India, Ukraine, and a cat named Jeff… (Part Uno)

My wife, Kim, and I have had an eventful few years.  Not to say that our entire marriage hasn’t been eventful, but the recent past has pushed our limits.  Why, do you ask?  Well, let me give you a bit of back story.  I’m 36, and Kim is, of course, perpetually 29.  We, in the last few years, had begun to seriously consider starting a family.  That in itself is a stressful decision, but we weren’t convinced that God had it in our direct path to ‘birth’ them.

A few years ago, Kim was scheduled to go on one of her regular trips overseas for work.  This trip would take her to India for the second time.  Because work paid for all of her expenses, we thought it would be a good opportunity for me to go on one of these trips.  Two weeks in India, with only airfare and food to pay for seemed reasonable.  While there, we saw some of the most glaring images of childhood need we had ever seen.  It was truly heartbreaking at times.  Apparently, India has about 1.2 BILLION people.  Arguably more than China, but they can’t count them all.  That enherently means that there is enormous childhood neglect throughout the country.  We saw it first hand.

This little guy was sleeping in the middle of a construction site. He was sound asleep on a rice bag.

Some of the children's expressions were heartbreaking.

Some expressions were very joyful.

She had never seen 'whitey' before...


This was about the time that Kim and I had our first serious conversations about adoption vs. natural childbirth.  If anything would help us make the decision, India would.  We knew that God had a plan for us.  We knew that, whatever our plans might be, God had a better one.  We knew it.

After seeing the need in India, it was apparent to us that adoption was the way for us.  We might not be ruling out natural childbirth forever, but for now it wasn’t right.

Fast forward one year.  If you have been through the adoption process, be it stateside or international, it always starts with the home study, and a TON of paperwork.  We had, through a series of trials and errors, decided that we wanted to adopt from Ukraine.  Why Ukraine you ask?  Well, Ukraine is one of the last countries that will allow prospective adoptive parents to actually MEET the children they mean to adopt before they actually do (at least for now).  This has some advantages and some disadvantages, but, for us, the advantages well outweighed the downsides.  So, Ukraine it was.

Fast forward another year (this is how long the home study, domestic and international processes take) and we were on a plane to Ukraine.  We had no idea what to expect, despite the best efforts of our facilitator to prepare us.  Let us just say that, despite their assertions to the contrary, Ukraine is not pro-adoption.  The process is largely corrupt, and EVERYONE gets payoffs simply to do their jobs.  They are not payoffs in the sense that people can do unscrupulous things, but if you want to have your file reviewed and acted upon this calendar year, you better get out your wallet.

Average post-WWII buildings in Kiev...

A pretty girl and Blue Steel...


Ukraine is a beautiful country.  It is incredibly fertile and picturesque, but the people have had an amazingly brutal past.  Millions upon millions of their people have died or been killed, unnecessarily, over the centuries due to their government’s greed, fear, and hunger for power.  Just pick up a book on Russian history, and you’ll see.  It is written all over the faces of their people.  This has lead to an incredible lack of individual sense of value.  They have tremendous national pride, but, as was the case with the Soviet system, the individual is not worth much.  This has a dramatic effect on the children of this country.  I don’t want to start quoting statistics, but it should suffice to say that they do not have the infrastructure to succeed.

Back to the story.  Kim came from a big family.  She would have been content to bring home a baker’s dozen, and have it done in one shot.  Such is the efficiency of my beautiful wife.   However, ‘sensible’ minds prevailed, and we settled on a sibling group, 7yrs and under, and between 2 and 4 children.  Again, this ‘seemed’ sensible.  It is kinda like going to a sales showroom where the salesman quotes you a price that is 3-4 times the actual price, which makes the ‘actual’ price seem reasonable.  I can feel the grey hair coming in now…

We began the process in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.  Beautiful city, that sits right on a big, Mississippi-like river, the Dnieper, and looks like any eastern European capital city, old buildings, new ones, and lots of people.  We also like animals, so everywhere we go, we tend to try to take care of any strays we see.  The building we stayed in had one such stray… an all white cat, that believed he was just as human as we were.  We named him Jeff.  People names for animals are funny.

Jeff the cat. He enjoys milk, tuna, and an occasional rendezvous under the stars...

We had some let-downs after we arrived in Kiev.  Despite our best efforts to prepare ourselves for these kinds of things, it still kicks you in the teeth, and it hurts.  We had been made aware of a 3-brother sibling group that fit our original criteria, and that were available.  Because of the way the adoption process works, we would not be able to see/meet these children unless we went through a request/referral song-and-dance with the very government department that handed us the set-backs.  We decided to do things a bit differently.  The boys were part of a local orphanage that made a habit of taking all of their kids (about 20) down to the Black Sea for a few months in the summer.  We don’t think they let them swim in the Sea, it was just a “let’s just sit and look at the pretty water” kind of trip.  Real nice.

Kiev was 8 hours from Sevastopol, according to our facilitator, which is where the boys were.  In actuality, it was 12 hours by car.  3rd world roads, no stop lights, no cities to speak of, some real fun driving.  We headed out at 5:30pm.  Rolled into town at 7:30 the next morning.  Met the boys, and got to spend about 20 minutes with them.  These were our boys.  Zhenya, Daniel, and Kyryl (6,5, and 4).  Back on the road for the, what became, 14 hour drive back.  Now the fun starts.

In my next installment, I’ll share the wonderful world of hurry up and wait, Ukrainian style, and I’ll tell you what a Ukrainian line is.  It’ll make you angry just reading it….


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