An update on our adoption from Ukraine
My family and I have been communicating over video-chat with Nina and Masha, two orphans we love from Ukraine, ever since the Russian invasion which occurred during the month of February, 2022. We have hosted both girls several times in our home and, most recently, have experienced the Russia/Ukraine conflict through their eyes.
In this post, I will share with you the current situation of Ukraine through the eyes of the two girls and our adoption coordinator, an update on our adoption journey, and a personal update from yours truly.
But first, the necessary quick back-story. We were first introduced to Nina over two and a half years ago when we watched a 24 second video of her on youtube. Nina was a nine year old orphan who was available to be hosted through an international hosting program. As we were already set to host a little boy from Ukraine through this program, we decided to add her into the mix at the last minute as well. My husband and I were drawn to her cute and spunky spirit, and our hosting coordinator described her as being a strong fighter and a “great kid.” We fell in love with Nina and decided to host her again and again. We also met her younger cousin Masha who is like a sister to her, and decided to host her as well (Masha is not available for international adoption at this time). We flew to Ukraine and met with Nina and Masha’s family and connected with Nina’s grandma (also named Nina) and extended family. And then more than a year ago, we decided to start the very long and tedious adoption process from the country of Ukraine.
Adopting from Ukraine is nothing new to us. Ten years ago we brought home our adopted daughter Khloe from Ukraine. We started a blog about our journey (https://erikandheatheradopt.wordpress.com), and Khloe wrote an entire post by herself, found here: My Adoption Story (by Khloe, Age 13). On this most recent trip to Ukraine, we brought Khloe back to her home country and even visited her orphanage with her. Some of her teachers were still there and remembered her well! It was a great trip.
The Russian invasion from the perspective of two children we care about:
We have been in contact almost daily with the girls and have observed the war through their eyes. Below are just a few of the highlights of what we learned while talking with them:
- When the invasion began, all the orphanage kids noticed it, but they tried to just go about their lives. However, school stopped for them a few days into the invasion and they really had nothing to do all day long. They might play outside briefly, but they were mostly inside, playing and watching movies. Thankfully, they had electricity, food, and water at their orphanage.
- As the invasion progressed, they had to sleep downstairs in their little musty cellar that doubled as a bomb shelter. It was terrible, cramped, and cold, and some of the kids got sick being in the cellar every night. The official city bomb shelter was 6 km away from their orphanage and not accessible to them.
- Their mid-sized city experienced the shelling of buildings, which kept the children and caregivers awake at night. There were also air-raid sirens almost nightly.
- Nina is a very even-keeled child, which is one of the things I love about her. One day I called and asked her how the night before had been for her and the other children. In her broken English and breezy way, she explained to me the following: “Last night there was boom boom. Russia little crazy, but it’s ok.”
- Finally, after much work, prayer, texting, advocacy, working with our adoption coordinator, and learning on the fly how things are done in this unique situation, Nina’s entire orphanage evacuated Ukraine and were safely transported to a city in the European Union (EU). They made it safely to the Polish border, stayed one night in a hotel due to the efforts of a Christian ministry, and then were on their way to the next country. Their current residence is like an institution/school/camp. According to Nina, the food is good, there’s still not a lot to do sometimes, they are doing on-line school for about two hours per day, they all get time on their phones, they go outside and play, do some activities, and are in bed by 10 p.m.
- We are all extremely grateful that the kids made it safely out of Ukraine. To all of the people who prayed during this time, I want to personally thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Personal thoughts with regard to the last few weeks:
It was a huge effort to get the kids out of Ukraine and evacuated to a safe location within the EU. I cannot begin to describe the number of hours spent by myself as well as other prospective adoptive moms, all trying to figure out a plan to evacuate the kids. However, at the end of the day, the Ukrainian government ended up evacuating the orphanage and then directed them to another facility in the EU. I have never been in a “crisis situation” in my entire life, but it was a crisis for me to see the images on TV, hear that the city in which the girls were located in was getting bombed every night, and that they were unable to leave due to mostly bureaucratic reasons (this is a long story that I hope to share at a later time).
It was a crisis for them, for us, and the entire world to watch on TV. I was extremely stressed.
Apparently, the bus drivers transporting the kids and caregivers were getting texts from loved ones back in their hometowns and wanted to dump the orphanage kids and caregivers out on the side of the road near the Polish border so they could return to their families back in Ukraine. However, after some back and forth, some other buses came from Poland and transitioned everyone into new buses, and everyone made it safely across the border.
As far as my adoption coordinator goes, it is my understanding that she was getting bombarded with texts and calls around the clock. Hosting parents as well as prospective adoptive parents continually wanted her attention as they were understandably stressed and scared about the well-being of the children they loved and had developed a relationship with. She also received texts and calls from hosting and adoption agencies, requests from government officials, and the list goes on. She worked relentlessly to get the kids out of Ukraine and out of harm’s way. As far as I know, she was successful and all of the kids in her portfolio of responsibility are out! However, as of the time of this writing, this woman is hunkered down in Ukraine trying to survive the war.
Update on our adoption journey:
Right now our adoption is squarely on hold, and Ukraine is not allowing their orphaned children to travel to the United States. At this time, Ukraine is only allowing EU countries to provide care and housing for these children. There are reportedly approximately 300 children with some connection to American families (in various stages of the adoptive process), and many of them need temporary care during the war. Our family, along with several other American families, are advocating the they be able to temporarily come to America to be with the families that love them. 75 Members of Congress have already pledged their support by signing a recent letter from the Congressional Adoption Caucus here calling for the immediate unification of Ukrainian children to their host/pre-adoptive families. Several of us prospective adoptive parents have also retained a law firm which is working on our behalf with government officials, encouraging them to work with Ukraine to accomplish some goals on our behalf. For me personally, I am hoping that Ukraine will still somehow work on our existing adoption (even though they said they would not), as well as allow Nina and Masha to travel to the United States, even temporarily. Please pray for that if you feel inclined!
