Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Arrived in Franfurt!

We made it to Franfurt, all is well! We are sitting here at gate C15 for the next few hours surfing the net. I spy a cafe nearby, so after awhile we may mosey on over there and have a snitzel or something!

I got my workout in today...we were dropped off at the old terminal in Kiev and our flight departed from the newly opened Terminal F! No kidding, it was about 4 football fields away and I lugged 100lbs of luggage through ice and snow. I got a little panicky when we were still in the check-in line with 15 minutes to board. However, we got through soon enough and headed through the security check point. Here, the line wasn't so bad. However, the customs and immigration line was backed up solid! I glanced at my watch noting that boarding should have started already! Yikes! Soon enough, we got to the front of the line. There we were with the only guy standing between us and leaving. He asked for our passports and gave them a good checking over. Next, he asked for my court decree and orphanage release letter...I guess to make sure I wasn't stealing her. He must have perused the documents for 10 minutes as I nervously glanced at my watch. After what seemed like forever, he asked Lizzie if she indeed wanted to leave the country. She responded, "Da!" I was very impressed with the new terminal, even though I had to trudge over there from the old terminal. I also liked that the immigration guys seemed to no longer have to take your passports and documents and disappear somewhere with them. It was all done there at the kiosk and we got the nod to proceed.

Up to the gate we went, which was supposed to be gate F5...noone was there! the gate next to it (F6) had a huge line, so eased over to the counter and noted that the gate for our flight had changed to this F6 gate. Whew, we weren't late at all! Lufthansa wasn't running on time. I thought German's were time-freaks! No offense to my German pals! Anyways, I was grateful for it! After a 10 minute wait we loaded onto busses and made our way out to the plane. Takeoff, the flight, and landing were a breeze.

Like I said, here we sit for the next few hours. Lizzie keeps commenting on the next long leg of our flight. "Wow, it's so long, Dad!" Yep, but at the end of it, is you my friends and Lizzie's new life! HERE WE COME!

~ Felix ~

Friday, February 18, 2011

No more days!

Going to the airport now. It's 3:30 am here (6:30 pm Colorado time) and the taxi awaits! Takeoff is scheduled for 5:35am and we arrive in Denver at 3:45pm. Lizzie and I are excited and anxious to be home.

Just like last year, we will be traveling through Frankfurt enroute to Denver. See you at those double doors at the international gate exit!

~ Felix ~

Day 26, Another Angel gets her Wings!

At 3:35 pm, Ukraine time, The Embassy issued Lizzie her immigration packet and visa! All work here is complete. We are coming home! Our flight leaves at 5:35am in the morning (Saturday)and we arrive at 3:45 in Denver the same day! Lizzie is going to her forever family! We will see everyone soon!

~ Felix ~

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 25, Getting 'er done!

I'm at a resteraunt next to Karen Spring's apartment eating the finest Greek salad I've seen and tasted to date! They have free Wi-Fi too, so I'll fill you in before the Spaghetti Bolonese arrives!

- Arrived exactly on time in Kiev by train
- Had the best train experience of my life, some shake, no Bake, got 8 hrs sleep!
- Immediately wisked away to the Consulate by the amazing Nadia P!
- Got there at 9:45 am, called inside to see if I could go in early.
- Did go in early, done in 30 minutes!
- Went to medical got a doc who waived a bunch of junk required of older teen girls!
- However, Lizzie did require a blood draw, X-ray and a Hep B shot
- Done in an hour!
- Embassy visa appointment scheduled for 2pm, tomorrow.

I see that Heidi has posted and checked our tickets. Really, nothing stands in our way of getting on that plane Saturday morning. Oops, for got I ordered borscht, too. It just arrived!

Bye until tomorrow!

~ Felix ~

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Homecoming Plans

Guest blogger time! It's Heidi here. I took the liberty of checking Felix's email to get some updates while he and Lizzie slept on the train. They will be running around quite a bit in Kiev today, so I'm posting for him.

