Published March 5, 2022

Minot Family’s Ukrainian Connection

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan
Paula Burckhard, Bella Burckhard, 4, and Keven Burckhard, all Minot. In 2009 the Burckhards adopted Bella in Kyiv, Ukraine, a city and region now torn by war with Russia. [Photo: submitted]
Paula Burckhard, Bella Burckhard, 4, and Keven Burckhard, all Minot. In 2009 the Burckhards adopted Bella in Kyiv, Ukraine, a city and region now torn by war with Russia. [Photo: submitted]

Daughter Adopted from Kyiv

MINOT — The eyes of the world are on Ukraine, where the Soviet military is blasting its way through the country. The scenes of destruction hit especially close to home for Minoter Kevin Burckhard. He and his wife once resided in the besieged capital of Kyiv.

“We watch. We see the places that look like our apartment building, and then hit by a bomb,” said Burkhard. “We think about the kids in orphanages and kids in institutions. The caregivers would be fleeing to be with their families and children. Who’s making sure they are safe, getting food, and water?”

The Burckhards moved into an apartment in Kyiv for two months in 2009. It was a requirement they had to meet to be allowed to adopt a child. Not just any child, but one with Down syndrome to be a sister to Grace, the Burckhards' third child, who was also born with Down syndrome.

Bella Burckhard, Minot, in a North Dakota sunflower field. The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine. [Photo: submitted]

“We lived there. We walked shoulder to shoulder with so many of those people over a two-month period,” said Burckhard. “We were out in public, in the market, at independence square. We were at their churches, beautiful, centuries old buildings made of marble and granite. That's our tie to Ukraine.”

When asked what kind of people are the Ukrainians, Burckhard called them loyal, accommodating, and not selfish.

“They were proud of the modest lifestyle they have. They were kind and polite, and held doors for you,” said Burckhard. “They worked hard. They loved their freedom, which did not come easily for them. We didn’t find anyone who showed pride for Moscow or Putin.”

The Burckhards returned to Minot with Bella, now 17, in what Burckhard called a “fairly risky adoption," a reference to all the uncertainties encountered in the process in a foreign country. Nevertheless, the experience proved memorable.

Kevin Burckhard, Minot, explains what life was like in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2009. Burckhard lived for two months in the capital city that is now under siege by armed forces of the Soviet Union. [Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan]

“We loved Ukraine. We loved the experience of living among the Ukranian people,” stated Burckhard. “It felt like we were in North Dakota, just a big city 50-60 years in the past. And, of course, Bella. The first day she met us she called us mama and papa.”

Burckhard says Bella is aware of her Ukranian roots, and the war going on in her home country, interested but not traumatized. They have attempted to contact the translator who assisted them during their time in Ukraine but have not been able to do so.

Another friend, Burckhard says, lives in Crimea, an area previously occupied by Russia. However, her life has been impacted by recent events.

“She’s worried about her brother who lives close to Kyiv,” said Burckhard.

Burckhard calls his daughter Bella a “precious connection” to the people of Ukraine, says he hopes the best for them in uncertain times, and continues to monitor developments in the war-ravaged region.

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