Russian kid abandoned by parents in Latin America returns home

Twelve-year Denis Khokhryakov, abandoned by foster parents in the Dominican Republic, returned to Russia on Friday. He is being accompanied by Russian Presidential Ombudsman for Children Pavel Astakhov.

In the absence of any medical history, Denis will have to spend the next ten days at a hospital, where he will receive a full medical check-up and all the necessary inoculations. Following that, the twelve-year old will be put into a foster care center until he is placed with an adoptive family.

Denis has been in a Dominican orphanage for five years. But his fate might have been much worse, believes Astakhov.

“He might have been taken to the Dominican Republic as a slave in exchange for drugs or it may have been an organ trade,” he said. “The judicial investigation couldn’t clarify all the circumstances. Now we shouldn’t make speculations because the boy can't explain what happened.”

Having adopted the boy in the Volgograd region in 2003, his foster parents moved to the Dominican Republic in 2004. A year later they returned to Russia, turning their backs on Denis and leaving him with a local family.

They too soon gave him up to an orphanage, but not before a cruel stay.

“They hit and punished him. The thing is that he behaved badly, it was terrible but only because his parents and sisters left him,” said Virginia Velázquez, Russian Consul in the Dominican Rep. “He stayed alone in that house. They even left him without meals as punishment. So one day a neighbor saw it and decided to report it.”

Last year his Russian foster parents were arrested for cocaine trafficking – that led a court to cancel the adoption decision. And so now Denis is returning to Russia, although some believe it is not a good thing to do because the boy already speaks Spanish.

“But he’s a citizen of Russia and he has to return to the country,” Astakhov is convinced. “He’ll be admitted to a good institution until a new family can be found.”

The staff that has been looking after him in the Dominican Republic did not really want him to go. But they said that if he had to go, it is better now than later.

“Just imagine if he stayed here for 8 or 10 years and suddenly they took him away when he was young man,” said Sonia Hane, head of the Christ’s Children Orphanage. “I know it’ll be difficult for the boy, especially because he doesn’t speak Russian now.”

Denis will now be able to resume his life in Russia after his five-year absence. He will have to relearn his native language and rediscover life, but it is hoped he will receive a lot more care in his next five years than he did in the last five.