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Hoping for a reunion

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  • Hoping for a reunion

    Hoping for a reunion

    BETH COHEN , Staff Writer 03/09/2004

    FRANCONIA – Twins Sophia and Joseph Salem have never met their four older
    brothers and sisters.

    Those siblings comprise two other sets of twins – sisters Nadia and Vera‚
    who are 11‚ and brothers Sergey and Nikolai‚ who are 10.

    But later this spring‚ the three sets of twins will reunite in the Pskov
    region of Russia. And with Russian court approval‚ Sophia and Joseph’s
    adoptive parents‚ Lisa and Hythem Salem of Cobble Court‚ will adopt the
    four siblings and bring them to live in their Franconia home.

    “I will share my toys with them‚” said Sophia‚ 6‚ who’s older than
    Joseph by a minute. “I want to hug and kiss them.”

    Sophia and Joseph‚ who attend kindergarten at Franconia Elementary School‚
    were adopted by Lisa and Hythem on Jan. 18‚ 1999.

    “The fact is they are the brother and sister of these children and you
    can’t live with the time and moment when Joseph and Sophia say‚ ‘What did
    you do to save my brothers and sisters?’” said Hythem‚ 43‚ a senior
    network engineer for Motorola in Horsham.

    Hythem said he and Lisa decided it would be better for Sophia and Joseph to be
    reunited with their siblings.

    “To see a family reunited‚ and to raise them under the same roof – it’s
    going to be exciting‚” he said. “Even with the challenges that lie
    ahead‚ that will be...water under the bridge.”

    Hythem and Lisa both said they think Nadia‚ Vera‚ Sergey and Nikolai would
    probably not have a happy future if they remained in Russia.

    The girls live in an orphanage 170 miles from their brothers.

    Few people are willing to adopt children older than age 5‚ and at age 16 in
    Russia‚ orphan children are emancipated and left to fend for themselves‚
    often without skills‚ they said.

    “That’s really a sorry future and we just can’t live with that‚”
    Hythem said.

    Adopting an entire family’s children is rare‚ according to Kelli
    Myers-Gottmoller‚ a family services supervisor in adoption for the Lutheran
    Children & Family Services in Roslyn.

    “When children come into the system in Russia‚ the children generally are
    not kept together‚” she said.

    The LSFS is handling the home study for the Salem family‚ to ensure they are
    emotionally‚ financially and physically prepared to take on four more adopted

    “It’s a heartbreaking thing it happened this way‚ but I am happy we can
    reunite brothers and sisters from the same birth parents‚” Hythem said.
    “I am sad for the birth parents‚ but I am happy for us to be able to raise
    all of the children under one roof.”

    Although rare‚ the Salem family will adopt all of the children in part
    because Lisa has maintained contact for six years with Russian officials to
    check on the well-being of Nadia‚ Vera‚ Sergey and Nikolai.

    She said she’s thought about a possible reunion since adopting Sophia and
    Joseph‚ but it was not possible until Vera‚ Nadia‚ Sergey and Nikolai
    became orphans 18 months ago. Their birth parents‚ whom Lisa declined to
    identify by name‚ had given up the children due to severe poverty.

    Sophia and Joseph were put up for adoption at birth‚ spending the first six
    months of their life in a Russian hospital. Then they were placed in an
    orphanage for another five months before they were adopted by the Salems.

    “My husband and I could have had children on our own‚ but we thought about
    it and wondered why we should have children on our own when there are so many
    children out there without parents that we could adopt‚” said Lisa‚ 39‚
    who works from home and writes books.

    The Salems learned on Dec. 27 that they could adopt Nadia‚ Vera‚ Sergey and

    “Sometimes you have to listen to your heart and do what you believe‚”
    Lisa said.

    In mid-April‚ Lisa and Hythem will take Sophia and Joseph to Russia to meet
    their siblings.

    Then in June‚ Lisa and Hythem will return to Russia to bring the four
    children home. Sophia and Joseph will stay at home with a family friend.

    Lisa and Hythem said they know there will be many challenges ahead‚ but they
    aren’t worried.

    “Life’s hardest journeys give you the most joy‚” Lisa said.

    Right now the Salems are focusing on the reunion.

    When Nikolai and Sergey arrive in the United States‚ Joseph plans to teach
    them how to play baseball and football.

    Sophia said she plans to teach her Russian-speaking sisters the English

    Lisa said she realizes the children will have more complex needs that also must
    be addressed.

    Those needs include buying new clothing‚ furniture‚ more food‚ toys‚
    books and bicycles. They also will have to provide medical care and build an
    addition onto their three-bedroom home.

    “I know we could convert our living room into a bedroom‚ but then we still
    need another bedroom‚” Lisa said.

    They are seeking help from the community‚ whether it’s money‚ clothing‚
    furniture or a builder willing to construct an addition onto the Salem home for
    free or at a reduced cost.

    Money is tight and the Salems already have cashed in their retirement
    account‚ she said.

    “I feel bad because I’ve never had to ask for anything‚” Lisa said.
    “But we have to put our pride aside.”

    She estimates it will cost at least $51‚000 to adopt the children‚ provide
    for their needs and construct the addition to their home.

    The Salems also need to buy a new vehicle that will accommodate at least eight
    people. Their existing Honda Odyssey can only seat seven.

    The Salems have set up a bank account at the American Heritage Credit Union in
    Horsham‚ where people can make monetary donations.

    They also are accepting other types of donations – clothing‚ furniture and
    other non-monetary items – at their Franconia home. They ask that people call
    them at xxxxx before dropping off donations.

    A good friend will come and bail you out of jail . . . but, a true friend will
    be sitting next to you saying, "**** . . . that was fun!"

  • #2
    Hoping for a reunion

    This story has been making the rounds. The family has made itself a begging
    site to pay for the costs of the adoptions:

    Elizabeth Case