Orphan Adopted During Wartime Finds Home With Texan Family


Photo courtesy of Brittney Hejl.

Andriy and Brittney’s reunion in Warsaw allowed them to savor their first moments together as an official mother-son duo.

Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Texan parents and Abbott ISD employees Brittney and Matt Hejl captured widespread attention through their adoption of 16-year-old Ukrainian orphan Andriy.

The Hejl family consists of Brittney, Matt, their three biological children, and now Andriy. Their history with Andriy started in 2015 through Project 143, which allows families to host orphans from various countries for periods of time during the summer and winter seasons. The Hejls hosted Andriy 8 separate times before starting the adoption process in 2020. 

Their plan to get Andriy to the United States in March was put in jeopardy on Feb. 24, when Russia began bombing Ukraine. “It was hard. I had already gone to bed that night, and my husband woke me up at eleven and told me they had started bombing,” Hejl said.

Andriy returned to safety in Poland, one of the largest countries of refuge for Ukrainian citizens. (Photo courtesy of Brittney Hejl.)

Though the news of war was startling to the family, the Hejls found comfort in their Christian faith. “Faithfully, I knew that God was in control. It is hard when it is your child and, as a parent, you want to protect them. This whole thing left us very vulnerable,” Hejl said. “We never entered into this place of fear with it because we firmly believe that he was God’s before he was ours.”

Brittney left for Poland and began working with their US embassy on March 10. On March 13, Andriy made it safely across the Ukrainian border to Poland, where Brittney was waiting for him to arrive. Brittney and Andriy arrived in the United States on March 17, where they were greeted by loved ones anxiously awaiting Andriy’s return. 

Though Andriy had been a part of the Hejl family unofficially since 2015, Brittney spoke of the differences between hosting him for short periods versus him now being a permanent family member. “We had been his mom and dad since he was 10. He has always called us mom and dad, and he calls us for homework,” Hejl said. “But it is a strange adjustment to know that he is legally ours now. It is odd to think that we now make decisions for him and that this is no longer temporary.”

The family believes that Andriy’s adjustment to life in the United States will be difficult, especially with the factor of the ongoing war in his home country. “What we just walked through was hard, but what we are fixing to walk through will be the hardest part,” Hejl said. “We aren’t getting a little kid that we can help mold and grow up. We have only a couple of years to help him navigate life in America, which is substantially different from life over there.”

The Hejl family shared their journey of adopting Andriy through a public Facebook page, ‘Hejl Family Adoption – Abounding Love.’ The page gained widespread attention, amassing a following of over 1,500 people. “I love that we have made friends out of strangers. I hope they can see Jesus through our story,” Hejl said.

For more information about the war in Ukraine, visit https://war.ukraine.ua/. To see the Hejl family’s full story, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/243455937996715.