We are adopting (again!)

we-are-adopting

Yes, it’s true.  We took a five year break from any and all things related to adding to our family in part because Khloe was a very hard adjustment (just being real) and, let’s face it, having three kids is hard enough to manage as it is.

So here is the big announcement: we are excited to inform all of you that our family, God willing, will all be traveling to Latvia this summer to adopt a little boy ages 4-7!  Normally, Latvia does not allow the adoption of one young child (current law is ages nine or above for one child, but they allow you to adopt younger children of a sibling group of three or more).  However, through a lot of time, effort, and energy I was able to get my husband Erik his Latvian citizenship this summer, so now he is a dual citizen!  Because he is now an official citizen of Latvia, we can adopt a much younger, healthier child.  How cool is that?!

Erik now brags that because he is a Latvian citizen, he is going to make Latvia great again or join the Latvian Olympic team in whatever capacity they need a middle-aged man who is in average shape.  🙂

I completed all the paperwork (which was a part-time job in itself) and now we are waiting for our referral.  We have been told by our agency that we should receive up to three referrals to choose from.  I am both nervous and exited about this.  How weird will it be to look at three little faces, read some information about them, and then have to choose between the three?!  But that is the process, or so we’ve been told.   We then travel to meet the little boy and have to stay in country for about a month, when we can travel back with him.  Erik and I then have to return to Latvia two more times to complete the process.

So why Latvia and how was I able to get my hubby citizenship?  My husband’s side of the family came over as World War II refugees and his mom and grandma have an amazing story of courage, survival, and down-right miracles which I started on this blog here.

We are inviting Irena, Erik’s mom, the little girl in the story, to travel with us because she speaks fluent Latvian and it would be great to have her help.  Because Irena fled during the war, her descendants are still eligible to receive citizenship!  Citizenship in this case allows us to be put on a “special list” to be able to adopt a younger kiddo.

International adoption can be very hard. We found Khloe in Ukraine, literally while driving back to the Kiev airport empty handed after what we thought was a ‘failed’ adoption experience. That was a challenging adoption highlighted by Khloe ultimately leaving the orphanage in tears because she did not want to go with Erik and cursing him out in Russian for the next several hundred miles. You can read our live blog of that experience here.

In closing, we would very much appreciate your prayers for a boring and smooth process (no shut downs or changes), that God would lead us to one very special little boy who is a wonderful fit for our family, the right timing to travel, and God’s grace and help along the way.

Thank you friends and family for your support!

 

 

 

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Escape from Latvia Part IV — Bombings and Miracles in Germany

picforblogannairena 

The refugee boat docked in Lubeck, Germany, and Anna and Irena shuffled off with all the other Latvian refugees looking for a fresh start. Anna eventually made her way Berlin, some 286 kilometers away.

The life of a WWII refugee is one of temporary refugee housing, moving from place to place, trying to find temporary work, air raid sirens, bombings, and emotions that waver between constant low-grade anxiety to full blown panic. Especially if that refugee is a single mom with a young child.

One night, while Anna and Irena were fast asleep in their small refugee apartment, air raid sirens split the quiet night air. Irena sat upright in bed, fully awake, heart pounding.   Anna rushed over to Irena’s bed and shook her awake:  “Irena!  Get up, we have to go!”  Irena sat up in a daze as her mother grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her too strongly out of the bed.  They headed for the front door of the apartment.  When Anna opened up her front door, they came face to face with Anna’s girlfriend, who was also flying down the staircase.  The two women grabbed one of Irena’s little hands each and ran as fast as they could down several flights of stairs, with Irena in the middle.

As they turned a corner in the stairwell, suddenly there was a huge flash of light and a very loud BOOM through the large glass window that they were directly beside. The boom was so loud and the flash was so bright that the women instinctively stopped and put their hands over their heads – expecting an immediate explosion of glass.

Incredibly, the glass window held. By some miracle, they were saved from the shattering of glass and the destruction of the bomb.

The women hastily made their way to the basement into the air raid shelter. There were many men, women, and children all crammed together in this small room, but the room was far from safe, or peaceful.

“We’re all going to die,” a woman next to Anna shrieked.

“God help us!” Another man yelled.

As the bombs exploded throughout the city, the people in that little bomb shelter in Berlin continued to scream and yell. Anna hugged Irena tightly to her chest in a protective cradling position.  After what seemed like an eternity, the last bomb fell and all grew quiet.  The frazzled group then slowly emerged from the shelter and headed back up to their apartments in a daze.  Sleep was elusive that night.

