First Week in Ukraine

On April 17th, Jeff and I boarded a plane headed for Kyiv, Ukraine.  Mission: to adopt our host kiddoes, Alex and Alona.  The plane trip was long and exhausting.  Dahlia has the staying power of the Everlast bunny and slept briefly and only in spurts across the Pond.  The train ride to where our kids are was no different.  Travel on planes and trains with her goes something like this: eat, scream, sleep 5 minutes, wake up, scream, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle and start it all over again.  Thankfully the travelers around us have been more than gracious and have taken her foul moods with great patience.  Once we are in residence, we take a huge nap and then are wide awake when it is time for bed and stay up way too late and sleep in way too long. 

We have had our appointment with the State Department of Adoptions and gotten our referral and would have been on a train sooner but there were no train tickets to be had.  Apparently ticket scalping is common and one must pay a bit extra for train tickets from the guy who snaps them all up before we can get to them.  But we finally boarded our train on Saturday and rode 15 hours through the night with many stops along the way with a squirming and fussy baby.   But we are finally here and ready to get the ball rolling tomorrow with the local authorities and paperwork that will allow us to see the children and begin the paper trail that will lead to court and the children becoming our son and daughter. 

While waiting for train tickets, we were treated to a tour of Kyiv with a lovely tour guide named Masha who shared the city's great history and artifacts and culture with us.  Those pictures and details are to follow...enjoy!

Our friends, the Easterlings are here adopting the same time as we are.  I have known them since before they were married and Caroline, pictured here, was a baby when her mom was a bridesmaid in our wedding!  How time has flown and it is astounding to be crossing paths with them overseas as we both are on the trail to adopt our precious children.  Here we are at Mafia restaurant.  Micky just HAD to get the giant pizza, even after we had already eaten a full meal...

The Kyiv Opera House, near the apartment where we stayed. 

The Coffee House where we enjoyed the most amazing Pina Colada coffee and tiramisu.

Masha showed us the stunning difference in the architecture of the Soviet era (seen here)...big boxes, as she called them.

...and the Ukrainian architectural style seen here.  The colors and attention to detail and the ornate nature of Ukrainian buildings is absolutely breath-taking and cannot be captured in pictures.

Here we are entering into the subway station to go to the historic church and monuments on the other side of Kyiv.  Every inch of the tunnels and entryways are gorgeous and ornate.  Everything in this city seems to reflect the artistic nature of the people who live here.

The massive escalator, descending down at a 45 degree angle to where we would take the subway.  Again , splendid to behold...we were rubber-necking and taking photos everywhere we went!

The hallway to the subway.  Just stunning chandeliers and ambience. 

Mosaic entryway.  Every piece of artwork has history behind it or a legend of some sort.  Everything here tells a story.

Masha, Jill, Caroline and Eston ready to board the subway.

As we are on our way, we see this building where munitions were secretly built during wartime.

It is beginning to be spring here and the tulips are starting to bloom.

This is a manmade hill that was used to defend the city during times of war.  We saw many of these as we walked along.  Ukraine is a coveted piece of property that has been invaded many times throughout history and they are no strangers to war.

A Russian Orthodox art school.  You must be Russian Orthodox to attend there.

Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

Another cathedral.  Sorry, lost track of all the names of them.  There were too many to count!

Fresco at the cathedral.

Cathedral tower.  At one point, no structure in Kyiv was permitted to be taller than this tower...

Dahlia and Daddy, enjoying the sights.  We got stares wherever we went.  We asked our friend Valya at dinner one night, "Why???"  We had tried to dress very formally like Ukrainians and didn't smile too much or look people in the eyes who we didn't know.  But Valya said our American-ness is stamped on our foreheads and cannot be avoided.  The red hair is also not unheard of, but somewhat rare.  And to see mom, dad and baby with red hair caused many people in this international and very cosmopolitan city to just about break their necks staring at us!  So much for fitting in.  What Valya said was most peculiar about us, though, was Jeff tenderly holding our daughter.  That, she said, is a very rare thing indeed here, and grabs the attention of those who see it...

