Kyiv : Our Arrival

November 16th, 2016.  We received confirmation that our appointment with the State Department of Adoptions in Kyiv had been set for December 5th at 1100 am. Though Sharon had our bags packed for months, it seemed like there still was so much to do before our departure: plan an early Christmas gathering and gift exchange with our children and grandchildren, finalize house sitting arrangements and finalize airfare.

Katie Taylor with adoptionairfare.com was a total blessing to deal with as she totally alleviated travel arrangement stress. We could never thank her enough.

Sharon and I had only shared our plans to adopt with a few individuals up until this point: our Bible Study group and our Pastor.  Knowing that the journey we were embarking on did not guarantee a joyful return home with children, we were guarded and reluctant to share our story initially. Even now with an official appointment set to meet our potential new children,  there was an uneasiness that something could still derail the process.  We had heard rumors of couples returning home empty handed and how defeated we would be if that were to happen to us.  None the less it was time to let “the cat out of the bag,” so to speak.

We planned an early Christmas gathering with our kids, knowing we would be spending the holidays in the Ukraine. Our children did wonder why Christmas was planned so early, a whole month ahead to be precise.  Suspicions were easily dismissed as both Sharon and I are nurses, and the plague of shift work really plays havoc with holiday time, often meaning our family gatherings are more loosely based around the actual holiday date.

Sunday, November 27th we gathered together to celebrate our Saviors birth and create Christmas memories for 2016. As the evening was winding down with the grandchildren engrossed in their presents and moms and dads looking on, I got every ones attention: “Your mom and I have something we want to share with you,” I said, trying to sound confident and controlled. ‘I hope you’re not going to have another baby,’ Michael remarked with a smile, ‘Yea, we have enough brothers and sisters,’ David added laughing.

Both our hearts sank as we looked at each other feeling completely deflated.  I glanced down at Sharon, she returned my glance and this was one time I could read her mind like none other.  She was experiencing the same degree of anxiety about our announcement as I was, given the initial response that we had just received.  I gently rubbed her back to try to ease her worry, I took a deep breath and with a trembling voice my words tripped over themselves, ‘There is very special song your mom and I would like you to listen too.’  With that I started the YouTube video of “Kings and Queens” by Audio Adrenaline. As the song played, Sharon and I were filled with emotion, tears streamed down our cheeks. As I glanced around the room I could tell our emotional display combined with the words of the song had everyone bewildered. The expressions each wore displayed the rhetoric; ‘What on earth is going to happen next?’

Whoa oh, whoa oh oh oh

Little hands, shoe-less feet, lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent to grieve
On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love, when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these

Whoa oh, whoa oh oh oh
Whoa oh, whoa oh oh oh

Break our hearts once again
Help us to remember when
We were only children hoping for a friend
Won’t you look around these are the lives that the world has forgotten
Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open

Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these

Whoa oh, whoa oh oh oh

If not us who will be like Jesus
To the least of these
If not us tell me who will be like Jesus
Like Jesus to the least of these

Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free shout your name in victory
We will love, we will love the least of these
We will love the least of these
We will love the least of these
We will love the least of these
We will love the least of these
We will love the least of these

The 4 minutes or so that it took for the song to play provided me with the necessary time to build up the courage to inform all of the family together that we were en route in 3 days to the Ukraine and would be bringing back some new siblings for them, although the exact number was not yet determined. Despite the initial and innocent jesting, our children were all very responsive and supportive.  Tears began to flow, the hugs and support we felt were amazing. We were absolutely surprised: stunned more like it. Michael and David both were very quick to say,  “Oh mom we are so sorry, we were only joking. This is amazing.” ‘We love you guys’. We both finally allowed ourselves to release the breath we had been holding since the song began to play.

Wow! What a whirlwind, now on the evening of November 29th we were off to Winnipeg in preparation for our international journey. We would spend the night in a hotel near the airport and catch a shuttle for our flight the following day.  My last shift at the hospital was actually the very day we headed to Winnipeg. I arrived home about 8:30 pm and quickly changed. Then I loaded our luggage which Sharon had so thoroughly and diligently packed. Our friends Dean and Kaylene were such a blessing as they brought our vehicle home from the airport and looked after the key transfer for our house sitters and periodically checked on things for us.  It is times like these that one recognizes the importance of friends!

