Thousands marched in Moscow
last weekend to protest Russia's recently enacted ban on U.S. adoptions. Demonstrations were also held in St. Petersburg and other cities, as citizens decried a move that many say uses the country's most vulnerable children as political collateral.
But thousands of miles away, and in a place with no apparent connection to Russia, a smaller but related event was also held.
On January 12, about 50 residents of the town of Bella Vista, a city of less than 30,000 people in the southern U.S. state of Arkansas, came together not in protest but in solidarity with Russia's orphans.
"We prayed, sang, and watched videos about Russian orphans," said organizer Kendra Skaggs.
The main organizer of the vigil, 33-year-old special-education teacher Kendra Skaggs, is the town's direct link to the adoption controversy. She and her husband, Jason, are one of the several dozen U.S. families who, when the ban was signed into law in late December, were in the final 30-day waiting period that was required before being allowed to bring their children-to-be home.
They had already traveled to Russia twice to meet Polina, a 5-year-old born with spina bifida and other ailments. Now, the Skaggs are struggling to keep hope alive that they may still be able to claim the child they consider their daughter.
"We prayed, sang, and watched videos about Russian orphans," said Kendra Skaggs, describing the vigil. "I gave an update on our current situation and talked about the support of the Russian citizens. Everyone left with a prayer balloon and the name of an orphan to pray for.
"We also wanted to pray for all the families that were traveling this weekend to try and bring their children home," she said.
As RFE/RL has reported
, several of the families who had only days to go before picking up their prospective children when the ban was instituted have decided to travel to Russia in an attempt to complete their adoptions.
-- Richard Solash