Tuesday, November 2, 2010 - Sara, Summer and I are in Kiev and are getting ready to spend day two here which will be our last full day in Kiev and in Ukraine. It is truly bittersweet and I am sure that right now I am feeling more of the "sweet" as I am now so close to returning home as Sara experiences more of the "bitter" as she leaves her country and her family of friends, teachers, her grandmother, etc. I know that she wants to be in America and to be there with our family but it doesn't make this any easier. She is only 15 years old and this VERY grown-up decision she made is a final reality as that plane takes off from Kiev tomorrow.
Backtrack to Sunday, October 31 - the day we departed Severodonetsk. (Sorry, due to limited time, I have to skip Saturday which was the day we picked Sara up to stay with us at the hotel on Saturday night. Just suffice it to say, she held up really well considering she was sleeping somewhere besides her orphanage for the first time since she was in our home last December.) Sunday was as tough as I thought it would be. With the Amazing Sergei as chauffeur and translator, our first stop on the "day of tears" was the orphanage - for me, the toughest of the stops, or so I thought, because of the bond I have developed with Sara's friends after 3 weeks of seeing them every day. We went to Sara's room and ended up sitting in the hallway with her dear friends Olga and Ola as Sara walked through the hall saying goodbye to others in her class. (All the 9th graders sleep on the same hall - boys and girls.) While sitting in the hall, I snapped a picture created by Olga, Ola and Summer as they shaped hearts with their legs and their hands. It was a perfect creation for the moment as Sara passed us several times in the arms of different friends with tears streaming down her face. (See photo of their heart-shaped legs and hands - their idea, not mine.) A few minutes later, I snapped a photo of Sara with her closest friends (including Summer :-). (See photo of, left to right, Alaina, Christina, Sara, Olga, Summer and Ola.) These are the girls that I love - and I will cherish my memories of getting a hug from them EVERY time I saw them, laughing with them, playing cards with them and marveling in their strength in having risen above their circumstances. All of them, except Alaina :-(, will be coming to America as they are also being adopted by their host families so at least I have the opportunity to see them again. But, for this day of goodbyes, it still wasn't any easier to actually say goodbye. It was time to leave and all of these girls including a few others walked us to the car. The goodbyes came in multiples as Sara hugged each girl repeatedly and the tears flowed from her and from them. (See photo of best friends, Christina and Sara, in a lifting bear hug.) I felt like Summer and I got almost as many hugs as Sara, and like Sara, multiple ones from her closest friends. (See photos of Ola and Olga both signing the "I Love You" sign that I taught them.) FINALLY, we were able to get Sara in the car and it seemed as though she may have finally cried all that she could because she held up better than expected as we took off with girls waving behind us.
Well, actually, we quickly found out that Sara could cry a LOT more tears because we were now off to Larisa's house for a final goodbye with this amazing "teacher turned Momma." As I have said before, Larisa has been in Sara's life since she entered the orphanage at seven years old and she has a VERY special relationship with her, truly that of a mother. They both wanted to say goodbye one more time. We had the pleasure of enjoying her wonderful borscht soup again along with some cookies and hot tea, definitely the drink of choice in Kiev. Afterwards, the tears began to flow from both Sara and Larisa as we walked to the car and they both hugged and hugged and cried and then hugged and cried some more. It was a hard yet beautiful thing to behold. (See photo of the two in their last embrace.)
And, sadly, we had the hardest goodbye last. Sara wanted to say goodbye to her grandmother one last time. Her grandmother's town (and Sara's birthplace) was on the way to the airport so we went by there on the way. Despite my deep love for Sara's friends, my compassion and utter admiration go to this woman who was the only constant familial presence in Sara's life. The hardest tears to watch were those I observed at this most emotion-filled goodbye of all. This grandmother is making such a selfless sacrifice from her unconditional love for Sara!!!!! Can you imagine letting your only grandchild with whom you have a sustaining relationship go to another country with a family you have only met three times?????? This woman of God is giving Sara to us because she sees Sara's family IN US!!!! She wants Sara to have the life she deserves and that she was never able to have. My admiration of her selfless love is what made me feel SO overwhelmed with emotion as I watched them say goodbye. (See photo of Sara and Grandmother so fondly, and sadly, looking at each other followed by photo of the the two of them holding a framed photo that Sara gave her grandmother to remember her each day.) Then, hard it as it was, we drove away as Sara looked back several times. She continued to cry in the back seat for several miles while I held her hand from the front seat.
We then took the LONG 2 1/2 hour drive to Donetsk Airport. It was a fairly quiet ride as we listened to music in Russian, Sergei and I had a some conversations and Summer and Sara both fell asleep in the back seat - Sara's head was leaning forward and Summer's was leaning backward - too cute!! I wanted to take a picture so bad but I just didn't have the heart to wake them up with a flash! Again, we were on these long straight roads in the countryside but the only difference was that Sergei actually hit over 160 kilometers this time. Yikes! My hands were actually sweating! At the airport, we had some extra time so we enjoyed a light dinner - a final one with the delicious vareniks (like stuffed dumplings) that are a staple here and that I have grown to love in Ukraine! We also had an ice cream, always a favorite of both Sara and Summer. (See photo of them licking away.) And, worst of all, we had to say goodbye to Sergei, this man-of-many-talents who has been an invaluable aid for us in this process and who was my hero in getting this adoption not only completed but in an expeditious manner as well. I will truly miss him!!! (See photo of Sergei and me - note my coat and gloves INSIDE the airport because it was freezing in there!)
Yesterday (Monday) we had two adoption appointments in Kiev and, as I said above, we have our last one today. Then, sadly, we will have to go to sleep around 8:00 to 8:30 pm because I must get up at 2:45 am so we can get ready, get our 5 huge suitcases to the hotel lobby and then catch a cab for the 30 minute ride to the airport for our 6:45 am international flight. We should touch down in Columbia around 6:40 pm on Wednesday (we GAIN 7 hours on the way). I am SO excited to come home and am most especially excited about seeing Steve after 2 weeks of being apart!! I am coming home, honey - and so are your TWO daughters!!! I cannot WAIT to see your face at that airport on Wednesday evening! I will do another blog entry when we return to Columbia because I still have some final things to enter as a close-out of this amazing "Journey to Tatyana" that unexpectedly turned into our "Journey to Sara." Be sure to check back over the weekend for that final blog entry and some final photos as we return to Columbia and bring Sara home!!!!!
Know that God is good and that I have seen Him in EVERY step of this journey that He planned for us a very long time ago!