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Cathy and Tully Bachman pose with their children Evan, 5, and Marina, 5, at their home in Greer
Tully and Cathy Bachman are celebrating their very own miracle this holiday season.
Her name is Marina, a 5-year-old Ukrainian orphan who would have been condemned to lifelong institutionalization if not adopted by the Bachmans. They brought her home Tuesday after 18 months of relentless paperwork and fundraising, and spending the past six weeks in Ukraine for court proceedings.
Marina, whose cherubic face appealed to Cathy Bachman when she first saw it on the worldwide adoption website Reece's Rainbow, has Down syndrome. The potential hurdles that accompany caring for a special-needs child didn't hinder the Bachmans' desire to make Marina their own — rather, it inspired them to do so.
Their daughter, Caylyn, who was 6 when she died in March 2008, also had Down syndrome. She won the hearts of followers across the Upstate during her protracted battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The family was showered with prayers and financial support from individuals, organizations and businesses in South Carolina and beyond.
A similar battalion of supporters came forward to help raise the funds needed — about $24,000 — to bring Marina home, Mrs. Bachman said.
“We are barely getting by from the devastation from the leukemia fight that went on for two years with our daughter, but we learned that there is a saying — God's will, his bill. There is no other way to explain how the money came to be there. The majority was raised the last week before we left the United States,” she said.
“Friends just came from crazy places to give large sums of money, while others gave just what they could, and by the end of that week, we had the nearly $15,000 we were short. The rest was raised along the way and included a $5,000 grant from Reece's Rainbow that came from Marina's prayer warrior, a nice lady in Kentucky who has a heart for Marina, too.”
The Bachmans also are parents of Evan, 5, who insists he's the “big” brother, even though Marina is a few months older. He's been as much a part of the adoption process as his mom and dad, praying nightly for his new sister to come safely home, his mother said.
“He was never ready to not be a brother. I think once a child has had a sibling, especially a special-needs sibling, they have a different and wiser view of love and acceptance,” Mrs. Bachman explained. “He never stopped loving having Caylyn for a sister, and he has wanted Marina home the whole 18 months we have been completing the paper chase.”
The decision to adopt another child, especially one with Down syndrome, was not made lightly, Mrs. Bachman said.
“I'm not replacing Caylyn. I'm saving Marina,” said Mrs. Bachman, who prayed for months the little girl would find a family before she and her husband decided to adopt her themselves. “I knew that Caylyn would leave a legacy, and this is something I believe we've been called to do.”
Lisa Anderson, Upstate parent-to-parent coordinator for Family Connection of South Carolina, first met the Bachmans about five years ago. The organization's mission is to strengthen families of children with special needs by providing a network of support.
Anderson attributed the success of the couple's adoption plans to pure relentlessness.
“When those Bachmans set their minds to something, nothing can stand in their way,” Anderson said. “Cathy and Tully were such wonderful parents to Caylyn and Evan. Because of the unconditional love that Caylyn has taught them, Evan and Marina are so blessed to have them as their parents.”
Mrs. Bachman said that it was “set in stone” that Marina would become part of their family. They never laid eyes on her in person until they arrived in Ukraine about six weeks ago with Evan in tow and the promise of once more becoming a family of four.
“It is as if she walked in the door of our lives and has always belonged here,” Mrs. Bachman said. “I am only sorry that Caylyn is not here to be a part of this. They would have been a hoot together. But had it not been for the loss of Caylyn, I am not sure we would have ever found Marina.”
Although developmentally Marina is far above what her new parents anticipated, there are still obstacles, one being that Marina speaks only Russian. They have six months to help her learn English so she can attend kindergarten on time with her new brother. Compared with what they've already endured, though, it's a small hurdle, Mrs. Bachman said.
“Life does not end when a child dies. It feels like it ... because truly, nothing in life hurts so badly as to lose a child,” she said. “We do not believe Cay is lost. She exited this life earlier than we will and lives in a perfect place where we will see her again. There is such a need here and there and everywhere for children to have a home. That is more important than anything.”