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Clear Lake couple adjusts to life after adopting three Ukrainian siblings

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Hrubes adoption

Kelsey and Brandon Hrubes stand outside their Clear Lake home with their children Ivan, Sasha and Svetlana, who were recently adopted from Ukraine. 

Brandon and Kelsey Hrubes never imagined their lives the way they are now.

Their home, in a quiet Clear Lake neighborhood, is full.

“It was not in the plan,” she said.

But a mission trip, an answered prayer and three children later, they wouldn’t want their home any other way.

Thursday morning their living room was filled with the laughter and smiles as their children played with the 3-year-old bulldog Evelyn.

“Not in a million years (could I’ve imagined this),” Brandon said.

Hrubes adoption

The Hrubes children Sasha, 17; Ivan, 11; and Svetlana, 12, play with the family bulldog, Evelyn.

The trip

The couple — Brandon, 36, of Britt, and Kelsey, 30, of Burlington, — married on Nov. 4, 2016, and more than a year later, they embarked on a 5,200-mile trip across the world that changed their lives.

Kelsey had wanted to go on a mission trip for years, so when her friend asked her to travel to Ukraine with her and a team from their church to help orphaned children, she didn’t hesitate.

“It was just me for the longest time, and the day before we booked our plane tickets, he walked in the door and said, ‘I think I should go with you,’” she said. “I don’t think we would have the kids today if he wouldn’t have made that decision.”

Brandon had planned on attending a different mission trip to help hurricane victims in Texas, but a phone call from a pastor at Grace Church changed his mind.

Kelsey and Brandon left for the 10-day mission trip on Jan. 5, 2018, with Heritage Ukraine, a ministry that works with children living in orphanages.

Hrubes adoption

A photo of Svetlana, Ivan and Sasha years before Brandon and Kelsey Hrubes, of Clear Lake, adopted them. They arrived in the U.S. this year.

Much of their time was spent at an orphanage in Pishana, where hundreds of children with disabilities were housed. They shared Bible stories, played games, made crafts, taught life-skills lessons and established mentor relationships.

It was at that orphanage, Kelsey and Brandon met and formed a relationship with Svetlana, a then-11-year-old girl.

“That’s when the wheels started turning and I mentioned something to (Brandon) at the end of the first day, like ‘I don’t know how I’m going to leave her here,” she said.

On the last day at the orphanage, the couple inquired about Svetlana’s availability for adoption and found out she had an older brother and a younger brother.

Her younger brother, Ivan, then 10, was at the orphanage, but her older brother, Sasha, then 16, was at another orphanage nearly eight hours away.

“That’s when the decision became even harder,” Kelsey said.

Hrubes adoption

Ivan Hrubes, 11, didn't have exposure to many electronic devices in the Ukrainian orphanage and was fascinated with the camera. With some help from a Globe Gazette photographer, he snapped this photo of his older brother, Sasha.

The prayer

When the Hrubes returned from Ukraine, they entertained the idea of adopting the three children by talking with other couples who had gone through a similar process and praying — a lot.

The couple, who had been trying to get pregnant for months before they left for Ukraine, hadn’t planned on adopting children until after they had a few of their own, and they certainly didn’t plan on adopting older children.

But through prayer, they felt God calling them to bring Ivan, Svetlana and Sasha home.

“We just decided to start the process and God would keep the door open or he would close it, and he kept it open the whole time,” Kelsey said.

Hrubes adoption

Brandon and Kelsey Hrubes, of Clear Lake, adopted Ivan, 11; Svetlana, 12; and Sasha, 17; from Ukraine in November 2018 and they arrived in the U.S. earlier this year. 

In March 2018, the couple began the monthslong home-study process, a screening of the home and life of prospective adoptive parents prior to an adoption.

The Hrubes worked with a home-study agency, an adoption agency and an attorney to compile a 170-page dossier, which needed to be translated from English to Russian prior to being submitted to the Ukrainian government for consideration.

They also held several fundraisers throughout North Iowa to help offset some of the adoption costs, including the Both Hands Foundation project last summer that helped them raise $40,000.

