Madeline Inna Sizemore was born Inna Vladimir. Her mother is a shoemaker, and her father a drift miner.
Unable to feed a fifth child, Madeline's parents put her up for adoption at birth in a Ukraine orphanage.
Eight months later, on Jan. 5, Ernie and Allison Sizemore adopted a beautiful baby girl and gave her a new first name, Madeline. The couple brought Madeline to the other side of the world to live in a warm house on Bransford Road in Augusta.
The brown house with its black shutters is much different from the orphanage where outside temperatures registered 10 degrees below zero and inside babies such as Madeline were dressed in layers, with wool hats and wool socks.
The Sizemores were the first couple to adopt from Ukraine through Aiken's All Kids Are Special Inc. A second couple leaves this month.
The small, international adoption agency began when its founders' five children grew up and left home. During the next nine years, Shelley and Cole Lindell adopted three special needs children from Russia.
"When we went for our last (child), the people in Russia asked us why we didn't start an agency," Mrs. Lindell said. "We have a very close relationship with these people. That's the only way, because any agency is only as good as its foreign contacts."
Spending 29 days in a foreign place, including Christmas and New Years Day, was stressful and frustrating, Mr. Sizemore said. Sometimes the only thing to do was sit in a hotel room, watch movies in Russian and wait.
The Sizemores found the people of Ukraine to be very friendly but the system to be quite different.
They found themselves explaining a mortgage payment in a society where all housing is assigned by the government. Reluctantly agreeing to bribes, the Sizemores paid $120 to buy a judge a new electric typewriter so he would see them the next day.
The adoption process took seven months to complete.
"What you do is just fill out one paper, and when you're handed another you fill that one out," Mrs. Lindell said. "We're able to overcome the problems, and we bring home beautiful children."
Today, the Lindells say they have started a community.
"We probably have 30 to 35 little Russian and Ukrainian children right here in Aiken. Seventeen came last year alone," Mrs. Lindell said.
On the third Sunday of each month, the families come together for an afternoon of eating, play and support, a group Mrs. Lindell calls Families for International Adoption. The support group is not just for those who have completed an adoption, but for anyone hoping to adopt internationally through any agency.
The Lindells goal is to keep adoption costs as low as possible and make it affordable for more and more couples, she said.
According to Mrs. Lindell, the average cost of an international adoption for one child through her agency is $12,000 to $14,000.
For the Sizemores, adoption was never an outlandish idea. Mr. Sizemore and his identical twin brother were adopted.
Mrs. Lindell said international adoption saves children's lives.
"We didn't understand the full impact of that until we went and saw the conditions. She's right," Mrs. Sizemore said.
Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.