Greetings everyone, I’m Bela Wolf, a single mother living on Long Island with my son Bobby and our giant rescue cat Clyde.
‘She Was Left Alone’ is my first book and the true story about my adoption efforts in frozen northern Siberia.
It wasn’t an easy challenge, traveling around the polar cap, and I immediately discovered I was caught up in an adoption scam with a disreputable adoption agency located in another state.
My story started when I met the cutest Siberian child named Karine while walking on a local beach one Sunday on Long Island. The child was part of a Russian adoption “Camp” program.
Every summer for seven years, a saintly woman on Long Island arranged for one hundred Russian orphans to come to New York for three weeks to meet and get to know prospective adopting parents.
This camp program ultimately found families for over one thousand children. The program was inspirational and so direly needed considering the millions of children living underground all over Russia, alone and vulnerable.
Karine was going to be welcomed into a family nearby so I got to know her new mother.
She started bringing Karine to my home every day to swim in my pool and play with my toddler Johnny.
I became attached to Karine quickly, but that was the plan all along. Her new mother soon told me she was dropping the adoption due to a lack of information given to her regarding Karine’s orphanage, location, etc.
She was a reporter for 60 Minutes but could find no information about any part of northern Siberia that was real.
She was correct, Russia gives out little or no information about many regions in Siberia – especially the regions around their secreted pipelines.
This mother knew that I had been a military flight interpreter and I have been around the world a few times. I also spoke multiple languages.
In an unholy game of chicken, I decided that I was best prepared to make the questionable journey to bring back this 5-year-old girl who was obviously ill and in need of medical attention.
The mother quickly called the adoption agency in charge of this camp and dropped both her adoption and Karine’s chance at having a loving family.
I called the adoption agency and paid the forty thousand dollars they required for the adoption and found a Russian woman willing to teach me my 7th language.
Next, I started the daunting paperwork in earnest and changed my office into a bedroom for Karine.
A neighbor told me I was foolish to redecorate before I actually adopted the child but I was on a mission to go get her and failure was not an option.
I have always always been quite tenacious, and I do very well in different cultures, having the ability to blend in when I have to, having been to places of devastation and desolation.
I have been around the world and around the block and endured situations of tension and hostility, so I was prepared.
I was the last new parent waiting for an adoption hearing. After waiting for months and hearing nothing, I asked the adoption agency for my money back or I’d call my attorney.
The next day I was given one week to arrange a trip that required four flights to arrive at a town far east and north of Moscow.
Luckily, I’m a client of Phil Allen at ProTravel in NYC and he can get anyone anywhere at any time!
My Russian by then was pretty fair, I prepared my court speeches and quickly went to New York City for an expedited visa.
I didn’t know the name of the town or the orphanage, but I was told my “Guide” Olga would meet me in Moscow and help me get me on the necessary flights on Ut Air which would bring me to a small enclave a few thousand miles from Khanty-Mansyisk (a small town at least on their map). I flew into the polar cap.
Upon arrival in a small WWII airplane in the middle of the night, I saw a small snowy town which looked like a square with new small buildings around it and a landing strip on one side.
Siberian pilots take off and land on the ice. My flights were troubling, to say the least.
A man in uniform walked up to me sternly as I exited the airplane and told me nobody knew who I was or what I was doing there, and I was to turn around and go back home.
I was then told that nobody knew who or where my daughter was and I was to get back on the plane and leave.
He then stated that it was a waste of my time because “the girl” was part of a nomadic Khanty tribe and most likely moved on with them.
He said there were no orphanages or courthouses in the area.
I looked him in the eye and told him I was there to adopt my daughter, so some things had to be figured out. I am a New Yorker, I knew immediately that he was lying. I insisted on staying.
The temperature was 50 below when I landed in the middle of nowhere. Ice chunks hit me in the face as I stood there baffled, tired and angry.
I realized that I needed somewhere to spend the night, and told Olga that I was not happy and she was to find us a place for the night. I also told her not to speak English to me in front of anybody going forward.
Olga became hostile and said she wanted to leave, so I offered her money to stay, thinking there was a reason she helped me fly there and Karine was probably nearby.
