never once have I felt like a hero. Lia confessed that at first she cried every time she read my messages. I did the same with hers. Our communication is aided by Lia's beautiful nineteen-year-old daughter Elene, who reads and writes English very well. I am eager for the day we will all meet in person.I am just beginning to understand the proud and noble heritage of Roma's family. I am seeing my son with different eyes. One day he will understand the magnitude of this great and merciful Gift of revelation.

Igor at 5 or 6
Lia was born the same year as Igor in 1965. She remembers with love that she and Igor were more like sister and brother than cousins growing up. Lia's parents tried to intervene in young Igor's unhappy childhood. His mother had abandoned him when he was little. His father, Roman, who traveled long distances for extended periods for work, returned one day and found his wife gone, and young Igor relinquished to an orphanage. He went through the lengthy process of bringing Igor home. When Roman finally remarried, his new wife was harsh on the boy. Whenever possible, Lia's mother, Igor's aunt, brought him to spend time with them and lavish him with love.

Lia described Igor as sweet, sensitive, stubborn, and difficult at times. (Hmm. . . ) The difficult parts she blames on his painful childhood. Lia's affection for Igor is deep and genuine.

Lia's stories reveal Igor's love for Lia, too. She was his confidente who he trusted with his joys and his sorrows. The gifts he gave her of his time and talents remain priceless treasures to her.

As photos started loading on my computer screen from Liana and Lia, I sat dumbfounded! My mother, who was so curious about this man, could not have anticipated how much father and son resembled each other. Here I sat, face to face with Igor. Roma's father. This man whom I had felt nothing beyond indifference all these years sat starring back at me, almost pleading, reaching out to me across the decades. I finally understood his brokenness and pain.

Igor at 17

As Lia and Liana make Igor known to me, my deep compassion for him grows. Such a beautiful young man, so like his son, my son, who he never got to know. A young man filled with potential, and hopes, and dreams.

Surprises meet me at every corner.

I have shed buckets of tears for my new-found family from Russia and Georgia. I have cried for Igor, for Lia, for Liana, for Roma, for myself.

By the time I got to know and love him, Igor Sudzhashvili had been dead for eight years.

Continue here.

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