We did not get to take Bella out of the orphanage and leave Krivoy Rog as expected last Tuesday. A snowstorm hit Kiev and prevented her passport from being delivered to get the necessary stamps (it's not even worth explaining - just more Ukrainian red tape!). Without the passport, we could not proceed to Kiev and clear the U.S. Embassy, so we stayed put for another day.
On Wednesday, December 12th, I was informed that the passport was ready, so we headed to the orphanage at about 10am to get Bella out. When I arrived at the orphanage, there was an air of anticipation and excitement among some of the workers. I was greeted by two of my favorite people there, Olga and Sveta. Olga was a tremendous help in preparing all of our documentation, and Sveta is the orphanage receptionist. I have spoken about Sveta before on this blog - she was the first face I saw when I first visited this place back in February. She has always greeted me with a warm smile (a rarity here) when I walked in the front door.
From left: Olga, Me, and Sveta
I then carried Bella's clothing upstairs to the laying room where she was waiting. Orphans own nothing, so in my bag was a coat, hat, mittens, sweater, dress, undershirt, underwear, tights, and shoes. I gave everything to the caregivers and tried to elicit a few more tidbits of information from them while they dressed Bella.
I glanced around the laying room (a place I had been granted access to only twice during the past six weeks) for the last time. I was afraid to take photos, but at the same time I felt compelled to snap a couple of quick shots of the place - the one and only room - that Bella had existed in for the last 4.5 years. I saw the faces of her groupa mates barely peeking out from beneath heavy comforters - some sweet, some sad, some seemingly lifeless. Two were excited by the commotion. I told myself this was the last time I would smell what I dubbed the "orphanage stench" on Bella - a combination of bad breath, sporadic baths, and old clothes that are worn day after day. It was the last time that I would smell the diapers that permeated the room, swollen with concentrated urine. It was the last time I would hug sweet child standing in the photo below and tell her "Paka!"
Soon Bella was adequately bundled and deemed ready to be carried downstairs to the waiting van.
When we got downstairs we discovered that Natasha (whom I plan to write a post about later this week) was there to say goodbye to us. She spoke to Bella for a minute, and gave her kisses and a little teddy bear to take with her.
Then she turned to me, and we "said" our goodbyes. She doesn't speak English, I don't speak Russian- yet love transcends language. We both fought back tears. Natasha and I will forever be connected at the heart.
And so that's the way it was for the next nine hours. Yes, nine - what should have been a six hour drive to Kiev was delayed by a constant onslaught of snow and icy conditions. Our driver, Igor, did a great job keeping us safe! This is not a very good photo of him, but it's the only one I have - on a cigarette and espresso break. He is so nice!