Our relationship became hostile and stayed that way for weeks.
Olga wanted to return to Moscow, and I wanted to find and adopt my daughter who had endured a great deal of pain and hardship in her young life.
Two mothers had already rejected this child and I wasn’t going to be the third.
As I would learn soon after, she was slowly dying from respiratory and dental infections and was in dire need of medical attention.
Luckily, I was able to find Karine nearby residing in a local homeless shelter.
I instructed Olga to find a judge and prosecutor and arrange for a flight for them so we could arrange an adoption hearing.
This was an extremely expensive proposition that was unlikely to succeed as Karine did not have an orphanage or family to sign the necessary paperwork in order to relinquish her into my care.
I felt that they thought that I was a strange American woman who flew into an unknown enclave to steal one of their children.
There were many challenges ahead besides arranging an adoption hearing.
After a week I realized that getting adoption the papers for Karine was the easy part.
The difficult challenge would be getting her an exit visa out of Siberia. I was told every day that it would not happen.
I was told Siberian children were needed for the army, and nobody gets an exit visa out of Siberia. I became determined to be the first.
Against everybody’s wishes, I took Karine out of the homeless shelter.
I traveled along the pipeline regions, going from one police station to another, trying to find a policewoman willing to stamp Karine’s Exit Visa.
From Friday afternoon until every Monday morning Olga would leave me alone in a “place” and take Karine with her somewhere for food and lodgings.
She had friends everywhere and I knew they were hiding me from the people in charge of the town.
I had no food or water. and I missed my little boy back home. When they opened the gas line in one region, I thought I would die and he would lose his mother.
My body could not stand the pungent smell of gasoline, and my heart raced.
I endured it all and waited to be picked up on Monday morning.
Since I was alone, and there was nobody around, I took this incident personally.
When I was thirsty, I ran outside to get fresh snow. Soon I became very ill after that weekend, but I had to keep going.
Every day I was told to go home. Soon it became clear nobody was willing to help me attain the exit visa.
Americans are not well-received in many places in northern Siberia, and I was called a baby trafficker every time I went into a police station.
A woman who befriended me in one town found an uncle of Karine’s in jail for murder.
I needed his signature badly. I bent, altered, and ignored many Russian laws while there. but I could not get myself into this gulag to see this murderous uncle.
I begged my new friend to go see him in order to obtain a signature.
She went and he told her he rather see Karine die on Siberian ice than go home with the American “woman”.
I changed my tactics as I walked into every police station and the final one worked.
It was an early Monday morning as I passed a hundred people standing outside of a police station, barrels on fire on the ice and snow, trying to keep warm as they waited to get in.
All of them wait in vain as none of them are permitted to get an exit visa out of Siberia. There are always told to try again in six months. In perpetuity.
I walked up to a policewoman sitting on a desk and told her in clear Russian that if she didn’t stamp my daughter’s exit visa, I would leave my daughter with her.
I told her my daughter needed desperate medical attention as she had respiratory issues and she would die if I could not get her to a hospital -quickly. If that happened, it would be her fault and she could find a place to bury her in the ice somewhere. She looked at me horrified.
I looked her in the eye and put a considerable sum of money on her lap and held it there until she took it. It worked and I finally got my exit visa stamp.
We took the next plane to Moscow and I had a lot of explaining to do at the American Embassy. Apparently people from both countries were watching and following me although nobody ever offered any help. I was basically making loud scenes all over their secreted pipeline region and the people in charge wanted me gone.
Weeks later I arrived home and my PTSD threw up the whole story on paper.
I was a woman with a horrible story and half a brain left to tell it.
I suffered weeks of threats, frustrations, hunger, and frozen tundra to navigate.
A publicist read my tale of hardship and woe and told me to adapt my book to screenplay and submit it to Film Festivals. I did just that and was amazed when my nominations started coming in. Then awards, recognitions…it was shocking the love I received from most everyone in the Film Festival community.
I was awarded “Screenwriter Of The Month” by The International Screenwriters Association.
A write-up can be found here.
She Was Left Alone is available on Amazon.