The alarm rang, and six hours was hardly felt like enough sleep when considering the noisy streets and jet lag. We are thankful to be waking up in Karen’s apartment with comfortable surroundings, and knowing our way around our once home of 7 weeks back in late 2011. Back then we were finishing our adoption of Samantha, which was a huge relief after a 16 month wait since our first meeting in the summer of 2010 at camp. I remember thinking that today will be bringing unchartered waters of emotions with the reunion of Samantha with her birth parents and possibly siblings. Just a few days ago in our home, Samantha shared that she was going through every feeling leading up to this visit. So many feelings, so much uncertainty, anxiousness, and longing for this day, and it has finally come.
We ate a quick breakfast of poppy seed rolls, drinkable yogurt, a banana and some coffee or tea. Our van from the television program Inter was right on time. In addition to the two drivers, we had Camera Man Andrey, Journalist Olga, and Translator Katya. We were all told to please wait in the van, while Samantha did her first quick interview in the courtyard of the apartment building. Then we were off to Yablunivk, the small village south of Obukhiv and just under a 2-hour drive. It is an over-cast day with cooler temperatures and a slight drizzle. The day would easily have felt gloomy if not for Kris who was actively keeping Samantha amused and engaged the whole way down. We also have the piece of mind that Samantha is such a tender soul, and surely one or more of her parents would be the same. The thought of such a wonderful and sweet reunion dominates my mind, but is held back from fully expecting it just for being conservative and safe. What if everything is just too overwhelming for anyone to bear? What if this visit (we just learned is a full surprise) is in some way not welcomed? What if we don’t have their full blessing for taking her away from Ukraine? We know that God is in control, and have prayed together for His will and the release of everything to His plan. The distractions keep the time ticking by as we roll down the countryside, answering my mom’s first time questions, and taking in the beautiful black farm fields moist and green carpeted wheat fields, which were short enough to look like massive golf greens.
Another great day for picture taking with the covered skies, beautiful countryside, and some long missed family that Samantha is looking forward to seeing. We stopped at a modern roadside gas station to stretch our legs and use the last bathroom, which ended up to be my Mom’s first squat pot. Samantha was “mic’d up” and Andrey put a rain guard on his camera so that we would be ready once rolling up to the house. When we pulled into the little village settlement, we stopped again for a quick shot of the village sign with the homes in the background. Two more stops for directions and we finally pull up to their meager home. Two dogs are tied to the shed, and give prompt warning to the neighborhood.
With camera rolling, Samantha hardly stepped 10 feet from the van when her mother Luda came running with outstretched arms and yearning on her face that will never be forgotten.
We were invited into the house right away. Neither of the front doors or porch doors opened more than ¼ way, so we side stepped into their little room for more hugs and kisses, now filled with busy chatter going back and forth. Kris and I were without the benefit of understanding the words, but deeply rewarded with the richness of the bond that was present and forming stronger again right in front of us. Nothing else in the world mattered right then. Nobody cared about the extremely rough conditions of the home, or of the tattered clothes that were worn, or the soiled floor coverings that were surely impossible to keep clean without running water and mud everywhere. Well, nobody except for Sergiy, who promptly sought translation to explain that they were in the middle of remodeling and painting and to forgive their mess. We quickly acknowledged his remarks but dismissed the necessity of it. Nothing was important except for family meeting family. We then introduced the rest of the family back outside, and shared another round of hugs and kisses. We were now sharing more connections and stories through Samantha and Katya, who seemed overjoyed to have this opportunity to witness this reunification through her translation services.
We received a brief tour of their plot, just 4/10th’s of a hectare, which had yet to be tilled, unlike so many of their neighbors. Sergiy explained how work was difficult for him with his bad hip. Still, he went over each imaginary section of the garden to tell us where the potatoes, garlic, onion, carrots, etc were to be planted in the coming weeks. They explained how expensive food had become, even bread being too pricey to buy, but that this garden would be the best food for them. I thought to myself how tough it would be in a dry year, having no running water.
We inspected the well, and found that their bucket and cable could retrieve water about 40’ below the surface. Wow, just existing seemed overwhelmingly tough here.
We asked if they would join us for a visit at a local café, and Luda promptly nodded. We traveled nearly 30 minutes to find a café, where Sergiy enjoyed pizza for the first time and asked Samantha not to translate. Extreme gratitude was shared from each family. We explained that we were thankful for them giving Samantha a start in life, and that we were honored to continue caring for Samantha and to give Samantha as many opportunities as possible. Father Sergiy and Mother Luda were profoundly moved by it all, and confided that these stories never happen to ordinary people like them. It was all too good to be true. We all felt completely satisfied, but knew that our brief meeting was coming to an end, to accommodate the TV employee’s schedule.A few more photos and hugs and we hurried to return Sergiy and Luda back home.
We were told to keep it short (for the schedule), but ended up spending more time with the pleasant surprise of Katya (Samantha’s Sister), who had just returned home. Katya is about Samantha’s size, but with dark hair, and 10 more years. They shared some quick stories and soon we were rolling back towards Kiev, replaying the day’s events over with pleasant disbelief that it all went so well.
Tomorrow we will get to spend the day with our “God-Child” Yana, and many other friends, while touring Kiev. For now, I am thankful to God for such a good meeting, and for having so many pictures that we can look at.