The next morning, April 8, 2010, was sunny and pleasant. I got up early, saw my wife, and checked the mail just in case, but there were no more letters from Nancy. I checked the flight status of flight 964 on the United Airlines website and found out that the plane was early. So I set out early for the Domodedovo airport to allow time for the traffic jams in our capital, which are normal for Muscovites, but frightening for guests. After coming in to the international flights arrival hall at 10:45, I thought I would have to wait 30-60 minutes depending on the number of arriving flights and the timeliness of passport control services and baggage claim.
Our first meeting at the airport
Before I could write the name "Artem Hansen" on a plate, I saw a little boy in a yellow jacket with a colorful backpack in the middle of the room. He was accompanied by United Airlines employees holding two postal packages: one large and one small. They had my picture printed on colored paper, along with my name and phone number. After checking my ID they asked me to sign some papers, and then gave me the packets. I took the boy by the arm, and feeling a kind of strange emotion of responsibility, led him to the car. Artem smiled; he was not scared.
I checked to be sure the boy’s seat belts were fastened and we left. Overwhelmed with a feeling of responsibility, I pressed the button to lock the doors as we stopped in front of turnpikes to pay for parking and leave the airport. The boy did well and was comfortable in the back seat. Despite the compact size of my car he had a lot of space, so he took toys and pencils out of his backpack and showed them to me. On the way into the city, I tried to speak to him in English, looking at him through the rearview mirror. The boy was in a good mood, and even tried to draw with his pencils. Artem liked a lot of the cars he saw in the city (but I didn’t) and he would occasionally get something from the package and show off the toys he had. He often said, "It's from America. Do you have anything like this here, in Russia?” The boy told me about American big trucks, showing their size with his arms. We even sang the English alphabet, as they do in school. The traffic situation was not bad, but there was some congestion, so it took us 40 minutes to reach the third ring. When we reached the center, the boy asked to visit the restroom so I quickly found a place where I thought it would be safe and clean, inside the new shopping center "Yerevan" that was already nearby, right on our way. Parking my car in the underground car park we went upstairs to the second floor, holding hands, and asked the staff for directions. I felt a sense of responsibility and paternity I’ve never felt before. Then we headed back to the car, fastened our seat belts and went on.
There were traffic jams in the center of Moscow. On a narrow street not far from the Ministry of Education and Science tow trucks loading improperly parked cars blocked traffic completely. We had been sitting still for 15 minutes when the boy began crying. I tried to calm him down, asking what had happened; a moment ago we were singing songs and studying Russian words. Up until then I thought that the boy understood Russian, because he repeated the translation of simple words, like dog, car and many others while we were driving, despite some errors. The boy could not calm down for a few minutes, but I made a lot of attempts to find out why he was crying. At last he told me that he wanted Grandma Nancy, so I only learned that the person I had been corresponding with was his Grandma then, in the front of the ministry. I calmed the boy, told him he had to be a man and he would see his grandmother soon. The boy calmed down and I felt better. Once passage was allowed we drove on to the building of Education and Science, at Tverskaya 11.
My rude awakening. I learned Artem Hansen had been adopted and was not expected back by the Ministry
We entered the main entrance of the building and I turned to the security guard, asking him to tell the people from the Ministry that we were there. I thought they were expecting us, but he looked at me as if I were crazy. At this point I realized something was terribly wrong. He advised me to call the Ministry directory-inquiry service. No one met us, and I dialed the Ministry directory-inquiry service with trembling hands and a bad premonition. I still did not understand what was happening. I called several different departments but nobody knew anything about Artem. It took us a while call the Department of the State Data Bank, and by this time the SDB employees could tell that I’d become nervous. They decided to come down and investigate. Five minutes later, three women came down to us. I tried to explain the situation to them and we opened the envelope meant for the representative of the Ministry. It contained the sad message which is now well-known. We were all shocked. The note stated that the foster mother of the child, Tory Hansen, refused adoption with regret and explained her reasons. The women of SDB understood the seriousness of the case and asked us to go with them to investigate further.
We proceeded to the department. I did not leave Artem Hansen for a minute, because by now I knew he didn’t speak Russian. I translated the questions he was asked by employees and the boy’s answers. The boy entered the country on a Russian passport, so SDB employees quickly found out where he was from. It turned out that he was adopted by an accredited agency in America from an orphanage in Vladivostok on Sept. 26, 2009. While the boy was drinking tea and eating cake brought by the staff, I told my part of the story. Realizing that I had been deceived I decided to call Nancy Hansen to ask for an explanation. I had her number written on the envelope that I was to deliver to the Ministry. At 14:11 I called Nancy. I asked her to clarify the situation and explain her behavior. There was a long pause; apparently she did not expect me to call. Then she told me she had not wanted to trouble me, and had thought I would not be affected. I gave her the number to the office where Artem and I were, and she spoke to the employee in English. The conversation didn’t last long. Soon they hung up.