Our flight was not until 12:55 pm November 30th, so this gave us time to relax and somewhat energize for the long journey ahead. A much needed break after all the emotions expressed only days prior. We spent the day emotionally preparing. The relief we felt, (now of being able to share this journey with our children) and the excitement as we got ready to depart was overwhelming but served to spur us on.  We were off with the collective support and prayers of our children, care group and church leadership team.  Winnipeg to Toronto, Toronto to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Kyiv.

December 1st at 1:15 pm we arrived at the Boryspil Airport on time . . .  what a lost feeling! The airport was different from any other airport I had experienced with next to no signage in English. After collecting our luggage, clearing security and customs, our eyes anxiously scanned for an unfamiliar face that was to be holding a sign with our family name. We saw no sign! ….but wait a minute: could that be? . . . A man holding a sign!  It would not hurt to ask. Sure enough: we found our driver. We had initially not recognized that the sign was intended for us as they had spelled our name wrong. Van was loaded with all of our luggage and we were off!

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A reminder that we are not in Canada as we leave Boryspil airport.

Though we made the 30 minute drive into Kyiv in good time with reasonable traffic, the city centre however was a different story. The main downtown thoroughfare, Khreschatyk Street was closed to traffic, forcing our driver into the narrow side streets. It seemed every route our driver took was blocked! He repeatedly apologized in broken English for all the delays. Inna our interpreter, waiting at our accommodation was beginning to wonder when we would arrive and continued to call our already flustered driver.

It was nearly 6:00 pm when we arrived at our apartment, five hours after we had landed.!  Two exhausted travelers with the help of an enthusiastic Ukrainian driver managed to unload our luggage in record time. Ready, finally, for some peace and quiet. NOPE! wishful thinking on my part, it was off on a tour of the market with Inna so we would know where to buy groceries and would have food for breakfast! We did not get 1 block before I was approached by riot police in full gear, holding automatic rifles who abruptly asked me to display the contents of the bag I was carrying.  I was carrying the bag that would be used to bring back any groceries we would purchase if I didn’t get thrown in the slammer! I hadn’t a clue what they were saying. Inna quickly intervened explaining why we were here. The police officers smiled, I opened and showed them my empty bag, they shook our hands and away we went. What an introduction to the homeland of our soon to be children!

Our facilitator informed us that our apartment was very safe as the Finnish Ambassador lived in the adjacent apartment. And our entrance had double steel doors, the outer door having multiple dead bolts (9 in fact: we counted!).  If nothing raised questions regarding safety, the presence of overt security in the doors certainly did.

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Note the double door. How many pins do you count?

We had 4 days to explore, recover from jet lag and pray. I was very burdened about the coming selection of our children, that would be based on photos in a file. Ukrainian Law dictates that no prospective parents may see children or photos of children until arriving for the first appointment with the SDA office in Kyiv, Ukraine. This meant that we had no information on who we could be considering to adopt at this point.  How could I choose one and not another?  The thought almost seemed immoral and the pressure was overwhelming.

Sharon and I began to pray in earnest that somehow God would take the choice out of our hands and simply choose for us. For four days that was our prayer: ‘Lord give us the children you want us to have’. So during those 4 days we explored Kyiv: the city of contrasts. Friends in our  home church had a contact in Kyiv – how reassuring it was to connect with Dimi who knew the city and culture and who spoke English. He provided us with tips on how to maintain our safety and even directed us to a local free tour of ancient Kyiv.  We visited such landmarks as St. Sophia’s, St Michaels, and St Vladimir’s Cathedrals, Shevchenko University, Globus Department Store – the single most expensive store I have ever been in – we did not buy anything!

Independence Square, The Golden Gate, The Bessarabsk Market at the intersection of Khreschatyk Street and Shevchenko Boulevard.

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Bessarabsk Market – unlimited fresh produce, meats, dairy products – a giant farmers market in the heart of the city. Each salesperson eager to have prospective buyers taste a free sample. Our first experience of Salo (Preserved raw pig fat) occurred here! Dimi encouraged us to try it!

We attended an Ukrainian worship service by Music Ministry Ukraine, led by the conductor of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra, Wes Janzen, who it turns out is married to a distance cousin of mine. The blessing of this contact only becomes more amazing as our journey progresses.

December 5th, we walked across the city to the SDA office with Inna and Yana. Yana one of our translators would be accompanying us in our appointment and to the orphanage later.  There was a quiet calm that rested over us. We arrived early for our 1100 am appointment and . . . we waited . . . waited and we waited with much trepidation until finally at 1300 it was our turn.  Sharon will describe what happened next.

If you would like to help us with Adoption Volume 2, to provide a forever family for some more Ukrainian Orphans, click on the preceding link.

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