Both Hands Foundation is an organization that helps Christian families fund their adoptions by coordinating a service project that fixes a widow’s home.

“We just relied on God to provide whatever we needed, whether it was emotional support, financial support,” Brandon said.

The dossier was submitted in the fall, and on Oct. 8, 2018, they had an appointment at the State Department for Adoptions and Protection of Rights of the Child, commonly referred to as the SDA, in Ukraine, where they selected the children they wished to adopt based on their preferences.

Knowing what they did about Ivan, Svetlana and Sasha, they tailored their preferences in their dossier accordingly.

Once they’d been cleared by the SDA, the Hrubes visited Ivan and Svetlana at the orphanage and asked them if they’d like to be adopted, and they said, “Yes.”

The next day, the couple visited Sasha at a trade school in Kiliya to do the same, which was also their first time meeting him.

“We met him for the first time and spent the day with him and asked him how he felt about adoption, which was scary because he could say, ‘No,’” she said.

In Ukraine, children leave the orphanage system when they're 16 and are only able to be adopted if they have younger siblings.

Sasha agreed to being adopted, and the door remained open for the Hrubes’ journey to a family.

Hrubes adoption

Brandon and Kelsey Hrubes, of Clear Lake, adopted Ivan, 11; Svetlana, 12; and Sasha, 17; from Ukraine in November 2018 and they arrived in the U.S. earlier this year. 

While they waited for their official court appearance, the couple returned to the U.S. to work, while the children remained in the orphanage.

On Nov. 16, 2018, the adoption was approved in Ukrainian court, but Brandon and Kelsey were unable to take the children home until after a 30-day waiting period without any opposition.

“It was a mix of feelings though because we couldn’t bring them home at the same time, so they were ours but we had to go wait some more,” Kelsey said. “It’s very much a hurry-up-and-wait process.”

The children

The Hrubes’ most exciting trip to Ukraine was their third and fourth.

In January — nearly a year after their mission trip — the couple returned to Ukraine, where they began the in-country process to leave the country with their children.

However, during the medical examination, there was some suspicion that Sasha may have been exposed to tuberculosis because his blood test and X-ray came back positive, which meant he was unable to enter the U.S. for nearly two months.

On Jan. 16, the Hrubes returned to Clear Lake with Ivan and Svetlana, and Sasha went to stay with their friends at the Heritage Ukraine.

“It worked out, but you never want to leave your son over there for another seven weeks,” Kelsey said. “It was hard.”

Brandon brought Sasha home on March 15.

The couple said the past six months have been a rollercoaster with “really high, highs and really low, lows,” but things are getting better each day.

Hrubes adoption

Brandon and Kelsey Hrubes use sticky notes to label items in their home to help their adopted children learn English.

Brandon said Ivan is creative. Svetlana is a sweetheart, and they play well together. Sasha is more independent and he enjoys playing soccer and working on his car.

All three children attended Clear Lake schools, and they will return next month. With Ivan, 11; Svetlana, 12; and Sasha, 17; the Hrubes will have a child at each school.

The family has spent much of the summer learning English and boating on Clear Lake. Sasha has also been working with a construction crew building a house and mowing lawns.

Brandon said the children didn’t receive the education and medical care they deserved within the Ukrainian orphanage system.

Since adoption, Svetlana and Ivan got glasses, and Ivan has hearing aids.

“There are times when I just look at them and think where would they be or what would their future look like if we hadn’t stepped in and really changed their lives?” Kelsey said.

Hrubes adoption

Brandon and Kelsey Hrubes, of Clear Lake, adopted Ivan, 11; Svetlana, 12; and Sasha, 17; from Ukraine in November 2018 and they arrived in the U.S. earlier this year. 

There are more than 100,000 children living in orphanages in Ukraine. Most orphans are abandoned by their parents because they don't have the finances to support them, otherwise it's due to alcoholism, abuse, crime or illness. 

For more information about the Hrubes family and their adoption process, request to be a part of The Hrubes Family Adventure - Journey to +3 secret Facebook group.

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Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.

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