After helping around 300 adopted youngsters trace their birth families, Whangarei-raised Russian adoptee Alex Gilbert's efforts are being featured in a documentary in the land of his birth.

The Man from Nowhere is the name of the documentary released last week featuring Mr Gilbert returning to the orphanage that was his home for the first two years of his life.

In it, he shares his story of life as a Russian adoptee raised in Whangarei, and his life in New Zealand.

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Adopted Kiwi Alex Gilbert shares stories via his I'm Adopted project
Whangarei's Alex Gilbert helping adoptees share stories


His parents, Mark and Janice Gilbert, adopted him and his brother Andrei from an orphanage in Arkhangelsk, Russia, in 1994.

He returned to Russia last October and met with film-maker Katerina Gordeeva in Moscow to begin telling his story.

Unlike his brother, Mr Gilbert had always been interested in his origins. He met his birth parents in 2013.

He said he was "very nervous" before he met them.

Mr Gilbert was 21 years old when he made the decision to trace his roots, and felt he "was ready".

"I'm lucky my parents were very supportive. It was a big, life-changing event."

Soon after the first time Mr Gilbert met his birth parents he founded the "I'm Adopted project", which has helped more than 300 adoptees around the world trace their birth parents.

The platform he has created for adoptees to share their stories is a resource he would have valued when trying to find his own birth parents almost five years ago.

"A lot of people message me for advice," he said.


As well as resources for adoptees searching for birth families, the website offers advice and a forum for them to share their stories.

Since first meeting his birth parents, Mr Gilbert has met with his birth mother once again and his birth father twice.

"I don't keep in touch with my birth mother a lot. But my birth father? I am always in touch with him, every week. He sends me photos and messages all the time. That's awesome," he said.

Now aged 25, he is going back to Russia in July to stay with his birth father for two weeks.

He is looking forward to seeing Russia in the summer rather than in freezing winter, as on his previous trips.

Mr Gilbert doesn't speak much Russian but can "read a little bit".

He said communication with his father can be challenging but they try to make it work.

The first time they met they had the luxury of a translator but this time won't be so lucky.

Mr Gilbert wants to learn to speak Russian and is currently working on the English subtitles for the documentary.

"It is a long process but I'm getting there," he said.