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From Russia with love

Two orphan girls who bonded in a Russian orphanage have found each other again -- in the American Midwest. Alona Jones, 5, and Kristina Green, 6, grew up in an orphanage in Duluth's sister city, Petrozavodsk, Russia, facing a bleak future with li...

Two orphan girls who bonded in a Russian orphanage have found each other again -- in the American Midwest.
Alona Jones, 5, and Kristina Green, 6, grew up in an orphanage in Duluth's sister city, Petrozavodsk, Russia, facing a bleak future with little hope.
Thrown together with 100 other unwanted children, the two became fast friends, giving each other the love and affection denied them by their birth parents.
Then, in April 2000, disaster struck for little Alona.
Her best friend in the world had been adopted, and one can only guess at the emotions in the little girl's heart as she watched Kristina leave for Duluth with her new parents, Melissa Kadlec and Dan Green.
She shouldn't have worried.
"I knew that Melissa and Alona were best friends in the orphanage, and I didn't want them to lose contact with each other," Kadlec said.
Alona would have new parents soon, the director told Kadlec.
Could you tell me who they are so I can call them? Kadlec asked her.
When the adoption is completed, the director said.
The wait was so long.
Kadlec said she and her husband came back from Petrozavodsk with their two children, Kristina and her younger brother Andrew, and settled into a new life together.
But she kept expecting an e-mail from Russia, confirming Alona's adoption. There was no word.
Then, that June, a delegation from Duluth went to Petrozavodsk, carrying $10,000 to buy clothing and shoes for the orphanages there.
When the story was aired on KBJR News 6, Kadlec was stunned to see little Alona trying on a yellow dress in the director's office in the orphanage.
She hadn't been adopted after all. "It broke my heart," Kadlec said.
But she kept hoping against hope that Alona's adoption would come through.
Weeks later, Green was checking his e-mail and saw a message from Petrozavodsk. He turned to little Kristina and said, "Alona has a new mama and pappa."
"Alona has a new mama and papa?" the 6-year-old said, and started jumping up and down in glee. Then she grabbed the phone and rushed upstairs to her mother and pushed the phone into her hand. "Mama! Mama! Call Alona!" she said.
Kadlec laughs when she tells this story. All she had was the name, Lowell Jones, and the city, Des Moines, Iowa.
"Thank goodness it was Lowell and not Jim," she said.
When she called Information in Des Moines, she was told there was no Lowell Jones in the city, but, the operator said, there was a Lowell Jones in Dumont. "So I called," Kadlec said.
Diane Jones, Lamont's wife, picks up the story from there.
After Kadlec identified herself, "she asked me if by any chance I had just adopted a little girl," Diane said. "I said, 'Yes,' and all I could hear was Melissa saying 'We found her! We found her!' I didn't know what she meant."
When Kadlec explained about the friendship between the two girls, Diane was stunned. "We had no idea." She was also delighted, and it didn't take long for the two couples to decide to meet.
When Alona walked into the living room of her new home in America last fall and saw her best friend from Russia looking at her, she didn't know what to think, at first.
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Neither of them did, Green said. "They were taken aback. They kept looking at each other -- are you really who I think you are? But it didn't take long."
In fact, within moments the two were hugging and laughing and giggling, bonding once again.
And then last week, the Jones family came to Duluth where Kristina and Alona had the chance to be with each other again. The family stayed at the Edgewater Inn, courtesy of Charter Communications, where Kadlec works.
Like always, the girls were inseparable, doing everything together.
Alona had a chance to see some old friends, too. Gary and Marcia Doty stopped by to say hello to the little girl who had loved the yellow dress.
Alona was shy at first, Marcia said. "But then she came over and touched me," she said. "She's a trooper. She's a survivor."
She's also loved. "You're my best friend," Kristina told her one day. "I love you."

Joan Farnam is the Budgeteer community page
editor and can be reached at joan.farnam@duluth.com or 723-1207.

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