The US Embassy scheduled an appointment for Felix and Lizzie at 10:30 AM Thursday, which in Ukraine time is only a few short hours from now, as I type this. So things are looking good for Lizzie's visa.

Also, Eldo successfully booked Felix and Lizzie to fly home on Saturday. They are scheduled to arrive at DIA at 3:45PM on Luftansa's flight #446 from Frankfurt. Hope to see you all there!

Please keep Clay and Selene in your prayers. They hit a major road block in their adoption of a 15 year old girl, after they spent a week bonding with and loving this child. Now they are back in Kiev trying to find a resolution. The dichotomy between the joy I'm feeling and and the pain they are enduring is hard to comprehend.


Day 24, Exiting Kherson!

We are DONE! All adoption requirements for Ukraine are complete! Lizzie got her passport about an hour ago and we immediately bought train tickets. We got the first class cabin...yeah! Barring something drastic, we will do the Embassy work in Kiev tomorrow followed by the Visa appointment on Friday. I have already called the Embassy and left a message with them. I am awaiting their return call. After I get done with this post, I will call Golden Rule and change our flights to Saturday morning. That will put us arriving in Denver around 3:45 pm Saturday. This will be the last post until tomorrow evening, after we have visited the Embassy and have run some errands. Whoo-hoo, Praise God! Slava Bogu!

~ Felix ~

Day 24, мая доченька (My daughter)

The earliest known photo of Lizzie. She says she is 6, having turned 7 shortly after this photo was taken. This and three copies are her original orphanage entry photo, taken on the worst day of her young life.
~ Felix ~

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 23, The "Amazing Tanya" does it again!

Sorry for the late post! We had a long, eventful day. We got up at 6am, left at 7am, and just returned to our is now 10pm. Lizzie is wiped and I'm not far behind. In fact, she begged to go to bed and is already sleeping, not 5 minutes after we got here. So let's catch you up.

As I said, we left bright and early to go to Kahovka, Lizzie's birthplace and home for her first seven years as a child. After an hour and a half ride by car, we arrived. At first it was dificult to find the correct office. In due time, it was located and within an hour, we had our new birth certificate complete with Heidi and me as parents and Lizzie's name changed to Elizabeth Rachel Rogé.

On the way into the city, Lizzie described to me her last memories of where she had lived. She told me it was a huge apartment complex right by the Dniper river. On the other side was a big road and the complex had it's own park. On the way out, she recognized the building and said here it is! It was just as she described it and yes, it was right on the bank of the Dniper, between the river and the main road. Nearby was a roundabout she tried to tell me about. We pulled over and snapped a few pictures. I explained to her that I was sad for her when she told me this was her former home. She explained, again wise beyond her years, that sometimes bad things have to happen so that good things will happen later. I paraphrase her broken English, but I understood what she was trying to tell me.

We got back to Kherson after another hour and a half's ride and immediately launched into the paperchase for the passport. Tanya advised me that there was a new law in Ukraine recently passed that said all new passports for children older than 14 required a police check in the old name and one in the new name. By law, this could take up to 10 days, but she would see what she could do. As she walked into the passport office, which by the way is right next to the police station, she saw a group of people having a meeting in the lobby. One of the persons was an old friend from her youth who she went to school with. He is now a higher-up in the police department. He tells her (and the passport people) to process our request for a passport and he will do the check right away. In other words, proceed! They do and he does! The whole thing took a couple of hours, but it got done! We might have a passport by 10am tomorrow. Glad we took those photos on Sunday!

The next bit of news had us running all over town again. The passport office said that there was another law concerning children over 14. Children have to sign an affidavit stating that they consent to leaving the country for adoption. Really? Lizzie rolled her eyes at this one as did was so funny! Lizzie exclaimed, "Yes, I want go to America three years now!" Nope, not good enough, gotta have the statement. So off to the Opulent Notary's office we go! This lady loves us, we've spent a few grivna in her place over the past two years! That took another two hours and we got the form back to the office before they closed.

