Today Vladimir Putin signed into law a prohibition banning Americans from adopting Russian orphans. Proposed a few days ago by the lower and upper houses of the Russian Duma (parliament), this new law is considered to be an act of retaliation against the Magnitsky Act passed by the U.S. Congress which denies visas to and freezes the U.S. held assets of corrupt Russian officials. The worldwide press continues to report on Putin’s support of this ban on adoption and its repercussions—especially for children who are days away from getting on a plane and starting a new life with their American parents.
There are over 650,000 orphans in Russia, who undoubtedly live in institutions which are not able to adequately provide for their care. The United States government has played an instrumental role in facilitating the adoption of over 60,000 children within the recent past. Now the hopes and dreams of orphans have been destroyed by the president of Russia himself.
Many of us, clergy, analysts, social workers, clinical psychologists, and medical doctors have counseled couples in the adoption process and have witnessed that joyous moment when an orphan gets off the plane to come home to the mommy and daddy which they dreamed about and hoped for in the confines of the orphanage walls. A new life begins for a child that would otherwise be denied love, encouragement, safety, and the beauty of books, fairy tales, teddy bears, and pets.
A brief Jungian perspective on this matter seems appropriate. It seeks wisdom in fairy tales. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of fairy tales by the Grimm brothers, I keep thinking of “Hansel and Gretel.” The tale begins with Hansel and Gretel going off to the woods, leaving their parents, and the security of home. This estrangement from parents and home is one of the perennial themes of growth and development, and symbolizes the alienation of a child due to domestic trauma. Just think of Harry Potter’s sad and difficult beginning—the death of his parents and life in a home where he does not feel welcome.
Hansel and Gretel maneuver through the thicket of the forest, through its darkness and perplexing landscape. The metaphor of the dark forest is powerful, and it seems that all children walk through many moments of darkness. And then there is the witch, the embodiment of power, magic, and the seduction of innocence. My take on the symbolism of the witch is that she is an externalization of the fear of being “cooked and eaten up” by the adult world. The witch attempts to cook the children in order to eat them. But, as in all wise tales—Hansel and Gretel escape to safety. Adopted children are fortunate enough to escape being “cooked and eaten” by the witches of institutions, politics, and neglectful parents.
So who is Vladimir Putin in this frightful tale? A male Baba Yaga, a monster, an evil Tsar? He is archetypally all of the above. But, most of all he is someone who readily sacrifices the children of Russia to cover up the murder of Magnitsky and the collective inability of Russian politicians to integrate the dark shadow of their corruption and theft.
Is there no moral authority in Russia? The intelligentsia and the political opposition continue to express their outrage. But, why hasn’t the Russian Orthodox Church and His Holiness Patriarch Kiril challenged Putin, the Duma, and this disgraceful law? Sadly, the answer is simple—Patriarch Kiril and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate are morally corrupt and spiritually bankrupt.
Take some time and read a fairy tale to a child. During this wintery season of cold, ice, and snow, time spent reading about the Hansel and Gretel’s of the world and their fearsome encounters with witches and forces that may eat them, will let our children that a loving parent is there to protect. Let us continue to advocate on behalf of orphaned children all over the globe, and especially on behalf of Russian children who are being “eaten up” by their State and Church.