The next morning Anna took Irena outside to survey the damage. The smell of exploding bombs and fire was alive in the morning air.  As she turned the corner of their apartment building, she stopped cold. There, on the ground, was a large bomb that had been dropped from the sky, but that had not exploded.  For some reason, this bomb had not detonated.  Anna realized that this bomb was positioned right near the corner of their air raid shelter, just a few feet from where Anna was huddling with Irena the night before. Had the bomb went off, they would’ve all been killed.  Anna silently prayed a prayer of thanks to the Lord for his protection.

Anna and Irena eventually left Berlin for Leipzig – where there were more air raids and more bombings. Many nights Anna and Irena made their way to air raid shelters as different cities were under attack.  Many nights the two of them spent huddled in fear with other refugees, all of them not sure if they would make it through the night.

About this time, Anna finally got some good news: she had received a job in Austria, working as a cook in a boarding school for Austria’s wealthy children. She would have food, shelter, safety, and a little bit of money.

“Irena, we are going to Austria! Mommy has a new job!” Anna smiled down at Irena while the little girl looked back at her with trusting eyes.  It was not possible to give Irena any semblance of a normal childhood, but perhaps with this new job, Anna and Irena would be able to find some safety and security for at least a small season.

Before reaching Austria, however, they had one more city to stop in to catch a train for their new destination.

They had to stop in Dresden, Germany.

The date was February 12, 1945.

To read the next and best part of this whole series, click here: Escape from Latvia part V – Last Train out of Dresden

Escape from Latvia part III, the List

Losha came to Anna one night with some troubling news:  “Anna, there is a new list. You are on it.”

“The List” was short for the Deportation list.  Thousands of Latvians had been shipped to Siberia’s harsh labor camps, while thousands more were tortured and killed in Communist death chambers.  Latvia’s tiny population of 1.2 million was decimated; only one half of her people remained.

“The List” was a death sentence to those whose names were found on it. Sadly, the list grew daily as Latvians, Communist sympathizers, and others in fear for their own lives, cooperated with the occupying forces by reporting on and betraying their friends, family, and neighbors. Only the very brave would tell their friends and family in advance if someone they knew and loved was on the dreaded list.

Anna’s heart fell and she  knew she had a big decision to make.  Should she stay in Latvia and attempt to evade authorities, or leave her homeland, perhaps forever?

Anna was now remarried to a good man named Karlis and was living in Riga, Latvia’s capital city.  Karlis was eventually drafted into the war, leaving Anna and Irena, now three, to fend for themselves. It was during this time that the tug of war for Latvia between the Germans and Russians continued.  Things were better in Latvia when the Germans had control. Around this time the Germans pushed the Russians out of Latvia and declared Marshall law.

With great sadness, Anna decided that leaving Latvia was in her and Irena’s best interests.   Anna packed up their humble belongings, placed Irena in a baby carriage, put a loaf of bread in her lap, and walked towards Riga Harbor.  Her new husband had arranged safe passage on a refugee ship bound for Germany.  It was a long walk, and as they moved between war zone and neutral zone, they had to crawl on their bellies at night to avoid detection.

At last they entered Riga Harbor and boarded the crowded refugee ship.  Anna looked around and noticed something striking: there were so many women and children!

“Where are all the men?” she asked to nobody in particular.  She watched the boat slowly pull away from Latvia’s coastline, the only home she had ever known.

Anna looked down at her three year old daughter and squeezed her hand. Irena looked up at her with her blue eyes and sweet smile.  Irena was such a good girl, and Anna was thankful.  When she looked back up, Latvia’s coastline was gone.

A couple of nights later, as Anna was tucking Irena into her tiny bed, she heard the growing rumble  of war planes, many of them, flying overhead.  From somewhere along the coast line she also heard the wail of air raid sirens.  All of the sudden, all of the lights turned off in the ship.  Anna and Irena were it utter darkness.

“Mommy,” Irena asked too loudly. “Why are all the lights off?”

“Hush child,” Anna said. “we need to be quiet so that those airplanes don’t hear us.”  So there they sat, Anna cradling Irena, in complete darkness and silence.  They waited.

After the planes had passed, the lights eventually came back on. Anna wanted to know why the lights had all turned off, so she found a ship mate.

“Oh don’t you know?” He asked casually.  “If they see our boat, they will bomb us,” he said simply.

They continued on and arrived in Germany a few days later.

The only problem was that the country of Germany, during this stage of World War II, was about the absolute worse place a young widow refugee and her little girl could possibly be.

