A Love Story, Part 2

This is the second part in a series about our adoption story. You can read Part One here

After God turned our hearts to Ukraine, and orphans with special needs there, we knew we had to go check it out for ourselves. I remember the first time we visited Romaniv in 2012. We saw Vladik there and our hearts were touched because we saw that he had Apert Syndrome like Jonah, the boy we had loved. I even wrote a bit about him here. Then, as you know, we ended up moving to Ukraine in November of 2013. YAY!

After our move we began to visit Romaniv every week with MTU (Mission to Ukraine) and grew to love all the boys. The boys in the Isolation Hall were our main focus and every week our love for them deepened as we came to know them more. 

We loved Vladik very much, but honestly, not any differently than any of the other boys. I guess he held a special place in our hearts because of Jonah, but we weren’t considering adoption at all. I promise! Ha! We had ended up adopting our Seth before we moved and felt that someday we would adopt again, and most likely that would be a Ukrainian adoption, but the idea was far away in the future. We did not even remotely think about adopting one of our boys. I mean, how could you pick just one, when our biggest dream is that they would all know the love of a family? Yeah, not happening.

Then came MTU summer camp. The last two summers our family has had the EXTREME pleasure of serving at camps for kids with disabilities, put on by Mission to Ukraine, one of our non-profit partner here in Zhytomyr.

They have loved our Vladik for many years. Just look at these pictures! 

 MTU actually plays a giant role in every part of this adoption. We came to Zhytomyr to volunteer for MTU. We heard about the work they were doing at Romaniv and longed to be a part of it. They had been visiting the boys for several years before we came along. If it weren’t for God leading us to MTU there is no doubt in my mind- we would not know Vladik. 🙂 THANK YOU MTU!!!!

Anyway, every year Romaniv sends 6 boys to MTU’s camp, along with one of the nannies. This is outrageously amazing for our boys. They never ever leave the grounds of Romaniv. It is their entire world. But, every summer 6 boys get to escape for 8 days and truly LIVE. 


They are treasured at camp. They laugh at camp. They play at camp. It’s like Disneyland on steroids for these boys. We were at camp last July waiting for the bus to arrive from Romaniv and who, to our enormous surprise, stepped off the bus? VLADIK! We had no idea any of our boys from Isolation were coming!!!! Vladik had never been to camp before! We were so happy!!!!  

You guys, Vladik did so great at camp. Oh my word. He started out the week with many institutional behaviors (screaming at the wrong time, loud noises at inappropriate times…) but after only 2 days at camp those behaviors were gone. He was trying to sing the songs and do the motions. He was doing his best at the games. He was sitting quietly during lessons. He gained new words every day. It was so beautiful.

The most unexpected and most beautiful thing for Jed and me was how Vladik connected with our kids. Addy and Ezra had met him at Romaniv before camp, and Vladik had immediately taken a liking to Ezra. Vladik likes most people, but for some reason (God) he really latched on to Ezra during the couple of times Ez came to Romaniv. That relationship only grew at camp- and the feeling was mutual. Ez was drawn to Vladik and really began to love him. 

One night toward the end of camp, I was putting the kids to bed in our room and all the lights were out. Jed was away and the kids and I were talking about our day. I asked them each what was the best moment of their day and the most difficult moment of their day. That day the camp had held Special Olympics, so there was a lot of great moments to talk about. When it came to my turn to share Ezra piped up, “Mom, I bet I know what your hardest moment was. When the Romaniv boys were getting their medals at Olympics I saw you crying. I bet that was hard for you.” I answered him that that moment was actually my best and most difficult moment all at once. It was the best because I saw all the joy on the boys’ faces and I was so happy to see them so happy. But it was the hardest because they were the only campers who didn’t have a mommy to walk them up to the front to get their medal. I was sad because I knew they were going home tomorrow and I knew that their home was not a good place. 

All of a sudden, in the dark room I heard a weeping, almost a wailing coming from one of the beds. It was Ezra! “Ezra! What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”

“Mommy, why? Why do the boys have to live there? Why do they have no mommy? It’s not fair. I don’t want them to go back there! Why does Vladik have to live there? He’s my friend. How long is he gonna have to wait till his family finds him?”


Pretty soon all four of my kids were weeping. Their hearts were broken for the boys. In that moment they really got it. They really began to understand why we live here in Ukraine. They began to understand why we sold everything and came to love these boys. Ezra said “Mom, we can never leave Ukraine. The boys need us!”  

That camp, that night, our kids fell in love with Vladik. That night my heart began to shift. I began to see Vladik in a new way. I shared the story with Jed and he cried. We could barely stand to see him get on that bus to head back to Romaniv. Something was stirring. God was up to something!!

PS: Thank you MTU for the pics of Vladik when he was little 🙂 


  1. crystalkupper · September 3, 2015

    Can’t wait for Part III!

    • Cheryl malmsten · September 3, 2015

      Me either! Oh oh…what a sweet, loving, obedient family!

  2. Andrea · September 3, 2015

    Bawling as I read this… Every struggle, every doubt, every sacrifice involved in moving your kids to the other side of the world to serve the least of these in Ukraine… Anyone reading this could not deny that it was all worth it. At such a young age, your kids have become boys and girls after God’s own heart. No matter what anyone ever has or ever will say to you, I hope you know that moving your kids to Ukraine was the greatest gift you ever could have given them. As mothers we naturally want our kids to be safe, secure, comfortable… To protect them from all the pain and heartache the world has to offer. Your bravery,when it comes to your kids, inspires me. In the end, your greatest act as their mother will be that you said YES and did not stand in the way of the amazing plans that He has for your kids.

  3. Deb Palmerd · September 3, 2015

    A beautiful story… a rich life.

  4. Mary Jill · September 3, 2015

    Beautiful to see how God broke your hearts and lead you to Ukraine, the boys and Vladik! and NOW he is yours!!!!

  5. Pingback: A Love Story, Part 3  | Wide Awake Family

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