Zina part 2 (History and How We Got Here)

We met Zina not long after we moved to Kherson in the fall of 2014. We had moved to Ukraine in order to be involved in ministry to orphans there and also older kids that were transitioning from orphanage life to adulthood. Zina was a member of a small church in our village and she came to our house, along with a friend, to welcome us.  We really enjoyed meeting them and we thought they were very nice kids.  Zina expressed an interest in practicing English with me (Amy) and I was more than happy to do so with her.  We met weekly and we studied together and I checked her homework from school and answered any questions she had from books I gave her to read.  I enjoyed this time with her very much and we soon became friends.

In Kyiv

I learned during this time that Zina had a romantic interest in my adopted Ukrainian son.  He is very handsome and charming and it's understandable that she would find him to be attractive.  I also learned at this time that my adopted son was inviting the attention of another female we knew and he was leading both girls to believe that he wanted to date them.  I wanted to protect Zina from him because we knew that he chased every girl he ever met and I didn't want to see him break her heart, so I had both girls come to our house and we cornered Alex and they confronted him with the fact that he was playing them both.  After much drama and tears, Zina decided that dating my adopted son was not such a good idea.

Sometime along the way, Zina told us that her mother was an alcoholic and had started beating her.  Her father was away fighting in the war but she told us that he was also an alcoholic and she was scared of him.  We were very concerned for her safety and told her that she could live with us.  Our daughter, Anna, was excited to have Zina with us and was happy to share her room with Zina.

A party at our house

Living with Zina was not easy.  She seemed to have the idea that she was the boss and expected my teenage girls to always do what she wanted and that she would always have her way.  If not, she would become very rude with them and angry, talking down to them as if they were lesser beings.  One of my daughters stopped being friends with her and almost hated her because of the way Zina treated her.  

Sometimes Zina would stay out late at night, after the bus stopped running to our village and would call me from the mall, "Can you come get me?"  I was not happy with this because she was staying out after she knew the bus would not come and then expecting me to be her taxi service.  I didn't want her to have to walk home, despite her irresponsibility, so I would go and bring her home.  This was not at all convenient because I had 11 children at home, one of them being a very small baby.  But I would go get her in order to keep her safe. 

Zina moving to Lviv 

She had been with us for a couple of months when she suddenly decided to quit school.  She told us that her teachers expected bribes, that she could not study what she really wanted to study, and that the diploma she was pursuing at the time would "only be good for cutting bread" (a Ukrainian saying).  She packed up her things and we helped mail what she could not carry to Lviv, and she moved there.  She had a good job, a great church and new friends.  But she was not happy.  I cannot tell you why, but she was not happy.  She complained that she missed Kherson and our family and wanted to return.  I could not understand because she had everything that she said she had wanted.

While Zina was in Lviv, in the fall of 2015, we began to learn about some serious issues in our previously happy family, one of them concerning our adopted daughter that had been going on for a while that we had never seen before.  Things were so serious in our family at that time, that we were advised by good friends that we should return to America and seek help and so we made plans to do so.  We had taken our adopted daughter to America to have her receive therapy for the issues we had begun to see in her and as she began in therapy, she began to reveal that things were much more serious and more terrible than we knew.  We were shocked and stunned at all that had happened under our roof and we were devastated and in despair.  As we began our visit in America, we realized that the 6 week trip we had planned for would not be nearly enough.  We made plans to stay for much longer; maybe forever.  Our kids were in desperate need of help and therapy, to heal from all the damage that had been done by our adopted children.  

When we returned to America, we had no home, no job, no possessions except what we brought in our suitcases.  When we moved to Ukraine, we took all our possessions with us and literally had nothing in America.  We had some retirement funds from when Jeff worked in America previously (401K) and we took some of this money and were taxed heavily for it, but we needed it to live while Jeff looked for work.  

We began to put the pieces of our lives back together, little by little.  We rented a house and eventually Jeff found work.  We still didn't know at this time how long we would be in America. At this point, we thought maybe a year.  Zina had returned to Kherson and was living in our Ukrainian home because, as far as we knew, living with her alcoholic parents was not a safe place for her to go. No rent was asked of her. We only asked that she feed our dogs and we sent her a credit card so we could put money on it for her to use so she could buy dog food.  Zina had a job at a store called Bershka at this time so she was able to buy the other things that she needed.

