The entry from my Journal December 8th 2016 at 7 pm.
Only today we arrived in Odessa. We traveled all night, through the snow to a bright and sunny morning! No snow, but frosty and clear. Our driver took us from the train station to the town of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi. I had never heard of this place until a couple of days ago. For now it was the home of our new family! Rob looked it up on the internet when we had wifi and found out that apparently it’s a very old city and was also called Akkerman in years gone by. It’s a port city on the banks of the Dniester Liman River leading to the Black Sea and an hour and a half south and then west of Odessa. It dates from the 6th century where a settlement named Tyras was founded. This later became Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi.
On arrival, we saw the ‘older child’ orphanage first as we had to drop off a boy and his worker there who had been on the same train as us and were returning from a medical appointment in Kyiv. There are two orphanages in this town. A ‘baby orphanage’ and a ‘older child orphanage’ we learn.
Last night on the train I couldn’t sleep for ages and I felt unsettled about all that is happening so fast so I recited the 23rd Psalm from memory. Never before did I realize how the Psalmist must have felt! ‘You lead me in green, gentle pastures, You walk with me beside calm waters. You restore my soul. You make me a delicious meal right in front of my enemies. I am so blessed by You that I can hardly hold it in!, Your love to me and Your undeserved kindness to me will be with me every day until I die. I will live with You forever Lord. I know this is not any translation that I know but this is what I said.
After Yana found us a place to stay, we met the Director of Children’s Services at 2:30 pm and then she came with us to the Orphanage to meet our children.
Our first glimpses of the Orphanage is that it’s very old, and somewhat run-down and ‘worn’. Ridge tiles are missing from the roof. The glass in the windows have cracks and the concrete path leading to the front door is cracked and broken. The whole place looks like it needs some major TLC. It looks dirty. Yana rang the door bell and we waited. The door was opened and we were shown into a tiled entryway with many little pairs of boots all lined up neatly on a rack.
We met the Orphanage Director, then sat with her in her office, along with the Director of Children’s Services and Yana, our translator. There we were asked even more questions, translated for us by Yana and then the Orphanage Director opened the door and called in the children.
What amazingly beautiful children! The littlest one is only 5. He’s adorable!. He immediately climbed up on my knee and called me ‘Mama’. The other boy is 10. He seems quiet and mature with dark eyes. The director is a strong woman but she seems fair. The children respect her but I think they might love her too. She is gentle with them. She talked to them and asked them if they wanted to be adopted by us and live in Canada. They all responded ‘Yes’! with nods of their heads too. Niamh said she wanted to go today- right away- and was visibly disappointed when she was told that it wouldn’t be for few weeks yet. She likes to take pictures and enjoyed holding my camera. The littlest one cried ‘Wow’ when he saw the toy car we had brought him. They all got a stuffed toy too. Declan chose the dog, Niamh the bear with the white sweater and Conor the fluffy bear.
First Hugs! Niamh took these Pictures with my Camera
We are invited by the Orphanage Director to visit the Orphanage again tomorrow at 11:00 am to play with Declan for 1.5 hours and then come back from 4:00-6:00 pm to see all three of them together. The Orphanage Director told us, through Yana, that Conor will be staying at this orphanage while we are here. This is to make visiting easier so we can see all the children together. He currently lives at a different orphanage from his sister and little bother. It must be difficult for siblings to be separated like this. ‘Lord, You are so faithful! Make us worthy of these three precious children that You have given Rob and I. Protect them from anything raised against them by Your blood Jesus’!
The boys look more Mediterranean than Eastern European, with beautiful dark eyes, something I wasn’t expecting. For some reason I thought they would all be blond like the girl in my vision. We all experienced a funny moment when the 10-year-old asked the Director of the Orphanage something, she said it to Yana and Yana said ‘They want to call your parents’. Rob and I looked at each other. ‘Our parents? I asked ‘Why?‘ ‘My mother lives in Ireland and Rob’s parents are in Alberta in Canada?’. Everyone looked puzzled for a moment and then they started to laugh. ‘No‘ Yana went on, ‘The children want to know if they can call you their parents?’ Wow! We had just met these children like 5 minutes ago and already they want to trust us!
end of journal entry…
Journal Entry for Friday December 9th 2016
We went to visit Declan in the orphanage this morning by himself from 11-12:30. Initially we sat with him for a few minutes in the Director’s office and then she had a worker show us down a corridor and into a bedroom with two little beds and a small table. We thought this was his bedroom but find out it’s not, that he sleeps in a group room upstairs with about 20 other children. This is where they put the children who are sick. He has a cold.
