This Blog is meant to journal the combined experiences of the persons involved in the Sasha Project. Its objective is to strengthen the ties between families, students (several of us teach), friends, and the growing number of persons who want to be part of the JOY which this Sasha Journey is spreading.

In 2004, I (Tina) traveled to Russia to assist with the adoption of my two nephews. Alexander (Sasha) was our interpreter, driver, and so much more. I have kept in touch with him and it has been my dream to let him experience first-hand the typical U.S. life (versus merely his impressions from American TV, movies and music). My initially modest idea blossomed to include eleven other adoptive families who also want to host Sasha and thank him for helping to make their dreams come true.

It will be fun as well as educational for all of us to share Sasha's observations and impressions of his daily travels as this Journey unfolds. There is an intricately choreographed daily itinerary which will take us to visit the Space Shuttle, Golden Gate bridge, Route 66, a Home Depot and other American icons through Sasha's eyes. The flight to L.A. is scheduled to leave Moscow on Saturday, June 15th to begin his six week visit.
It seems incredible, but the interviewing U.S. Immigrations officer denied Sasha a Tourist visa. He did not see the value in Sasha's trip or understand the desire for the adopting families and children to reunite with Sasha. The officer decided that Sasha was too poor to be allowed even a brief visit to the U.S.


Saturday, June 22, 2013


Happy Doc
Today we had tickets to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor and the iMAX 3D Hubble Telescope movie with Sasha.  That would have been a memorable activity for him to write about to his students.  Then he was to move on and stay with Host Family #2

Since we already had the tickets, and neither Doc nor I had been to the exhibit, we decided to go anyhow.  As we drove down there, I asked the Angels for an appropriate person to use the extra ticket.  I couldn’t figure out how that would occur since most visitors attend along with several other persons. A single 10:15 a.m. shuttle tour with 12:30 iMAX show ticket was not likely to be easily matched up exactly with some other families’ plans.

Doc and I arrived early.  The ticket booth was not yet open. There was a nice looking guy standing around patiently waiting.  I asked him if he was needing a ticket?  He cautiously answered yes.  I asked him if he was alone and needing only one ticket?  He probably was a little unsure of my intentions at that point.  He confirmed he needed just one ticket.  I said, “Well if you are interested in a 10:15 tour with the 12:30 movie, this ticket is yours!”  He looked perplexed.  I told him we had a third person in our group who was unable to make it today.  He thanked me and offered to pay for the ticket.  I replied, “Pay It Forward. And when you do -- say it is for Sasha”.  Then I turned to walk away.

Since there were still 30 minutes until the museum opened, I turned back and introduced myself to Terry. Then I told him more about Sasha as well as the Project.  I asked Terry to enjoy his day on behalf of Sasha.  We saw Terry two other times throughout the day as we were touring. He said he was very much enjoying the shuttle exhibit.

Merging of Galaxies
The 3D iMAX Movie on the Hubble Telescope was breathtaking.  The numbers of galaxies and the distances (in light years) of the various new discoveries were mind boggling!  There were views of the Earth in the background as the astronauts were conducting Hubble repairs and upgrades.  At one point I almost laughed in thinking about our man-made “borders” and the way we think about other countries and cultures.  How very petty it all seems.  Sasha’s denied visa, our everyday activities (some which we consider crises), romantic affairs, financial affairs, and international affairs seem absolutely trivial when seen through the vastness of space.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

Below is the flyer I FAXED to the US Moscow Embassy:

FATHER’s DAY -- the day Sasha was to have arrived at LAX. 
How appropriate that would have been since Sasha assisted so many American men fulfill their dreams of becoming fathers.

There were many adopted Russian children who were anxious to meet the man who helped them become American citizens.  But alas, the U.S. Consulate will not allow Sasha to visit the children. The children are heartbroken and wondering WHY has this been forbidden?

Sasha is not wealthy enough to meet the visitation criteria.  Sasha does not own sufficient property or have significant savings.  (Note:  All of his expenses while in this country were to be paid by the numerous hosting families).

Sasha’s “wealth” is in the unselfish assistance he provided to American families. His “riches” are the fulfillment of people’s dreams. His “treasures” are the dozens and dozens of Russian children he helped place into loving homes versus having them continue to live in orphanages and government facilities.  Those assets can not be shown on a bank statement.

Sasha has lived to create bridges between our two countries and has served as an ambassador of goodwill.  The U.S. Consulate should be honoring this man versus rejecting him!

There are readers in 8 countries who have been following Sasha's Journey to this point.  It is a shame that in just a few moments, one man had the power to shut down this worthwhile program.  He destroyed summer hosting and travel plans of the 12 adopting families, meetings scheduled with educators and researchers, visitation plans of dozens of other good citizens, interview plans of media persons, and the joy which was being shared by readers internationally. 