We skyped with Zina whenever we could and texted almost daily with her.  She always told us how much she loved and missed us.  She had been telling us for a while that she felt like we were her parents and she called us mom and dad. She gave us the idea that she could only be happy if she were at home with us, her family.  We had so much healing that we still needed to do from the trauma of our lives with our adopted children, but we felt an obligation to take care of Zina since she thought of us as her parents and we didn't want to disappoint her.  

We had friends and family question the wisdom of bringing her here while we were going through so much. We thought that she would be busy studying if we were able to get her here on a Student Visa and would be concerned primarily with that and not need much from us. She would be 20 years old by the time she came to us and independent. We trusted her and, even though she could be selfish and immature, thought she would do well in our family and we decided to take a chance with her. We began talking about bringing her to live with our family through the student visa process.  We asked her about it and she said, "Yes!  I will pay you back for everything!"  We thought this education would enable her to be where she wanted to be, with our family, and also to get her an education and a bright future where she could take care of herself.  We sent her money for a private taxi each night she worked during this time because she now had a job again in Kherson and worked too late in the evening to take a bus to our village from the nearby city.

In February of 2016, we began the student visa process that my friend who helped us through it called "blood, sweat and tears".  Most people don't understand how difficult and time consuming this process is.  The documents are almost as numerous as an adoption.  Much time, much stress and much confusion is involved.  But soon the day came for Zina's interview at the embassy in Kyiv.  She was so nervous but we tried to comfort her and prepare her for it.  She got her visa!  We were so excited, all of us.  Even our daughter who had been mad at Zina (they reconciled on Skype) was so happy she was coming.

The time came in the summer of 2016 for Zina to travel to America and we decided that I would travel to go get her so she would not have to travel alone.  We were concerned she might be scared to fly alone across the ocean to a new country, so we tried to make everything comfortable for her.  We bought plane tickets for me to go and for both of us to return.  On her birthday, 3 weeks before I was supposed to travel, she called us in tears, saying she was sitting on the street, that she couldn't even move to get on the bus to go home.  She said she had gone to her parents' apartment to receive birthday money from them and that her father had asked her for a hug.  When she would not give him a hug, she said he had beaten her.  

Jeff and I were really upset and scared for her so we decided that I should travel to Ukraine now, and not wait two more weeks so that I could be there because we thought she was hurt.  We bought a ticket and instead of 1 week away from my family, they would have to live without me for 3 weeks.  We knew that Zina thought of us as parents and if this had happened to one of our daughters, I would be on a plane to her immediately.  So we did likewise for Zina and I went.

I arrived in Ukraine just a couple of days after the beating was said to have happened and I was surprised to find that there was absolutely no evidence of a beating on her at all.  It was summer and she was not wearing a lot of heavy clothes so I would have been able to see these marks on her.  I have heard from a friend, just this week, that there are those in Ukraine who know her and heard of this "beating", saw her afterward and thought at that time that she was lying.  I did not say a word about the lack of evidence for this beating.  I thought the best and considered that perhaps it was somewhere on her that I just couldn't see.

While I was there, we ate at restaurants almost every day...

Got ice cream and went to the movies...

We got to see one of my favorite people in the world and a sweet friend, hero Dyadya Gresha.

I even got to meet Zina's grandfather and his new wife.  He is a veteran from the Soviet Army and he cooked an amazing lunch and showed me his photo albums and and his uniform from his military service with all his metals of honor on it. It was such an honor and they treated me with such kindness.  

I also got to meet Zina's mother.  Her mother had wanted to meet me and see who was taking her daughter so far away.  She had tears in her eyes and looked worried for Zina.  I told Zina later that her mother looked like she really cared for her.  Zina has always told me that her family:  her mother, father, even grandfather, didn't really care about her.  They just pretend to care so that they won't look bad to friends and neighbors. She said they are always drunk and her mother only plays video games and does nothing for her daughter. She said her grandfather doesn't care about her and won't let her live with him because of his new wife, but I saw tremendous love for her from both of them and many tears at the idea of her living so far away for 3 or more years while studying in America. Nevertheless, her family gives her money and she takes it but she always says that it means nothing and that they are just trying to look good when they do this, that it's not sincere.  I'm a mother and I know what a concerned mother looks like, and I saw on her mother's face (and grandfather too) genuine love and concern for her well-being.

While I was there, she was very happy.  We went to a fabulous restaurant called Nostalgie for her birthday, just like we do for all of our kids on their birthdays.

After 3 fun-filled weeks, we flew to America together.  Zina had her own room in our rental home and she was somewhat contented.  She was dealing with some homesickness and we tried to comfort her through it.  We tried to have a really fun summer, spoil Zina and to put a smile on her face, make some of her dreams come true and to show her around some of America. 

