My parents first went to Ukraine in 1997 or 1998.
Ukraine wasn't a specific choice for them at that time.
They just wanted to go somewhere and rock babies that needed cuddling.
I went in 1999, but to a different area.
And then halfway through my trip, the plans changed.
I got to stay with the same family my parents had, and play with the same orphans in the same orphanage. One of the kids had been adopted by the family with whom I stayed, because my parents had stayed there while visiting the baby orphanage, and the hosts had gone along to see what on earth these Canadian people were doing at a Ukrainian orphanage, and ... well, they fell in love with baby Katya and adopted her.
When I went, I also visited an orphanage for kids with disabilities.
It was formerly known as "The Place that God Forgot".
My parents had seen it in that awful state. No longer, when I was there. I thought it was a place of joy. I found out later that a good friend was there in between my parents and me - before we knew her. She had designed a playground for the place, but never saw it built. I pulled out my photo album and showed her the finished product of her design.
How cool is that?
On this trip, I was in that same disabled-kids orphanage again, just for a few brief minutes.
This was Stasik in 1999, on the left. Also me, with much shorter and redder hair.
This is Stasik now. He still lives there. When I saw him, he was working on some crafts.
In that first picture, Gala is the little girl on the right.
I saw her this trip too, but I didn't put it together until after I had left. She lives in another place now, where the kids from the first one go to live when they turn 18. I didn't take her picture, since I didn't realize who she was.
I was busy taking pictures of her roommate, Natasha.
Natasha is an artist. She paints by holding the brush in her mouth. She has been on national television a few times, and when asked if she wanted to say anything to Ukraine, she said (if I remember the story correctly) ... "I think we all need to be more thankful for what we have."
I know I am.