These two children first met in a Russian orphanage halfway around the world. Now, they live with separate families in our neighborhood.
About a year ago, Peter and Deanne Rose went to St. Petersburg, Russia, where they adopted two children: Luke, then 10 years old, and Marina, who was not yet 2. As they stood in Detsky Dom (Russian for “children’s home”) No. 2, Peter felt a tug on his jacket. He looked down to see another orphan, 7-year-old Denis, looking up at him, imploring the Roses to adopt him instead of Luke. But they couldn’t adopt any more children, so they left Denis behind.
Months later, the Roses heard from a neighbor that another family in the neighborhood had adopted a Russian boy.
“Cindy (Clemens) called, asking for help translating for their son,” Deanne says. “I told Luke we were going to see a boy named Deniska (Denis’ nickname). He looked at me and just said, ‘I know him.’ I told him that there were a lot of little boys with that name, and that this was anther little boy with the same name.”
But Luke’s hunch was right — it was the same Denis from Detsky Dom.
“We drive up,” Deanne says, “and Denis is looking out the window. They smiled and started talking Russian and went off playing.”
Luke arrived in Dallas last May, five months before Denis became a Clemens. But he said he knew his mother’s explanation of another boy named Denis was wrong.
“I was kind of surprised” to see Denis, he says. “But I knew it was him, because of the name.”
Surprisingly, that’s not the only coincidence in this story. Luke (born Sergei — Luke is a modification of his Russian last name) and Marina are biological siblings, but until the Roses traveled to Russia and adopted them both, they’d never met. Marina lived in “Baby House No. 6,” another orphanage on the opposite side of St. Petersburg. Making the saga even harder to believe is the fact that Luke and Marina have a cousin who was adopted by a family in Flower Mound.
Still, it’s the unlikely connection between Luke and Denis that surprises their parents the most.
“When all this (the adoption process and the proximity between the boys’ new homes) first came to life, we were stunned,” Deanna says. “Truthfully, we’re still shocked. To us, it’s just another affirmation that they are where they’re supposed to be. We believe that God’s hand was present in the whole thing.”
It’s a nice feeling, she says, particularly after the trauma and sacrifice of the adoption process.
“When you bring these kids over, it kind of twists your mind inside out,” says Scott Clemens. “You’re so thrilled to be giving them to your home. But at the same time, you’re taking them from the only world they knew. They had to lose their world to live in your world.”
The Roses adopted Luke and Marina through Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency; Scott and Cindy Clemens, who already had two daughters — 12-year-old Katelyn and Aubrey, 9 — went through Buckner Adoption. Living just three blocks apart, the Clemenses and Roses had never met before they adopted their children.
“We’ve been down the same path, and shared a lot of the same experiences,” Deanne says. “This has really brought our families together.”
The boys see each other in school, and outside of school they spend time shooting baskets and playing video games. Luke also has taken to boxing some of his toys up for Denis — it’s a reflection of the conditions the two lived in in St. Petersburg.
“We have to watch it with him sometimes,” Scott says of Denis. “He wants to give away everything. He wants to give away some nice gifts that my dad gave him. Or we’ll have dinner, and he’ll see that Cindy doesn’t have vegetables on her plate, and he’ll get up and get her some. They learn to take care of each other.”
The boys now speak English almost exclusively, occasionally going back to speaking Russian when they’re alone, or when they think they are.
“We’ve heard them occasionally in the other room, speaking Russian,” Peter says, “but almost never in front of us.”
In Detsky Dom, Luke and Denis were “kind of like family,” Luke says. Here, they’re learning that “family” has a whole new meaning.
“It was interesting when he (Denis) got here,” Katelyn says. “There were new sounds in the house — boy sounds. But it’s great to have him around.”
“For us, the whole process has been — and still is — such a spiritual journey,” Scott Clemens says. “The way this worked out is just amazing. The kid that was so right for our family was on the other side of the world. We feel so blessed that he was chosen for us. We didn’t go looking specifically for him. But when we saw him for the first time, we knew: ‘This is our son.’
“It’s so frightening, so surreal, so fast. But when you see how it worked out … if it wasn’t meant to be, it wouldn’t have happened.”
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