Monday, December 17, 2012

The Beginning of a New Beginning

I am a terrible blogger!  I have so many posts in my head, but lacked the mental energy to put them into words while I was in Ukraine.  So I will attempt to get everyone up to speed on what has happened over the last several days.

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.

Finally it was time to carry Bella outside. Light snow began to fall as she was laid down on a small mattress on the floor of the van (the middle bench seat was removed to make room for it).  I was worried that she may become upset or scared when the reality of leaving the orphanage behind hit her.  After all, as much as I think it was a terrible way for her to live, it was what she knew.  She does not have the advantage of seeing all that lies before her, as I do.  But she was as happy as she could be.

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!
Through it all Bella was a fabulous traveler, never complaining or getting upset.

 When we got to Kiev late Wednesday night we settled into the apartment, fed Bella, and got her dressed for bed.  She was as happy as could be:
At bedtime she wanted me to lay down with her, and she fell asleep in less than five minutes, no problems!  She woke up the same way she went to bed - happy!
We spent most of the day Thursday in the car, going first to the medical clinic, and then to the U.S. Embassy to get Bella's visa.  All was well, and I got a "thumb's up" many times throughout the day.
Kiev was a winter wonderland, and I loved seeing so many trees and beautiful buildings covered in snow.
We were able to get all of the necessary documentation done in one day and woke up very, very early Friday morning to leave Ukraine and fly HOME!  More about that in the next post...


  1. I read with tears in my eyes. I'm so happy for you and for Bella! Can't wait for your next post!

  2. I click in all the time hoping for an update! I'm so excited to watch Bella's journey to join her family. Many blessings to you and yours!

  3. Praise God!! I am in suspense to hear the rest. So glad she is HOME now. What a sweet little girl.

  4. YaY! Bella is Home! She is a Daughter. She has a Mama and Papa and a Sister and Brother...A Family! What a Wonderful Christmas this will be. I'm glad you are back at home, back with your entire family. I keep thinking about you & Bella and wondering how she is doing. I can't wait to see photos of all of you together. How are Bou and Buddy doing with their new sister? And, Bella? Is her health holding up well, with all of the changes? SO many questions. Sorry! I am so proud of you, Lisa. You, once again have demonstrated a great love for this new daughter! I know it was not an easy trip, but through your words, I can feel the grace you had towards those that you met on this Journey. Rest well and write soon. Hugs ~ Jo

  5. got me crying AGAIN!! the thumbs up , her smile, the picture of you hugging new friends and the awesome nature of your journey! Tear making on every level! so glad and grateful you are sharing this love with us all xxx