Where is the logic or value in such a decision?

Tina Shelton

Friday, June 7, 2013

Just One Person

Have you ever thought “I am JUST one person, I don’t matter”. “My one vote won’t make a difference”.  “My one comment to someone won’t matter”.         What if it did?

Think about the Visa Interviewing Officer at the Moscow Embassy.  One person had the ability to shut down an international goodwill effort affecting hundreds of people with his few words: “You are denied”.  Yes, EVERY Person sure can make a difference!

Now we just need to find that ONE person who will say, “There IS a way for Sasha’s Journey to continue and here it is….”

Faint Heart Beat

This project is too good to let it die.  There is yet a Faint Heart Beat.
We can not give up on it just yet!

Here is my letter sent to the Director of Non-Immigrant Visas:


Dear Mr. Bistransky, Director of Non-Immigrant Visas -

For many months, twelve American families have been arranging for a 10-year Anniversary Celebration for children adopted through the Moscow Embassy.  These are each upstanding, professional families who have no intentions of harboring an "escapee".

Each American family was going to host, thank and honor the man (Alexander Romanov) who helped make their dream of having a family a reality.  The children were excited to meet this man. One family was even flying in from Ireland for this special tour.

We had plans each day for taking Alexander to an American baseball game, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Shuttle, Queen Mary, Home Depot, along Route 66, a library, horseback riding, a California mission and so many other places and then to document his travels so that many more people would be brought together in this network of Joy and Learning.

How could the Interviewing Officer not understand how much of a Goodwill Tour this was to be for the two countries?  We established the Sasha Journey Blogsite to track Alexander's daily activities and broadcast those to the current readers in Russia, the U.S., Germany, Australia, South Korea, and other countries.  I implore you to please look at it.

I posted a comment on one website and a Russian person responded with "Americans KILL the adopted Russian children!"  Sasha's Journey was going to prove to the world the opposite! To show everyone how wonderfully these adopted children are treated; how they have grown into fine young persons in their communities.

Alexander loves his country and the intention for doing this Goodwill Tour was to bring the two countries closer together!

How can we explain to a dozen Russian adopted children that the man who helped to make them American Citizens has been Forbidden to visit with them?  

I ask you Mr. Bistransky "Tear Down this American Wall!"

In this particular case: How can we create Unity versus creating more separation between the two countries?

Tina Shelton

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Interview Day - Visa Denied

I have been adding to this blog every few hours as the day progressed …

Sasha's interview at the Embassy is 9 a.m. Moscow time which meant it was actually 10 p.m. last night (Pacific Time).  I figured we would hear from him maybe after midnight?  I have been checking every 5 minutes as have some of you.  It is now 3:30 a.m. I have washed dishes, scrubbed floors, repaired things, sorted and paced around the house while waiting ....

It is now 7 a.m. L.A. time (6 p.m. Moscow time) and still we are waiting to hear from Sasha.  I do not know what time his return flight to Krasnodar is/was.

It is now 8:20 a.m. L.A. time.  Incoming email from Sasha: "Have just off the plane and am in the bus through Krasnodar. Was able to get your messages only here...Don't worry I am okay".


At 11:49 a.m. this email arrived:  “I have just come home. Yes, emotionally I have been drained off completely... You know, the interview was going so smoothly at first,  and in accordance with our scenario this time. I had the interview at the sixth window, in the corridor. The Officer, a man, listened to me carefully and was clicking on his keyboard reading something on his monitor, while I was talking. He looked through all the documents that I handed him, though, at first it was clear - he had no intention to... but, just as we rehearsed, I was calm and he looked at our notebook to the end (except for the fact that your cover letter he made me open for him - I think, being afraid that it can be poisoned). And in the end, when I was thinking - "Thank God! Looks like this is a good man and he will give me approvel...... He said, with a pleasant smile - I regret to inform you that....
And here my nerves broke and stopping him I said - ‘You know, I am not dreaming to stay for good in your America! With your - "NO", you did not ruin my plans for the future... I am quite comfortable here in Russia. You have just ruined the dreams of many fellow citizens of yours!’”

Of course I immediately SKYPE called Sasha.  He first apologized for the lack of communication through the night.  He tried five times to send out messages, but the roaming feature on his cell phone didn’t seem to work.  He was so tired after spending 48 hours without sleep on buses, planes, the subway, taxi, plus then the emotional turmoil of the interview process.

Sasha said he did as we rehearsed:  He politely greeted the Officer.  Then he asked the officer to look for any letters which might be in his file in addition to the electronic application.  We were expecting some letters of support.  Sasha said the man looked bewildered, but then spent quite a bit of time looking at his computer screen.

