The First Trip

If you’d like to be a part of our ongoing fundraiser, please click HERE. When you sponsor a piece of our puzzle, your name will go on the back of the piece and when all the pieces are sponsored, we’ll put the puzzle together and hang it in Violets new room. We’ve  sold 550 pieces so far. We’re thankful for people’s prayers and participation in our adoption!  


It has been a whirlwind 5 weeks. And it’s hard to organize my thoughts. I thought giving it a couple of weeks would help me to get some words in my head. But it hasn’t, actually, which is kind of hard for me. So I’ll just write as it comes to. Maybe I’ll end up somewhere good, and maybe I’ll just ramble a little.  Also, my camera batter crapped out while we were there, and I couldn’t find a replacement, so I gave up and shot on my phone and tablet. There’s a lot of grainyness to these images. It’s kind of embarrassing to me as a photographer. But I have 6 weeks to make up for it.


We went to Poland the first week of September to meet Violet. It very a emotional, while at the same time a very rational trip. There’s so much bound up in this first meeting: Hearing more about medical history, asking questions, getting answers. Jet Lag. Language barriers and new food, culture shock. The last part about culture and language didn’t phase us much because Poland is similar to where Alex is from, and the food is very similar. We felt like were at home in a lot of ways. We liked the familiarity of it for us. It took some of the edge off the first trip.

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There’s really so much about Poland we love that drew us here to adopt: Alex’s grandmothers stories was one piece. Another was how proud people are to be Polish. And really, they should be. One of the most impressive moments for me as an American was to visit the Museum of History in Poland and see the extent of the bombing of WWII and then walk through the reconstruction of Warsaw. People went through the rubble by hand, pulled out anything and everything that could be used, pieced together, and then they combed through photos, oral histories and collective memory, and rebuilt Warsaw using as much of the original material as possible. Americans just don’t do stuff like that. We continually redefine ourselves, and hang onto very little of our past sometimes, which is both good and bad. But Poland seems to be able to harness history on their side while they redefine themselves. There’s something that resonates with me about that. That Violet gets the chance to be redefined: orphan to family, and later to continually define herself while (hopefully) never forgetting where she came from. Her past doesn’t define her, but it’s a part of her. Same with Lev, also adopted, and with Alex, who moved here from Belarus. And that’s something that’s become very valuable to me: we’ll always be pieces of where we came from: Poland, Belarus, our birth families, but that’s not ALL we are, nor the only thing we are destined to be.


Anyways, when the orphanage director brought Violet through the door and we saw her in person for the first time, it was amazing. It was similar to how we felt when we saw Lev for the first time. Kind of surreal, becuase it’s this huge moment, and a new little person has just made their entrance into your life FOR REAL, not just in paper and thought. And it was emotional for us, becuase it is -again- the culmination of the long struggle to have a family and to find your children. And Lev and Violet are our children. I can’t imagine it any other way.

I think the difference between Lev’s adoption and Violets is that with Lev’s adoption, I wanted so badly to be a mom. And then I was, and it’s fantastic! I love being Lev’s mom. And he is loved by so many many people- his birth family, his immediate family, people at our church, random little old ladies at the grocery store. Everyone LOVES him.

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With Violet’s adoption, it was less about becoming a parent, but more about this child being an actual social orphan- and left alone with no one to show her how to live in the world. I mean, she’s well cared for gets lot of food and attention. But there’s difference between being well cared for, and being loved in a family. And while I KNEW that if Lev would be loved deeply if he had stayed with his birthmom or placed in our family, that sort of guarantee for Violet didn’t exist.  There are parts of violets story that are hard to think about-her first days of life were ROUGH, But these early events in her life, like those of Lev’s,  that she won’t remember, are mine to remember, and to hold onto for her.  That’s kind of hard for me, becuase in some ways, I don’t ever want her to know how it was that she came to be in that orphanage for the first year of her life. But she’ll want to know one day, we’ll have to have that talk. But hopefully, she’ll be able to contrast that first year with all the years she’ll be loved by us and her friends and by God. And I can tell her about how highly anticipated she is now. She’s like a little Rock Star, and people can’t wait to meet her!

Anyways, our first moments and hours with VIolet were taken up by us doing a lot of walking and spitting, and playing with balls. When she first came through the door, she just studied us intensely for a while, and didn’t say or do much. But then, we started playing ball and talking to her, and the next thing she knew, she was sticking her fingers in our eyes, ears, mouths, etc. We washed hands a lot. But this sticking of fingers in places they don’t belong is apparently a trait of Starchenko children. Lev’s first interaction with us was to stick his fingers in our mouth, and it was no different with Violet.  In personality, she’s a lot like Lev: full of spunk. She knew what she wanted, and where she wanted to go.  People kept asking us if we were concerned by all the yelling and moving about she does when she’s out of her crib, and we told them that Lev is very similar to this, and we’re used to it. They call her the Drama Queen at the orphanage-  shes doesn’t have words yet, and is still developing language, so she communicated by yelling and waving- what do we expect at 14 months- this delay is not something that concerns us.. But we like to think she’s full of tough survival spirit , more so than being a drama queen

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Anyways, here’s the end of the post:

You can pray that we’ll be able to go back soon. It was hard to leave her there, and I’m looking forward to getting back,

PRay that the threat of a governement shut down will be just that- an idle threat and that any shut down will occur after we’re all back home.

Pray that we’ll have a good adjustment to being a family of 4.

And please pray that we will continue to grow in faith and follow the Lord where He leads us.



  1. I have loved reading your blog since I found it. My wife and I live in NC and are planning on adopting from Poland as well and are hoping to start around the first of next year. I love the way that you described meeting Violet and look forward to the day we meet our child. What’s happening in Poland? Is it still upset over Tusk and his government?

  2. Pingback: Gwen and Patrick. Joyner Park, Wake Forest, North Carolina | Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill Wedding Photography

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