BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich., (April 4, 2014)– A West Michigan family is one of the last families to escape with an adopted orphan from Crimea before the Ukrainian region was officially annexed by Russia.
Kristine and James Proctor of Berrien Springs have three biological children of their own and a son they adopted from Ukraine two years ago.
But this time around the adoption they have been working on for months would soon get caught up in the nu-rest and crisis. James ended up going back home to work and take care of the kids while Kristine waited for the ten day mandatory appeal to make the adoption final.
She says it was stressful but they just tried to be smart and keep a low profile. The Proctors met Yana, now known as Melissa as she chose to rename herself at a Crimean orphanage just before she turned 16.
Kristine says a lot of Ukraine orphans age out of the system at 16 and then they’re off on their own. “We just decided it was a way we could connect with a child and make a difference in their life, give them opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise, “she said.
But the adoptive process would become more telling than they ever imagined, after finally getting their adoption finalized the day after the referendum, their anxiety mounted with fear of what could happen next.
Kristine says they were able to get Melissa her birth certificate but not able to get a local passport. She says there were no legal documents being printed in Ukraine.
That’s when Kristine, Melissa and their facilitator made the decision to try and get on a train. She says they talked to the conductor about their situation and he let them on. Kristine says the train was stopped going over the Crimea border by soldiers asking if there were any foreigners, aside from that she says they didn’t ask any additional questions.
Once they made it to the capital came a sense of relief but the struggles continued as they worked to get Melissa a passport and U.S. Visa.
They just landed in the US on Saturday. Kristine and James say they are just excited to have her home and look forward to a bright future for her.
They say they wanted to share their story to spread awareness about the other children still in Crimea, that were in the process of getting adopted but are now in limbo.