Sasha then presented Attorney Ken’s cover letter and the entire notebook.  The officer asked if Sasha had met these people in America?  Sasha explained that No, he met the families in Russia.  The officer then asked if the families were Russian?  Sasha explained that the children were Russian and being adopted by Americans.

The Officer read Attorney Ken’s letter, then my cover letter (explaining the 10 year Adoption Anniversary Celebrations, family hostings etc.)  Then he read his computer screen for a long time.

The Officer asked nothing about Sasha’s property, Sasha’s mother or sister in Germany.  He smiled and said the visa request was denied because there is nothing to connect Sasha to Russia.  “Possibly you would stay in America”.

Sasha said “It is not me you have affected so much as you spoiled the summer holidays and plans of many people”  “It is on your soul”.

It is so frustrating that a hasty decision by one person could shatter the hopes of so many good people around the world who have been following this Journey.  There was immense goodwill being exchanged between all the students, families and other persons who have been part of the Sasha Team.

How do you tell all the adopted children that the U.S. Officials will not allow Sasha to come visit them?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

En Route

Sasha is en route to Moscow.  I received this message at 12:59 p.m. L.A. Time (making it 11:59 pm Moscow time).  "Hi Tina, I am at the airport Krasnodar. It is Midnight now."  Sasha will fly during the night to arrive at 6:20 a.m.  Then make his way to the U.S. Embassy for the 9 a.m. interview.

People around the world will be hanging on one person’s decision at the visa interview.  That U.S. Embassy interviewing officer has the sole power to approve or deny Sasha’s entry to the U.S.  Let’s hope he/she is having good morning.

Sasha is so passionate about learning the English language.  Yesterday he said, “I can’t imagine what it will be like to be 100% immersed in the language for a few weeks!”
en Route to Moscow

When Sasha arrives in California, there will be the celebrations with all the adoption families.  We will also blog his experiences and perspectives so that students, family, friends, and on-line travel companions can share the daily adventures during those weeks.

This photo arrived at 2:04 p.m.  Sasha at Krasnodar Airport
His comment: Hi everybody, I can feel your presence with me.

 At 5:05 p.m.    "I am on the plane.... The take off is in 8 minutes"  Sasha

Now is the time for everyone to focus positive energy on the situation.  Let’s visualize getting over this hurdle so we can get on with the exciting part of the Journey.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Final Preparations

This evening I spent nearly an hour on Skype with Sasha. Half of it was checking over his documentation and presentation. The other half hour was listening to his excitement.  I saw a glimmer of that passion nine years ago when I first met him.  I remember how at that time he was astonished at all the similarities between the American families he was meeting and the Russian families he knew.  That was much different thinking than the concepts of fear and mistrust he had been raised with.  He stated then that somehow he wanted to make a small difference in bringing the people of the two countries together.  Helping with adoptions was one way to do that. 

Tonight Sasha was still in awe that two weeks from now he should be actually standing on U.S. soil and seeing the families he helped to form.  He said it seems unreal.

This morning I awoke and tried first thing to check emails for crucial correspondences and to prepare for the morning Skype call with Sasha.  My internet service was not working!  It was not working on my husband's computer either!  I was immediately on the phone with the internet company to get the issue resolved.  Now, in hindsight I wish I would have thought to take a photo.  It became a 'family time' in the attic.  Doc was on his belly, I was kneeling next to him, and the three dogs were using their noses to try to help with the wiring.  I was not laughing at the time, but most of you certainly would have if you had seen the hilarious situation!

We established this Sasha Journey blog site one month ago.  For those of you who enjoy data (my husband and I are engineers), here are the latest Stats for the Blogsite page views:   Total of 890 Views.   Russia (265); U.S. (561); Germany (39); Australia, South Korea, Ireland, Netherland and Venezuela for the balance.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Pulling Together

The day after Sasha’s first rejection of his visa application, I went on line and discovered Attorney Kenneth White.  The next day Sasha and I had an hour Skype call with Ken.  He provided us with his professional opinions, his advice and our options.  He also offered to write an email on Sasha’s behalf to the Moscow Embassy.  This morning, Kenneth called to confirm some details for his letter.  Isn’t it wonderful how so many people are Pulling Together to make the Sasha Journey a reality?

At 11 a.m. the USC University Research Team arrived.  Their interview focus was on people who blog and aspects such as the bloggers’ objectives, the perceived risks, characteristics of their readers, etc.  There were 5 persons on the team with two of them as cameramen.  They came initially about the Penny Finders Blog, but I was able to also share about the Sasha Project.  

Who knows where that will lead?