We took her to the mountains.  There is a slide in NC made of rocks.  Freezing cold but super fun.

We took her to the ocean.  She is smiling in this photo but mostly she sat around, looking bored and irritated and was reading books in Russian on our tablet.

Our trip to the North Carolina State Fair

When we weren't traveling, we went to the pool almost every day when the weather was good, we added her to our gym membership (which she never used), bought a $300/month weight loss nutritional program for her that I do and love because she "wanted to be skinny".  She never did the program and wasted all the products.  We tried so hard to make her happy but she was never satisfied.

Zina was able to find a small side job but she could not drive yet and did not have a driver's license, so I drove with her to and from work every day during this job.  That was 2 hours of driving every day so that Zina could have this job.  The idea was that she would use the money to buy books and school supplies but we never received any reimbursement from her at all.  

In the fall of 2016, we began the registration process for school, paid the $4,000 tuition and went through the busy process of getting her in school. We also bought all her books and supplies and winter clothes.  

She went to school in the fall and began meeting people and going to her classes.  She was in a bad mood most of the time and often rude to my other kids.  We talked to her and she said she missed Ukraine.  We told her that we understood, we have moved to another country and we knew how hard it was.  We tried to love and encourage her through it and we encouraged her, that she must make her own life here.  She must make friends and put down some roots and put in some effort to make this place her home for a few years.  We told her she needed to think about her future and that it will be hard at first but it would get easier.  

I taught her to drive and we took her to get her driver's license.  We bought a nice Volvo SUV for her to drive.  In our minds, being a part of a family means giving and taking.  We had done so much for Zina and we asked her to drive our kids to school each day, which is only 5 minutes from her own school.  Literally the schools are on the same road.  But she was irritated by this request and grumbled every morning and scowled as she went out the door with our kids to school.  Everyone was miserable and in a terrible mood by the time they got to school each day.

One example of our struggles with Zina:  My daughter and Zina both had problems with itchy scalp.  We bought an enormous bottle of medicated shampoo from Costco, thinking that the girls would have it in the bathroom and they would share it.  Zina hid it and kept it in her room in her things and when my daughter asked for it, she said "No!"  And this was the daughter Zina was very close friends with and with whom she shared a room.  She didn't buy it but felt that only she had a right to it.  We had to correct her and tell her to share.  In our family, this is simply understood.  We explained this to Zina but it just made her angry.  

Time went on and we felt strongly that our children needed to be in America for long enough that we needed to buy a house.  We looked for a while and found one that suited our family.  As we were moving in and deciding which rooms the kids would be in, Zina told us that she wanted her own room, like in our rental house.  We told her that there are 10 kids in this family (including her) and not enough rooms here and she must share.  She was NOT happy about that.  Then she told us that OK, she will share, but she wanted the biggest room!  She was not happy with the arrangements we made for where they would be rooming and she pouted and let us all know that she was not pleased.

Other than driving our kids to school, we asked only a couple of small things from Zina, to contribute to family life.  We asked that she occasionally help babysit on a Friday night so that Jeff and I could go out on a date.  We did not do this very often and we were always told when we returned home, that Zina had not helped at all.  She had stayed in her room on the computer and tablet the entire time and my oldest daughter had watched the younger kids.  Sometimes we asked Zina and our older kids to babysit so we could go to the grocery store.  The other thing we asked her to do weekly was to help with cleaning up after dinner (along with all the other kids) and cleaning the house.  

On Saturdays, we all clean the house together and all the kids have jobs to do.  Zina was given the job of cleaning the kitchen floor and once every 5 weeks, she was supposed to  have a week of cleaning the cat boxes.  I used to always clean the cat boxes but I became pregnant and pregnant ladies are not supposed to clean cat boxes because of a disease they can get from cats that will hurt the baby, so the kids volunteered to take turns with the cat boxes so that I didn't have to.  Unfortunately, the look on Zina's face whenever she did something to help others was one of disgust.  

A rule we had for the kids was that jobs must be done before fun.  Zina refused to follow this rule and one week in particular, I had to ask 3 times for her to do the kitchen floor.  She had gone out to see friends and was gone until late that night, and she did so without taking care of her responsibilities first.  She said she couldn't find the mop but she didn't try very hard.  She finally did it, almost a week later, but only after Jeff had firmly asked her to do it.  

