Shortly after Karen and I were married, we tried to have kids on our own for about a year. With no success, we started looking at other ways we could have a family together. We were referred to a fertility clinic and after many tests and procedures, we found out there wasn’t an identifiable reason that we were not able to conceive a child. The clinic suggested the next step would be to try in-vitro fertilization. Because of the cost involved, the uncertainty of a successful pregnancy and our ages, we choose to look at adoption as our path to starting our family. I was adopted and knew first hand that the bond between adopted children and their parents are very real and very strong.
We researched both domestic and international adoption from various countries. We chose Poland in part because many of our findings were that the children available were usually healthy and well cared for. We were interested in adopting two children and knowing that Poland generally does not break up sibling groups, made Poland an easy choice for us. Karen’s grandfather immigrated from Poland and both our families are primarily Catholic, which allowed us to have a deeper connection to the country.
We found St. Mary’s International Adoption on the internet during our initial investigation into adopting from Poland. When we continued to look further, we became more and more impressed with their accounts of successful adoptions and found comfort in their shared faith, belief in God and the power of prayer. We were also able to talk to several families who have adopted through St. Mary’s about the process, which helped answer questions from their side of the process. St. Mary’s was very helpful in working through the adoption process. Nick and Lina were understanding and knowledgeable with their positive and encouraging words when we encountered bumps in the road.
It’s no secret that there is a ton of paperwork that needs to be gathered. The more organized you can be up front, the easier the process will be as you go. In our specific case, one of the most difficult and time consuming things was gathering all of the correct documents from various local agencies in the cities that I had lived. Nick and Lina even offered to call some of these agencies to help us. They provided written instructions and links to various forms that need to be completed and were always available to answer any questions that we had.
Our paperwork was submitted to Poland in December, 2013 and we received the referral for our two daughters in February, 2014. However, we had to update some of our documents, which were finally able to be sent to Poland a few months later. We received the call on Memorial Day that we needed to be in Poland in one week! Our children were in a foster family and each day, we were able to spend a few hours with them. To see the girls for the first time in person was surreal and a dream come true. After about 5 days there, we came home. Saying goodbye to the girls was so hard! The wait between our trips seemed to take forever but we were able to Skype every weekend with them. We were able to read books to them, show them flashcards with pictures to help learn English, and show them their bedroom, toys, sandbox, etc. that they would have. It was a blessing to be able to have the kids keep us in their minds even though we couldn’t be with them.
We were able to travel back to Poland at the end of August. Words could not describe how happy we were that we would finally be able bring our kids home and we were going to be their parents! We spent a total of almost 7 weeks in Poland, with the first 3 weeks in Gdansk and the remainder in Warsaw. In both places, we had small apartments with a small kitchen and bathroom.
Traveling to Poland was wonderful – the people were very nice and the landscape reminded us a lot of our home in the Midwest. We tried to think of everything when we packed and we probably brought a few more things than we needed. We basically brought a weeks’ worth of clothes along with a sweater and jacket. In addition, we had to bring clothes for our court hearing. Knowing that we had washing machines made it easy. However, we did not have dryers so everything had to be hung on racks. We did bring clothespins as well which came in handy although you can buy them there. A few other tips:
- We did a lot of walking so a comfortable pair of shoes is a must!
- We also brought a couple sturdy bags (duffel type and cloth grocery type) with us which were perfect for a day trip or for groceries.
- If you are a coffee drinker, you may want to bring a small coffee pot with you as the coffee in Poland is more of an espresso shot with water poured over.
- We also brought different activities for the kids – small arts/crafts, small balls for the park, books, and a couple small games.
- Also, depending upon the age of the child, an inexpensive stroller is recommended.
- Prior to leaving, we were told how much our first apartment was going to costs and they needed cash so we were prepared for it. However, we did not know about the second apartment until we arrived in Warsaw. We assumed we could just charge it but they requested a wire transfer. Unfortunately, our bank is not common in Europe and doesn’t allow foreign wires unless we authorize in person. As a result, we had to go to ATM’s several times to withdraw the money and deposit directly to their account.
- We did bring some Polish money (zloty) with us; although there were ATM’s readily available. All places accepted credit cards.
- Bring a notebook to help remember your adventures and moments with your child(ren). It also comes in handy to remember appointments, especially once you arrive in Warsaw, and to write down addresses when you use a taxi. Not all taxi drivers spoke English so the written address helps.
- We also brought a calendar so the kids can count down to coming home.
- While most people in Poland don’t really a lot of English, many know some words and phrases and most restaurants do have a English menu. However, it’s surprisingly hard to find “authentic” Polish food even in Poland, so if you get the chance and you like the food, make the most of it.
At first it was difficult to cope – everyone is adjusting to each other, you aren’t in your normal surroundings, you are learning a new way of daily living and you have a limited ability to communicate in the “usual” ways – and at times, we wished we could have come home right away like other countries allow. However, by the end of our trip, we had tears in our eyes because we didn’t want to leave. Poland is an absolute beautiful country and there is a genuine concern from Polish people for their children. They truly want the best for them and we were fully able to be immersed in our children’s history. Lina and Nick shared some advice with us – try to remember that this is probably going to be the longest vacation you will be able to go on and you may never get to spend this much dedicated time with your children again once you are home and work. Keeping this in mind helped when things were a little stressful.
The foster family and Polish adoption officials were very nice and wonderfully kind people who we could tell truly cared about the children and their well-being. St Mary’s kept in contact with us throughout the adoption and we were able to Skype a few times while we were in Poland. I couldn’t be more pleased with this agency and sincerely hope they can help you like they have helped Karen and I. Best wishes and remember To God be the Glory!
-Jim and Karen