Searching For Her Motherland

Junior searches for biological mother

Valerie Vansweden (left) and Dave Quam (right), married at the time, hold one-year-old Eden (center) at a Russian orphanage. This was the very first moment her adoptive parents met her.

At the tender age of 1 and a half years old, an orphaned Eden Quam made her way to the United States. Her adoptive parents, Dave Quam and Valerie Vansweden, arrived in Prokopyevsk, Kemerovo Oblast, Russia where they first met Eden.

They visited Russia once before finally having the opportunity to bring Eden home.

After arriving in the United States in December, her parents introduced her to her 3-year-old adoptive sister, Iris Quam. Months later Eden celebrated her second birthday.

“I don’t remember how I found out I was adopted,” Eden said. “I knew it all along basically. My parents never hid it from me and I’m so happy they never did. Instead, they encouraged me to be proud of where I came from and be proud of the fact that I’m adopted.”

After Eden was abandoned in the hospital for several days after birth, she then spent her first five months in the hospital after her birth mother failed to sign her adoption papers. Her mother also refused to arrive in court twice.The case was ruled as neglect, and Eden was turned over to the government, revoking her mother’s parental rights. Following the ruling, she was given to an adoption agency and sent to an orphanage.

“Out of seven kids, I was the only child given up for adoption and neglected, and I always wonder why,” Eden said. “Why did she get rid of me and not the rest of the children? That was really hard for me to wrap my head around.”

Eden has always been upset and angry that her biological mother put her up for adoption, so she sought emotional support.

“Ever since I realized that I had a biological mother somewhere in Russia I’ve felt like it was a messy jigsaw puzzle with a major piece missing. As I grew into a teenager, the feeling grew stronger and stronger,” Eden said.

Eden learned how to reframe issues that upset her, including her adoption.

“I’ve been through a lot of sad points in my life trying to deal with the sense of abandonment and missing a piece of me. I’m missing my own blood-related mother and that sucks more than I can put into words. It’s the most awful feeling.”

When she turned 15, Eden began searching for her biological mother. Her adoptive mother, Vansweden, knew of an organization that could help her with the search process, but it was not realistic due to family circumstances.  After Eden had a breakdown, they began to search for her biological mother.

“I was wanting to find Eden’s bio,” Vansweden said. “As a mother for years, I knew that’s what my daughter needed and wanted so badly and she was finally able to do it for her.”

With the help of an organization called International Adoption Search Birth Families, Ruslan, an investigator, was able to track down her grandmother, Eugenia “Lyuba”  Mikhailovna Bogdanovich in a Makushino town in Russia.

“The searchers have a big database all over Europe where they enter a name,” Eden said. “They found my mother’s home but the house was burnt down. More research and the help of locals led the researchers to my grandmother’s home.”

When the researchers first arrived at Eugenia’s home, they were unable to convince Eugenia that Eden was her granddaughter. While standing 30 minutes outside in the frigid cold, the researchers eventually showed Eugenia a picture of Eden.

“She had no doubt that I was her granddaughter,” Eden said. “She said I looked just like my mother.”

Eugenia, Eden’s biological grandmother lives in this home in a small town called, Makushino, located North of Russia.

Once Eugenia and her husband invited researchers into their home, the researchers learned that the couple was illiterate, never attended school and led a nomadic lifestyle. Eugenia worked as a milkmaid in her younger days.

Faina, Eden’s biological mother, hasn’t been in touch with her family in years. Eugenia didn’t know about Eden until the researchers notified her.

The researchers returned the adoption report back to Eden and her family. Eden’s adoptive mother was the first to open the email and review the whereabouts of Eden’s biological mother and family. Before Eden was able to view the report her mom made sure there was no heart-breaking information, and that if there was any, she could find a way to ease her into it.

“It really didn’t hit me as reality. I kind of got nervous and I really didn’t know what to think or what to feel, because there are a lot of prior emotions leading up to this point that were not very positive,” Eden said. “[I felt] anger at my [biological] mom for not keeping me.”

She later learned that her oldest sibling is named Ruslan, is married with two children, and works as a skilled worker. In Russia, Ruslan is a common name. The investigator, her brother and one of her her biological nephews all share the same first name.

“One thing that was dear to my heart was the fact that I had siblings, nieces and nephews,” Eden said. “I have always been the youngest and have always wanted a younger sibling to look after.”

Although Eden was nervous to find her biological mother, Vansweden was excited for her.

“I felt like she was finally able to do something that meant the world to her,” Vansweden said. “It was like a wormhole was created connecting Decatur to a little town in Russia called Prokopyevsk.”

Eden’s adoptive family was open to learning more about Eden’s history.

“Emotions were all positive, but there were lots of positive emotions and experiences that can’t be recreated or explained because there just so wild,” Valerie said.

A letter written by Eden, followed by pictures, were given to reporters which were then given to her biological family. Since her biological grandmother, Eugenia, is unable to read or write, researchers read the letter out loud.

Without much knowledge of her birth father Eden is continuing the search.

“I doubt I will have much of a connection with my biological father because we know only his name,” Eden said.

Despite having no relationship, Eden is willing to stay in contact with her biological mother. She wishes to continue a relationship and would like to meet and connect with her in the future. She believes it will be a long process but is willing to make up for lost time.

Eden will be traveling to Russia to meet her family when she turns 18.

“I was promised when I was little that no matter what someone in my family would take me to Russia, so I’m extremely excited about that,” Eden said.

Eden currently studies Russian using an app called Privyet. She hopes she will have the ability to communicate with her family in their language when she visits Russia to meet them.

“I am learning Russian and Spanish at the same time,” Eden said. “I’ll be in Spanish class and refer to a sister as ‘sestra’ instead of ‘hermana.’”

Eden’s original name is Dana (дана) “Of the Day or is given” Mikhailovna Bogdanovich. Her adoptive mother changed her name to Eden Dana Vansweden Quam. Her adoptive mother wanted to keep the name her biological mother gave her. Eden also plans on having her biological mother’s name tattooed on her wrist when she turns 18.

“The name holds very close [significance] to my heart.”