A Queens couple, fighting the Russian government to adopt a 1-year-old boy, has joined the chorus of prospective parents and elected officials calling for the repeal of Russia's ban on American adoptions.
"I don't think there's a word to describe what we're going through, to think that our little boy could grow up in an orphanage," said mom-in-waiting Dania Mavros.
After four years of unsuccessful attempts to have a child of their own, Mavros and her husband, Nick, decided to try adoption. Last December, the couple traveled to Russia, where they met and bonded with a boy named Ari.
"He let us hug him, he let us rock him. We were a family," said Dania Mavros. The couple returned to New York and filled a room in their Little Neck home with books, toys and clothes for the boy they expected to be theirs in just a matter of weeks.
But just 11 days after the Mavros' visit, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the law stopping the adoption of Russian children by Americans.
According to U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, Russian lawmakers approved the adoption ban in retaliation for U.S. legislation imposing sanctions on Russians linked to human rights abuses.
Israel and 50 other U.S. lawmakers have written Putin asking that the law be eliminated. So far, there has been no response, Israel said.
"Children should not be held hostage like this," Israel said.
"My message to President Putin is, Mr. Putin, tear down this law," added the congressman, revising President Ronald Reagan's famous admonition about the Berlin wall.
According to published reports, Russian officials have expressed concerns about abuse by American families. In 2009, a Russian toddler adopted by a Virginia couple died after being left in a hot car. In 2010, a Tennessee woman put her 7-year-old adopted son on a plane back to Russia with a note describing the child as violent.
Up to 1,000 U.S. families were moving toward a Russian adoption when the ban was imposed.
Dania and Nick Mavros remain hopeful for a happy ending. The adoption matter is before the Russian Supreme Court, said Israel. The court has approved adoptions finalized before the ban, and the hope is that the justices will also approve adoptions that were in progress before the new law was enacted.
"This is just unfair to us and our children," said Dania Mavros.
"We love him. We want to bring him home," added Nick Mavros.