About that time, my good friends Aleks and Vera Fedechuk from mission AGAPE called and asked us to come for dinner. Yeah! I agreed! Did I mentioned we had only a snack all day! This was a blessing and I didn't have the added hassle of finding a restaraunt. As usual, Vera outdid herself and I got to spend time with the kindest, sweetest couple I've met in Ukraine....aside from Andei's parents, of course! We stayed until 9:30 and Andei's parents brought us home. If you guys don't remember me writing about Andrei or his family, Andrei is the cool young man I hang out with here in Kherson. He speaks great English, having lived in the US for a number of years. His dad is a pastor and his mom, well she's a great cook and a sweet person, too. Andrei serves as my translator every evening, leaving Tanya my facilitator to do other things.

So, where does this leave us and where do we stand? Well, it all hinges on the passport. If we get it as promised tomorrow, Lizzie and I will be on the Wednesday evening train to Kiev. We will arrive in Kiev on Thursday morning and go to our initial Embassy appointment before lunch. Once that is done, the Embassy will send us for the medical exam, required immunizations and possible Xrays. On Friday we would return to do the Visa interview and approval. That would have us flying out on Saturday morning and arriving in Denver, sometime around 3:45pm that same day! Like I said, it all hinges on the passport.

Save your prayers for our Pastor, his wife, and the Ukrainian daughter they are trying to bring home. They have hit a birthday snafu and it could halt the adoption. They have an Embassy appointment at 2pm tomorrow to plead their case. It seems that the SDA has the daughter's birthday wrong and she is already older than 16 and doesn't meet the requirement of US law that allows orphans to be adopted if they are over 16 but younger than 18, provided they have younger siblings. They do have an out and I pray that it wins their argument. Please Lord, let this happen. I appreciate your blessing on Lizzie's adoption but please now turn your attention to them!

The city sign of Lizzie's birthplace, it reads Kahovka

Lizzie remembers this complex as her first home

Looking down the sidewalk and main road in Kahovka

Directly behind this complex is the mighty Dniper River

The birth certificate office that held her records and our white taxi

~ Felix ~

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 22, GOTCHA DAY is here!

At 3:45, Ukraine time, Lizzie is released into my custody and walks out of the orphan no more. An orphans bed lies empty tonight, she is no longer a ward of the State.

Even "Big Nick" the director was all smiles! He said some really sweet things about Lizzie, even before she was in the room. He said that this was a long and difficult process for her and her new family and he was happy for her. He said she suffered for eight years without a family and it was her time!
I glanced at my watch then at the camera. It is 3:45pm as I sign the release form and take custody of Lizzie.
Signing the four copies that are prepared for us. Signing with me is the Amazing Tanya! The orphanage lawyer stands behind us.

Nickolai makes it official and puts his state stamp to all the documents! Were are done! Lizzie is ours!

Moments later, Lizzie stands in front of the same doors she entered over 8 years ago! This time it's a different story, though. She is headed to a bright future and to her family that loves her dearly. How fitting and appropriate that it occurs on Valentines Day, 2011!

~ Felix ~

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 21, The Game Plan

This is our last day of the 10 day wait! The sun will be setting very soon on this day and the paperchase begins again tomorrow morning! Tanya will pick up our official court decree as soon as the building is open and we will be getting right to work. She had me take Lizzie for passport photos today and the pictures will be ready tomorrow as well.

Now for the even better news...this is Lizzie's last night in the orphanage! She will get to leave tomorrow with me around 3pm, less than 24 hours from now! At midnight tonight, she is an orphan no more!

We are trying to get the passport in one day, that is the reason for taking the passport photos today. If we are successful, we will be boarding the Tuesday night train for Kiev! That would put us doing the initial Embassy appointment and medicals on Wednesday with the Embassy visa appointment on Thursday. We could be flying home on Friday morning and arriving in Denver Friday evening!

Worst case, a few days added to get the normal passport would put us getting home in the middle of next week. The Embassy is closed on Monday the 21st for a holiday, so we would be doing that work on Tuesday and Wednesday. Even with that development, we will be Ok and experiencing a record adoption trip.

