For a teenager not accustomed to unconditional love, the homecoming is nearly overwhelming.
Nastya, an orphan from Ukraine, has made this trip before. But with a cheering crowd assembled in the driveway, she has to be coaxed from the van. Minutes into the celebration and still clutching a stuffed dog, she falls into her host mother’s arms and buries her face.
It is a bittersweet reunion. Though this Cary family calls her one of its own, Nastya likely will not be allowed to stay in the United States, stymied by the laws of two countries. And with her Ukrainian homeland at war, her future is even more uncertain.
Mike and Kristy Johnson of Cary were busy parents of three last fall when they felt called to pursue adoption. But with their youngest still a toddler, there was no urgency.
Not long after, Kristy was scrolling through Facebook and saw a posting by Marina’s Kids, a nonprofit group that matches Ukrainian orphans with host families in the United States. “I thought, ‘I could do that. It’s only for four weeks.’ When I showed it to Michael, he was all in.”
Approved host families select a child through photographs and a short bio they view online. Within two weeks, the Johnsons had raised the required $2,900 and were looking through the pictures when they happened upon one of a girl in a field of flowers.
“She looked so angelic that we picked her,” Kristy said. Her name was Anastasia, but she was called Nastya. Her last name, her orphanage and her Ukranian hometown aren’t released under Marina’s Kids rules.
At that first short visit last December, Nastya clung to Kristy from the start, eventually admitting that she reminded Nastya of her late mother. “When she got off the plane, she burst into tears and hugged and hugged and hugged me,” Kristy said. “She rode home with her head in my lap.”