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"My name is Maria; I am the older sister of Max and Tioma.  I am extremely grateful to The Renaissance Project and all the people who help my brothers and Daniil and Gleb in the United States.  When Max had a chance to go to the States - it was really unbelievable. It is still hard to believe.  We sometimes still do not understand how all this actually happened because it is such a miracle.

At first everyone was very worried, especially my grandmother and mother.  For Max to fly to another continent and live with the people we did not know and go to the school in which we've never seen was a lot to ask.

Everything was unknown and therefore frightening.

Everyone expected a catch.  What did they want in return?  After all, miracles like this do not happen!? But in time, it turned out that miracles do happen!  

At the moment, our family was going through especially difficult times. Max began to grow, becoming an adolescent.  His personality was just beginning to emerge and nothing good would have happened if he had stayed in Russia. There were a lot of "punks" and the teenager could easily draw Max into bad company.  My mother spent most of the time caring for our baby brother who was born during Max's first year in America, and it was difficult to make ends meet. (Russia, in general, is not the most suitable country to be a large family).  My father did not appear for weeks, leaving not enough money to support his wife and four children, nor was he a good role model for Max.

Therefore, the opportunity to study in the U.S. was beyond happy news and a shot at a real life for Max! Even then I knew that this was the chance of a lifetime.

The whole first year we went through a lot. It is very difficult - to realize that you're so far away from the child and cannot help him.  Just to talk and give advice.  The whole family was very worried.  We Skyped with Max and wept. He started to grow up and become more independent, but most importantly - a more responsible young man.

Despite our initial sadness, we are happy that our "baby" has gone the right way.

In 2010 I came to Washington D.C. to work as a lifeguard. I fell in love with America and its way of life. Only after having been there personally, I realized what an enormous difference between my life in Russia and Max's in the United States. I love my country, but the Russian government is corrupt at all levels - an honest person in this country can rarely succeed!  In the U.S., it all depends on your own ambition and diligence. If you try - you can reach any heights, while remaining an honest man.  Max is almost honest to a fault and this could get him in real trouble in Russia, but in America this trait can help make him successful!

Now, eight years later and Max and Tioma are both studying at the Academy at the Lakes and we are thrilled! We sleep at night knowing they are safe and happy in America with so many people caring for them.

I miss my brothers, but I am 100% sure that this is the best way that things must be!"

-Max and Tioma's sister, Maria