So pray for us and the passport situation. We will know for sure on Tuesday afternoon and I will blog about the time you are waking up on Tuesday morning!

~ Felix ~

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 19, Friday Night Date!

Day 8 of our 10 day wait is in the books. Not that I was worried, no one has come forward for Lizzie in her 8 years at the orphanage, but I can say that we are officially out of the woods now! Our court and any official involved in the adoption has the weekend off, so we will get the decree on Monday morning!

I'm picking Lizzie up at 10am on Saturday and spending the whole day with her. Sunday, I will get her at 9am. Both nights, she has to be back by 6:30pm. I am pressing Tanya to spring her on Monday and I will know for sure on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile. Lizzie and I enjoyed a little father-daughter date. We went out to a new restaurant in Kherson called Lenin's. It was great! Best Greek salad in Kherson!

2 more days!

Facebooking with Mom & sisters

She loves the PJs mom got her!
~ Felix ~

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 18, All apples are not created equal!

The subtleties are around, scattered around much of Ukrainian life. The lingering effects of communism and Soviet-thinking are there if one looks for them. Sometimes they are blindingly evident...such as the need to deregister and reregister addresses when you move. This was a way for the Soviets to keep track of where everyone was and to keep tabs on them. If one moved to a new location back in the cold war, this was done, along with a long approval process to move in the first place. To this day, when we have adopted, we have had to accomplish this task. Another such occurrence is the inability for anyone to make a decision or sign-off on something. Their reasoning is that "it is not allowed" or "my supervisor must do that" when indeed, it is their job to accomplish said task. Heaven forbid if the supervisor is out on a one or two week vacation. That kind of news can stall an adoption quicker than a jackrabbit on a date!

But that's not what I'm writing about today. We haven't experienced any of that on this adoption. All is going smoothly. So what has my dander up you may ask. Nothing really, I'm so thankful to God for helping us and to you for praying for us! I just have an observation to note during this, day 7 of our 10 day wait.

We're talking apples and oranges here! No, not the quip about differences. Really...apples and oranges. Perhaps this discussion will bring forth your observations of how Soviet-thinking still permeates Ukrainian culture. Perhaps we will get some funny comments as well. Sorry, I's my story.

Two days ago, I was in a well known supermarket here in Kherson. In the produce section of all grocery stores stands a lady next to a scale. You select the fruits or vegetables you want, then you put them in a bag and take them to the lady where she weighs them, puts a bar code with the price on them, and hands them back to you. To us, it seems a ridiculous task to have a person do this when in the US we all have it weighed and priced at the register. But OK, when in Rome! But what if you change your mind, what if you want more or less. What if! Enter my dilemna.

My first selection was Navel oranges. Not knowing why there was two prices on everything, I proceeded to the scale-lady (which she will be known as from this point) to get my selection priced. Once it was done, my young translator friend proceeded to explain to me that the lower price was if I bought 2 or more kilos of fruit. So, I opened the bag, ripped off the bar code and reached for another orange to put me over 2kg. Well, you would have thought I committed treason. Oh, the drama that ensued! Further ranting in Russian occurred when I used an unmanned scale to see if I was over 2kg! Thankfully, I wasn't arrested! But, I did catch the attention of everyone in the produce section. I was the "Stupid Americanski" who wasn't following the fruit rules!

My second selection, which brings me to the main focus of my story, involved some of the most beautiful apples I have ever seen in Ukraine. Now I admit, I'm an apple snob! My apples have to be "just so" for me to eat them. My favorite apples are the small Gala apples that taste like sugar and are so crisp that they snap when you bite into them! I prefer them chilled and fresh off the tree. I'm passionate about Gala apples! I won't eat any other apple! Also, I can't stand a mushy apple, you might as well have shoveled dirt in my mouth, yuck! So, when I saw these apples at the all their perfect "Felix-required" awesomeness, I had to have them! There they were, in the biggest pile right in the center of the produce section in all their splendor! Right next to this pile of beautiful apples was about 3kg of older bruised apples of the same type. I put my best of the best selections in the supermarket approved fruit bag and proceeded to scale-lady. What happened next was bewildering to me!

