May 9, 2014
By Julie Montanaro
NATO is condemning a visit to Crimea today by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Though that's happening nearly six thousand miles away it's already stopped a Tallahassee based medical mission to help orphans there and brought all adoptions to a halt.
Margaret Bass just got back from Ukraine last month. She has helped more than a dozen orphans there get adopted and find homes in the United States.
She says the Russian takeover of Crimea has now closed the door for all adoptions to the U.S.
"The children know that their families are coming for them, they're waiting for them," Bass said. "There were families in process of adoption of children in Crimea, there were families actually in country that were adopting their children that were not able to finish their adoptions," Bass said. "It's heartbreaking."
Bass works as an international adoptions consultant at An Open Door Adoption Agency in Thomasville.
CEO Walter Gilbert says families in our area who have adoptions pending at other orphanages in the Ukraine are rushing to get there and try to get their prospective children out before Russia has a chance to takeover any other regions of the country.
"They're getting on the first plane over there, as soon as the central authority will allow them in the country to go and get their children, they're going," Gilbert said.
Tallahassee attorney Joyce Dove has been visiting orphanages in Crimea for 18 years, has facilitated nearly 200 adoptions and has helped to coordinate medical missions for the past nine years.
Their surgical team had to cancel its trip in March and 60 surgeries scheduled for orphans there.
"We were going to leave on Wednesday when the Russians invaded on Sunday, we had all our surgeries lined up, we were carrying about half a ton of medical supplies ... and for everyone's safety ... we cancelled," Dove said.
Dove says the surgeries for children with congenital defects can mean the difference between adoption or life in an institution.
"What do you bring most?"
"Mostly hope over there, hope for the kids to have another chance at life," Dove said.
Rotary clubs in Tallahassee help to pay for the medical missions, they are led by a Tallahassee doctor and often include medical students from FSU.
Neither Dove nor Bass is confident they'll be able to return to Crimea anytime soon, but both vow to keep traveling to orphanages in other parts of the Ukraine.