Bringing them home Local dentist writes story of adoptions in Ukraine

| 11 Oct 2012 | 02:27


WEST MILFORD — When West Milford dentist, Dr. Basil Pallis, 51, and his wife Rita were in their mid-forties, they began to realize something was missing; that something was children.
Exploring their options, the Vernon couple looked into the possibility of adopting a child from Ukraine, one reason being that Ukraine offered hosting programs, allowing for a “test drive” for a few months.
From there the adoption odyssey began; one of heartbreak and steadfast determination in a foreign land, experiences that Pallis recently turned into a book.

Not meant to be

April 2008 - Working with Frontier Horizon, a non-profit organization that matches orphans and host families, the couple was attracted to a photo of a seven-year old boy. And so it was that Roman visited New Jersey for the summer and blossomed in the love of the Pallises. This was the boy for them, and they started the paper work.
Just before Roman’s visit ended a message from Ukraine informed them that another American couple, ahead of them on the list, wanted Roman. They flew back with the child in the hopes of swaying those in charge; letting them see the mutual bond. They hired a facilitator and tried their best, to no avail. Roman was lost to them. They flew home devastated.
Nov. 2008- Still reeling from the loss of Roman, they recalled Natasha, a little girl at Roman’s orphanage. But there was a problem. Natasha had a 12 year old brother and the law required that he be adopted by the same family. Not approved for a child over nine years old they flew home again, alone.
Winter 2008- - Saddened but not deterred, the couple hosted eight-year old Anya and six-year old Ivan. Another love story, another tragic end. As they were working on the adoption documents they were advised that the children’s father had been released from jail and took them away.


Ukraine ceded from the Soviet Union 1991. As Pallis describes Odessa, the city center is beautiful but outside the city limits are Soviet built concrete buildings suffering from neglect. The economy is poor and the orphanages also care for children given up by their parents who cannot afford to feed them.
Behind the scenes of an adoption lies a maze, probably best left unknown to those trying to adopt. A hired facilitator is a must not only for translating but for knowing the ropes. The facilitator is given money but where it goes is mostly a mystery.
“You have to go with an open mind. You can’t go with an American point of view. You stop passing judgment. One director said if you leave two-hundred dollars the children will have meat this winter,” Pallis said.
The lack of technology in Ukraine made for some mind-boggling moments. Critical documents were given to train engineers to shuffle between cities. At the other end of the line someone was waiting, hopefully, to pick up the papers and deliver them to the proper agency. The entire process is shaky and emotionally charged.

A family in the making

In April the couple made their third trip to Ukraine, this time accompanied by a team from Frontier Horizon. Within hours of landing they met Anastacia and Vika at Odessa Orphanage #9, they were the girls for them and both would be adoptable in November. In June they visited again and in August they hosted Anastacia and completed the necessary documents.
On their fifth trip, in December, they learned that Vika had a three-year old brother, Artemios, who by law was part of the package. Refusal could have meant the loss of both girls. The drawn-out process began with many heart stopping moments, red tape to be cut and palms to be greased.
“You live on pins and needles until the process is completed and you hope that you can see it through to the end. It makes it psychologically tough, you fall in love, you work toward the end, but there’s so much uncertainty along the way,” Pallis said.
This time the Pallises were in Ukraine for a month and a half, but what a happy ending. And what a great title for Pallis’ book – “46 Days in Ukraine.”

Anastacia, Vika and Artemios

When the couple visited Artemios at the baby orphanage they often found a little whirling dervish. He would calm down when a staff member appeared, but knocking over a Christmas tree wasn’t out of his realm. His trip across the ocean is a hair raising tale. He fought his seat belt and screamed from Ukraine to America. So how is little Timmy, as he’s now known, doing?
“He’s a little gentleman now. When we first brought him home he was undisciplined. He had spent one and half years in the orphanage, probably ignored or neglected, occasionally beaten. We had to undo certain things and instill in him proper values. We’ve been firm and consistent. He’s intelligent and mechanically inclined and he’s such a little darling with my wife. He’s also tough and a bit of a character. He’s a real pleasure,” Pallis said.
Vika, whose name was changed to Vasilisa and now goes by Lisa, and Anastacia who prefers Anna, have differing personalities.
“One is a scholar the other is out in the garden looking for bugs under a rock,” Pallis said. They are doing well participating in spelling bees and gymnastics. Two years ago the now 11-year olds didn’t speak English.
“They are good kids, they respect us , they listen and they don’t talk back. They wonder why other kids don’t pay attention, in their country you’d get the belt,” he said.
The children are happiest when they are with mom and dad. Being sent to their room is the ultimate punishment.
“They are grateful and you don’t expect that from kids,” Pallis said.
It was a transition for the couple once the reality set in that they were now the parents of three children.
“At 48 you may not have the energy but you have the wisdom. It’s hard to remember now not having kids. It makes me feel younger. You see things through their eyes and it’s like seeing it for the first time. When you come home from work and three kids jump into your arms, you can’t even describe that feeling,” he said.
Pallis wrote his book so that his children would have their story on paper. He also hopes it will be an emotional guide for others interested in adoption.
“46 Days in Ukraine” is available on-line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It’s a wonderful story, running the gamut of emotions from devastation to joy, told with a generous dose of humor.
Now a dad, and occasionally mistaken for a grandpa, Pallis said that his children had a rough start in life and he wishes them every happiness ahead.
The children are home at last.