To read Part IV, click here (this is a great one by the way): Escape from Latvia Part IV — Bombings and Miracles in Germany

Escape from Latvia part II — Rounded Up

juris

Anna’s husband, Juris.  Sadly, Erik never met his grandfather.

Anna and the entire group of men were surrounded by Russian soldiers and forced, at gunpoint, to begin marching towards town. Anna was the only woman in the group and the last person in line.  She had heard the stories, and she knew what was happening was very, very bad.

As she quietly marched with the other men, suddenly, in her mind, there appeared a picture of her tiny, three month old daughter, Irena. Irena!  Who would take care of her?  What would happen to her?  Irena was safely staying with Juris’ parents in the countryside, but how long would she be safe?

“Please.” She spoke in Russian as she twisted around as much as she could and tried to make eye contact with the guard behind her.  “Please let me go.” The guard continued to look straight ahead and then butted her with his rifle.  Anna turned back around and kept walking.

About a minute later, Anna turned around and said in a frantic whisper: “I have a newborn baby girl at home. Please, please let me go.”  The guard looked at her quickly but then immediately looked straight ahead while remaining silent.  She stumbled and righted herself, then turned back around to look straight ahead.

A few moments later, in one last attempt, she twisted around and whispered: “please, sir.  Please let me go.  I just had a baby, she’s only three months old, please let me return to her.”  Anna stared intently at his eyes while continuing to walk forward.  The guard would not meet her eyes, but for a quick second she thought she saw a softening in them.  After what seemed an eternity, he finally made eye contact with her.

The guard spoke softly and forcefully: “Turn around and go. And don’t ask any questions.”

Sensing this was her one moment, she quietly and softly stepped out of line, backed away from the group, and then ran as fast as she could into the night. She stole one more glance at her beloved husband. The last image she had was of the back of his head as he was led farther away towards town.  He didn’t even know she had left the line.

Anna was torn. Should she keep running?  Or go back to the Russian soldiers and plead for the life of her husband?  It was a miracle that she had just been let go; she knew that.  What would be the chances that they would let her husband go as well?

With great sadness and resolve she chose to turn around and return to her apartment. Sleep was elusive that night, and Anna tossed and turned until dawn.

The next morning she walked into town and was told that the Russian soldiers had taken all the prisoners to the town prison.  Upon reaching the prison, she learned that the Russian army (the NKVD) had already left the town, and in the process, had hastily executed its prisoners during the night!

Anna was stunned! What happened to Juris?  Was he executed?  Or did he manage to be released by some miracle?

Anna hoped against all hope and went inside the prison to look for her husband.   She found another woman digging in the dirt, looking for something.  Anna looked at her with questioning eyes, while recognizing that this woman was the wife of another man rounded up with Anna’s group the night before.  Oh no!  They both looked at each other with a sense of knowing as Anna dropped to her knees and began digging in the dirt a few feet away from this woman.

A few minutes later her nightmare was confirmed as she recognized Juris’ clothing peeking through the ground. She gasped!  As she continued to move dirt away from the clothing, she found the face of her beloved.  She was stunned to see that her once handsome husband was completely disfigured!  It was clear that Juris was not hastily executed the night before, as she had been informed.  Instead, his eyes were gouged out and ears cut off, tongue ripped out, and his jaw had been broken. In addition to this, he had also been shot!  It was clear that he had been tortured at length.

Anna burst into tears and continued to cry over the dead body of her husband. The woman next to her had also located the body of her husband.  The two women cried guttural cries in unison for a very long time, as the ground underneath them turned to mud.

Finally, Anna left the prison in a stupor, barely making it to her apartment. She collapsed on her bed in a heap.

After a long time of crying, her thoughts returned to her present circumstances, and of course, to her sweet baby girl.

She knew she had to get Irena – and also to let her husband’s parent’s hear the terrible news. However, a friend had told her that the city had been sealed off by the Germans.   She would not be able to leave the city!

Not knowing what to do, Anna sent word to her older brother Losha to come and help her. He came to her apartment and she burst into tears once again.

Looking straight into her eyes, he sternly declared: “I am so sorry about Juris, Anna, but you need to be strong. You need to be strong for Irena!”

Anna met his gaze, and with her blue eyes red with tears, she nodded and said “yes.”

The two of them hastily packed a small sack of food and a change of clothes and left the apartment. Under the cover of darkness, both Losha and Anna evaded the German guards and escaped the city, crawling on their bellies to avoid detection, and walked the 30 kilometers to Juris’ parents’ home.  They eventually made it to her husband’s family home and told them the awful news that their son had been executed.

To read part III, click here: Escape from Latvia part III, the List

jurisgrave Juris’s grave.