Cathedral bell that has long outlasted its expected lifespan.  This is considered to be a miracle bell therefore.

Micky stuffing his face in front of yet another cathedral.  Can't blame him though.  They were the best waffles we had ever eaten and the strawberry sauce was to die for!

A piece of the cathedral that was blown up during wartime by invaders.  It has since been rebuilt.

Cathedral number 1,953 in less than a square mile.

Inside the cathedral.

The Ukrainian egg is a throwback from the religion that they had before Russian invasion. It was kept in the Russian Orthodox church in order to make the new religion more palatable to the people. These eggs are beautifully decorated and this structure is an amalgamation of the artwork of many people who contributed their designs to this piece.  There is a second half like it on the other side of the complex.

Closeup of the eggs.

A view from the monastary.  Here they raise bees (see the beehives downhill) and sell the honey and make candles from the wax.  Looks like fruit trees and grapevines also, for the bees to feed on.

A Russian Orthodox monk.  If you give him money, you can receive a blessing, it is believed.  While we were here, there were dignitaries who had come to get their blessings and there was an entourage of shiny black cars and armed secret service men, complete with the earbuds, that were jogging alongside the caravan as it left.  I don't know who they were, but they were escorted much like our president would be.  An impressive sight indeed.

Fresco in a cathedral where dead saints are buried.  These are their likeness in eternity I guess.  Not sure why the demons would have access to them in glory.  But the actual bodies are buried in glass coffins for worshipers to see.  They are covered under the glass except for a hand or foot for people to see.  People kiss the glass where the hand or foot is located in order to receive a blessing from the saint.

A monument to all of the fallen soldiers during wartime.
Tanks on display from wartime. 

Buildings at the war memorials.  The star is the symbol for the soviets.  Even though great atrocities were inflicted by Stalin during the soviet era, there is a great affinity for this time period and many desire to be aligned with Russia once more.  The union days are considered to be the good old days and they believe that they need the Russians to come in again and modernize the country, so alliances with them would be welcomed by many.  But not a full takeover...

Helicopters and tanks from the Afghanistan war.

War memorial sculptures under a bridge and walkway.
Each scene tells a story of the war and the people who fought.

Here is a woman holding a bomb.  Women and children, everyone helped during wartime.  Women made bombs and children made clothing for the soldiers.

The woman who guards Kyiv.  This statue is taller by 10 meters, than the Statue of Liberty.

Tanks that are now decorated with pretty flowers!

Jeff and Dahlia and Masha, our lovely and brilliant 19-year old tour guide and historian.

 Jeff, Dahlia and I with beautiful Kyiv in the background.

 The McCoys and the Easterlings!  What a delightful day it was...

Dahlia with her no-sleeping self on the train. Next stop:  Lugansk!!!


  1. I didn't realize you were going to Lugansk!! We stayed at the hotel there during our adoption trip in Dec 2010/Jan 2011! The apartment we got was really bad, so we optd for the hotel instead -- it wasn't bad, just small. Best wishes for the rest of your journey!

  2. You pictures are stunning and I love the commentary. Hope all goes smoothly as you continue on the journey. By the way, the most AMAZING waffles are not in Kiev, but were made by Anna to go along with Gracie's AMAZING bacon! All is fine in Fuquay; keep you eyes on the prize.

  3. O my Ginger bread dahlia is soooo cute Anna

  4. Melissa, the apartment we are staying in is lovely, much like our apartment in Kyiv. Sorry yours wasn't so hot!

    Thanks Mimi! I would love to tour it with you some time. We only scratched the surface. Guess I have to come home for the world's greatest waffles! I am only too happy to do so :)

    Anna! Ginger :) You're my lil ginger too! Love you baby girl...

    Katy, yes! And she will have 4 more teeth and be walking by the time we get back! Thanks for shopping with me :D Anna wants to be the next fashionista! Put it on ya calendah...

  5. Micky is sooooooooo CRAZZZZY Anna

  6. Anna, yes he izzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! Sorry if we can't Skype today. Soon, baby soon! Knock out the science and we'll try tomorrow if you can't today :) Love you baby! Mom



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