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'They're our boys': North Texas parents stuck in Poland as Ukrainian adoption stalls over paperwork

"We're just hoping someone somewhere can make a decision to just release us. Just one signature and we can bring these boys home," said Lisa Mills.

WARSAW, Poland — Two parents from Prosper, which is north of Dallas, are going on their third week unable to leave Warsaw, Poland. They are geographic casualties of the war in Ukraine, whose two adopted sons were counting on starting their new lives by now in North Texas. 

"We're exhausted," Lisa Mills admitted in a Monday morning Zoom call from their hotel in Warsaw.

"We try to just keep going day by day," said her husband Brad Mills. 

Their exhaustion stemming from the bureaucratic limbo they're in from an adoption process they started two years ago. 

Among the Ukrainian war refugees in Poland are two boys named Artem and Max. The Mills began the adoption process back in 2020. The COVID pandemic had a hand in slowing that process down. 

But with the boys evacuated from their orphanage in Vinnytsia, Ukraine and transferred safely to a refugee camp in Poland, the Mills, believing they had all of the necessary documents signed and approved, traveled to Warsaw to pick up the boys. They were scheduled to fly back to Texas on April 14.  

"We're stuck in Poland," Lisa Mills told WFAA. "We have no end in sight at when we can bring our boys home."

Credit: Lisa and Brad Mills
Brad and Lisa Mills with Artem and Max in Warsaw, Poland

Ukrainian officials are demanding one final "transfer of custody" document be signed before they can leave. And, by law, that document is supposed to be signed by the orphanage director, a social worker and the Mills at the orphanage back in Vinnytsia. They said officials are demanding they sign the document in person at that location to finalize the adoption. 

"To ask us to come back into a war zone with the kids doesn't seem the right thing to be doing at this point," Brad Mills said. "There's been no movement on that side to try to get this done in some other way with a war going on."

"They just want to go home. They ask us every day, 'When can we go home? Did they sign the paper today,'" Lisa Mills said of Artem, 14, and Max, 13, who are with them at their hotel in Warsaw. "They've been through enough!" 

The Mills said they had a meeting with the visa chief from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw and the Ukrainian Consulate on April 14. They were told the Ukrainian Consulate would ask the Ministry of Social Policy in Ukraine if they could sign the document at the Ukrainian Consulate in Warsaw. They still don't have an answer.

"Let's get them home," Lisa Mills said. "They have parents now. They have a family."

The Mills have three boys of their own at home in Prosper -- who bonded with Artem and Max when they visited Texas back in 2017. But now, stuck in bureaucratic limbo in Poland, the Mills and their two newest sons are desperate for a solution. The Mills said they were threatened with arrest if they tried to take the boys out of the country without that final document being signed. 

"They're our boys. We're ready to get them home to be part of our family," said Brad Mills.

"We're just hoping someone somewhere can make a decision to just release us. We have every legal document we need. These are our boys granted to us by a court, legal and binding. All we need is this transfer of custody of document signed. Just one signature and we can bring these boys home," added Lisa Mills.

The Mills said the U.S. Department of State has reached out on their behalf to the Ukrainian Embassy. A GoFundMe page is helping with the hotel bills that keep piling up. But the exhausting and emotional wait continues. 

"We just need someone to say yes and release these boys so they can go home," said Lisa Mills. 

Home, in Texas, just one signature away. 

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