I will share one brief action item in the P.S. section if you are interested in helping us out.
Before I share my personal update, I want to add that my struggles are nothing compared to what the country of Ukraine is experiencing. I cannot even begin to imagine the hardships, death, and displacement of millions of Ukrainians at this exact moment. I am only one person who is experiencing the war through the eyes of two girls we care about.
Like every other person on the planet, I have been glued to the TV over the last few weeks and praying fervently. I am qualifying what I am about to share and admitting that my hardships are small potatoes compared to what the people of Ukraine are facing on a daily basis.
I vacillate between a calm peace, knowing that God is ultimately in control and on the throne of the Universe and in charge of everything, and also a feeling of despair at the thought of not being able to adopt Nina ever due to circumstance beyond my control. Erik and I are caught up in a very difficult situation that is so above our pay grade that it’s hard to put it into words. The thought of all the time spent (or possibly wasted) on a very long and tedious adoption physical work journey (I don’t call it paperwork anymore because that is so demeaning to its complexity) makes me want to pull my hair out in frustration. Especially since this could be our second failed adoption (our first failed adoption took place here: From Latvia: “No, you cannot adopt.” (An update on our adoption situation)).
It feels like we have been on a “failed adoption journey” for about seven years now. So frustrating!
Along with feelings of frustration, there is also sadness at the prospect of not being able to adopt Nina, at least in the immediate future. We were just on the phone with Nina yesterday who informed us of two things. First, she misses us and wants us to come to visit soon. Second, that Masha, who is only nine years old, “got married” to a boy in the institution yesterday. This government institution is fine as a temporary place to care for children, but kids belong in families that love them, will guide them, will nurture them, and protect them.
Nina is already 12 years old and time is ticking! We hope to still be able to bring her into our family. If things work out to eventually be able to adopt Masha (who is currently not available), we are open to that as well.
Which leads me back to the title of this post.
Russia little crazy…
Yes, it is. And it’s frankly scary to watch. I remember the night when the news was reporting that shelling/bombing was occurring at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Thank God that blew over, but with the President of Russia either needing an off-ramp and not finding one (at least as of the time of this writing), or not even wanting an off-ramp in the first place as he just wants to take over parts of Ukraine, I am nervous about what he might do out of desperation.
But it’s ok…
It is only ok because God is in control and on the throne. I believe that God is good and according to what he has promised in Scripture, He works “all things” both for our good and for us to be more like his son, Jesus (Romans 8:28). I have to believe that God will eventually work all of this for some sort of good, both for the country of Ukraine and Russia, as well as for Nina and Masha and the other children, and also for us.
In addition to praying for Ukraine, I have been giving everything over to the Lord, including our adoption of Nina and any other child that I may wish to add to our family. I have also prayed the “prayer of relinquishment” which I learned about years ago. I am praying something like the following: “Lord, I give Nina over to you. We would love to adopt her. Nevertheless, not our will, but your will be done.”
I have also been praying that God would heal me of my sadness over this situation, and I believe that my healing journey has begun. I now have an inner peace that I didn’t possess during the months of February and March. My peace stems from the fact that God is good and in control, and that he loves those girls so much more than I ever will. If it’s God’s plan for us to adopt Nina, then He will make a way for this to happen.
If you feel so inclined, please pray for us. And do the one action item listed in the P.S. section. But prayer is more important.
I am also constantly praying for the people of Ukraine and that this conflict will end as soon as possible.
And, I never thought I would say this, but please pray for world peace, too.
Thank you for reading this post and for following along on our long and arduous journey.
We are in the middle of a really hard chapter of the story right now, but we are trusting that there will be a happy ending in here somewhere.
“I am still confident of this, I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13
P.S: I could really use your help. On April 7, 2022, we are hoping to blitz the U.S. House and Senate with calls and letters from constituents asking for them to put pressure on the State Department to please work with the Ukrainian government to allow 300 pre-adoptive children (a very small fraction of the orphans in the Ukraine) to be able to come to America on a temporary basis.
Here is what you can do. First, go look up your one U.S. Congressman (or woman), and then look up your two U.S. Senators. Second, find their phone numbers and call them (see text below for what to say), or look for an on-line contact email form for the three of them. They all have them. In the subject heading, write: State Department matter pertaining to Ukrainian orphans. Then, in the content section of the email, write something like the following: Dear Congressman or Senator ______________, Please work with the State Department to encourage the Ukrainian government to allow approximately 300 children with some connection to American families (in various stages of the adoptive process), many who need temporary care during the war, to be able to travel to America on a temporary basis. 75 Members of Congress have already pledged their support by signing a recent letter from the Congressional Adoption Caucus calling for the immediate unification of Ukrainian children to their host/pre-adoptive families. I am only asking that you allow this small percentage of Ukraine’s orphans to be reunited with the families that love them until things stabilize in Ukraine. We know personally of one American family who are caught up in this situation, but there are at least two hundred, and they would love nothing more than to bring the children they love into their home, even for a short period of time. Please consider this request, and kindly send a reply to this email. Thank you!
You can send them a link to this blog post and feel free to write to them anytime after April 7th, 2022. I truly appreciate your support. God bless!