The employees of SDB acted quickly and immediately notified the incident to all the necessary services. That is how the inspector for juveniles’ rights from the local branch of Tverskaya police, the representative bodies of trusteeship, and a young girl from another organization appeared at 15:00. Each of us tried to look out for the boy while investigating the circumstances. Artem was grateful; he opened his backpack and tried to present his treasures to everyone. He had a boy’s favorite toys: a car, Spiderman, and pencils in the backpack. The boy seemed normal, with no visible abnormalities. He even drew a beautiful house while the adults dealt with the situation. One of the officials looked at the figure and said that the boy was all right but the small door he had drawn showed the boy protected himself from someone. In this figure, Artem also drew another boy and said that it was Logan. When we asked who Logan was, he replied that Logan is his 10-year old friend. We asked the boy whom he lived with and who accompanied him at the airport. Artem talked most of all about his grandmother, mentioned a grandfather and some other relatives, but never once said a word about his mother.
At approximately five o'clock, after calling the Vladivostok agency which handled Artyom’s adoption to learn the details of what happened, they decided to go to the Tverskaya police department on Dmitrovka street next to the Nemirovich Danchenko musical theater and the Supreme Chamber of the Soviet of the Russian Federation. I offered to drive so the boy and the authorities got in my car. We turned around at the traffic light, turned right on Tverskaya street, drove to the Bolshaya Dmitrovka street, and parked near the police station.
At the police station, Inspector Natalya Konstantinovna offered us a place to sit down in front of her and began to work. She called an ambulance to place the boy in 21st specialized hospital while the boy’s fate is decided. I wrote another copy of my statement with an explanation of the events (the first one I left in the Ministry). I left all my contact data and card. When all necessary documents were written and signed, the inspector told me I could go home, but I could not. Although I had not had anything to eat or drink since early that morning, I felt responsible and nervous for the boy. That is why I asked permission to stay and make sure the boy was ok until he was taken to the hospital. It was now the end of the day and the center of Moscow was paralyzed with traffic jams as usual, so we waited for an ambulance and Mr. Astahov (authorized representative of the President of Child Rights) for a long time. All of us were surprised at how calm the boy was. It had been a very long day without rest, but he continued playing and smiling even in the police department. We enjoyed his warm selflessness; he kept taking his toys from his backpack and offering them to us. He offered me a United Airlines badge. I saw that the boy had two identical badges, and understood that he was giving me this gift from the heart, that he wanted to thank me. So I took his little gift. Here you can see the picture of this badge.
I stayed with Artem throughout the day
I stayed by the boy’s side until Mr. Astakhov arrived, occasionally going out into the fresh air. I was so disappointed, thinking how inhumanely the adoptive parents returned the child and I was upset by Nancy’s lie. Coming out periodically from the police station, we waited for a car that was supposed to take the boy. The authorized representative came with another man (apparently it was his bodyguard) and entered the office. In a minute, I decided to return to the office of the Inspector. The office was crowded, but I drew attention from the authorized representative’s bodyguard. At the same time, I noticed that Natalia, the Inspector, made a sign to me that I was not necessary there. Still I waited. Later, after seven o'clock in the evening, journalists from many leading news channels began to arrive. They were all grouped around the entrance of Department, also awaiting the arrival of the car from the hospital and for Artem and Mr. Astakhov’s appearance. Later I learned from the news that the department was also visited by representatives from the American Embassy, who wanted to take the boy, but he, as a Russian citizen, was under the protection of the Russian state, so the boy stayed in the Department. Soon the car came and the boy and his entourage were seated in the car. I watched it. I saw how he looked out the window at the large number of journalists.
My wife was very concerned and kept calling me, but I was really upset and did not want to upset her too. She knew what was happening to me from the news and from my short replies, so she did her best to calm me down. After the boy’s departure I did not leave. I called my wife and asked her to wait a little bit more, until I could be sure that the inspector didn’t need me anymore. I had left my phone number with the inspector and was waiting for her call. Journalists were lined up side by side, highlighting developments as they unfolded. It was 20:30 pm by the time Mr. Astakhov left and everybody began to disperse. I realized that I wouldn’t be called, so I drove home.
It's been almost two days since these events, but I still cannot calm down and I am depressed. I have been phoned by a large number of journalists from leading TV channels, but I have had no desire to communicate with them, knowing that facts are easily confused and the stories misleading. Over the last two days I have not missed any news on television, radio, or the internet about these events in which I participated. I am hurt and offended that despite the fact that I told everything to the Ministry of Education and Science and to the police, rumors have started circulating about me. I have heard that I took advantage of the situation, increasing my rate for a regular pick-up, and that I passed the boy off at the Ministry and left as if nothing had happened. These rumors are simply not true! If I had not met the boy, or he was met by another man, perhaps, things could have been even worse. At least I was sure that the boy was protected and was in good hands. If you want to express your opinion about my actions, I'll be very grateful if you left your comments on the photo, which shows the picture Artem Justin Hansen (Artem Saveliev) drew and the badge he gave to me.
You can also read the first section of this story and learn How I Became Involved in an International Adoption Scandal (Part I)
Thanks for your attention.
- Russian boy's return shocked, saddened driver by Alen Duke & Beth Marengo, my video interview for "American Morning", CNN (April 14, 2010).
- Driver says Russian boy looked normal by Nataliya Vasilyeva, Associated Press (April 14, 2010).
Edited on April 12, 2010