Category Archives: Adoption

Millionaire Ghost Town

We had a lazy morning, and then had lunch with our facilitators. We went to Katyusha restaurant, the chain with the Soviet/days-gone-by theme. It was a good conversation and a good meal. This is only the second time we’ve actually met with our lead facilitator (typical for any of the facilitation teams we’ve worked with), so we generally caught up. And while this is only the second time we’ve actually met, she is regularly in touch with us via phone and email.

After lunch, we had to go get Lyuda’s TB test checked. She clearly had a reaction, so much so that I told our facilitation team yesterday, asking how concerned I should be. Oksana told me it was very common. Reed has the BCG vaccine, which can cause a false positive with the skin test, and therefore, he needs to get a blood TB test instead. I was hoping this would be the case with Lyuda– that it was simply a false positive.

Lyuda was very concerned about this test, and the growing spot on her arm. Her reading was positive, so they sent us on for a chest x-ray. After a little while of waiting, we were informed that all was normal, she had passed. Phew.

For dinner, we decided to go back to Gastrorock on Vozdvyzhenka Street, aka the “Millionaire Ghost Town”.



After dinner, we visited the whimsical sculpture alley, which is near the SDA and St. Andrew’s church. It’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you have kids with you.






Tomorrow, we are taking a special trip to say goodbye to more of Lyuda’s family. We don’t have any adoption business to attend to. We are done until we can pick up Lyuda’s passport, hopefully Monday.


This morning, we visited the Embassy. The embassy is giant, surrounded by a huge fence, with tons of security. How American. Our actual visit was easy, the intake of documents. We will go back next week for the interview, once we have her passport.

It was a rainy day, so once we were done at the embassy, we had some downtime until we finally ventured out for lunch. We checked out Oliva, an Italian restaurant. It was really top notch in service and food.

I wanted to go to the Chernobyl Museum.

I don’t know what I expected, but I don’t think I imagined that the sadness would be so palpable.

The loss of life, homes, and the ripple effect that is still occurring.

The children in these photos are all my age, born shortly after the disaster. Their parents either lived near Chernobyl, or helped with cleaning it up. They are 7x more likely to have chromosomal abnormalities than their older siblings.

This gateway from a church which was burned down. It symbolizes the gateway between heaven and hell.

In black with white text, sign that would indicate that you’re leaving Chernobyl.


Vehicles from Chernobyl.

I can’t entirely wrap my brain around the extent of this tragedy. Frankly, I’m still trying to process what I saw. If you’d like to read more about how children are still affected, take a look at Chernobyl Children’s Fund.

The rest of our evening was low-key. We had eaten lunch late, so we decided to go to Lyiv Chocolate Factory for dessert, instead of dinner.

I got chocolate Spartak cake.

Lyuda got vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. And my mom got blueberries and cream.

It’s amazing we’ve only gone here once when it’s right next to our apartment.

Tomorrow, the only thing on the agenda is to go back and have Lyuda’s TB test read.

The Doctor

The main thing on the agenda for today was Lyuda’s medical exam. Olya was meeting us, and together, we would take the metro. The metro was jam packed this morning, but fortunately we only needed to be on it for a few stops.

We visited a different medical center than the one we took Reed and Lena to. This one was fairly new, but smaller than the other. When we walked in, I pointed out a sign to my mom, in English, Ukrainian and Russian. The English stated: adoption cases take priority, thank you for understanding. I joked that it probably said something completely different in the other languages. 🙂 5 hours later, she suggested that I was right!

The place was hot, and jam packed with people of all ages. There was a running loop of video showing life in Canada, the US, Australia and the UK. We laughed a lot about how different the clip, showing beautiful, touristy areas of the Pacific Northwest, is from real life. Yes, we all drive RVs and spend our days fishing and walking the beaches. Best of all, this video was in French… not the Canadian part, just the American part. Any idea why? Me either.

Lyuda had to get her height, weight, an eye exam, and a brief exam for the doctor. We had a couple of hours of free time. I suggested that we grab lunch. We walked down to Kreschatyk and found a different Ukrainian cafeteria. It was not Puzata Hata, and just so-so. I think I need to make Lyuda go to Puzata Hata at least once more in Ukraine, and in exchange, I’ll take her to McDonalds in the US. We’ll tolerate our fast food dislikes for each other?

We then headed back to the clinic, where Lyuda got her poke for the TB test. Much more time spent waiting than actually with doctors and nurses, but it always seems to be.

