As Russia’s annexation of Crimea has left the future of Ukraine in uncertainty, an even greater uncertainty has been placed upon the thousands of orphans left behind to face a disparaging future. Over 3,600 orphans left in the 22 orphanages in Crimea, who once had hopes of being adopted by western families, now remain in their dormitories as Russian property.
In February, Russia commenced its invasion of Ukraine, pouring into the peninsula region of Crimea. The occupancy of Crimea has caused a ripple of outrage to stretch worldwide, one of the reasons being Russia putting a halt to hundreds of American families’ prospects to adopt some of the many orphans in the area.
Kristine and James Proctor, of Michigan, were the last family to make it out of Crimea with their adopted 16 year-old daughter, Melissa, according to an ABC News report. While the Proctors awaited the proper paperwork to be filed and certified by the Ukrainian government, the Russian Army began to invade the region. Though unification had not yet taken place, most of the local bureaucrats stopped issuing paperwork that would allow Melissa, formally named Yana, to leave the city.
Finally, just hours before Russia completed its absorption of the region, Kristine Proctor found an official to issue Melissa a Ukrainian tax ID number, which allowed her to board an overnight train bound for Kiev. Upon reaching Kiev, officials demanded Melissa be returned to Crimea because she had no passport, but after some time of negotiation, she was issued a Ukrainian passport and was allowed to fly to the United States, where she is currently happily situated with her new family and ready to start her new life.
Ukraine still has over 100,000 orphans, of whom 30,000 live in state-run orphanages. It is estimated that over a quarter million children in the country are exploited or abused, and with Russia’s continuing occupation of Ukraine, the future for these vulnerable children and the orphans left behind in Crimea remain unsure. Since Russia’s halt of American adoptions in the region, many families that were already in the process of adopting orphans have been turned away, leaving thousands of orphaned children stranded and unprotected against the turbulent state of affairs that ensues in the region.
Many fingers point blame at deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his ousted regime, who fled Kiev for a Moscow-friendly region of the country after over a hundred demonstrators were killed by police. Yanukovych proceeded in emptying the national treasury on his path, leaving nothing to support Ukraine’s struggling social services that protect the thousands of orphans left in the country. It has since been reported that Yanukovych has been spotted at a luxorious five-star hotel in Moscow. As more and more families step forward to provide homes and lives for these despondent orphans, they are merely met with the cold shoulder of Russian red tape.
It is unclear what Russian president Vladamir Putin’s motivation is for keeping these downcast children from finding loving families, or how long the west will sit back and allow the illegal annexation of Ukraine, but the thousands orphans of Crimea left behind need someone to heed their cry for help.
By Cody Long