On Weds Sept 17, Rob flew to Ukraine for the final stages of the adoption. He arrived Thursday afternoon and settled in a bit. On Friday, September 19, he met with our lawyer and translator to go pick up the necessary finalized documents that would allow him to take custody of Maryna.
The departure from her school was hard. Really hard. A lot of tears and hugs and sadness. These have been her roommates for a year, but also friends and--for all intents and purposes--sisters. Even though we see it as a lonely and hard way to live a childhood, this is all she's known for many years and is what she has come to trust and hold dear. Saying goodbye was bittersweet.
They then headed to her hometown an hour north to request her birth certificate and other documents. The school/orphanage where she spent ages 11-14 is also there, and so they stopped to visit her former classmates and teachers while they waited for paperwork to be prepared. They also visited her childhood home. There's a lot to the story here, but it's not entirely mine to tell so for now let's say it was a day of unexpected twists on top of the expected emotional process.
By the time they got back to the apartment that evening, the passport application center was long closed. They spent the weekend sight-seeing. Maryna spent most of the weekend on the phone with her friends back at school. Rob and I talked as often as possible via Skype and facebook chatting. Maryna was, of course, grieving the loss of her friends and worried about the reality of life in America, so there was high anxiety and frustration.
Monday was the passport office and then more sitting. Monday night our friends flew in from America. They were picking up two of their new kids from the same school as Maryna and were scheduled for taking custody on Tuesday, meaning we had the huge joy of overlapping with them at each step of the in-country process. Since the kids had all been friends before any of this, they've grown closer through this process, too. Rob was so happy to have another set of Americans to talk with, and both Rob and Maryna were anxious to have her friends around again to lighten the grief.
Tuesday was mostly sitting around with degrees of grief, frustration, doubt, anxiety, and panic. Maryna met up with a graduated classmate who now lives in the city of Odessa, and there was a misunderstanding about expected behaviors which led to some more frustration on all sides. The family adopting Maryna's classmates arrived back to Odessa with them in their custody that evening and life was generally better.
Wednesday, Rob and Maryna headed by bus to Kiev (about 7 hours). They arrived and settled into a new place and more of the same. Thursday evening the friends from Odessa arrived to Kiev, too, and the party continued through the weekend. There was a slim chance that they would get the passport in time to fly home Friday night, and for a few hours it looked like it might even work. We had booked a ticket on a Friday afternoon flight, and the passport arrived Thursday afternoon so they had everything in hand Friday assuming the embassy would be quick with the visa.
Long story short, I was up at 2AM getting messages from Rob (9AM there) after they arrived at the embassy and were told that they would not get same-day service so they'd have to come back Monday afternoon for pick-up. So instead of Friday afternoon, they could not reasonably expect to catch a flight until Tuesday morning. There were frustrated tears on all sides. My brother was getting married that weekend and we all had hoped to have the family together, Maryna had looked forward to seeing an American wedding, and I missed my husband terribly. Plus, each day in Ukraine made Maryna even more nervous about the eventual flights and adjustment to American life.
But, there's no leaving without a visa, and no visa without the embassy, and the embassy said no.
So...Rob and Maryna spent the weekend with our friends and their 4 kids (two older from Maryna's school, two younger from a different school) and another family in Kiev waiting for the final paperwork to arrive for their two teenage sons. Friday morning the 3 US kids and I headed on a 6 hour drive to Virginia that involved a car-sick August and at nearly the exact same time, a panicked call from Rob where he messaged with a friend in Mississippi who was kind enough to call me and transcribe/read a conversation between Rob in Ukraine and me on the road through Pennsylvania. Eventually we reached the beautiful wedding venue and spent the next 36 hours with family. It was a beautiful, exhausting, bittersweet weekend. I'm so happy for my brother and his bride, and so grateful to have that time with my family.
Monday I awoke to hear they already had the visa and were just waiting for their flights the next morning. They were booked on a 5AM departure which would mean a 3AM ride to the airport. By mid-afternoon they'd been informed that a pilot strike was re-routing them and they, instead, had a direct flight to the US that would leave at 11AM, so everyone could sleep.
Tuesday, the flights went fine. They arrived safely in JFK late Tuesday afternoon and then connected home at 9:45 Tuesday night, Sept 30. The kids and I arrived at the airport with flowers and chocolates and a coke just in time to meet them. There were huge hugs of relief and joy. So so so happy to have my family whole and home.
Home and sleeping were the only two things on the wish list at that point for all of us.
The past 11 days have been utter chaos at my job and the kids have been busy with school things and life in general is just insanely busy. I'm working 10-14 hours every day, including weekends, and still falling behind which means everyone is frustrated. Rob is trying to keep our immediate household afloat, fed, clean, and on time for all the necessary appointments, and helping with extended family concerns, too. But we're making the most of any time we do have and looking forward to a time (I hope!) when my schedule drops back down to a 40-50 hour work week.
Maryna is adjusting as well as we might have hoped. After trust and love, language is the number one most important thing that we need to develop in order for everything else to work: school, church, making friends, having independence.... Unfortunately, it's also the hardest and the slowest and appears to be the most frustrating or least appealing. Day by day.