Katya and I have been immersed in school, post-adoption administration activities, and a fun trip to visit the new grandparents in Florida in the month or so since we returned from Ukraine. To say that she is adapting to her new family is a colossal understatement: it is more like Katya has been a part of our family from the beginning--but now she lives here permanently.
I asked Sophie what it was like now that Katya is her sister. “Is it everything that you imagined it would be like to have a sister?”
“Oh, Mom” she said, “It’s like a dream. I keep thinking that I will wake up and she’ll have to go back to Ukraine”.
Sophie’s sentiment is shared by Tim and me. We discover new delights about Katya every week. We love how she says, “As for me,…” to mean “In my opinion, …” Tim is greeted almost every day by a huge smile and hug from his new youngest daughter. I’m delighted with her progress in learning English, Bible, and Social Studies. She’s a pleasure to work with; often relating stories about her life in Ukraine that have a nebulous connection with whatever we’re studying at the time.
The only rain on our day at the beach is that Tanya’s not with us. We talk with her weekly, though. She’s engrossed with English lessons with Valya, our connection from the church in Chernigov. Valya commutes to Gorodnya twice a week and Sophia, Olga’s daughter, helps her on the weekends when she is home from college. We are still working to get Sophia and Tanya here for the summer. Stay posted for developments on this.
(This is Tanya)
Due to popular demand, I will now share some of the “exciting adventures” that Katya and I experienced our last ten days in Ukraine when we were incommunicado due to technical difficulties.
Painful Goodbyes: Leaving Tanya and Olga on the last day was so difficult! We were all teary-eyed. I cried until we were several villages closer to Chernigov. Our departure was even more emotional because I had spent our time at the orphanage interviewing and photographing about 14 children who are considered “adoptable”. Oles wants to bring them to the US for a summer visit. The stories that some of these children shared about their “parents throwing them away” or the conditions that led to them being here was heartbreaking. But even more heartbreaking was hearing (or seeing in their hopeful expressions) the enduring desire they all possessed to be wanted…to be part of a family that valued them. I wanted to sneak them all back to the US with us. Even if it was possible, which of course it’s not, at what point does a family start to resemble an orphanage? If you are interested in reading the interviews, let me know and I’ll email them to you .It would be wonderful if you would pray for them!
Encounter with Sophie’s BioMom:
On the final ride from Chernigov to Kiev, we passed the small village, Ivanivka, where Sophie was born and lived until she was 9 or 10. Sophie had asked me to deliver a letter and a present to her mom if I had the chance when we were over there. This was my last chance. Despite Tim and Oles’ sound advice as to why this was a bad idea, I felt very strongly that I needed to do this. Sophie has become so precious to me—I can’t imagine losing such a delightful, unique daughter. If it had happened to me, I would be devastated. Also, I had learned that Sophie’s mom had quit drinking, had birthed twins within the past two years and had even visited the orphanage to see her daughter. Olga told me that the mom was relieved when she told her about us. And during the time we were adopting, Sophie had received a letter from her mom that told her she was happy that her daughter had been adopted by a good, American family. It just didn’t feel that risky. If we were met with anything less than welcome, we would just turn our tails and run.
Armed with only an address, Oles proceeded to ask every passerby how to find Svetlana. We did find her home on mud-filled road next to large farm fields—very much like Sophie’s description. Sophie’s mother, Svetlana welcomed us in and through Oles we were able to deliver the present and letter and exchange information about Sophie. The twins were very taken with their strange-sounding visitors and even danced for us. Before we said goodbye, Svetlana and I hugged and thanked each other. We left within 15 minutes, but I felt so good afterwards…like both of our mother’s hearts were lifted. Please pray that Svetlana stays off the vodka and has all the necessary resources to raise Vova and Luda to adulthood.
