Room #5

Room #5: Ukraine Diary

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My wife and I traveled to Ukraine in April 2003 in order to adopt our son. Our journey took almost 6 weeks and two trips to Ukraine to complete the process. It was a difficult and emotionally charged time in our lives. When I started photographing Kyiv, and later the Luhansk oblast, I found the images became starker and more desperate. I was attracted to the strong geometry amidst the decaying elements of the former Soviet Union. These structures transformed into a comfortable repository for all the pain and disillusionment we felt as we tried to create our new family. This is not to say that we would never return--quite the contrary. We had many good times and met many great people in Ukraine. Without whose help, we would not have successfully completed our trip. I dedicate this page to my friends over there and wish them good health and good fortune.

This is a truncated version of our visual diary. For those seeking political correctness or proper adoptive terminology, I apologize and suggest you create your own website!

Street Scene #1  St. Michael's Church.
Kyiv, Ukraine , April 2003
In the 1930's, the Soviets tore down St. Michael's Church , to erect the Communist Party building complex. When Ukraine regained its independence after centuries of rule under Russia, this great Orthodox church was rebuilt to recognize Ukraine's independence and the significance of the Orthodox religion for most Ukrainians. We took many walks to St. Michael's square. Although it was a place of solace, we found it to be a wonderful place to observe humanity.

Street Scene #1  Street Scene #1. Mixed Messages
Kyiv, Ukraine , April 2003
Life in Kyiv was a daunting and harrowing experience. We have traveled to many foreign places, and were comfortable adopting new customs and culture. Cyrillic made it difficult to navigate even the simplest of tasks. That was until we found our "Rosetta stone" in the many beer signs which adorn the city.

Childrens Park #1  Children's Park #1. Medusa's Playground.
Kyiv, Ukraine, April 17, 2003.

Playgrounds occupy most open spaces of Kyiv. An impressive feat, considering there is precious little free space in this city. This gave us the impression that Ukrainians value their family and future. We found this to be true even on a small scale, as we traveled to the orphanages. On one of our visits, we saw a child that was too fragile to travel home with us. Bereft of funds and manpower, this orphanage did not lack enough love and attention for even the sickest of children. I cannot say that we were sad that we did not take this child home with us. Under the circumstances, I think he was in the best possible situation.

Street Scene #1  Children's Park #2. Dragon Eye.
Kyiv, Ukraine , April 2003
Although it would have been easy to express our anger with our sluggish progress to locate and adopt a child, we tried very hard to suppress our frustration. Angry outbursts would have done little to engender support from the bureaucracy. Humor and faith became our armor from the monotony and anguish.

  Tea Pot
Kyiv, Ukraine, Pyrogovo Museum, April 19, 2003
On the outskirts of Kyiv lies a beautiful recreation of a 18th -19th century village called Pyrogovo. Each building was transported from the twenty four oblasts or regions of Ukraine. Essentially you are visiting Ukraine from centuries ago without ever leaving the Kyiv city limits. This teapot set off a potential international incident as I tried to move it from its resting place for a better photograph. Although I was still unfamiliar with Ukrainian culture, I should have known better than to disturb their museum. I regret that expression of ugly American narcissism, and I apologized profusely.

Street Scene #1  Door Study.
Kyiv, Ukraine, Pyrogovo Museum, April 19, 2003.
Like this door, we were questioning if our opportunity to adopt was in jeopardy. We had just returned from our first unsuccessful ref feral in Zaporizhzhia. We believed that our luck would be better next time as we waited for our next appointment at the National Adoption Center or NAC. So long as we stayed hopeful, there remained a chance that we would find our son.

Street Scene #1  Ukraine Landscape #1. Farm Field.
Kyiv, Ukraine, Pyrogovo Museum, April 19, 2003
One could view this scene on any given highway outside of Kyiv. It is no wonder Ukraine was considered the "Bread Basket" of the Soviet Union. Beautiful fertile soil abounds throughout the countryside. Due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, production has fallen as individual farmers rely on centuries old techniques to till the soil of these vast collective farms.

Ukraine Landscape #2 Roof Study.
Kyiv, Ukraine, Pyrogovo Museum, April 19, 2003
We had just traveled back from Zaporizhzhia, our first unsuccessful referral. We felt disappointed, since we were misinformed as to the health of the child. I found this roof with its sharpened framework an interesting metaphor for the plight which befell us. The Ukrainian adoption system differs from most countries, since you don't go thru an agency . All adoptions therefore are considered private. Adoptive parents are not assigned a child or children prior to traveling to Ukraine. This means that one must look through a book much like a "mug book" with pictures of the children and a synopsis of their medical history written in Cyrillic. Frequently , the pictures and health histories are not updated. To add further insult, the system does not encourage adoptive parents to report inaccuracies. Reporting inaccuracies would result in an investigation, potential embarrassment for the officials at the National Adoption Center and at the orphanage, which could douse the hopes of the adoptive parents for future referrals.

Ukraine Street Scene #2 Ukraine Street Scene #2. Dream Afar.
Kyiv Ukraine, April 26, 2003
We occupied most of our time in Kyiv waiting for appointments, or documents to be signed. Plus, frequent holidays closed down government offices at least once or twice a week . This meant that we could take a few sight seeing trips on our own. This image comes from one trip to the Kyiv zoo. When we made our adoption plan, we envisioned adopting two children, one boy and one girl. By the time this picture was taken, we had just experienced our second unsuccessful referral. In addition, it was difficult to find a healthy girl referral, since girls were a very popular choice for other adoptive parents. We started to think our dream was vanishing. We were coming home empty-handed.

Kyiv Zoo  Kyiv Zoo.
Kyiv Ukraine, April 26, 2003
This is another image from the Kyiv Zoo. The zoo was not a high priority for public funds. The animals appeared sickly, thin, and unclean. This polar bear exhibit presented an interesting symbolic array. In the back ground there is the North American continent and Eastern Europe. In the foreground were the bars preventing us from bring our dreams to fruition.

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