08/12/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT
ADRIANA DORR'S NEW HOMELAND must have seemed like a giant birthday party—just for her. When she arrived last month at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, she was greeted by a blur of balloons and streamers and showered with gifts and flowers. Her sister Elizabeth, 5, gave her a stuffed koala, and for the first time in her life, Adriana, 3, got a hug from a dad. In truth, the celebration was much more than a birthday; for Adriana, who had spent her first three years in a Romanian orphanage, it was the beginning of a new life.
As Rick Dorr, 33, drove his family, now one daughter larger, to their three-bedroom home in rural Bright, Ind., 20 minutes away, his wife, Greti, 37, could finally begin to unwind. Her battles with bureaucracy and endless red tape nearly 5,300 miles from home were over.
The Dorrs' odyssey started last year, when they began contemplating adopting one of the thousands of Romanian orphans whose wretched living conditions became known after the December '89 coup that toppled that country's communist regime. A short while later, Rick, a service technician for British Petroleum, and Greti, a coordinator at Providence Hospital in Cincinnati, read a story about Romanian orphans in the Jan. 21 issue of PEOPLE and were instantly smitten with a picture of Adriana. All of a sudden, says Greti, who like her husband is a staunch Catholic, the question was no longer, " 'Why should we adopt a child?' It was, 'Why shouldn't we adopt this child?' I felt that she belonged with us and that God called us to do this." That Adriana had malformed hands and club feet, as the picture's caption stated, "only made her more precious," says Greti. Rick's response was enthusiastic but cautious: "What makes you think we are going to be the lucky ones to get her?"
Luck, it turned out, would have very little to do with it. Through PEOPLE Paris correspondent Cathy Nolan, Greti learned that Adriana was living in an orphanage called Bucharest One in Romania's capital. On May 17 Greti went to Bucharest, her trip financed in part by a loan from her children's savings fund. The effort immediately began to unravel. Greti learned that Romania's official adoption committee, with which she had scheduled a meeting in June, was due to disband in May. Then she was told that a Canadian couple might have a prior claim on Adriana. But the Canadians, it turned out, adopted another child.
There was one final hurdle. Despite having been in Bucharest One almost from birth, Adriana was not an orphan. This meant that a second adoption committee had to be persuaded that her parents had truly abandoned her. According to the birth mother, her husband hadn't wanted a child and had beaten her when she refused to get an abortion. When Adriana was born handicapped, the father threatened to starve the child, so her mother turned her over to the orphanage. Since open allegations of the father's conduct might have jeopardized the mother's safety, an intermediary informed the committee secretly. The mother's only stipulations were that Adriana be adopted by a responsible, religious family.
Finally adoption officials relented. On May 23 Greti walked into the orphanage, and a worker handed her her new daughter. "She just fell in my lap, and I cried and held her and rocked her, and she was perfectly happy," says Greti. U.S. review of the adoption papers and approval of a visa consumed most of the following month.
Back in Indiana, Ben chases his new sister around the room, threatening her with kisses. Elizabeth changes the diapers, and Adriana, who still speaks only Romanian, happily repeats every English word she hears. Her new aunt, Tess Westover, calls her "the little parrot." The Dorrs are already planning for Adriana to see an orthopedic surgeon, who will determine if the malformations of her hands and feet can be corrected.
And the festivities continue. Two days after Adriana arrived in America, the family joined Fourth of July celebrations, complete with parade, balloons, picnics and fireworks. Says Rick: "She still thinks this country's just one big party."
BARBARA KLEBAN MILLS in Bright