Alabama doctor fighting to bring 9-year-old boy home from Ukraine
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - “Sashko is an absolutely precious, delightful 9-year-old from an orphanage near Kyiv,” said Dr. Christopher Jahraus of Alabaster, AL. “When I’d get home from work he’d say ‘Papa!’ He’d give me a bear hug. That’s all I need.”
Jahraus is working hand in hand with Bridges of Faith to get a group of orphans to America from Ukraine. In 2007, Bridges of Faith, a Christian charity organization, acquired a 140-acre retreat center in Chilton County for Ukrainian orphans. About 500 orphans have come to Alabama through the program and nearly 200 have been adopted.
“It’s a Christian organization and the idea is to basically give them a chance to be in a loving home, to be surrounded by kindness and expose them to our faith,” Jahraus said.
Jahraus and his wife were in the process of trying to adopt Sashko before the Russian invasion began. In December, the blended family of seven hosted Sashko for a month. The young boy quickly became part of their family.
Sashko was abandoned by his mother, an alcoholic, about a year ago. He was placed in an orphanage near Kyiv. As tensions mount in Ukraine, Jahraus and his wife are now focused on getting Sashko, along with a handful of other orphans, out of the country.
“I believe what Philippians 4:13 tells me...I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So believe me, I am claiming that promise,” Jahraus said.
The orphans are currently under the care of a Bridges of Faith country coordinator in Ukraine who has filed paperwork with the Ukrainian government to grant him temporary guardianship of the orphans. Then, he’ll be able to take the kids across the border into a neighboring country such as Poland, Hungary or Romania.
The other challenge is getting these kids their ultimate ticket into the United States: Visas. Although the orphans were in the U.S. about a month ago through Bridges of Faith, those visas were a one-time deal.
“These kids have already been vetted, they have already been through the process,” Jahraus said. “One of their two chaperones already has an active multi-entry visa, but we need to get visas for these 9 little kids and there is not an open consulate in Ukraine that will consider travel needs.”
Jahraus has reached out to Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville and Senator Richard Shelby. He believes they can ease some of the travel document issues and ultimately help bring young Sashko and the others home.
“I am hoping and praying that they will take this on,” Jahraus said. “That one of our senators or representatives will take a personal interest in this and shepherd these kids through the process.”
A representative from Senator Shelby’s office told WAFF, “Senator Shelby’s office has spoken with Dr. Jahraus and is working to help him find a solution.”
A Tuberville spokeswoman told WAFF, “Senator Tuberville’s office has heard from the group and is looking into the situation.”
As Jahraus and his wife battle immense hurdles to get Sashko home, they are reminiscing on special moments that give them the strength to keep fighting. In December, after picking up Sashko and other children from the airport, Jahraus stopped at a gas station. Sashko wanted a pack of gum.
“As soon as I handed it to him, he opened it up and gave a piece to the guy standing behind us who we didn’t even know,” Jahraus said. “He probably gave a piece to every kid that was there and then he beat me back to the car and he had three pieces of gum waiting for me on my dashboard.”
In that moment, Jahraus knew Sashko was one of a kind.
If you’d like to donate or get involved, you can visit the Bridges of Faith Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/BridgesofFaith/
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