Written December 6, 2011
It's hard to believe that one year ago, today, we met our daughter, Karis Yulia, for the very first time! I remember very clearly... we left our hotel in Bryansk, Russia and walked across a parking lot to the Ministry of Education where we were told why "Yulia" was in the orphanage. I remember tears falling, because although we hadn't met her yet, she was our daughter, and we couldn't bare the thought of anyone hurting her.
After leaving the ministry, we loaded our suitcases into a small, beat-up, smokey-smelling taxi. Our regional coordinator guided the driver to Zhukovka, 45 minutes away from Bryansk. The roads were literally sheets of ice, as Russia doesn't clear them during the winter months. None the less, the driver speeded down the road, as if it were a normal, dry day. Kevin and I clenched the seats infront of us, silently praying we'd make it to the orphanage alive, all the while, counting the make-shift graves along the side of the road. Others' fates hadn't been so lucky.
Kevin wiped frost from the window of the taxi as we entered a little village, all so he could begin taking video of Yulia's current "home". The village was like nothing we had ever seen before... small little houses everywhere with big, ornate fences, people pushing wheel barrels in the snow, horses and wagons in the street, and many, many fur hats! The music playing on the radio really awoke our cultural senses (or lack of)... a combination of polka and techno set the tone. And then... there it was. The orphanage we had imagined for nearly a year stood infront of us, eery and old. As we drove up, it appeared as an institution from the 1940s... pillows stuffed in the windows to keep the rooms warm.
We entered and walked up the first flight of stairs to the orphanage director's office, lugging our packed-full suitcases. Kevin entered the office first, and I heard him say in an almost disbelieving whisper, "Ah, there she is..." I looked up from the suitcase, and sure enough, the little girl whose picture we'd been staring at for 10 months was sitting right infront of our eyes! My first impression, she was so small! Her face was so sweet. She looked at me with the most priceless expression... it was a seeking, happy, nervous, relieved look, all in one! I can't imagine how she was feeling, because it was difficult to process all of the emotions I was feeling. Immediately, I went over to her, yet was hesitant, not wanting to scare her. I did what my instincts told me though, so I bent down to give her a hug, and to my surprise, she hugged me back and followed that hug with an incredibly sweet smile. Yes. Yes indeed... she was our daughter.
December 6, 2010 will always be... a beautiful day in our family's history.