As Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, a Texas couple escaped the country just days before with their newly adopted son.
Kelci and Theron Jagge’s story began in 2020 after the couple became Christians and decided to adopt a special-needs child. According to the New York Post, “In 2021 they formally began the process after connecting with a local adoption agency.”
“They have a lot of kids in Ukraine. I started following a lot of families [on social media] who had adopted these kids and to see the before and after is mind blowing,” Kelci Jagge said, according to the New York Post.
Mentioning four-year-old Ruslan who they would go on to adopt, she said, “I saw this little boy and I cried for a week looking at his picture.”
When the couple first arrived at the orphanage in East Ukraine, they were discouraged from adopting Ruslan based on the difficulties they would have to face with taking care of him. He had cerebral palsy, required a feeding tube, and suffered severe withdrawal symptoms after being given opioids by the orphanage.
“He never cried. Later we realized it was because he was sedated,” Kelci Jagge said.
Nonetheless, the couple was persistent.
“We just know he was abandoned at birth at the hospital. He spent some time in the hospital before going to an orphanage. His father was not identified. His mother died in late 2021,” Kelci Jagge explained. “We just felt we had to do this.”
They also saw that Ruslan was very sick. Suffering from severe pneumonia and malnourishment, they wanted to take him back to their hometown of San Antonio quickly.
As the Jagges returned to the country to finalize the adoption, an invasion was already brewing between Russia and Ukraine.
“Kramatorsk, in the country’s Donetsk region, has long been the site of Russian meddling and incursions,” as the New York Post writes, and Kelci Jagge was “eager to leave.” She called it “the scary area” of the country.
The couple was allowed to pick up their new son from the orphanage on Feb. 8, and on Feb. 11 they could get a visa for Ruslan at the U.S embassy right before it was evacuated.
“When they reached the airport for their flight to Amsterdam, however, Ukrainian border guards wouldn’t let them board, claiming the adoption papers were invalid — and invoking the 30-day wait period which had been waived,” the New York Post reports.
The couple was racing against time as Ruslan’s condition began to deteriorate.
“I kept saying, ‘Look at our son, he is going to die if you make us stay here 30 days,’ and they did not care,” Kelci shared.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 tells us to “pray without ceasing” and so that is what the couple decided to do as they waited.
As a last-ditch effort, a lawyer for the Jagges tried to work with the border guards, and according to the New York Post, Kelci and Theron Jagge took pictures of their son, “who was doing much worse,” and sent notes to their doctors.
Thankfully their prayers were answered. The hold was lifted by the border guards, and the Jagges could now travel. They made it home to San Antonio in the early morning of Feb. 16.
“If we had been stuck there one day more, I don’t know if he would have made it,” Kelci Jagge told the New York Post.