From Russia with love: Hilton Head family's newly adopted daughter arrives

November 29, 2009 

Wendy Cummings carries adopted daughter Nika from the terminal of Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport after the girl's arrival Wednesday evening from Russia.

JAY KARR/THE ISLAND PACKET AND BEAUFORT GAZETTE — Jay Karr/The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette

The dainty girl in the pink striped shirt is now part of the American family gathered in chairs around a Christmas tree.

Just weeks before, 6-year-old Veronika -- Nika for short -- was an orphan in Russia. She arrived Wednesday to her new home on Hilton Head Island from her native Penza.

Scott and Wendy Cummings adopted her after hosting her at their Palmetto Hall home for three weeks this summer. She and nine other Russian children were brought over by the International Guardian Angels Outreach program, a nonprofit adoption agency that hoped to find the children homes.

"I knew what my heart wanted when she visited," Wendy Cummings said.

The mother of three -- Grey Anne, 7; Bryson, 9; and Tristan, 11 -- Wendy had been hoping for another child since Grey Anne's birth.

Wendy says Tristan told her years ago to be patient.

"Mommy, you can get a baby from anywhere in the world," he said.

Years later and 10 days before Thanksgiving, Scott and Tristan Cummings ventured to Moscow and then Penza to bring Nika to her new home.

Nika had been in an orphanage for a year and half before her adoption.

Her only possession was a photo album the Cummings had given her during her summer visit. By Wednesday, the pages of the photo album, filled with pictures of her with her future family, were worn from where she'd touched them so many times.

When the family put up the Christmas tree to start trimming it, Nika's eyes widened. She'd never seen one before.

She hasn't had difficulty adjusting, the couple say, although she speaks almost no English and the family speaks no Russian. She's already picked up bike-riding and the taste for french fries. She won't eat green vegetables, but loves potatoes.

Representatives from the adoption agency said it would take her only a few months to learn English. Nika will begin school next week.

The Cummings hope they can inspire other families to choose adoption, although theirs was costly. The process cost around $35,000, said Scott Cummings.

But he said it was worth it.

"Our family is the most important thing we have," Scott said. "Seeing how little she had and how happy she was just to be with us reminded us how blessed we are."

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