Close-knit family with just 28 adoptive children

A Russian couple could not become biological parents – but with 28 adoptive kids they do feel happy. And, more importantly, the children feel loved and cared for.

After a miscarriage, Lyubov Shmidova (her name stands for “love” in Russian) was told she would not be able to get pregnant again and have her own children. The Shmidov family was grief-stricken by the news. It was at that time that they met a young pregnant girl near term. The girl was going to abandon her child, so they adopted the newborn, naming the baby girl Yana. That is how it all started in 1980.

Five years later, the Shmidov family moved to the Caucasus and adopted their second child.

Instability in the Caucasus forced Lyubov and her husband Sergey to move back to Russia in 1993. The family settled in the Tula Region in Central Russia, where they found a small house and engaged themselves in farming.

A year later, Lyubov was seriously injured and because of other health problems, received disability status. Soon after she had a prophetic dream.

“I had a dream that a wall disappeared and a beautiful woman came out with a girl. She told me that I should adopt children. When I saw her I said that she was very beautiful. I headed to the monastery and talked to a priest. I asked him what it meant. He said that I would have a lot of children,” Lyubov recalls.

The same year the family adopted their third child, 15-year-old Mikhail. Five more children were adopted soon after. The family was growing with each passing year. All the children came from unfortunate circumstances, some even had criminal backgrounds. Last spring, the Shmidovy family adopted seven more children, bringing the total number of children in the house to 28.

Keeping this household running is a fulltime job requiring a team effort, from preparing the meals, to playtime and even raising farm animals for food to help cut down on grocery expenses.

“We receive social benefits. We borrow money, if we really need it. We borrow it and then pay back. Everything is fine, thank God. We have a place to live. We’d love to have more space for the children, I would like them to have bigger, more beautiful rooms with more light, but we are happy with what we have. I don't think we have the lowest living standard,” Lyubov says.

Such a lifestyle certainly does have its challenges. The family has meals in three different shifts because the dinner table – which is quite long – cannot seat all of them.

Though the age difference between the children varies greatly, this group certainly sticks together. The older kids take care of the younger kids. Fights happen of course, but they are rather an exception.

Each member of the Shmidov family has a unique story, like Anya, who was left by her biological parents to live and eat in a doghouse, until the state stepped in paving the way to her new family. She was adopted at the age of eight. Now, twelve years on, she is happy:

“I believe this family was the best thing that could’ve happened to me,” Anya says.

She hopes that she can follow her adoptive mother’s example:

“I want to have my own kids and I also want to take an abandoned child from an orphanage out of gratitude that someone took me in. One or two kids, not this many kids.”

Her own family and kids are still in store for Anya but two of Lyubov’s older children have already settled with their own families, making their adoptive mother a granny.