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More Than Finding A Birth Family

There are many reasons why we as people make the many decisions that we do. As adoptees, some choose to search for their birth families and others choose not to or to only go so far in the process. Sometimes adoptees choose to reconnect with only certain aspects of their roots, while for others, what was left in the shadows is brought to light unexpectedly. Oftentimes, what we set out for comes back with more than what we ask for, and it’s non-returnable. I decided to search for my birth family, and in the process, my desires and expectations shifted and changed my life. I learned that the process no longer revolves around just ourselves when other people get involved. The truth is, others were involved besides me even before beginning the search process, my parents. There are delicacies to every person that should be considered, regardless of what causes pain or relieves it. I also learned that one step into a situation always leaves a footprint, even if one chooses to then remove themselves and it impacts everyone involved. There comes a point when we can become too consumed with ourselves if we aren’t careful, then we experience an even greater loss because we can miss what’s around us. We talk so much about our own stories, and yet, we are a part of many other people’s own stories as well. Discovering one’s roots by exploring the culture of their birthplace can be a good start. For so long, I thought my heritage was rooted in the Ukrainian culture because I was adopted from Ukraine (even though I spoke Russian in the orphanage). However, once I connected with my birth family for the first time a year ago, I discovered that my roots are more Russian and that they don’t take pride in the Ukrainian culture. Discovering this felt almost like an identify crisis for me, that didn’t last long. Ukraine is largely divided between the Eastern and Western half, politically and culturally. The city of my birth in Eastern Ukraine has become it’s own separatist group. Much of the conflict is centered in that area of the country so many people there have either died, immigrated, or have been displaced. This is what made me think it would be difficult to find my birth family. DNA resources did not help me find them because none of my birth family members in Ukraine and Russia had access to this or even heard of it. But Ancestry was accurate in showing me that most of my DNA line is Russian and some Eastern European. 
    I received my parent’s permission and support to find my birth family. They knew that growing up, I’ve always wanted to find them. I think they were wise In having me wait until I was at least 18 years old to start, even though at the time I wanted to find them before it would supposedly be too late. It really helped that I had the support of my parents and they gave me access to all of my documents that were needed to do the search. I recommend researching any online social media groups of people who’ve adopted from your place of birth in the year that you were adopted. My parents adopted me in 1998 so they found a group online called “Ukrainian Angels” which is a closed Facebook group specifically for parents who adopted from Ukraine in 1998. In this group, my parents asked how others found their child’s birth family and people in this group recommended a successful private investigator. We emailed her requesting for help in doing this search and she responded with giving us information about her business and with all the specific steps on what to do next, including fees and all the documents needed. Over a series of emails sent back and forth, she guided us through the process. Once we got the documents and everything sent in to her, it took her less than three weeks to find my birth family and I had no information on my birth father. I didn’t need DNA to prove that the right people were found, as the story and documents all lined up exactly and I look just like my birth parents. In the search process, I was asked to submit a document of questions for her to ask any birth family member that could be found. I also submitted past and current photos of me to show them, along with a short description of myself and a request for contact. My birth mother and maternal grandmother were found and interviewed in person with the investigator and they answered many of my questions. We’ve been in touch ever since then. My half brother never knew he had a sister, but thankfully he was welcoming of it and thankful for it. The investigator also contacted my birth father who refused contact at first. He reached out to me several months later. Don’t be too discouraged if this happens as they are processing just as much as well.

The search process isn’t always fast like mine was, as I expected it to take at least a year, because it does for some people. I also went into the search mindful of all the possibilities that I could discover. There comes a point when you can only prepare so much. In finding my birth family, I received a written report from my investigator of answers to the many questions I had, which contained some very difficult information that was emotionally hard to process. Not only had much of this painful information effected the past, it also effected how we moved forward. Sometimes when we find answers, we ended up with more questions than we had at first and that’s what happened to me. Part of my own disbelief was out of a denial of the truth and there was so much I could not understand at the time. It’s okay and a phase that happens and even comes and goes sometimes. If I had discovered everything at that time, I would’ve had too much to process. There were still many unknowns and unanswered questions, but I continued to discover more as I developed a relationship with several birth family members. In birth family reunion, there are alway certain people we connect with more than others, and for me, I connect the most with my birth mother, Natalia. I found her in October of 2019, so we’ve known each other for a little over a year now. In the start of reunion with my birth family, I was able to have a support system of a few trusted people in my life who I sent personal updates to as I experienced different emotions and found out more information. It was good for me to have this outlet of community who I could share with as I processed everything and I trusted them in whatever feedback I recieved. I was in a vulnerable state emotionally and often I shared thoughts and feelings that I disagreed with the next day. The right people will understand this, especially those who know you well. At the time, I personally wasn’t involved in any adoptee community and I honestly didn’t know it was a big thing until I searched more later. I plan to share more in the near future on some of what I discovered in finding my birth family as a resource for other adoptees who may be wondering what this experience is like for others. I went into the search process seeking answers about my past and with a desire to connect with a lost part me. Yet in the process, I realized that this was also a story of a mother’s mistakes being brought to light, a story of longings being fulfilled, a story of a brother learning he had a sister in the world, a story of a birth father discovering he helped create something that was no longer his own, a story of feeling caught in the middle, a story of reliving heartache through a future lens, a story of adoptive parents adjusting to a new reality, a story of trial and error, a story of redemption for a birth mother who had yet to regain all that she lost, a story of growth, and a story of healing through love and heartache. Be encouraged that the inability, for yourself or others, to understand doesn’t devalue the object of the matter at hand.

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Ukrainian - American Adoptee & I'm Adopted Ambassador for Ukrainian Adoptees

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