Spring break in Russia


Jay Rubenstein, manager of the Coldwell Banker Malibu West office and his daughter, Julie, a junior at Pepperdine University on a women’s volleyball scholarship, recently returned from Russia during Julie’s spring break. They accompanied their pastor, Rob McCoy of Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, and his adopted Russian daughter, Natasha.

Approximately two years ago, Rubenstein and his wife, Garianne, joined McCoy and his wife, Michelle, as they went to Russia to adopt the then 12-year-old Natasha. At the time, McCoy promised Natasha that one day she could return to visit her friends at the Lahee orphanage and try to find her grandmother, who had raised Natasha until alcoholism got the best of her. In addition, at that time, Garianne had an idea that every child in that orphanage should have a hand-made quilt they could call their own.

Garianne Rubenstein and her friends made 90 quilts prior to the March 1 trip. On March 4, the travelers arrived at the orphanage, and presented the quilts. As the short day began to fade, they quickly boarded the van and headed out to Melenki, the town where Natasha recalled her grandmother lived. However, she was not there, and the group was told she had moved two hours south. There was not enough time left in the day to find her. In a last-ditch effort, Natasha knocked on a neighbor’s door, and they were able to locate her aunt, who was at work nearby. Shocked and surprised, figuring she would never see or hear from Natasha again, she immediately left work and came to where the group was. She brought her son, Natasha’s cousin. Much to their surprise and happiness, the grandmother was alive and lived only 15 minutes away.

A short time later, they arrived in a small village and pulled up in front of the dacha, a small, modest home with dirt floors and no plumbing.

Jay Rubenstein wrote, “What happened next was one of the most emotional scenes I have ever witnessed as not only was Natasha’s grandmother there, but also her great-grandmother and great-aunt. They were overjoyed and overcome with tears of happiness that Natasha had returned to visit.”

McCoy and his daughter plan to return to Russia in a couple years.

-Jonathan Friedman