~I (Michelle) have to insert a little story here…while Kevin was waiting on Masha’s passport, I was waiting in the US for something else…a little 10-digit number that the Embassy would require Kevin to have! The day before Kevin left to return to Ukraine, we discovered that Immigration had mistakenly sent us the forms they should have sent to the National Visa Center showing that we had been cleared by Immigration to bring Masha home. We had had these papers since September and didn’t even realize it. Thus began a week-long battle to get Fed-ex to deliver them overnight (didn’t happen) and get the NVC to get them logged in and processed. I called multiple people every day, only to be told the papers weren’t delivered, weren’t in the system, call back in 48 hrs, etc., etc. All for a simple number! I was in tears a couple of times after these calls, feeling like I couldn’t make people understand the urgency of needing this number. The US Embassy in Ukraine contacted the Visa Center as well, along with the Immigration officer who had originally worked on our case. It took a week, but we finally got the number before Kevin had to have it in Kiev! I filled out the Embassy forms online, with the much needed number, before Kevin got to Kiev. And then, the next day, the Embassy emailed us and said, “Since you didn’t have a number from the Visa Center, we just created one for you. Could you please re-do the online forms with our number?” Sigh.~
At 10:30 pm on 12/23/2013 we left for Kiev! She is OURS! WE are HERS! She has taken our name and stolen our hearts. We arrived in Kiev around 3 am, and she still had not slept. She just beamed with a constant smile. We were dropped at the apartment and told to be ready to roll again at 6 am. Our facilitator said he would sit in the car and wait (I told you they don’t rest and they do WHATEVER it takes). We tried to rest and get about an hour’s sleep before having to get ready to go to TB testing. We arrived at the medical clinic on Tuesday morning and met up with another family who was having the same test done on their little one. The nurse got info from us, then escorted the children outside in the bitter cold to try to get them to cough fluid up from their lungs, which they cannot possibly do since they are so young (it must be over 1 cm deep in a specimen cup). Then a decision was made to extract it, but we had to wait for the doctor to be available. This TB test is a VERY invasive test that is done by inserting a tube through their airway to extract the fluid from their lungs…THREE days consecutively to test...it is torturous! Plans were made after completing this first one for the next two days. I was sitting in shock that this is required.
After 5 hours at the medical clinic, our driver heads back to our apartment to drop us off, and we pray for a meal and some rest for the afternoon. Mary Cate and I decided to go to the coffee shop and get some food and a drink and just relax for a bit. It was obvious as we sat down and opened a menu that Masha had never been in a restaurant. Her eyes got so big with excitement as she looked at every picture pointing out each and every thing offered at this café. I got her to decide on a smoothie and waffle with strawberries and vanilla ice cream. She devoured every bite! After all these hours and trauma of the morning, I am thinking “nap.” I assumed Masha was as well, but no, she was so excited about everything. She wanted to explore and color and watch tv and paint and play. So Mary Cate napped. And I played. (On a side note…I wonder what’s the fascination on the Ukrainian Animal Planet with alligators? Do they associate all Americans with Swamp Brothers and Turtle Man?!) Day one in Kiev was just about done and so was I….I was exhausted, awake for 39 hours.
Eating ice cream at TGIFridays in Kiev
Day 2 began after 8 hours of much needed sleep. We awoke Christmas morning to go for a repeat of Tuesday. We went to the medical clinic with 2 other families. This day was much different than the day before with only the three families in the 400 sq ft hallway instead of the dozens of people the day before (and the day to come). Christmas morning was spent at the medical clinic, three families and the Doctor and nurse. We were done fairly quickly and were free for the rest of the day! We decided to eat/shop/nap and prepare for the next day to come. We prayed Thursday would include undergoing one more TB test, examination, and x-rays by the doctor, getting a medical packet for the embassy and Masha’s visa, and then going to the apartment to pack.
Day 3 began with our friends the Taylors (the ones we shared an apartment with when we first arrived in Kiev) being dropped off at our apartment to spend the day hanging out while we tried to accomplish all the final steps in one day! It was great to see the Taylors again! As the morning progressed, it looked as though the medical stuff would be completed, but when would TB results be in from the independent lab several miles away? As we sat and waited (having been told around 1 pm would be the earliest), I prayed silently as I sat in the hallway, “Lord, please see these things done and amaze us once more. Have our facilitator come into the hallway and tell us the results are back early and that we have packets ready and can go to the embassy to try to get a visa.” We had flights booked for 5:55 am on Friday morning and we sat in this hallway of this medical clinic in Kiev with no visa in Masha’s passport. The US Embassy had offered to even stay open late if needed to get us processed.
And in the next instance, our facilitator walked in and said, “Let’s go!”
It was all done. Unbelievable. An hour earlier than expected. Praise the Lord!
We departed for the Embassy and were told that we could go in but they wouldn’t start processing again until 2pm. We went through security around 1:15 and down the steps into the main building to meet another security officer who gave us a number to put us in the queue. We sat to wait until 2pm. We were called to the window around 1:35 pm and the process began…early…and at 2:05pm, they handed me Masha’s passport with the visa and all the sealed immigration paperwork! Tears filled my eyes as I KNEW that we are FINALLY in the HOME stretch. I have seen so many times My Savior open the door wide for our little Masha to come HOME.
Passport, visa, and immigration papers...Ready to go!
And that trip home was about to begin!