Thursday, May 28, 2009

Capricious Ukraine

Word is getting out that this coming Tuesday, June 2, the parliament of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada, will be voting on a bill to cease allowing all foreign adoptions, except from Russia. Being this far away, it is difficult to know exactly what is behind it. There is certainly an element of national pride. No government likes to see its children shipped out to foreign countries. There is also an element of pro-West vs. pro-Communist/Socialist politics in Ukraine. The fact that Russia would be the only foreign country allowed to adopt seems very suspicious. As if that weren't bad enough, if the law passes, they say it will take effect immediately, and any families currently in Ukraine to adopt that haven't had court yet will not be able to continue. Think they wouldn't do that? Last year, they suddenly passed a law forbidding unmarried people from adopting. It went into effect immediately and all affected adoptive parents were not allowed to adopt. Our facilitator at the time told me about the women he saw at the SDA crying and pleading their cases to no affect. It is saddening to imagine having established a relationship with a child then being told they could not adopt. Now, we are on the verge of an even more serious development. Personally, I see nothing good coming from this, only bad, so let us pray that it does not pass and that President Yuschenko does not sign it if it does.

Here is an article in English from the Verkhovna Rada's official website.

The Fumia's are in Odessa now to adopt Grisha, a classmate of our son, Sergey. We put several pictures of him on our blog while we were at Orphanage #4. While we were in Odessa, I made sure I gave him a hug every day and I told him it was from Ashley. If this law passes next week, they will not be able to complete their adoption. It will be devestating, as they have been waiting 2 years to do this. Of course, they are not the only ones there right now. Among others, the Hoffman's are also there adopting another classmate of Sergey's named Lena. This is potentially a very grave situation. Ashley Fumia describes it in this post.

We were also minorly affected by the capricious politics of Ukraine last year. Though, it didn't seem minor at the time. About the time we finished our dossier, Ukraine passed a new quota on foreign adoptions for the year, limiting 2008 dossiers to 1,453. We did not make that cut and thought we were shut out for 2008. As it turned out, by the time October 2008 came around, they learned that they were coming in under the quota, so we suddenly found out that we made it in. We were fortunate; we had about two weeks to prepare, but some families had as little as 3 or 4 days notice to be there for their SDA appointment.

Nothing seems to ever be certain for long in Ukraine regarding adoptions. Please pray for this situation.

Here are a few pictures I took on a foggy morning in Kiev on Wed. Feb. 11 2009.

This is the parliament building, where the Verkhovna Rada, or Supreme Council, meets. On this day, they were in session and "friendly" policemen told me were I was allowed to walk. There is an Orthodox cross with a picture of the Madonna in front of the courtyard at the main entrance.

For momths, protesters were camped out in Independence Square, or Maidan as it is known there. At night, musicians would perform in front of these huts singing politcal songs. Basically, they are saying that Yuschenko's economic policies are a failure and they are demanding change in the national government.

On this day, Khreschatyk Street was closed off and a large, organized political rally was taking place in front of the Kiev City Hall. There are three main political parties at the national level, pro-West President Victor Yuschenko's Our Ukraine party, the socialist Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko's Bloc Yulia Timoshenko, and the communist Victor Yanukovych's Party of Regions. None of them are getting along at all, and the Verkhovna Rada is the laughingstock of Ukraine because of their impotence. It appeared that there were hundreds or thousands of people that came in busses, as they were parked along the street forming a sort of barricade. Many of their bumpers were literally touching.

There were many colorful flags on display at the rally. Of note in these pictures are the white Bloc Yulia Timoshenko flags, the red Communist flags, and the blue and yellow Ukrainian national flags.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


We've been home with the Ukies for 3 months, but every once in a while I watch them and am amazed that they are part of our family.

The other day I was watching Valya walking down the hallway toward her bedroom, and it struck me how a year ago it was near impossible to envision her here. Back in Ukraine, I never believed that Sergey would be any problem to adopt, and he wasn't. Plus we had gotten to know him since he was Mark's penpal for awhile and we were able to have him stay with us for 2 weeks last summer. But Valya, she was a complete unknown. We hired a stranger in Ukraine to meet with her to find out if she wanted to be adopted... we waited anxiously to hear back from him... then were thrilled to get 4 small photos by email.

Then, when we were in Ukraine we didn't know for sure that we would be able to adopt her until probably 3-4 weeks after we got there... After we got word that all 12 or so of the officials in-region had agreed... I was talking once with our friend M in Odessa about Valya, and she commented how amazing it was that we came all the way from South Dakota and were plucking this girl out of the middle of nowhere in Ukraine. It was incredible - and still seems that way to me.

So, once in a while, I pause and take it all in, and marvel.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

No Way... 3 Months?!!

May 15 marked the 3 month anniversary of bringing the kids home. I can't say Sergey has changed much, but Valya is at the point where every week her English skills keep getting better and better.

