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Russia's Orphans 'Have Their Motherland'

Children eat at an orphanage in the southern Russian city of Rostov-na-Donu. No "puppies" who will grow up to be "good attack dogs" here...
Children eat at an orphanage in the southern Russian city of Rostov-na-Donu. No "puppies" who will grow up to be "good attack dogs" here...
Russian lawmaker Yevgeny Fyodorov of the ruling United Russia party recently told the State Duma that Russian children adopted by U.S. parents were nothing but "slaves who are not even protected by U.S. law."

Svetlana Goryacheva, deputy chief of the opposition A Just Russia faction, went further, claiming that 10 percent of adopted orphans would be "tortured, used for organ transplants or sexual pleasure."

Goryacheva then educated television host Ksenia Sobchak and Dozhd TV's audience about the fate of adopted Russian children, comparing them to medieval Mamluk soldiers who she said were taken away by Middle Eastern captors from their homeland to be trained as warriors against their own people.

"Unlike you, I don't idealize America," Goryacheva said on Dozhd TV. "I seriously believe that these children may be used in a war against us, against my grandson, against my son, and against the grandsons and sons of many people living in Russia."

Russian orphans trained to be slaves in Western lands...

Wait, we've heard this somewhere else. Oh yes, isn't that the plot of the Soviet blockbuster "They Have Their Motherland" ("У них есть Родина")?

The storyline of this 1949 film (watch it here), based on Sergei Mikhalkov's play "I Want to Go Home," centers on two Soviet intelligence officers, Aleksei Dobrynin and Vsevolod Sorokin, looking for a British orphanage for Russian children in the western part of Germany occupied by Allied forces after World War II.

The British don't allow the Russian kids, who were separated during the war from their families by the Nazis and then freed from captivity by Allied forces, to go back to Russia.

The new caregivers even make the children change their names. "With proper upbringing, these puppies will grow to be good attack dogs," says a British captain (at the 5:00 mark).

The main child character is Irina Sokolova, who is forced to assume the name Irma when she is taken in by a German foster parent, restaurant owner Frau Wurst.

Despite attempts by Allied forces to disrupt the Soviet officers' quest, Dobrynin and Sorokin find the orphanage and expose it as a staging post for future slave soldiers and house servants.

At the climax of the film, Soviet officers speak to an allied commission demanding that the children be returned to the Soviet Union (71:50 mark). When cross-examined, Irina Sokolova says her foster mother uses her as an unpaid servant in her restaurant: "I wash clothes, do the dishes, serve beer" (73:40).

In the end, Dobrynin and Sorokin triumphantly bring the children back to Moscow. Irina Sokolova is first to emerge from the airplane.

"Irina, this is your motherland," says a uniformed woman as Irina walks down the gangway to the jubilant fanfare of a brass band and a cheering crowd (80:50).

The film closes with the mother of one of the rescued children making a passionate speech before a Kremlin gathering: "They want to turn our children into slaves. They condemn them to the dreadful fate of people with no motherland. They are preparing them to be used as cannon fodder in a new war."

-- Pavel Butorin

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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