A Manitoba woman whose family recently adopted three children from Ukraine was in that country just a week before the Russian invasion when she received a disturbing phone call from the adoption facilitator.
“[They said], ‘Your children’s passports have arrived and you are moving within an hour. So pack everything, pack the kids. We’re moving you right now,” recalls Trish Braun.
Braun was in the country preparing to bring home three siblings from a Ukrainian orphanage – a process that was halted as the threat of an imminent invasion loomed.
“To go three weeks left [of our trip] to, like, ‘We can maybe figure this out in a day or two’… it was very urgent,” she said.
She arrived in Ukraine at the end of January, her third and final trip in the adoption process. She and her husband, Mike Braun, had first spent six weeks there last October, then another few weeks in December for a court hearing.
On January 21, the Grunthal couple officially became the legal guardians of the three children.
During their first trip in the fall, the couple could already sense the growing tensions with Russia.
When it came time to bring all three children home, the Brauns decided it was best for Trish to go alone, while Mike stayed home with their five other children – their two biological sons and three other brothers. and sisters from Ukraine whom they had adopted in 2019.
If anything happened, he would meet her in Ukraine to help bring everyone home.
Until the phone call from the adoption facilitator, Trish didn’t feel too nervous about an invasion or a war. Ukrainians were going about their lives, some saying not to worry. But his worried family and friends back home in Manitoba were sending him messages.
An hour after the phone call, Trish, the three children and a facilitator piled into a van, not knowing where they were going. The embassy in Kyiv was already closed, so they headed further west.
Once in the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, after about 20 hours on the road, Trish was able to obtain her children’s visas and finalize the remaining paperwork.
Shortly after midnight on February 18, after a 48-hour journey, Trish and her children arrived in Winnipeg.
Shelling had already begun to intensify in eastern Ukraine by then. A week later Russia invaded and the war began.
Mike and the couple’s other five children all welcomed Trish and their three new family members at the airport.
These siblings, ages 6 to 16 and speaking varying levels of English, supported each other through the great transition.
Now with six adopted children from Ukraine, the couple have had difficult but important conversations with them about what happens during the war.
“They hear things from school and they’re online sometimes and they see things. We try to get as much real information as we can from real people for them, so that we base our conversations on facts,” said Trish.
Just over six weeks after returning home, the urgent phone call Trish received and the rushed trip back to Manitoba are now a blur, she says, thanks to the adrenaline and maternal instincts that take the top.
“Parents kick into high gear when the time is right. So I felt like it had to happen.”