We arrived in Mitchell on a Sunday, and the kids were attending Mitchell Christian School the following Thursday. There was actually no school Monday or Friday that first week so it was a good time to get them in there. Of course, they thought they should have a couple of weeks off to "get used to America", but we decided against that! I told them that they had already missed at least 2 weeks of school, so it was time. Now, this coming Thursday May 21 is the last day of school. We will be leaving after work on a road trip to Rapid City, where they will get to meet their new grandparents for the first time (my mom and her husband).

We have the kids preregistered for summer school, they will go during June and July for four days a week from 8:30 to 11:30 am. June is math and July is grammar/reading/writing/English. Neither is happy about that at all!

The kids are doing well. We have discipline issues occasionally with both of them, but just normal stuff kids get in trouble for. A couple of weeks ago Valya had her first emotional issue, cried a good portion of an evening. We, Nancy especially, just did our best to comfort her. Mark was unkind to her about something, plus she was missing her family back in Ukraine, probably some other things. She was back to her usual chipper self the next morning.

Mark is also adjusting to having siblings, but it hasn't been easy for him. He is working through things his own way. We've seen improvement, though, since that issue with Valya.

Nancy and I are adjusting to a much busier life. More errands, more shopping, more food, more clothing, just more everything.

Though our Ukies are 13 and 14 years old, some days it feels like we have toddlers again. I won't go into details on the blog, though, since our kids look at it once in a while. In some ways they have a lot of catching up to do with age-appropriate behavior. But they are terrific kids and a real blessing to us.

As Valya's English skills increase, she is starting to tell us more about life in the orphanage. She told Nancy the other night how the girls in her dorm would cry at night because they had no one that loved them. She also asked Nancy the night before last why it took so long for us to come get her. How do you explain government quotas? That was unforgivable last year. Thankfully, it looks like this year there are no adoption quotas.

The three months since we have been home have gone quickly. I am looking forward to summer so that we can do more fun things as a family, instead of just homework every night. I am starting to get a little vacation time build up again. My two adoption trips to Ukraine really wiped it out.

Here are some pictures of things that have been going on the last couple of months.

At Easter, we visited one of Nancy's sister's family in Northern Minnesota.

When Valya has friends over, it is almost a sure thing that there will be girlie stuff like makeup and hair fixing done.

Valya's room. She has pictures of our time in Ukraine taped all over her dresser. Some of them are on our blog. On the nightstand next to her bed there is a picture of her with her orphanage director, taken the day I took her from her orphanage. She says that he is a good man.

Valya has discovered YouTube. She loves watching programs and videos from Ukraine. Yesterday she lost computer priviledges for not obeying Nancy and that was painful for her.

For one of his school assignments, Sergey gave a report about the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33. One of my first memories of visiting Ukraine was on the ride from the airport to our apartment, we passed a memorial in a park that was filled with candles and flowers. I asked my facilitator what that was and he said it was a memorial to the 3-10 million Ukrainians that Stalin starved to death.

Valya with some roses, they are her favorite flower. Later, she sprayed some perfume on them and learned that that will kill them.

Mark practices rifle target shooting. He earned the shotgun shooting merit badge in Boy Scouts. I haven't let Sergey handle the gun yet. He would love to but I don't have a good feeling about it. While we were waiting to go over and get Sergey, we had sent him the NRA publication called American Rifleman. It is full of articles and ads about guns. The orphanage boys loved it. Sergey showed it to us at the orphanage and it was pretty worn out.

Valya loves Nancy. Lately, as her English has been improving, we are getting more insight into her heart. She thanks God for this "good" family when we pray with her at bedtime.

Track season came to an end this last week. Mark and Valya both participated at the junior high level. This was the first organized sport that Valya had ever been in and it was a new adventure for her. She loves volleyball and is anxious for Fall for that sport. Mark especially loves basketball, while Sergey loves baseball. Baseball practice has been going for about 3 weeks now. They will have their first game in June.

Mark and teammates watch Valya compete.

Valya gets race instructions from a teammate. She and Mark worked very hard this season.

Waiting for yearbook pictures to be taken.

I felt sorry for the kids a couple of weeks ago. May 7th was Nancy's birthday, and May 10th was my birthday and Mother's day. 3 major present and card giving events in 4 days. The kids seemed to enjoy it, though.

Valya made Nancy's Mother's Day card. She is a good artist. Sometime I will post one of her drawings.

All of our kids were in Sunday school, which ended last week. Sergey and Valya participated in the grade school age program.

Valya has a bright pink feather boa. She stands out when she wears it to church!

For my birthday, we visited the Falls of the Big Sioux river, from which Sioux Falls gets its name. In the picture of Valya climbing up, there is a robin's nest. The mama was nearby squawking quite loudly to scare us away.

My birthday. Valya gave me a card with monkeys on it. It is a joke because I call her my monkey, since she can eat 5 bananas a day.