In part five of this gripping series, Tracy and her husband must travel in secret to meet children.
Tracy Mazuer: December 20
After a grueling 23-hour train trip across the country with our interpreter, Sasha, who's been secretly stowed in the top bunk, we arrive in L'viv. It's beautiful, with a more Western European vibe. We feel like we're in a different country. Our friend has made arrangements for us to stay in a nice hotel in the center of town. We've been in strange (like gay porn star neon and leopard print straaaange) apartments this entire trip and, since I'm coming down with a massive cold, I welcome a bit of luxury -- albeit Ukrainian style luxury. (That translates to no toilet paper, one scratchy towel, and no hot water in the dead of winter kind of luxury. Here, you take whatever you can get.)
We arrive at the hotel with our orders: We are to secretly visit as many orphanages as we can in the few days we are here. We are to fly way under the radar. It's not legal for us to visit these orphanages without the approval from Kyiv (which, of course, they would never grant). You see, Americans don't just show up and "visit" orphanages, let alone share the negative experiences they've had at the adoption center in Kyiv and beyond.
The reason we're here is complicated and right now I have very little brainpower. Here's my basic understanding: L'viv is more progressive and more pro-Western politically than the rest of the country. Perhaps if the orphanage directors meet us personally and hear our story, we'll be able to find someone powerful enough and enraged enough to help us in Kyiv. Remember, in Kyiv they are saying there are no healthy* children available for adoption. How will the orphanage directors, who love and care for hundreds of children every day, respond to this claim from their own capitol?
We are deep in a world of corruption that most Americans can never comprehend. It's not a "follow the rules and everything works out as they say it will" kind of place. It's also not a place where one would say "Let me speak to your supervisor," and expect to remain in the country. You are to sit calmly while they lie and pressure you. You are then allowed to say, "Thank you very much for your kindness." (I'm being literal here.)
But enough of that -- right now we get to have some fun. Before we travel to the orphanages, we must have a massive Santa shopping spree -- it's Christmas after all. Sasha has told us that oranges are a luxury for these children -- so we run around town like scurvy-riddled Americans searching for our cure. Sasha laughs each time he translates, "We'll take them all!" Inevitably the shopkeeper looks confused and he has to repeat himself -- yes, all of them. We find candy and balls (we cleaned 'em out on those, too) and bubbles, Matchbox cars, learning games, balloons, and princessy items. We had brought warm clothing, books, and toys for our child, so we divvy it all up to give to the kids. John hesitates before kissing his beloved Baby Einstien Moo'ing cow goodbye, but deep down he knows his loss is another child's joy. (We've had that ridiculous cow since we began this process four years ago.)
Creating gift bags makes us super happy. By about noon, Sasha is outside negotiating with taxis for our long drives and full days. He is satisfied with one driver who "seems like a good man."
John and I are nervous, but this is an adventure of a lifetime. What do we have to lose? If nothing else, we'll be bringing Christmas to these children and that makes it all worthwhile. We just pray that at some point along the way we see a glimmer of hope for bringing home our own child.
PLEASE NOTE: *When speaking of a "healthy" child, I am referring to a child who does not suffer from major medical issues (i.e. HIV/AIDS, brain trauma, cerebral palsy). One should understand that any child who is being raised in an orphanage has been abandoned and/or abused leaving severe emotional scarring. These "healthy" children suffer from severe post traumatic stress syndrome, learning delays or disabilities, issues with rage, control, and the like. Therefore, the word "healthy" is a misnomer in this context.
See what happens and who Tracy and her husband meet on their secret orphanage visits.
|Tracy Mazuer is a TV producer/writer and creator of TheReluctantGenius.com "for professionals who need professional help." She and her husband John have been married for 23 years and live in Playa del Rey with their 2 dogs, Hankie and Lizzie.|