From a town called ‘Happiness’

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Alexa Murray

A. Murray

Although it is over 5,000 miles from Kings Mills to Kiev, the recent conflicts and crises of Ukraine are directly affecting one local family and their hopes of helping a child.

Kings High School assistant principal Rob Burnside and his wife are in the midst of the adoption process for the newest addition to their family, a fourteen-year-old boy from Shchastya, a small mostly Russian-speaking town whose name means “Happiness” in Ukrainian. It is located in the eastern oblast of Lugansk.

The boy, Ruslan, first came into the Burnsides’ lives last summer, when the agency that had facilitated the adoption of their daughter, Zhana, contacted them about a hosting program. Ruslan stayed with the family for six weeks and came back again for another four weeks last December. He even visited Kings High school for three days.

At first, Ruslan was a bit reserved, but then his true personality came out and the Burnsides knew he belonged in their family.

RulanmapSo they initiated the complicated proceedings involved in international adoptions, counting each day until they could bring their son home.

Then, the unrest in Ukraine broke out, with separatists ousting its president and Russia annexing Crimea . As tensions mounted, Ruslan’s home near Lugansk became one of the major areas of conflict. Rebels took over the region. They outlawed public gatherings, forcing Ruslan’s orphanage to cancel its graduation ceremony and dance.

Fighting increased as Ukrainian forces also moved into the area. It was a scary situation for the Burnsides.

“One night the shellings were so close that the kids had to be moved into the basement,” Burnside told The Knight Times. “The orphanage had to be evacuated on the morning of June 3 and the kids were transferred 600 miles west to the city of Odessa.”

The Burnsides maintained contact with Ruslan through Facebook. Google’s online translation service helped bridge the language barrier between Ruslan, who speaks Russian, and the rest of the family. Some of the most poignant posts include those in which Ruslan – who’s status states that he is from Ohio and visiting Kiev – communicates his enthusiasm to start playing “football” (soccer) for the Knights.

However, the papers needed to process Ruslan’s adoption were left behind in Lugansk. Still more troubling for the Burnsides.

“Had it not been for the war in Ukraine,” Burnside explained. “We were scheduled to go in July and again in August.”

Furthermore, the second visit was scheduled forjust a few weeks ago: Aug. 19, the first day of this school year. This was difficult for Burnside, because he felt he needed to be at Kings for the beginning of school.

The Burnsides petitioned to have the adoption appointments delayed and will now go in late September and again in mid-October.

Meanwhile, Ruslan remains in an orphanage in late August, which will hopefully allow for his records to be transferred from Lugansk in time for the trip.

As far as politics go, the Sept 5. ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists bring hopes of peace – a peace which will hopefully last and keep both Ruslan and the Burnsides safe in the months ahead.

Still, the hopeful political winds do not mean smooth sailing for bringing Ruslan home.

International adoptions can bring many complications, including high adoption fees. This, combined with airfare for the visits (which are required for Ukrainian international adoptions), means costs ranging in the thousands of dollars.

ruslan-and-boys (1)

Ruslan, center, visited Kings Island recently with the Burnside boys.

When Carrie Cooke, an art teacher at Kings High School, heard that the Burnsides were still short on the funds to complete the upcoming adoption, she suggested a fundraiser and got approval from Principal Doug Leist. For a contribution of $10, Kings staff could wear jeans to work during the week of Sept.1 to Sept 5.

“The jean week fundraiser was an easy way for the staff to be able to support a good cause,” Cooke explains.

The fundraiser had a turnout of thirty-eight staff members, with some donating even more than the minimum. Yet this doesn’t fill in the gap of what the Burnsides need to raise.

The Burnsides remain determined to bring their son home.

Those would like to contribute to the adoption fund you can donate at – or directly into their adoption account at Huntington Bank by making checks out to “Bringing Her Home.”

Burnside, a former English teacher, has turned to writing to help him sort through the long process of bringing Ruslan home. He started a blog during Zhana’s adoption, and continues to write there now. It can be accessed at