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From Russia with Love

The story of campus junior Ann Hawkins is compelling and inspiring. Born in a small town in Russia near Perm, along the Ural Mountains, and raised with her brother in an orphanage, Hawkins has arguably experienced more than most of her peers.

With her two older brothers, Pavol and Anatoie, still living in Russia and an older sister, Natasha marrried and on her own, Ann and her younger brother, Jeff, were adopted by a U.S. family when she was six. Another younger sister died at a very young age of malnourishment.

?I remember that my parents were both alcoholics, so my older sister, Natasha, had to do most of the work around the house,? Ann said. ?Natasha still lives in Russia with two kids. My older brothers still live in Russia; one of them is a coal miner.?

Although Ann?s memory of Russia is a bit faded, she remembers when the government came for her and her brothers. As the agents drove up to the house, Ann?s two older brothers ran away while she and Jeff hid under the bed.

?I remember hiding under the bed with Jeff and all we could see were the agent?s black army boots,? Ann said. ?They took us out from under the bed and put us in the back of a big black truck. It looked like a Fed-Ex truck.?

Ann was at the orphanage with 30 other children until she was 6 years old. The rooms were packed with beds to accommodate all of them.

?I remember one huge room with bookshelves with toys on them, and then another room with just beds, one right next to the other.?

Ann remembers staying with her brother closely during her stay at the orphanage. The women who took care of them were called Babushkas, or ?grandmothers?. Ann used to get earaches frequently and, as a remedy, the women would put cotton in her ear, because of the lack of proper treatment, she is now partially deaf in her right ear.

?I can hear fine with my other ear, but with my right, things are just sort of muffled,? Ann said. ?It doesn?t really affect me now, but it probably will when I?m older.?

Medical treatment was not the only challenge the children faced.

?At the orphanage, we were mostly served bread, soup and fish. I hate fish now, I ate it so much that I just don?t want it anymore,? Ann said.

Even though she was young, Ann vaguely remembers her adoptive mother coming to get her at the orphanage, despite being only six at the time.

?I was told that someone was coming to take me and my brother to America, but we didn?t really understand. I was only six,? Ann said. ?I remember sitting outside in the playground with her, we had to use a translator. The last time I saw my big brothers, they were standing by the fence, and I didn?t get to say goodbye because I didn?t know I was leaving for good.?

For one week, Ann and her younger brother, along with their new mother Judy Rodriguez stayed in Russia until they flew to Ohio. They arrived on May 19, 1995. While staying in Russia before they left, Ann and Jeff visited Moscow for the first time.

?When I was in Moscow, my brother and I had our first ice cream: a chocolate bar,? Hawkins said. ?I just remember it being cold; we didn?t even know what it was.?

Ann lived in Ohio until she was 10, and then came to California. She attended a Catholic school in 8th grade, and then went back to Ohio during her freshman year. This year, she is back in California with her brother.

?The biggest difference or challenge for me in America was religion,? Ann said. ?In Russia, most of the country?s families are atheists. Even after the Russian Orthodox Church changed that, my family stayed atheist, so coming to my new Christian family was a challenge religiously. For years I refused to go to church, but as a teen I began going down the wrong path, and finding Christianity helped me to get focused.?

Though her life in Russia is an important part of her story, her memory is a bit clouded because she was so young.

?I know a few words in Russian,? Ann said. ?But I?ve mostly forgotten the language.?

Ann started playing basketball in 4th grade and has continued to play on the varsity team this past season.

?When I first arrived here, basketball helped me make friends,? Ann said. ?I soon found that I was good at it, and it really helped me to build relationships doing something I enjoy.?

Ann is very supportive of adoption and plans to adopt later in life. For more information on adoption, visit

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  • G

    Grandma (aka "The Best")Aug 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Now you all know where the muscles come from in THIS FAMILY. Hey Abby, how about a rematch!

    Grandparents’ Day was great fun. I look forward to it every year. Thanks for making us feel special.

    Love you all, Grandma

  • L

    Lori MascarenasAug 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Oh yeah, THAT’S my Mom! Isn’t she incredible? In great shape, beautiful and 70-something!

    I’m counting on inheriting some of that great DNA!

    Love you Mom!…

  • D

    DanAug 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

    She has always been the heartbeat in our family. I am surprised you didn’t womp Abby!

  • L

    Lisa AliottiAug 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Our family is 90% female. Look out!!

    I hope I’ve got a little of that DNA too.

    Miss you guys….

  • E

    Emily SchoettlerAug 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Oh yeah that’s my Grandma.
    She’s a beast!
    I love her 🙂