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Ukraine Adoption Journal

The Weston Family

Sent February 4th:

We are sorry we have not been updating as much, it has been hard to get access to the internet. It was supposed to work in our apartment in Kharkov, but it hasn’t been fixed yet. In any event, we have some exciting news, here is what is going on…..
When we were planning this adoption in 2003, we asked our translator that we used when we adopted Sonya and Nikitta to check on the availability of Leeza and Katya. She checked with the orphanage director as well as with the local education ministry official, known as the Inspector, as to whether Leeza and Katya would be available and registered at the National Adoption Center in Kiev.

The inspector was the person who actually prepared Leeza and Katya’s paperwork 6 years ago and she knew it had been sent to the regional administrator who would send it on to Kiev. Based on this information, we were certain both girls would have been available when we arrived, but we always knew it was not an absolute certainty.
When we did this research, we were made aware that Leeza had an older brother named Zhenya. The Zh is pronounced like the s in pleasure. We were told that Zhenya had turned 16. As he was older than 16, we thought we understood the US immigration laws prohibited us adopting an orphan that was older than 16. This is one of the reasons why we were in such a hurry to get Leeza out of there as she is 15.5 years old. When we were at the Adoption Center, we saw his paperwork on file and were able to look at it. We were disappointed at the time because we were reluctant to split Leeza and her brother, but we didn’t think US law would let us adopt him. He has constantly been on our minds since we have been planning this adoption.
While we were dealing with the US embassy to get the second referral, we decided to inquire specifically about Zhenya so we could understand what the
possibilities were. When we called, we were told that while it is true that the
US would not allow someone older than 16 years to immigrate through adoption, they could, however, if they had a sibling that was younger than 16 who had previously been adopted or who was being adopted at the same time. This was great news for us. As soon as we heard this we knew that we needed to consider adopting Zhenya and we planned that when we met with the orphanage director we would ask if we could meet him. When we called the director to let them know we were coming, we asked the orphanage director about Zhenya. When she heard that we were interested in Zhenya she got very excited. She told us that he is an exceptional boy that is very responsible and very well respected by his teachers and caregivers at the orphanage. She told us that Zhenya is very good at mathematics and physics and that he is so self motivated that he travels across town on weekends to take physics courses from a university. She said that Zhenya is a child who is determined to take advantage of every opportunity he is given and that he has always done this. She said that despite his circumstances, Zhenya is determined to make a good life for himself and that she was very happy that we would consider adopting him.
After we had seen Leeza and Katya on Monday, we set up a meeting with Zhenya and Leeza for that evening. Our first meeting with Zhenya occurred in a dark hallway. We sat down and introduced ourselves. He seemed cautious about us and his choice of words showed that he was very mature. He told us that upon graduation from high school, he was planning on attending the University. He said he is good at mathematics and told us about his courses he was taking on the weekends. He loves sports and says that he is very good at basketball and soccer. We asked him how he would pay for the University there. He said that his grades qualified him for free tuition and board for five years, and that the government would give him $18 per month for food, but he still had to pass a very difficult exam in order to qualify. He said he was very nervous about being on his own and going to the University. We were very impressed with how he was able to be so open with us about his fears and hopes. At the end of our discussion, he said something that really touched us. He knew that Leeza wanted a family more than anything. Of course he assumed that a family would not be interested in adopting him because he was older. He did something very selfless and to he told us not to worry about him, that Leeza would be very happy with her family in America and that he would take his opportunities here and make a good life for himself and that he and Leeza could write to each other and stay in contact. In essence he was saying, "don't let me be the reason that you do not adopt Leeza."
That was the end of the conversation and Julia and I left for the evening and
went back to our apartment. We discussed Zhenya and realized that the decision was simple and unanimous; we decided to ask Zhenya to become part of our family.
We had not met with Masha at this point and decided that the best thing to do
would be to get a referral for Zhenya. We were told by the orphanage director that Masha had visited a family in the US for three weeks and that they were
coming to see her in May and that most likely they would be very disappointed if she were adopted because she thought they would.
Zhenya, without a mother or a father, and just a sliver of hope for something,
had grown up and earned the respect of the entire orphanage staff. He was
giving up his weekends to better himself. What kind of a person does it take to rise above the challenges that he was faced with? We would be very blessed to be his mother and father and show him the love and opportunities that he deserved.
We are excited about Zhenya. He is a very special person. We can’t wait for
our extended family and friends to meet him. Nikitta will have the brother that
he begged us to find when we left for Ukraine. Our kids will have the perfect
older brother to look up to.
We told the orphanage director that we had decided to invite Zhenya to be a part of our family. We were very nervous that he would not want to come and we desperately wanted him to say yes. We knew this would be the right thing for our family. We met with him again and told him that we would be very happy if he would join our family. He told us right away that he would. He told us that he hoped he could live up to the responsibility of being the oldest child in the family. We discussed his hopes and dreams a little more and told him more about us. He told us that computers were his life. We shared with him what we do for a living and a little about our technical backgrounds. We realized later when discussing this conversation with our translator, that he most likely loves computers vicariously through his friends at school, as regular access to a computer was not likely. I showed him my laptop computer and his eyes lit up. He was so easy to talk to and was not hiding his excitement. He was at the birthday party we went to at the orphanage and we were so excited about how he interacted with all of the kids. They looked up to him and respected him. Leeza, Katya and Zhenya went with us after the party to the art room. On the way to the room, we stopped in a room full of 2-3 year olds. Zhenya was mobbed by the kids and he played with them for a few minutes.
This trip has been full of surprises, but we see our complete family coming
together. Leeza and Zhenya are coming home with us, and Katya, who is now our daughter as well, although not yet by Ukrainian law, will be coming home as soon as the government will allow. Leaving Katya in Ukraine AGAIN, will be the hardest thing Julia and I will ever do. We have no choice right now. Our family will bear this burden until she is home and we will finally be a complete
family.
In order to adopt Zhenya, we had one more hurdle. We would have to return to Kiev and face the Director and get a referral for Zhenya. We took the express train on Wednesday morning. We called ahead of time and told them we wanted a new referral for Zhenya. They told us to come in the afternoon and they would have it prepared. We took a letter we had written and translated to the director, just in case, that explained why we were doing this. The last time we asked for a referral she had us write a letter of explanation, so we were prepared just in case. When we got to Kiev after the 6 hour train ride, we went to the adoption center by taxi. We arrived around 2:45 and waited. More and more couples started showing up to pick up their referrals. Everyone waited until close to 5:00 when they started calling names. Our translator had checked when we arrived and was told that the referral was being prepared and we should wait until our name was called. All of the couples over the next hour went in and close to 6:00 our translator went in and asked if there was a problem. She was told that we needed a letter from the Inspector in Kharkov. We arranged to have it faxed in the morning. We asked if this would be sufficient and were told that a fax would be fine. Thursday morning the fax was sent from the inspector and we called the adoption center and they said that now the director had decided we needed the original. So it is being sent on a bus and it will get here late Thursday night. We are spent another night here. We took the required paper into the Adoption Center fully expecting to wait all day to get in again but surprisingly this time we were able to go right in and get the referral for Zhenya. We are returning to Kharkov by train tonight so we can spend the weekend with Leeza, Katya and Zhenya.
We should have court and be done within about 10-14 days and be headed home. We will forward some pictures of all the kids as soon as we can. We are also making some short movie clips to send as well. We will be visiting the
orphanage almost every day and we will tell you more about our great kids as we learn more about them ourselves. :)
Wade and Julia
P.S. We want to wish Julia's Great Grandma Lucy a happy 100th birthday!! We wish we could be there for the celebration! We want to let her know that we are trying to add to her posterity as fast as possible.