Finally, freedom. We headed on the metro back, where I told Olya that we could make it back by ourselves. I don’t think she believed me, as she hesitantly agreed to leave us and told Lyuda which stop to get off at. Maybe I shouldn’t tell her about our Sunday adventures? The metro is very simple in comparison to American cities.

from our apartment building

We returned to our apartment, set our stuff down, and headed out again. We wanted to walk down the Andriyivsky descent and check out the souvenir booths.

Found at the top of the Andriyivsky descent. My curiosity won, and Google told me a bit about this about the mural. No real explanation of why this particular scene, but a bit more info. The buildings on the right, my mom mentioned the contrast between the new and old. Lyuda said that the new building belonged in Chicago. Thoughts, Amanda J?

For dinner, we went to the 3B cafe– beer, beef and burgers. If you know me, you are aware that those are not really three of my favorite things.  Lyuda got the double beef burger, the most American of us… I got the vegan burger, which turned out to be a small piece of eggplant, a mushroom and a pepper on a bun.

In a funny anecdote, after we went to apply for Lyuda’s passport on Monday, we stopped for lunch. I wanted a Caesar salad and I requested it “bez meyasom”, without meat. The waiter gave me the most confused look, and I looked to Oksana, wondering how horrible my pronunciation had just been. Until the waiter replied… bez meyasom? No meat? No bacon? No chicken? He had understood me just fine, but was shocked that I didn’t want meat. Oksana later pointed out the chalkboard on the wall, which read, “Any vegetarian meal is tastier with meat”.

Cynthia, thanks for the suggestion on Cafe Imbir on my recent post. We haven’t checked it out yet, but I hope to go this weekend!

We walked back to find a piano in the middle of the park, where they were playing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”


One more little thing to share tonight, I need to brag about Lyuda and her language skills. Despite my Ukrainian lessons, often people don’t understand me, or they speak in Russian, or any number of scenarios… she is now at the point where she will jump in and translate. She will clarify our dinner order, ask where something is in a store, and she even got a “sale” for us today from a street artist. She is getting much bolder with her English and translation skills, out of necessity and desire to help us. ❤

Moose, Storks and Babushkas

Yesterday, we were able to pick up the tax ID without incident. That was really the bulk of our day– we walked around just a bit in the morning, and we went out for dinner when we got back, but nothing too exciting. However, we were quite glad to get that tax ID.

From the trip. My mom’s second book will be called Babushkas on Benches.

We noticed this mosaic on the bus stop on Wednesday and yesterday I asked the driver to stop. I am in love with it. Can someone recreate this in my house?

Storks’ nests are everywhere on top of poles. And storks are huge. It made me think of a friend of mine who is not a fan of birds. 🙂

Another stop on the way home, to see ceramic lawn ornaments.

This one is for Lena. No, I didn’t buy it. I’m sorry, it was too heavy and big for my suitcase.

Chernihiv? Moscow? Kyiv? Which do you pick? We chose Kyiv for the night.

Today, we had a free morning. We didn’t too much, just exchanged money and grabbed lunch at a food stand. We got burgers, and I was quite impressed that they had fish burgers and vegan burgers. Both were only tak-sobi (so so), but still exciting to find. In the afternoon, Oksana, Olya and our driver met us to go to the big city of Lyuda’s region to apply for her passport. We were all happy to see Oksana.

One of our stops, at a favorite gas station. Lyuda, Oksana and Olya got these hot dogs, which are inside of a loaf of bread. Oksana made Lyuda ask me for the money in English– I appreciate that she helps and encourages Lyuda to learn English.

We drove up to this city, almost two hours away, and when we arrived we found out that the passport office was closed. Argh. Please pray that we can do this on Monday, and that it will be a quick thing. Lyuda requested that we visit her grandmother, and Oksana suggested that this might be a good opportunity. Sure!

When we pulled up to her grandmother’s town, we were surprised to find tons of soldiers, and a guarded gate. We explained why we were there, but they told us that we would need someone with registration to let us in. Argh. This small village is one of the main training camps for the soldiers. While we are very far from the war zone, the war was suddenly very real as we could hear gun fire in the distance and we were surrounded by soldiers. Fortunately, the matter was easily cleared up with a phone call, and we were able to enter the town.

Her babushka welcomed us with open arms, literally. Hugs all around. She lives in a classic Khrushchyovka 5-story apartment building. On the 5th floor.

We got to see photos of a young Lyuda, as well as all kinds of other family photos.

Walking back to the car to say goodbye.

Back in Kyiv, our driver twisted down some old, gorgeous streets on our way back to our apartment. Sometimes, Ukraine looks very Soviet, but many times, it has ornate beauty. This was one of those times.