On the way to the orphanage this morning, we stopped at a store and bought some puzzles for him to put together. They really are obsessed by security here! At the store, Rob was made put his backpack into a locker. They wanted to take my camera bag too but I refused to give it to the store security man as I have our passports and all our documents in there. Finally when he saw I wasn’t going to budge on this, he let me in thought he did follow me around the store. Rob teased me as he always does ‘Don’t mess with an Irish lady!’
Declan is a very clever little boy! He can put puzzles together very quickly. He seems smart for his age. Thankful! So glad we bought these for him!.
One thing I did notice though. Every time I went to take his picture, he would jump up out of his seat and stand up straight with his arms by his sides and he wouldn’t smile. In fact the only time he smiled was when we were holding him. He is such a beautiful and precious little boy!
At 12:30 the workers rang the bell calling the children for lunch and we left, walking all the 3 miles back to the Fiesta. We met up with Yana who took us in the car with Yura, to the Notary to sign more papers and then we were back to the orphanage again by 4:00 to see all the children together. They all seemed much more relaxed than yesterday. I guess we are too. The children really seemed to have enjoyed the visit. We played some games and looked at the picture book. The don’t speak a word of English so we were thankful Yana was still with us for a few minutes. My Russian is basic and not at all enough to have a meaningful conversation with them. Yana spent the remainder of the visit with the office staff while we were with the children…..end of journal entry…..
Playing with, and getting to know our children!
Day 10. Saturday December 10th 2016. From my Journal: Today Rob and I got our first glimpse of what it will be like parenting these children. We got to the orphanage just before 11:00 am. All the children seemed pleased to see us. Declan immediately tested our limits by going on the trampoline in the big room where we meet with the children. The workers had told us earlier that no one is allowed on the trampoline so I told him that in Russian and took him off. He wasn’t happy. He huffed, pouted and complained. Funny how complaining sounds the same in any language! He wouldn’t talk to us. In fact he refused to look at us, even when we packed up our bags and left. We were a little concerned but expected this sooner or later. Just had hoped it would be later as it’s only been two days since we met him.
Niamh also decided today was a good day to test us out too. Somewhere she had got hold of a firecracker and she let it off like a gunshot out of the orphanage window. We thought the staff might think we had something to do with this and tell us to leave. This is not what I want them to think of us as prospective parents and it is not acceptable behavior: she just thought it was funny and laughed!. Rob had her and Conor sit with him while he explained the orphanage rules for when we are visiting. Don’t know how much they understood. It was very discouraging! Rob and I spent some time in prayer alone about this after we left. We have so much to learn as parents to these children. They are good kids but have just been hurt by so many people in their past. Guess they don’t trust easy and they want to see what we are made of.
We walked back to town and wandered through the markets and then walked down to the old Fortress of Akkerman. So much history and it is such a beautiful day! The fortress dates back to the 6th century. Also saw the Ruins of Tyras beside the fortress. We need breaks this this to help us recharge our emotional reserves.
Then back to the hotel to meet our driver who took us to the orphanage for 4:00 pm. This evening was a totally different visit! Declan came running to meet us with his arms out calling ‘Papa’ “Mama’. He spent so much time just connecting tonight and wanted us to spend time with him. Tonight Conor was the challenge! Way too much energy in that kid and nowhere to expend it! He was totally wild! This is not going to be an easy road!
This evening Niamh introduced us to her best friend at the orphanage. This was important for her to be able to do this, and for us to include her friends in our visit. We didn’t mind at all. The workers came and tried to take her away but we told them it was fine, she could stay. We want to get to know our children’s friends too. They are her ‘family’ and because of that, ours too.
Tomorrow night we leave for Kyiv by car for Immigration medical appointments for the children….end of journal entry….