Most days for Zina were:  go to school, come home, sleep until early evening, eat dinner with us (maybe), help clean up after dinner (maybe) and then stay up half the night on the computer on social media.  We had encouraged her to find some small side jobs like babysitting or cleaning houses or something along those lines in order to keep her busy and not so bored and so she could have some money in her pocket.  We made a flyer for her distribute in the neighborhoods around us.  She passed out a few, on one evening, but the majority of the flyers Jeff made for her went unused.  She really wanted to find a job that would make some money and not being able to find anything seemed to be the biggest frustration for her.  She really wanted to make money and this seemed much more important to her than school was.  While we were thinking that the education was important for her future, we were seeing more and more that all she wanted to do was make some money and when she couldn't, we could see the anger beginning to rise.

We were not in our new house very long when we began to hear that Zina was not happy and wanted to go back to Ukraine. Because this desire came directly after not being able to find work, we thought that the lack of job was fueling her desire to leave. We told her that we would send her back but to really think about it because we would never be in a position to bring her back if she changed her mind.  Back when we took money out of our 401K, we had enough money sitting in the bank to show that we could support her ($21,000 is necessary).  Now that we had bought a house, all the money we had previously was gone.  We were not happy that we paid for school that she would not finish and that we bought a car for her that we didn't need (my oldest child will not be driving until August 2017 and we would not have bought a car until then).  Still, we were willing to send her back but wanted her to be wise and certain about her decision because we cared about her.  We also made it clear that we wanted her to commit to finishing all of school and not just the next semester because, what is the point of more school if you don't finish and get a diploma?  We were also concerned because her parents still drink heavily, daily and we didn't think that returning to live with them would be safe for her to do.

Zina thought it over and decided to stay and she committed to finishing school  She did decide to change what she was studying and that sounded good to us. She wanted to be a police officer and she learned that, as a foreigner, she could never be an officer in America so she was wanting to change her studies.  This was confusing because she had never talked about staying in America and working long-term, only studying and maybe one year of working in her field of study after that.

It came time to pay for school and Zina had found a way to get her international student tuition rate of $4,000 down to $1,400.  She learned from a friend at school that she could be sponsored by a non-profit organization (often churches and second-hand stores will do that for foreign students.) We were so happy that she found out about this, since it made her school so much more affordable. We gave her the money in cash and she paid the second-hand store, who then paid the school on Zina's behalf.  

We could see she was still missing Ukraine and suggested that she see a doctor (general practitioner) and see if she needed an anti-depressant. The doctor said she was depressed and had anxiety, so she was given medication.  We then sent her to a good therapist to help her overcome her life as a child of alcoholic parents, childhood trauma and abuse, and homesickness.  She was not on the medicine long enough for her to feel any better.  We have learned recently that she told the therapist that our family was so mean and terrible  and that the therapist let her know that returning to Ukraine would fix all her problems, namely that we were the problem.  I have talked to another therapist in this same practice, and told him how Zina's therapist had advised her and he was shocked.  We think perhaps that Zina never told anything about her alcoholic parents or the childhood abuse (we found a therapist  who had this as her expertise) but instead told wild tales about our family and convinced her that we were the problem instead of facing her own issues.

Not long after this, Zina changed her mind about staying in America.  AGAIN, we tried to tell her to stay strong and to finish.  She cried and said she felt like we didn't want her here.  We were shocked and explained to her that of course we want you here.  We talked about all we had done for her.  We talked about each and every thing we had done or given and said, "Who does this for someone they don't want here?"  She said, "I know.  But I don't care about this."  We could not believe our ears!  All the history we had with her.  All that we tried to give to her.  All the love and attention and hope for her future and she said she didn't care about any of this.  We were shocked and a little angry, though we said nothing to her about this, and we planned to send her home.  But we were starting to feel the betrayal, to feel used.  We were feeling like fools who had done so much for this girl and she had gratitude for absolutely none of it.  We had never asked for thanks for anything.  We gave because this was our child, or so we thought.  But to learn that she wasn't thankful at all, when we sponsored her with $10,000 that we had to sacrifice to give her, was a punch to the face.  

We asked Zina to get us a refund from school.  All she needed to do was write a letter to the school saying that she would not be returning and the refund would be available in 6 to 8 weeks.  She never wrote the letter.  Her depression and rudeness had increased to such levels that it made everyone in the house miserable. 

