The cadence “I was adopted from Ukraine” feels so familiar to me, like I could say it in my sleep.
When I was much younger, old people I had no recollection of would come to me in the grocery store and tell me that they remember when my parents brought me to town as a baby. I mean, I made the front page and all. “From Ukraine With Love” was the headline. I couldn’t write a headline in a million years.
Every single time I heard any mention of Ukraine (or “the Ukraine” as it has been commonly and erroneously referred to) I would perk up and share that I was from that country. I did geography reports through the years on the place, and I would often scour adoption papers to look for clues about myself.
So, as you can imagine, things started to get weird during the unrest happening around 2014.
The country was going through turmoil, and young people took to the streets to fight. I’m still not positive why, but I knew that this country I had always held close was in some trouble in the headlines.
A few weeks ago, my dad sent me a news article about a man who split his time between the St. Louis area and Ukraine and helped aid Americans in international adoption. His name was Serge.
In 2000, my parents spent 10 days in Ukraine when they went to pick me up. They stayed with a host family who fixed them food and gave them a place to stay, but I don’t think I was ever told their names. Maybe I was, but never with the same enthusiasm as when I was told about Serge.
They told me of a man that would navigate them through busy roundabouts in the metro area and drove them all about the city. I remember the way my mom said his name when talking about him. Serge. Aww Serge, she’d say. He was the best.
The article that my dad sent me said that a man named Serge that aided in Ukraine adoptions was killed in a bomb after he volunteered to check on a commotion outside a bomb shelter.
Immediately, I got my mom on the phone to try to piece together if this was him. She flipped through scrapbooks (for the love of God, hug the scrapbookers of your family) and watched videos they took over in Mykolaiv. We were trying to look for similarities to see if it was truly him.
And to be honest, I still don’t know. It’s really close, but I just don’t know.
And do I have to know? For all those years, I had never really given Serge a second thought, even after hearing about him. I’ve never cared so much about Serge or my unnamed biological father or biological mother or biological anyone like this before.
The point is, a man with a popular Slavic name was killed by a bomb and it feels very personal. I was born in Ukraine, nothing more. I was seven months old when they brought me to the States. I just do not know what to feel.
I have received messages from extended family members whom I have no idea got my number (they know it too, the way they introduce themselves in the text). I try to stay as informed as I can. I have found myself in a really weird situation.
Through the next couple of weeks, I hope to find the vocabulary to explain how I feel. There’s been a bit of a cloud looming overhead and maybe it’s because I’m trying too hard to find the words.
Please keep Ukraine in your thoughts and be mindful of messages you send to people around you.