Q&A with One of the Last Adoptive Families Out of Ukraine

In February 2022, the Jagge family’s amazing adoption journey went viral as they left Ukraine just days before the Russian invasion began.

But this Lifesong family’s road to adoption started long before they set foot in Ukraine. And even with their son home, their journey is only getting started.

So how did they know they were called to adopt? And what advice do they have for other families pursuing adoption?

See what Kelci Jagge had to say…

Q: What first led you to pursue adoption? And adoption from Ukraine, specifically?

In the fall of 2020, I came across a reel on Instagram from the account DownrightWonderful showing her two boys with Down syndrome hugging each other. The caption said that it was the first time one of their sons had ever shown affection. That caught my attention and led me to read the family’s story about how they adopted that little boy from Ukraine. They found him through Reece’s Rainbow, so I went to the Reece’s Rainbow Instagram account and started looking at all of their posts.

I shed many tears looking at the pictures of those waiting children! I believe our son’s picture was one of the first ones that I saw, and his adoption grant was the first one that I donated to in December 2020. After several weeks of donating, following families who had adopted, and praying, we felt the burden to adopt grow and grow. At first, we said we would adopt someday—when we had the money, a bigger house, and so on. But in February of 2021, we realized the Lord was telling us the time was now

We knew that our son, under the advocacy name “Parc”, was in Ukraine. We also realized that most of the children on our hearts were from Ukraine. Most of the families I was following had adopted from Ukraine, too, so we felt that was where we were being led to adopt.

Q: How did Lifesong impact your adoption journey?

Lifesong was instrumental in helping us fundraise! I had planned several fundraisers but was really hoping to find a matching grant to maximize the funds we were raising. We only had $2,000 set aside when we started this process, so the adoption cost seemed like a huge mountain to climb. But the Lord provided in so many ways, one of those being the matching grant that Lifesong awarded to us! Knowing that each donation was doubled was such a blessing.

“I am so thankful that we are on the other side of the adoption process without accruing a bunch of debt. Even with all the obstacles we have faced along the way! We are so thankful for the grants we have received.”

Q: What did you experience in Ukraine and Ruslan’s orphanage?

Our first trip to Ukraine was in December 2021. The news of the Russian troop build-up concerned us a little, but we felt confident that the Lord was leading us there.

We spent a couple of days in Kyiv exploring the city before we headed to Ruslan’s orphanage. We quickly fell in love with Ukraine—the beautiful scenery, the people, the food, and so on. Even in Ruslan’s region, which was very close to the eastern border, we felt safe and enjoyed our time there.

Ruslan’s orphanage was a difficult place to visit. But we could see that the director of the orphanage really cared about the children there and was excited to show us pictures of all of the children who had been adopted from his orphanage.

Meeting Ruslan was very emotional, and then it was so sad to see that he was malnourished and was given a lot of medications to stay calm.

The orphanage allowed us to visit him six times for about an hour each while we were there. It was so hard to say goodbye!

Theron and Kelci with 4-year-old Ruslan in Ukraine

We went back to Ukraine for court on January 31st, 2022. The news of a potential invasion had really ramped up, but still, the people of Ukraine were living life normally. No one seemed to think that it would really happen. Several people we talked to said that there had been conflict with Russia for years, so they couldn’t just stop living life for fear of what could happen.

We had court on February 3rd and were allowed to pick him up from the orphanage on February 8th. The rest of our trip was not as smooth as the beginning was! We got back to Kyiv with Ruslan a day late because the train was canceled on the day we were to go back. When we got back to Kyiv, it was a mad dash to get his medicals completed and then get his visa done in time for our flight on Saturday!

On Friday, we ended up going to the US Embassy in Kyiv without Ruslan’s medical exam so that we could get everything else ready to go. One wonderful agent and a few security guards waited with us at the embassy for the medical exam results. At 5:20, after all the other employees left, she called us up to the window and handed us his visa. The doctor’s office had emailed the results and she was able to print the visa! She told us,

“God was on your side today. I did not think this would happen. It is a miracle that you got his visa!”

The next day we found out that the embassy was evacuating and Ruslan was the last person to receive a visa at the embassy in Kyiv.

Q: How did your faith grow during your trip to Ukraine and the return trip home?

On the morning of February 12th, we headed to the airport for our flights. We checked in, went through airport security, and headed to passport control. The check-in process had taken a very long time, so we were already concerned about making our flight. We could definitely see an influx of people trying to leave the country, so the process at the airport took much longer than expected.

We waited and waited at the passport control counter for the border guard to look through our adoption court decree and all other required paperwork. They pulled us out of the line, and we realized we were going to miss our flight.

“Things got worse when they finally called us into the office and told us that our court decree was invalid. Ruslan would not be allowed to leave the country until 30 days after the court decision.”

We had our facilitator, the US embassy, and other representatives on speakerphone trying to reason with the border guard and explain that the court order clearly waived the wait. The border guard would not budge and continually told us that their decision was final. They put a “denial” in the system, and after hours of trying to reason with them, we left the airport at the council of the U.S. Embassy.

Ruslan was already declining in health and we were running low on the medications we had brought, so we were concerned for his wellbeing at that point.

Theron, Kelci, and Rusland shortly after leaving the orphanage

Our facilitator hired a lawyer over the weekend, and on Monday morning, she and the head of our facilitation team headed to the airport to talk to the head of the border guards. She warned us there was a 50/50 chance this would work. But mid-day on Monday, we got the call that it had been successful! We did not have anything in writing but were told that we had to try going through passport control at the airport again.

At that point, we were getting concerning calls from credible sources that an attack was imminent and we needed to stock up on supplies and preferably move to Lviv if possible. We had concerns about trying to get Ruslan through passport control anywhere other than the airport in Kyiv since we weren’t sure if the denial had actually been removed from the system. We decided to drive to the airport in Kyiv as planned without tickets to see if we could find a flight. On the way to the airport, our facilitation team was able to book us a flight on Turkish airlines. It left in less than 3 hours, so we had to rush through traffic, race through the airport for covid tests, and make it through security.

We made it through the passport control this time, praise the Lord! When we got to Istanbul, we had to stay the night in the hotel airport and try to find a flight to the U.S. the next day. We found a flight mid-morning the next day, and it was another mad dash to make our flight! Our flight arrived back in San Antonio at 12:20 am on February 26, 2022, and we immediately took Ruslan to the ER.

We were in the hospital for just over two weeks, and now Ruslan is continuing to recover at home!

“This was a huge test of faith. Now that we are home, I see how the Lord allowed all of these things to happen to grow our faith and to give us opportunities to share what He has done!”

Even just the fundraising process grew our faith as we watched the Lord provide again and again for all of our adoption costs.

Q: What advice would you offer to families considering adoption?

Patience and perseverance are vital! The process can feel so long with many obstacles and changes along the way. But it is so worth it and we feel blessed to have been allowed to experience the Lord’s faithfulness throughout all of the difficulties!

Ruslan is dearly loved by his family and community, including his new brother and sister

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