Best Friends Reunited Through Ukrainian Adoptions

Post a Comment » Written on January 9th, 2008     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

OMAHA, NE (January 9, 2007) – Lena Van Putten recalls remaining behind at Internot, an orphanage in Odessa, Ukraine, as she watched her best friend, Lienna, leave with new parents Larry and Cathy Hanson.

Girls“I was really sad,” she says of that day in September 2004. Lena asked her friend to pray that she, too, would be adopted.

Meanwhile, Jeff and Amy Van Putten – who attend First Covenant Church with the Hansons – heard God calling them to adopt from the same orphanage. When Lienna learned of the plans, she pushed for the Van Puttens to choose Lena. In August 2005, Lena arrived in the United States and was reunited with her best friend.

“When I saw Lienna, I ran to her. I was really excited,” says Lena, breaking out in a large grin.

“It’s fun because we can hang out together. We can speak Russian.” Lena, 17, and Lienna, 16, now even work together at the same movie theater. (Accompanying photo shows Lienna at left with Lena).

Since the Van Puttens returned to Omaha, three other families at First Covenant Church have adopted from the Odessa orphanage. The five families have adopted seven orphans.

Yuri Berger, 15, and Cole Lennard, 14, were classmates in Odessa. The teens now are constant companions, which is easy – they live around the corner from each other. Accompanying photo shows Cole (left) and Yuri.

BoysCole arrived in the United States with Kyle and Susie Lennard in April 2005. Yuri was adopted by Paul and Renee Berger in April 2007. After being apart for two years, “It was a lot of fun to see Yuri,” says Cole.

The friends help each other make the many difficult transitions. The teens have moved to a foreign country as family members of people they barely know. They also must learn a new language as well as social customs while catching up academically to others their age in school. “It was really scary at first, but now it is all good,” says Lienna.

Most also want to hold on to their identity as Ukrainians, which includes speaking their native language. “I don’t want to forget Russian,” Lena says.

“Yuri will watch YouTube just so he can listen to Russian,” says Paul Berger.

Although some of the teenagers hope to return to visit Ukraine, all say they are glad to be living in the United States with their friends.

To read the first two installments, select from the following:

•    Call to Adopt – An Incredible Journey
•    Adoption Not for Faint of Heart

Editor’s note: Stan Friedman spent a weekend with the families in preparation for this series of reports, which began Monday and concludes today.

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