The produce crowd had dissipated due to the fact that they all wanted to get away from the "Stupid Americanski" without the knowledge of produce protocol. So it was just me and scale-lady. She said something, which of course, I didn't understand and I just stood there. Then she walked away! "Huh, what? Where are you going?" For five minutes I stood there, I think I scratched my head several times, checked out my apples due to the fact they must be full of worms or something, and waited for her to return. When she did, I received another scolding. Let me tell you, people were now avoiding me and the produce section like we were a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. Just about that time, my translator friend showed back up and he proceeded to tell me the reason for all the angst.

They wouldn't sell the apples to me because they had not been priced by the person who set them out on the previous shift and they wanted the old apples sold first! "Huh, WHAT!!" Here, in the middle of the produce section, was the biggest pile of the most perfect apples ever seen and no one was buying them, because THEY WERE NOT PRICED and you want to SELL the 3kg of old apples first!! YOU'RE KIDDING ME RIGHT? Also, unless the market fluctuates drastically, aren't they the same price as the old apples? I stood there for another five minutes trying to reason with the thinking of scale-lady. I tried another five minutes to buy those apples to no avail. Visions of the soup Nazi from Seinfeld came to mind, "NO APPLES FOR YOU"!

To make matters worse, I went to the same store the next day (yesterday) in hopes of buying those beloved apples. Guess what, all but 5kg of the most ugly, bruised and spotted ones were gone. Seems word got out in the neighborhood that the apples had been priced and the "Stupid Americanski" had left! Last night I dreamt of dancing Gala apples laughing at me, they were singing, "Stupid Amercanski"!

~ Felix ~

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 16, Incandescently Happy

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
- Mahatma Gandhi

That quote sums up the entire experience in getting Lizzie home and in our family. I'm reminded daily, everytime I look into her eyes, that this was not suppose to happen. In fact, we were told that it would never happen and that people would stand in the way to make it not happen. Like I said with Rimma's adoption...GLAD WE DIDN"T LISTEN!! Rather, we prayed, pushed forth and followed God's Plan for Lizzie and us. Truth is, a lot of events fell into place one by one to be here now. Events so insurmaountable, that I truely believe that prayer and God's hand in all of this, made it possible.

1.) Her records were a mess and no true record exists before 2008, when we started the work
2.) Her mother's rights were never terminated, she was abandoned at the orphanage over 8 years ago
3.) We later found her mother in prison. In Ukraine, this means that a prisoner's rights to their child can NEVER be terminated while they are in prison. We felt for sure that Lizzie would never be adoptable during her mother's sentence, which could have been years.
4.) Miraculously, Lizzie's mother gets out of prison, but no work was getting done on the termination of rights.
5.) We traveled to Ukraine 4 times (2 adoption trips included) to plea for Lizzie's case.
6.) Team Oleg gets her documents in order and gets the courts to terminate the mother's rights
7.) Lizzie undergoes the 1 year wait for international adoption for the only family in her life and the ones she loves.
8.) 2010 and 2011 seem to be the years for record moratorium votes. She and we survive no less than 5 votes during this timeframe.

Now we are here, our court date is behind us, we are in the 10 day wait with 5 days to go, and we are having a record adoption...hoping to be out in under 4 weeks. I spend every evening with Lizzie and catch her waiting in the window for me as I arrive. It warms my heart! As I was looking at her today, I remarked on how much, but yet how little she has changed over the last three years. Take a look, tell me if you see a big change. She certainly is a happy child now. Everyone at the orphanage says that since we entered her life, she has been very "glowing". I call it "Incandescently Happy", like Jane Austin says at the end of Pride & Prejudice. Just so happens, the happy girl in that book/movie is named Lizzie, too!

This is a photo that our friend Angie took of Lizzie during the 2007 UOO camp. It was our first in-person contact with her and I knew at day one, she would be our daughter.

