Topeka family finally makes it home from Ukraine

Monday, March 10, 2014 | 2:27 p.m. CDT; updated 10:42 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 10, 2014
Lisa Jenkins, left, greets the media on Saturday after her and her husband, Don, got back from Ukraine with their four newly adopted children.

TOPEKA, Kan. — A Kansas couple and their four newly adopted children have made it home after a month in Ukraine, where they were stranded amid violence and civil unrest.

Topeka residents Don and Lisa Jenkins arrived in Ukraine on Feb. 2, where they hoped to finalize the adoptions of their four children by Valentine's Day, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

But when thousands of people took to the streets of Kiev to protest the government's movement toward Russia and away from possible ties to the European Union, those plans were put on indefinite hold.

"It's great to be back in America," Don Jenkins, 50, said minutes after he and his family arrived around 9 p.m. Saturday at Kansas City International Airport. "We're excited to be home."

The family left Kiev at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, flew to Munich, Germany, before traveling to Chicago and then on to Kansas City, Mo. When their jet touched down at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Saturday afternoon, the four adopted children — Tatiana, 17; Angela, 16; Natalie, 15; and Roman, 8 — officially became American citizens.

It took a couple hours for the children to go through customs in Chicago and nearly caused the family to miss their flight to Kansas City. By the time they arrived in Missouri, the family was running on adrenaline, said Lisa Jenkins, 46.

When their trip ended Saturday, the family had crossed eight time zones and flew 5,409 miles.

"Everybody's really exhausted," she said. "At the same time, we're all so excited to finally be home."

The grueling 22-hour trip was a small price to pay for getting out of the international hot spot that Ukraine had become.

Much of the fighting in Kiev captured on television cameras and beamed around the world took place less than a mile from the apartment where the family was staying.

Though the fighting died down after about a week, the Jenkins faced a seemingly never-ending series of delays in getting paperwork from the Ukrainian government that was required before they could leave the country.

The final passports and visas needed for the children were obtained Friday morning.

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