The warm story of an American adopting a 30-something Kazakh as her son28 february 2012, 23:02
This is a love story about an American woman and a Kazakh man – but not the kind you normally think of.
It ‘s about an American woman who had never married becoming so taken with a Kazakh exchange student that she adopted him so he could be her heir.
Timur Bekbosunov, a talented 30-year-old tenor originally from Almaty, is the man I’m speaking of. I wrote about him in a couple of blogs about the “Silent Steppe Cantata” that he organized in Astana late last year.
When I was interviewing him, he told me the remarkable story of his relationship with Delora Donovan of Wichita, Kansas, now 75, who has become his second mother.
The story started when Timur came to the United States to study English and music in 1997.
The American exchange program that was arranging both his studies and accommodations was unable to find a host family – mom, dad and children – whom he could live with in Wichita.
But the manager of the program knew Delora was a responsible and caring person – and asked if she would take Timur.
The day that 18-year-old Timur arrived, Delora was holding a sign with his name on it and waving a small American flag.
He was excited but also a little antsy about what to expect.
“The only thing I knew about Kansas is that they would often have tornadoes,” he said.
Entering Delora’s house helped put him at ease. It “was incredibly clean and organized,” which he quickly learned was a reflection of her character. “And she even had a pool,” Timur added.
Delora quickly began treating Timur like the son she’d never had.
“She made delicious sandwiches for me to take to school, she helped with my homework, she took me to concerts and to botanical gardens,” he said. “We would travel together and notice how well we would get alone during our trips -- and that both of us get intrigued by little things: the beautiful Kansas prairie or a tiny antique shop.”
Just as Delora became like a mother to Timur, he became like a son, helping her with medical issues and with other concerns.
Timur came to respect Delora not just for her caring ways and her homemaking skills but also because she was an accomplished professional.
Delora had been a nurse anaesthesiologist for decades, and was one of the founders of the Kansas Association of Nurse Anaesthesiologists.
Timur also was delighted to learn that Delora shared his passion for opera.
Timur is both a singer and musical-show producer. In Wichita he started an Art of Opera Foundation to promote and showcase contemporary opera.
Delora, who loved the opera star Beverly Sills, immediately jumped in to support the foundation.
Then Timur decided to put on a Mostly Menotti Festival at Wichita State University, featuring the work of the Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who was 90 at the time.
“Timur had hoped the maestro would be able to attend,” Delora said. Menotti couldn’t, but in his honor, “we had 90 roses that we displayed at several of the events,” Delora said. “I spent the week pulling off dead petals, cutting off stems and refreshing the water so they would not die.
“There were seven concerts, which he single-handedly organized and produced with composer Katherine Murdock and director Marie Allen King,” Delora added. “It was a grand success. Everybody loved Timur, and after living with me a couple of years more, more people in Wichita knew him than knew me, even though I had lived here over 20 years.”
Timur decided early-on to introduce his leading American lady to his homeland.
Delora has been to Kazakhstan four times now, meeting Timur’s family and friends in Almaty, enjoying new experiences and seeing the sights.
“Seeing Timur’s parents’ apartment made me realize why he thought my home was so big and precious,” Delora said. Their flat was “clean, functional, cozy,” but small by American standards, she noted.
She recalls that Timur’s family “treated me like a queen. Timur’s grandmother wanted me to come to her workplace at a bathhouse so that her friends could meet a real American woman.”
“It was fun to meet them, and I am sure they were surprised to see I looked no different than they did,” Delora said, although on that summer day she may have raised a few eyebrows by wearing shorts.
Timur’s father, Victor, “arranged for me to visit a hospital” in Almaty, Delora said. She watched a baby being born in a Caesarian-section operation.
“The second time I visited (the hospital), I gave a little lecture to some of the doctors, with a doctor from India being my interpreter,” Delora said.
Timur has stayed in the United States since coming to Wichita, collecting a Green Card for permanent residency along the way.
His performing career has taken him from Wichita to Boston and on to Los Angeles, where he lives now.
But distance hasn’t diminished his close relationship with Delora.
“I love Delora's positive outlook on live,” Timur said. “She grew up on a small farm in the middle of Kansas, in a town of 400 people, living a hard life, sharing a small house with three siblings, getting up very early and working hard during the day.”
Timur said he has admired and adopted slices of her character. That includes her propensity toward being a “go-getter, an enterprising adventurer” who had traveled across half the world by the time she was 40.
Timur also admires Delora’s readiness to “always volunteer, help out strangers and keep an open mind.”
And he loves her folksy wisdom. Borrowing from Delora, he would tell his girlfriend that a man he knew was “as busy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” His girlfriend’s response, he said, was to “just roll her eyes.”
As Timur and Delora “were doing more and more things together, sharing ideas and thoughts, taking care of each other, we began to grow as one family,” Timur said.
So it began to seem natural to Delora to leave her worldly possessions to Timur.
She could have done that with a will, but she wanted to let Timur – and everyone else – know she had come to think of him as her son.
So just a few months ago she legally adopted him.
It was fine with Timur’s parents, who had come to love Delora as one of their own.
And it was one of the proudest moments of Timur’s life.
After all, who can say they’ve got both a Kazakh and an American mother – and have the adoption papers to prove it?