|Waiting for the train in Kiev|
We arrived in our orphanage city at 8:45 am and court was scheduled for 9am. We awoke early and Marsh and I changed into our dressy clothes. There is a dress code in the court...no t-shirts or jeans. As our facilitator said, "Look beautiful, very beautiful." We, of course, were sweating all over our nice clothes though. It is HOT and humid here and our a/c and ventilation didn't work in the train...at all...all night. We had two drivers because Chris and Patty were with us. One driver took them and all our luggage back to the apartment while the other took our facilitator and us to court.
Ruslan and Nastia were not there yet, but when they arrived they were dressed very nicely and Nastia was wearing one of the flower clips she made during our very first visit back in April! We were so happy to see each other and there were hugs all around.
The courtroom has a metal cage in it for criminals and everything is very old and falling apart. The worst thing about the room, though, was the lack of a fan! Whew...it was a sweaty scorcher! The hearing was attended by us and our facilitator, the kids and one of the psychologists from the orphanage, a local government authority, the vice-director of the orphanage, a prosecutor, the judge and one juror. We all had to stand individually and tell our names, our address and our employment. This is standard procedure. Even the children had to identify themselves.
The judge had Marsh stand and the prosecutor asked a LOT of a questions...including the ones I listed above. Whew. He did a great job answering why we wanted to adopt these children, listing their medical history (which we also had to memorize and practice), why we wanted to adopt from Ukraine specifically, how we plan to teach them English, etc. I must admit that I was a little nervous about what my turn was going to be like and thought he had an unfair advantage knowing what the prosecutor was asking before it was translated for us. He got double time to think about his answers! Everything Marsh had to answer was exactly what our facilitator said we would be asked. It was so important that his answers were "correct", but he didn't have to do a lot of "off the cuff" answering.
|Just after the court ruling|
Then it was my turn. I had prayed for the Spirit to help me through whatever it was I was going to need to say. I was remarkably calm when it was my turn to speak and I was so grateful for the peace. None of the questions were the type we had been prepared for except for knowing that they might want to ask about this or that. There was nothing left to answer that we had memorized, so I had no idea what was going to happen next.
I stood and was asked, first, why I wanted more children when I already had six biological ones at home. Our answers were supposed to be as brief as possible. I testified that I knew this is what we women were created for...to be mothers and to nurture children and that I was happy to have more children to raise.
The prosecutor then said, "The burden of caring for the children usually falls on the mother. How do you intend to take care of all the needs of so many of them?" I explained that the older ones help take care of the younger ones and that I really don't have a desire to do anything else with my time. It is what God gave me time for and I am happy and fulfilled by being with my children and being their mother. I don't need to look for time outside this responsibility to relax or be diverted...the calling itself is so fulfilling that I would rather do it than anything else.
The local authority told me that, here in Ukraine, the parents help the children financially and in any other way they can with getting through school, buying an apartment, etc. How did I intend to help so many children with this type of future? I explained that we felt it was very important for children to learn to work and save and provide for their future themselves as much as possible. In America, there are jobs and scholarships to help them with their schooling if they are willing to work for those benefits. We, as parents, feel that their education and other endeavors mean more to them when they work for it themselves.
I was then asked how I felt about Ruslan and Nastia when we first met and how they responded to us. (Our facilitator had told me specifically not to cry...oops...)
I said that we loved them immediately. Then got all choked up when I tried to answer the question about how I thought the children felt about us. I said, "I think the children..."
I looked at Ruslan who was sitting to the side behind me. (Nastia was directly behind me.) He gave me a thumbs up and a big smile and whispered, "Yeah!" Everyone laughed quietly as I said, "Well, I think they are happy with us, too!"
I was asked to sit down and the children were asked to come forward and stand to answer questions. They were asked if they were okay with having their names changed and if they wanted to join our family. They said they were and did. The prosecutor told them that they were going to have to learn English and that they would be Americans now...was that okay with them? Yes, it was.
They were asked to sit down and the judge went through every page of our paperwork, listing all the documents in the dossier. The prosecutor and the vice-director of the orphanage were chatting during this time. Marsh turned to the kids and asked Nastia if she was bored. She nodded. I pulled out my trusty purse calendar and a pen and handed them back. Ruslan took them and wrote this on it:
|Several different times during the hearing their new names were read by authorities or recited by us.|
During court proceedings, the authorities in the room had said things like, "No one in Ukraine wants to adopt these children", "They have been in the orphanage for two years and no one has come for them", "Your application says that you wanted to adopt two boys" (which shocked us, even our facilitator, and I was not supposed to look surprised at anything...oops, again). All I could think of was what was going on in the minds of these sweet children. It seemed like it was just being recounted over and over that no one wanted them. And to Nastia, with the mistake in our application about only wanting to adopt boys being read publicly, I wondered if that was just another blow...that we didn't intend to have another girl.
After court was over, the prosecutor pulled the children aside and said, "You must learn English and behave and be obedient to your parents or they will send you back to Ukraine." At that point, I had had enough. We hugged them hard and Marsh said to them, "We are never sending you back. You're stuck with us forever!"
While the children had been answering questions a few minutes earlier, I had looked at the two of them standing their together, so small for their ages, so frail. Their history is painful...these children of God have suffered more in their short lives than I have in my long one. They have lived through things I spent my childhood fearing.
I suddenly thought of their mother and how she must feel today. I felt she most likely was in that room, witnessing this page turning in their lives. As my name replaces hers on their birth certificates, I hope she has the perspective only heaven can give on something like that. I am fully aware that it was her suffering, her pain, her devotion to these children and her love for them that made it possible for us to enjoy them now. And I know she never wanted to leave them.
I hope someday Ruslan and Nastia will come to understand that it was only through the suffering they have endured that they will be able to have a family forever, with siblings and support they wouldn't have had any other way. Perhaps someday they will realize that it is through the most difficult challenges that the Lord brings the sweetest blessings.
After court, Ruslan and Nastia were taken back to the orphanage and we picked up Chris and Patty and signed some more papers at a notary. We then went to the orphanage and met with the director. Then it was time for them to meet Nastia for the first time and to see Ruslan again...something all six of our other children had been anticipating and praying for for an entire year.
The director had told us that Nastia was very worried (she was wringing her hands while she recounted this...) that her sisters wouldn't like her, that they wouldn't accept her. When Marsh had translated this for Patty, she sat back in her chair and said, "Oh!" and I could tell that within a few minutes, Nastia was not going to be worried anymore!
|Siblings meeting for the first time!|
|The infamous hole-in-the-floor toilets|
We went to pizza (Ruslan prefers American pizza, he said...I agree), found traditional Ukrainian toilets that I had only heard about from Marsh and then headed back to the amusement park we went to last time (which I didn't blog about because I didn't want any other families to be jealous!!)...much to the intense joy of ALL four children! It was raining off and on, but we had a FABULOUS time.
|We are not having ANY fun...at all.|
We even met a young man who drives the missionaries around. We invited him to church and were able to tell him what time to come, which was something he was wondering about, and told him we'd be there and looking for him.
After just a little while at the amusement park, Nastia was preferring to be with Patty instead of me. She was holding her hand and hugging her, much to Patty's joy. They went on almost all the rides together and every once in a while, Nastia would come give me a big squeeze.
All in all, it was a wonderful, memory making day! Our 10 day waiting period will end on July 23rd, but we will get to take them out of the orphanage on the 24th. Marsh declared that though we will celebrate Utah's Pioneer Day on that day, we will also celebrate it as the day Ruslan and Nastia joined our family.