Oksana had suggested a restaurant for dinner, Gastrorock. While its vegetarian dishes were lacking, overall the food was very good. I would highly recommend it for meat-eating Americans coming to Ukraine– English menus and the street (just off Andriyivsky descent) is worth the walk.

That’s it for today. The plan for the weekend is explore Kyiv.


Goodbyes have been the center of the last two days. I told my mom before we arrived at the orphanage that I wouldn’t be upset or disappointed if Lyuda was less than thrilled to be leaving. Us picking her up for her new life means leaving all of her friends behind.

A scene from the town where Aaron and I stayed for a week on our first trip

On the five hour drive from her orphanage back to Kyiv, I asked her what she would miss… instead she just said thank you for coming. She has wanted to spend as much time as possible on my phone talking to her friends… but teenagers. 🙂

Tuesday was mostly about driving up to her region (5 hour drive) to pick up the court decree and then pick up Lyuda.

However, as we were driving back, Lyuda showed me a large, nasty looking burn on her arm. It was inflicted by a teacher at her school, intentionally. When we stopped, I showed it to our facilitator and asked what we could buy to help her. We picked up some ointment, which I’m guessing is like neosporin. However, after applying this ointment, it only seemed to get worse. Our facilitator suggested that we take her to a doctor, and I agreed. The doctor prescribed some antibiotic tablets that we dissolve in water and apply to her wound. It is looking a lot better already.

Wednesday we had two tasks to complete– going up to a town about an hour and a half from Kyiv and getting her new birth certificate, then going to another nearby town to get her tax ID (like a social security number) changed. Once we arrived in the first town, I asked her if she had lived her and if she remembered it. She did. I asked if she still had family here. Yes. “Would you like to ask Olya if we have time to see them?” Yes.

We had some extra time to walk around the town. I enjoyed this little town, lined with stores selling colorful (fake) flowers and churches always towering over us.


My mom is going to write a book called “Babushkas on Bicycles”, a compilation of the many photos we have taken here of just that. Many, many people in rural Ukraine ride their bikes everywhere, or any other form of transportation that they have available.

Club Tornado, which I read aloud because it made me think of Kansas. Lyuda turned to me and said “you can read Ukrainian?!” I don’t know how she had missed that while my vocabulary is limited, I can sound words out just fine… we later had a debate over whether a sign was in Russian or Ukrainian (let’s just say it ended in our facilitator and my mom informing her that “mom is always right”… and lots of laughing).

After we finished this up in this town, we went to say goodbye to her aunt and cousins. I loved the opportunity to meet some of her family.

Then we went to change her tax ID… here, we ran into issues. We are supposed to be able to pick up this new tax ID this afternoon. Will you pray it goes smoothly? We were supposed to be able to file for her new passport today, but that did not happen because of these tax ID issues. We were waiting in the car for awhile while Olya filed the papers.

Lyuda and Lola (my mom).

A place we drove by that really could be Kansas.

One of Lyuda’s friends called and asked if she could come to her old orphanage to say goodbye and our facilitator agreed. From the minute we rolled up, it was clear that this place was really different from her second orphanage. All of the children were standing around, watching us, smiling and laughing. Lyuda ran ahead of us, and they kept asking everyone, “have you seen Lyuda?” She was clearly a big deal here.

One man who worked there rolled up on his motorcycle, little dog on the back, just to say goodbye. Lyuda went to shake his hand in goodbye, but instead her pulled her into a big embrace. This same sweet exchange happened with Alexander from her second orphanage.

I liked this place a lot, as far as orphanages go. The children and adults were friendly. And, the children were silly and wild, happy and laughing.

Saying goodbye… notice the little boys hanging on our driver’s window.

After we left the orphanage, we headed back to finish up the paperwork for the tax ID… so now we wait and hopefully it will be ready today.

On the way back to Kyiv, we found a house and car for Reed. His favorite color is orange.

Back in Kyiv, walking around for dinner, and looking for a shop.

12935323_10100299703094450_1254044233_nToday was a little bit crazy, but we picked up Lyuda! I will have to write in more detail about it another day.

In short, goodbyes were said, and now she is stuck with us forever! 🙂

Tomorrow, we are off to get a new birth certificate and other documents. Thursday, we will apply for her passport.

The Court Decision

I’d like to detail our full day, but that’s going to have to wait until I’m not so exhausted. Instead, I’ll tell you what you want to hear… Lyuda is officially a part of our family now!

There is a mandatory 10 day waiting period where someone could appeal the decision (very rare). I will pick her up in early April. In the meantime, we are heading home.