No money, no credit, no internet, very little cell phone time and a rich Father/God in Heaven: We had several unexpected expediting “fees” (wink, wink to all who’ve encountered doing business dealings in Ukraine) that set me back toward the end of our stay. Oles reassured me that we would be able to get money with our credit card in one of the larger banks in Kiev before our visit to the US Embassy. The first bank refused to take our card, saying that because the signature part on the back was not signed, it was not valid. I tried to sign it with every pen in the place, but the signature area was too shiny and it just wouldn’t hold ink (which is why it wasn’t signed in the first place). They refused so we went to (oh, I lost track!) ochen more banks, but no success—they only wanted Ukrainian credit card companies. Even the ATMs wouldn’t give us money! Oles thought it was because it was an American company and the struggling Ukraine banks would only honor Ukrainian credit cards. After spending a couple of hours with no success, Oles finally told me that he could lend me the money we would need at our two o’clock embassy appointment. Ugh!
After our appointment, I was encouraged with the information that we would have Katya’s Visa on Thursday. She and I walked to an Aerosvit office not far from our apartment to purchase tickets for a flight on Friday. (Normally, I would do this online, but our internet connection just refused to work.) The Aerosvit woman who spoke the best English assisted us in making reservations and I confidently handed her my credit card and it was rejected. At this point, my eyes welled up and Katya worked to cheer me with, “Don’t cry, Mama. Don’t cry”
I took a big breath, said a prayer that we had some minutes left on our phone and called Tim. He answered, (God is so GOOD) and assured me that he would 1) send me money via Western Union and 2) find out why the credit card didn’t work and 3) pay for the airline tickets from there. Katya and I had just enough money to go to the market and buy yogurt and chips and cookies for dinner. On the way home from the market with our “nutritious dinner”, I found a small picture of Jesus nestled in between the rocks in a stairway wall. We had walked this way many times before and it hadn’t been there. I imagined Him assuring me, “I’m here. Don’t be afraid.” Tim wasn’t able to buy the tickets, but he did send the money and got the “hold” taken off of our credit card (they were suspicious when he used it to Fed Ex a package from America the same day I used it to pay for the hotel in Chernigov). Thanks to God and Tim, we were able to purchase the airline tickets the next morning, get money at the post office, and finish our work at the embassy!
Katya’s ”pick-pocket thwartation”: Our last evening in Kiev, I decided to visit Volodymyr’s Cathedral one more time to thank God for His provision for us. As we were crossing under Kreshatik and walking up the stairs by the Lenin statue, Katya turned and noticed a teen-aged girl opening the zipper on my pocketbook. She turned and stared. The girl and her two accomplices ran down the stairs before I could even get a good look at them. Fortunately, nothing was missing! But be warned, I felt nothing! Yeah, Katya!
Home, almost Home, Home: Katya did have one more chance to say, “Don’t cry, Mama.” We had just spent three and 1/2 hours going through customs at JKF due to the ridiculous new law which makes it necessary to “fingerprint” anyone over 14 who is entering the country on a Visa. We were tired, harried after waiting behind a flight of India passengers who needed fingerprinting. There was only one person processing the confusing paperwork and only one doing the actual finger-printing. This person couldn’t believe that he had to fingerprint this girl who looks twelve and weighs maybe 100lbs. Well when we finally dragged our luggage to the check-in counters, the woman at the front of the line informed us that we had missed our flight.
I didn’t even have a way to call Tim to tell him as I accidentally packed my cell phone in his luggage. I had visions of staying overnight in NY after being away from home for 6 weeks and was having a melt-down, when a total stranger offered me the use of his cell phone to call Tim. While we were talking, the kind woman at US Airways was able to get us on a later flight and Tim (what a good man!) was willing to wait at Reagan in DC for us until after midnight. So we ate and we made it home around 3 am that Saturday. Home never felt so good! Thank you for your prayers!
Here are the girls frolicking on the beach in Florida. As our life slowly assimilates to the “new normal”, I am forever being brought back to the experience in Ukraine. What a trip. What a country! What an awesome God we have! What great friends we have both there and here! Thank you for your prayers and for sharing this adventure along with us.
SDG - Charlene