Subject: New Update from Wade and Julia
Date: Mon, 07 Feb 2005 18:23:16 +0000

We typed an update yesterday, Sunday, but when we went to send it the email locked up and we had a taxi waiting so we had to run. We will try to get it sent this time and make up for the missed post.

Saturday and Sunday we spent with all three kids. They are great. Zhenya continues to impress us. He can't contain his excitement about coming to America now. We had so much fun. We started watching Harry Potter 3 in English on our laptop DVD Sunday night with our kids and before we knew it there were about 20 kids packed around us watching. We can't believe we have gone from 1 child to 6 in the space of 22 months. It is really an awesome feeling. These kids are amazing. They are so sweet, humble, gracious and appreciative. You can't say that about too many US teenagers.

We bought a cell phone in Kiev to keep in touch with our translator while she is running around doing paperwork, etc. We got the idea that we would give the phone to Katya when we left so she could call us and then we could quickly call her back at a pre-determined time each week. We decided to show her the phone on Saturday and tell her about our plan. She was so excited about the phone. If you could imagine buying a 16 year old a new BMW, that was Katya with her cell phone. We were just going to show it to her and then explain our plan and we would continue using the phone until we left Ukraine, but that all got lost in translation and it is her phone now. We are just going to buy another one. We were so worried about how she would take having to wait for up to a year before we can bring her home, but after this weekend, we feel like she is understanding and will be ok. Not good, but ok. We, on the other hand are not doing so well with this situation. With every minute we spend with her the reality of how hard it will be to leave her here grows. We go back to our apartment every night and look at her picture and just cry. We would do anything to bring her home right now. This trip is so bitter sweet. We love the time we are spending with the kids, but the thought of leaving her here makes us ill. This coming year is going to be hard. How do you leave a 14 year old child that is now your child in your heart, in the custody of a foreign government. We realize that we put ourselves in this situation, but how do you turn off your love because you might get hurt. That love is why we are here in the first place.
We spent the day Monday running around Kharkov with our driver and translator doing paperwork. We had to get several documents from different places including the kids medical report, and the local permissions. We also had to create a document to request permission to adopt the kids and we had to get that notarized. Notaries here are interesting. They have big offices and everything has to be notarized. We were able to see the kids this evening and we spent the time practicing English. All three kids read English and can pronounce everything very well. If you speak really slow they can understand much of what you say. They just need to expand their vocabulary and practice conversations. We are excited about how far along they already are. We don't need our translator with us when we are with them. We communicate in a combination of broken Russian and English. Sometimes our sentences are half and half as we use the words we all know in each language. It works.

We settled on names for Zhenya and Leeza. Zhenya's full name will be Zhenya Ryan Weston. Leeza's name will be Leeza Reanne Weston. Katya wants to be Kathryn, but we don't have to finalize her name until we come back. They are excited about their names.

We forgot one thing in an update a while back that we want to share. Last week we were telling Leeza and Katya that we wanted to adopt them, but that we had some paperwork problems and Katya couldn't come home with us now and it would have to be later. Katya became upset and Leeza said to Katya " you go, I will stay". This is coming from a girl that wants a family more than breath. They are too good.

We are possibly going back to Kiev this week to submit a new dossier for Katya. We are desperately trying to get it in before some of our paperwork starts to expire. Unfortunately, we may not make it in time. Our translator is telling us that since some of our documents expire in less than a month, they may not accept this dossier and we will have to start a new one. We are going to turn it in anyway and see what happens.

Tomorrow we will send another update. We appreciate all of the emails of support. We get so many funny looks in the internet cafe while we sit here and cry while we write emails and read them. Expressing emotion is not something Ukrainians really do in public. They are pretty stoic.

Wade and Julia

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