Not afraid of shelling, the couple went to Kyiv for their daughter: a family from the USA adopted a 6-year-old Ukrainian

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Marylanders Phil and Christy Graves adopted six-year-old Bridget from Ukraine. The girl was born by a surrogate mother for other Americans, but after learning that Bridget had developmental features, her biological parents abandoned her. More about this story told the edition of the Voice of America.

Not afraid of shelling, the couple went to Kyiv to pick up their daughter: a family from the USA adopted a 6-year-old Ukrainian girl

Photo: Shutterstock

Phil – pastor at a Baptist church in Brunswick, Maryland. Christy – pulmonologist. The couple already has three biological children and one adopted daughter from Armenia – eight-year-old Elliana, who has spina bifida. She is paralyzed in her lower body. In the US, she has already had four life-saving surgeries.

Now regular trips to the doctor for health monitoring and constant care are needed. But despite being so busy, in January 2021, Christy shared with Phil that she wants to adopt another child. As with Elliana, she saw Bridget's picture on a site for international adoption of children with developmental disabilities.

“I told Phil about this and I was sure that he would say: no way ! But he didn't say that”, – Christy remembers.

Phil only clarified that he would agree to another international adoption if the family did not have to borrow money or arrange fundraising events, as was the case with the adoption of the first adopted daughter. Then the whole process cost them $36,000.

“Then I told my wife that we would adopt a girl if God showed us that He wanted us to do it. I wrote a post on Facebook: we want to adopt a child, but we need $8,000 to start this process. Within a week, we managed to raise this amount. And whenever we needed money, it came quickly and unexpectedly”, – Phil noticed.

As a result, the couple raised over $40 thousand – this is the average price of an international adoption. The very life of a girl – also the result of an international commercial action.

Brizzy, as she was called in an orphanage in Ukraine, was born at 25 weeks to a surrogate mother in Ukraine. Biological parents (a couple from the USA), having learned that the girl was born prematurely and with developmental disabilities, abandoned her.

Bridget has – Cerebral palsy, deformity of the foot and undeveloped eyes. Marina Boyko, a local nurse, took care of Brizzy while she was in the hospital for several years. When the girl was placed in an orphanage in Zaporozhye, Marina was the only one who visited her.

In December 2021, her future adoptive parents came to Brizzy for the first time. On February 25 of this year, Phil and Christy had to find out the date when they could take the girl home to Maryland.

“On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine. This meant that everything was on hold. We began to wait and pray: we put a picture of Brizzi in our church and prayed. In addition, a prayer service for Ukraine was served, and many came to pray, – Phil remembers. – I contacted the director of a non-profit organization that helps fund the orphanage where Brizzy was, but he didn't know anything. I even contacted the former press secretary of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to see if she had any information. I contacted the State Department, the congressman from my district, and they told me the same thing: Ukraine is defending itself from foreign invasion and nothing can be done. All that remained was to wait. And then one day in the middle of April, I got a message from Marina saying that the judge was ready to complete the adoption process.

This meant that Phil and Christy had to fly to Ukraine. Although Russian shelling continued in the country and the American authorities imposed the highest possible level of threat on all trips to Ukraine, the couple flew after their adopted daughter.

“As soon as we saw her photo on the computer, then we realized that this is our child. We started calling her our daughter. It's hard to explain if you're not a parent, but this is the best way I can put it: if your child is in danger, you just do what you have to do”, – emphasizes Phil.

“Many people have asked me if I was scared. I experienced fear only once. We were on the train and we were trying to sleep. Suddenly I woke up from the fact that the train stopped and there was silence. I knew that Russian troops were hitting trains and railway infrastructure. I was afraid that maybe the railroad tracks had been blown up or something. I jumped up, looked out the window and saw that people were just dropping off at the station”, – Phil remembers.

There were many reasons to be afraid. On the very first day of their stay in Kyiv, April 29, rocket attacks were carried out in the city half a kilometer away. On that day, UN Secretary General António Guterres was in the capital. After – hearings to finalize the adoption process in Zaporozhye were delayed due to air raid alerts. They took their daughter from Lviv, where the orphanage from Zaporozhye was evacuated, also to the sound of an air threat warning siren.

“As soon as we were in Poland and the danger was over, I felt a huge relief. I felt that God carried us through this path”, – says Christie.

In the new family, the girl is literally carried in her arms. Brizzy speaks only Russian. And so far, they understand each other only with the help of Google translator. The family hopes that before the start of the school year, Brizzy will learn the basic phrases in English. She, like Elliana, will go to a local school with her peers.

“In the fall, she will go to the preparatory class of elementary school, to the regular class. For her, only an individual training plan will be drawn up. She will have help. She will be helped to learn English”, – Phil explains.

So far, Brizzy's first wish has been fulfilled by her parents: she loves to swim in the water. Arriving in the United States, Christie first bought her an inflatable pool. Planned – pick up corrective glasses for the girl and give her the opportunity to walk. According to Christy, despite the defect in her legs, Brizzi is already trying to stand on her own.

“We are going to operate on her feet in August. The doctor is 99 percent sure that she will walk,” – Christie rejoices.

When asked by others how Brizzy is, Phil replies: “She melts like warm butter on hot bread. She – part of our family.”

Phil promises that Brizzy will have a bright future: “We will do everything necessary so that both of our girls develop safely, and not suffer because of their special needs” .

A mother of five has absolutely no time for herself. But when asked if she would go through the process of international adoption of children with special needs again, knowing about all the difficulties, Christie answers without hesitation: “Absolutely, there is no doubt. Yes, it's a lot of work, it's not easy, some days are very, very hard. But you look at them: they are so beautiful, they – Firestarter. God sees them as perfect. How can you not love these precious babies!”