Today, was graduation day at the orphanage. As we understood it, the 11th graders wearing red ribbons were graduating and leaving the orphanage. The 9th graders, who had sucessfully passed their exams and would be staying at the orphanage, wore white ribbons. Not sure what happens to the 9th graders who did not pass their exams. It was a big event and all the kids attended, dressed up in white shirts and slacks or dresses. It had guest speakers and music and song, all in Ukraine tradition. It was very interesting! The ceremony rivaled our graduation ceremonies back in the states except for one thing: there were no parents present. It was a very odd feeling. Myself and the Costanzas were really the only parents present. I will post some short video clips of the ceremony on facebook. Below are some photos I took during and after the ceremony.
Vova and his pals before the ceremony began. I could not get a photo of Vova in his suit because right after graduation, like any blue blooded American boy, he ran back to his dorm to change into shorts and a t-shirt.
Photo of auditorium before graduation ceremony. Most of the adults are caretakers.
Vova and his posse before the ceremony.
Photo of my buddy "Dyma" short for Dymitri. Probably the sweetest little boy you will ever meet. He is so kind, will come up and give me a hug and say: "Hi Jake!". I will miss him!
Sweet little girls sitting next to me during the ceremony.
Lori Costanza with her new daughter Anya (to her left), Suzzana holding Lori's baby boy Leo, and Anya and Suzzana's caretakers.
Suzzana, Me and Anya
Suzzana, Todd (Loris husband) and his new daughter Anya
Lenin...... After the ceremony, The Costanzas and I took the girls and Vova out to lunch. While the adults ate alot, and Vova ate some fried mushrooms, the girls ate almost nothing. Even though we tried everything to encourage them to eat. Not sure if this a cultural thing or not. But it is not the first time this has happened. After lunch, we took the girls shopping. I bought Vova a PSP game in Ukranian which he can play on our long journey back to America. The Costanzas and I also bought Suzzana a smart phone so she will be able to facebook us back in the states. If you have been following this blog, you all know of Suzzana's situation. We all checked into her adoption status, and she is not even on the registry to be adopted due to the situation with her father. To further complicate matters, a child is not even eligible for adoption until they have been on the registry for at least a year. Since Suzzana just turned 15, she runs the risk of "aging out" of the orphanage. We broke the news to her yesterday and she took it kind of hard at first. However, we got her the smart phone to stay in touch and we are all commited to doing everything we can to get her to the States. If not eligible for adoption, then maybe a Student Visa, etc. These are options we have all agreed to pursue on her behalf once we get back. She is a beautiful and wonderful girl. Can't add anything else
At the end of the day, it was time to say our goodbyes. I will be here for the next 7-10 days, but Lori and Todd are leaving for Kiev at 3:00 a.m. tomorrow by taxi and then flying back to Michigan. They will wait at home for the 10 days to elapse after their court date yesterday. Then, Lori will come back to get Anya. That goodbye to Suzzana will be much harder.
I want to end this post by saying what wonderful people the Costanzas are. They were great traveling companions (starting with coincidently sitting next to them on the plane from Chicgo to Munich on our first trip over) and it was so much fun to share our journey with them. Despite Todd's penchant for going off on a strange tangent sometimes while telling a story, I have to say I have met few people with as big a hearts as they have. They care so much for these girls and I am a better person for having known them. Safe travels my friends. P.S. I spelled your name right.