Reece’s Rainbow Report #34: Pohl Family

If you looked at their photos now, you would never know. 
Viktor and Nikolai Pohl cannot verbally tell you, after all, that their lives have largely been marked by tragedy ― nor that the death of another young boy just like them may have saved their lives. But spend some time with the Pohl family under the wide-open South Dakota skies, and you’ll soon learn the truth. 

“It’s worth it in every single way,” says Jenny Pohl, their adoptive mother. She’s speaking, of course, of their adoption ― of the way that she and her husband Randall brought home not one but two boys deteriorating in an Ukrainian orphanage in 2018 ― but also of Pohl family life ever since. 

It’s a bit unique, to be sure, but “we have a good routine going,” Jenny says. “I always joke that without the boys, Randall would never leave his recliner, but they’re keeping him active in his old age.” 

Oh yes, that’s another thing: Randall is a 67-year-old retiree, while Jenny ― a former daycare owner and paraeducator whom he met online in the 1990s ― is 59. 

“We’re not saints. We’re not amazing,” she says. “We’re just ordinary people who just happened to do something a little crazy in other’s eyes.” 

It all started when Jenny, a Brit who eventually became an American citizen, read an article about Reece’s Rainbow (RR). She began following an RR family through their adoptions. Maybe we could do the same, she suggested to Randall. 

No, Randall said firmly. “Dead set against it,” is how his wife remembers it. So Jenny got to work advocating for waiting children from RR’s website ― especially Sealey, a “crib kid” waiting for an adoptive family in Ukraine. 

“I raised money for his adoption grant, and shared him as much as possible, in the hopes that a family would see him and adopt him,” Jenny says. 
In the summer of 2017, Randall shocked her with a simple question: “Why don’t we adopt him?” Jenny, of course, was overjoyed. At the ages of 54 and 61, they were approved to make Sealey a Pohl. Things were finally coming together. 
And then they got the news: Sealey had passed away. His severely malnourished, neglected body simply couldn’t take more orphanage life. The Pohls were heartbroken, though unsurprised. They had known it was a race against time, but they were still determined to bring home another son in Sealey’s honor. 

“I drew up a short list, and between us, we chose ‘Vijay,’” Jenny says. "Then, realizing that we’d actually been approved for two, we chose ‘Athens,’ knowing he was in the same institution.”
Both boys had cerebral palsy and weighed about 32 pounds, despite the fact that they were 11 and 10. The Pohls met them in the summer of 2018 and flew them home that autumn. Vijay was actually Viktor, and Athens was Nikolai. 

Early life with the boys was exhausting, to say the least. 

“Nikolai had major meltdowns ― pinching, scratching, biting ― and had to be restrained so he wouldn’t hurt himself,” Jenny says. “Viktor was the opposite, always smiley and happy. I do seem to remember curling up on the floor with them and taking afternoon naps for a while.” 
Four months after the adoption, Randall went to his job of 38 years. They had a surprise in store: downsizing. So he retired instead. He and Jenny are now with the boys on a daily basis, homeschooling and ferrying them to appointments. 

The time and love invested in each young man — including from Newt, the Pohls’ 19-year-old biological son — has paid dividends.

“I couldn’t tell you the last time Nikolai had a meltdown!” Jenny says. “He is generally very happy; he loves to play with musical toys and make noise with anything he can get his hands on.” Visitors might find him flapping objects, stealing baby powder containers and generally keeping the Pohls “on our toes,” his mother laughs. 
Viktor, meanwhile, is known as the resident chef and artist, often assisting Randall in the kitchen using adapted gadgets. “He enjoys coloring and painting, with mom as his assistant,” Jenny says. “He’s also a TV addict, enjoying off-color sitcoms and shows like Cops.” Viktor is even learning to use his eye-gaze communication device.

Fans of the boys’ social media page can deduce that the brothers have very different personalities. Viktor is a social people-pleaser, while Nikolai prefers doing his own thing. “If they were typical teens, Nikolai would be the rebel, and Viktor would be the straight-A student,” Jenny jokes. 

Those photos show more than personality, however. Each 15-year-old has filled out; their hair has grown lustrous and long; their limbs are no longer in starvation mode. They’re often smiling. 
“I can’t imagine life without Nikolai and Viktor,” Jenny says. 

If you look at their photos now, you would still never know everything the boys have been through. 

But those photos ― on a page called “Sealey’s Legacy,” no less ― really do say it all: that Viktor and Nikolai Pohl are deeply, truly loved in a way they have always deserved. 
Crystal Kupper
Crystal Kupper is a freelance writer specializing in magazines and special projects. Since earning her journalism degree, she has written for clients such as Zondervan, Focus on the Family and the Salvation Army, among many others.