 During this time, I lost the baby I was carrying and was in great pain and bleeding heavily and was very sad about losing the baby.  Zina knew this and said some nice words to me but when it came time for dinner, I had to get up and cook.  When we needed something from the store, I had to go and get it.  I had gotten to the point that I hated asking Zina to do anything because her attitude was so bad and she punished us with her scowling face when we asked her to do any thing.  So I just did everything myself.  Now, when I really needed some help, all I got from her was words.

I was so sad and depressed during this time and still had physical pain from the miscarriage, that Jeff wanted to take me with him when he went for the weekend in another state for work.  We asked his sister to watch a few of our kids and asked Zina and our daughter to watch the others at home so that I could get some rest and some quiet.  We loaded them up with groceries and everything they needed for the weekend and then we went to Jeff's work.  I returned home refreshed and ready to keep going with life.

We decided that since Zina was not going to write the letter to the school (2 weeks had gone by and no letter), that we would just buy her a plane ticket, give her money for the train from Kyiv to Kherson and some money for food and just say goodbye and learn the lesson that we had been played for fools.  We needed Zina to sign documents that would allow us to get our money back from the school and to allow us to get any money on her behalf from and insurance claim resulting from an accident while she was in our car.  We believe that any money from this car accident should be ours because we will never see the $5,000 from school and plane tickets we bought for her and we hoped to get a little of it from this insurance claim.  

The document we asked her to sign was a general power of attorney.  It would allow for us to sign checks that were written from the school and insurance company and to put those funds back into our account.  She told us that she thought this was dangerous and that we might use the power of attorney to create other documents.  Maybe we would make a document and sign her name to it that says she agrees to be our slave or maybe we would make a document with her signature that says she agrees to pay us $1,000,000.  I don’t know how she could even dream this after all we have done for her, to create a bright future for her. A future we thought she had wanted too. We cared for her like a daughter and she thinks we will make her our slave!  Our hearts were broken but we tried to negotiate:  you help us get our refund from school and the insurance claim and we will send you home, tomorrow.  We already had bought the ticket.  She refused and we were very upset with her. How could she not trust us?  How could she think we could do such things, making her a slave?  I told her it's not even legally possible. I was so upset that I told her not to call me mom anymore and asked her, "Why did you come here?"  I could not understand her at all.  

We had to go get Jeff's car from where he had left it in town and returned home shortly thereafter.  Zina walked by us, with great anger on her face, as we walked in the house and she didn't say a word to us.  Because we saw the rage on her face, we didn't try to talk to her at that time.  We had an idea that a friend might be coming to get her:  she had bags and her computer and we knew that she was leaving our home, maybe forever.  

We waited to hear from her but the message didn't come until several days later.  "When will you give me my stuff?" was all she said.  She said nothing about wanting to talk to us, nothing about wanting to repair the relationships with us.  We understood that all that mattered to her was her stuff, not our family.  We also understood that the only thing that would motivate her to help us get a refund from the school, which she still had not bothered to do, was to negotiate with her stuff.  I told her that until we had the refund from the school, we would not return her things nor buy her a plane ticket.  We also told her that we thought she was gone forever and that we would never see her again, so we had begun cleaning out her room and we had donated some of her things.  She did not care about her clothes (most of which we had bought).  She just wanted her camera, which she had bought with the money from her summer cleaning job instead of buying her own books.  We had already donated it.  She was willing to begin the refund process at school but she anticipated that we would buy her a plane ticket back to Ukraine after she got this process going.  She was still reasonable at this time, but only because she still wanted something from us.

Since she believed that getting us the refund from school would get her a ticket home, she finally began the refund process from school.  We had been able to recover much of her things (but not the camera) and put them in a large bag.  Jeff arranged to meet her at a Food Lion on his way to work and he gave her all her things that we still had. An older couple had brought her to get her things.  We assumed that it was the older Russian woman that she knew.  The fact that her husband was also there indicated to us that Zina had told them that we were not safe and that she needed protection from us as she got her things.  I must admit that this made me angry.  As if she had any need of protection from us.  It was a huge insult.

Now that she was gone and had left us to stay with someone else, it was a huge relief to have her out of the house since this is all we ever saw from her:

We knew she had a friend from Korea, a muslim family or the older, Russian-speaking woman that she must be staying with.  We didn't know which one.  But they are all nice, as far as we know, and so we weren't concerned with her safety.  It was more clear than ever that we were not "parents" for her.  Who treats parents like this?  We waited to see what would happen next.  I told Jeff that I was relieved to have the misery out of my home but that I could not have peace in my heart until I knew she was back in Ukraine. See part 3, click here


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