A mother mallard and three of her ducklings were restored to Moscow last week, to the joy of Russian children who clambered over the bronze statues to celebrate.
Three of the duck statues were sawn off at the legs and spirited away from Novodevichy Park in February, while a fourth was stolen in 1991. Russian police said the vandalism appeared to be the work of people looking for metal to sell for scrap--a type of theft that has become endemic in Russia.
The figures are replicas of statues in the Boston Public Garden and portray the characters from Robert McCloskey's "Make Way for Ducklings," a beloved American children's book.
The book recounts the travails of a mallard family looking for a new home in a noisy city. The Moscow park is adjacent to the Novodevichy convent and cemetery, which are among the capital's top tourist destinations, and it is an area of calm amid the central city's clamor.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev cut a blue ribbon over the statues and helped a group of Russian children pull off and carry away a white cloth covering the mallard family.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful day," said sculptor Nancy Schon, who crafted the original statues and the replacements. "I'm so happy. And obviously, the people of Moscow are delighted to have the ducklings reunited, as I am."
Small children flocked around the statues, petting the ducks and sitting astride them.
The nine statues were presented by America's then-first lady Barbara Bush in 1991, after her Russian counterpart Raisa Gorbachev admired the originals in Boston.
Raisa Gorbachev died of leukemia last year, and she was buried in Novodevichy cemetery. The ducks returned to Moscow two days before the anniversary of her death, and the ceremony also became a tribute to the former Soviet first lady.
Raisa Gorbachev chose the Novodevichy site for the ducklings after considering eight other locations. After touring the Russian capital nine years later, Schon said she agreed that the park was "the most beautiful spot" in the city.