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Best friends in Ukraine together again

November 20, 2006, 0:00 3367 Author: Kent Jackson standardspeaker.com

Alyona Caroline Kostyal was 13, spoke little English, and barely had settled into her new home in Butler Township when she told her adoptive parents about her best friend back in the orphanage in Ukraine.

Nalya and she had been together since they were 4. They taught each other to ride bikes, went to a summer camp without toys, and shared mayonnaise and bread at bedtime.

Now 16, they met again this weekend when Nalya visited so they could both go to a semi-formal dance Saturday evening at MMI Preparatory School in Freeland, where Alyona is a freshman.

Alyona first arrived in Pennsylvania in December 2002 to spend Christmas vacation with Julie and Joe Kostyal and their younger children in Butler Township. A humanitarian program called Frontier Horizon arranges visits so that orphans like Alyona from the Ukraine and Nicaragua can have happier holidays.

“She didn’t trust us at first,” Julie Kostyal said. “She didn’t want to come to the U.S., was afraid to learn English, and hated to fly.”

Alyona returned to Ukraine after Christmas, but in July 2003 the Kostyals inquired about adopting her and flew to the orphanage in Gorodnya.

“She came from a very poor orphanage,” Julie said. “She would have been placed in a job or on the streets by 16.”

The Ukrainian government arranges adoptions directly by prohibiting adoption agencies from matching children with prospective parents. While Alyona was one of 702 Ukrainian children who came to the United States in 2003, according to the U.S. State Department, Ukraine stopped accepting dossiers earlier this year from Americans who wanted to adopt.

Three years ago, the Kostyals had no guarantee they would be able to adopt Alyona when they traveled to Ukraine.

“She saw us and said she wanted to come, so it wasn’t hard,” Julie said.

Three weeks after the Kostyals and Alyona settled into their new lives in Butler Township, she told them about Nalya.

“Out of the blue, she said she would like to find a family for her best friend,” Julie said.

The Kostyals didn’t know anything about Nalya. They didn’t meet her on their trip to Ukraine, and Alyona hadn’t mentioned her before.

But on Alyona’s say-so, the Kostyals started inquiring about prospective parents for Nalya on Web sites that they used when researching Ukrainian adoptions.

Several parents showed interest, but one from Portland, Ore. stood out.

“Alyona said, “That is the family,’” Julie recalled.

Liz and Bill Delmatoff, the Portland couple who also have younger children, went to Gorodnya to see Nalya.

“The adoption center said we won’t hold a child, but we have other eligible children,” Julie said.

The Delmatoffs met Nalya, loved her, and brought her to their home.

Since then, the Delmatoffs and the Kostyals have pledged to keep their daughters from Ukraine in contact.

Nalya, who now uses the name Nelly, spent two weeks with Alyona and the Kostyals this summer.

The two girls didn’t dwell on the discipline they faced for answering a teacher’s question incorrectly in Ukraine or the summer camp they attended that had no toys.

“They tell stories. They don’t focus on the bad. They focus on the good times they had together,” said Julie, recalling one story she heard about when Alyona taught Nelly to ride a bicycle. “Nelly ended up in a big picker bush,” Julie said.

Alyona didn’t know Nelly was visiting this weekend until she rang her doorbell on Friday as a surprise.

The girls’ parents split the cost of Nelly’s flight as an early Christmas present to their daughters.

kent.jackson[at]standardspeaker.com

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