Unable to rest and worried sick about Lizzie and Rimma, we took a fact-finding and mission trip to Ukraine in April of 2008. We snapped this photo right outside her orphanage that Spring of 2008. This was our second in-person contact with her.
During our adoption in November of 2008, we took a few days of from our duties and traveled to see her for her 13th birthday. Here she holds a cake and candle while we all sing to her. This was our third in-person contact.

We made a pledge to the girls to come see them at least once a year until we got them home. For three years, our only "vacations" were to Ukraine for them. We decided to come on Rimma's September birthday in 2009. Here, Lizzie is approaching 14. This is our fourth in-person contact.

In January 2010, we came for Rimma since she was the first registered. Lizzie and others hinted that we needed to come get Rimma out and soon due to the notice she was creating. We made the hard decision to do so and in March 2010, I had to leave Lizzie behind. She had become registered for adoption, but her 1 year international clock had just started. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do when I pushed her away from me, crying, into the arms of her caretaker the night Rimma and I left the orphanage to go home. This photo was snapped the day before and you can see the sadness in her expression. Our fifth in-person contact.

Seeing Lizzie so distraught and worrying that a year would be too long for her without her family, we pushed really hard to have her come home to Colorado instead of us traveling to Ukraine. We reasoned that it would break the wait up in half and would help lift her spirits. We had been turned down the previous two sumers by the orphanage director, so this was a long shot. Finally, his familiarity with us, the fact that we adopted Rimma, and bringing Vika and a chaperone led to his decision to let her come home for 10 weeks. It was a wonderful time and her English skills exploded! It was hard to send her back again, but we all said "she was going away for 6 months of boarding school, then coming back home for good"! This photo was taken in the summer of 2010, our sixth in-person contact.

So that's it...Lizzie in three years. This, our seventh in-person contact with her promises to be forever! We both can't wait until we take this walk out of the orphanage for good, on our way to our family. Forevermore!

~ Felix ~

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 13, Lizzie fashion show!

This is the scene that greets me most everyday, Lizzie at her orphanage window ,waiting for me. I spend every evening with her and weekends too. She has to be back to the orphanage by 6:30 each night, but that will end once the next 8 days expire. Then she will be free!

So what do you do with all that free time on a Saturday? Why, have a father-daughter date and go shopping for new boots and a jacket of course! We brought along friends, Sasha and Vika too! Lunch was at Cafe Monia for pizza, followed by shopping at the bizzare, then a couple of hours of ice skating. Dear 'ole Dad sat on the sidelines and read a book. I like to keep my bones unbroken, thank you.

Until next time...enjoy the Lizzie fashion show!

~ Felix ~

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 11, O' Happy Day

Today's post comes from one extremely happy young lady...

Today my prayers have been answered and my new name is Elizabeth Rachael Rogé! My dad says at 12:19pm the court said yes to my adoption and my new family! I am very happy and will get to come home very soon!

~ Lizzie ~

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 10, Court Tomorrow

Yes! We have court tomorrow at 11:40! Everything has gone according to plan...actually, we are ahead of schedule! Praise the Lord! After three hard years of working towards this moment, it is finally happening. It's hard to understand God's timing and plans, but we learned to let go and trust in The Plan.

If all goes well, and it should, Lizzie will forever walk out of the orphanage on Valentines Day, February 14th. She will no longer be an orphan! We will still have to do the mandatory 10 day wait after court, but we are in the home stretch now!

Heidi and Jordan will leave me and Lizzie tomorrow to head for home when we are done with court. Only one parent needs to be present for the finish-up work. Jordan has school, and Heidi is needed at home with the kids. Thank you again to all our friends and family for helping with our children! On her way out, she will go to the US embassy and do her half of the paperwork, which should be Friday. She should fly out Saturday and will arrive the same day.

All for now, we are at Andrei's parents house for dinner and the borscht is ready. I am being called.

I'll see about posting some pictures tonight about our orphanage visit to SB to see the 2008 campers. I'll also post after court tomorrow.

~ Felix ~

About Us

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Longmont, Colorado, United States
Heidi loves to play sand volleyball, sail and garden. Felix loves to fly at the local aeroclub, sail and fish.