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Transnistria, Rybnitsa. Stepan and his mother
Stepan was born healthy but just a few minutes after birth a nurse dropped him on the floor which made him disabled for the rest of his life. He can't talk. During a few recent years Stepan's mom, Lyudmila, has lost her elder son, granddaughter, husband and mother-in-law. However, she is strong enough to consider herself a happy person after all these tragedies. She has nothing left but her son and their unconditional and mutual love outweighs everything that's missing.
Danya and his father
Danya suffers from microcephaly. He lives in one tiny room with his mother and father. His father used to be a police instructor until recently he was selected for redundancy and fired. Without assistance of the Jewish charity the family would literally have no bread on their table, not to mention expensive medicines needed daily to support Danya's fragile body. In this incredibly challenging situation Danya's parents find their life fulfilled: they love Danya and dedicate themselves to him.
Ukraine, Odessa. Raisa and Viktor
Several years ago Raisa was hit and injured on a street by lightning. Shortly after she had a stroke. This is how she became bed bound. Her husband Viktor got his own collection of diagnoses but he's too busy taking care of his beloved to suffer from his own diseases.
Irina, mother of twelve kids
Irina is a social pedagogue by profession and by vocation. She managed to bring up 12 highly intelligent, caring, sociable kids. 14 family members share 3 rooms, one of which is divided in two by a wardrobe. Most of the kids share bunk beds and the only space where each of them can keep his or her personal belongings is somewhere around the sleeping spot. A year ago Irina she was diagnosed with oncological disease. This didn't break her down but she thinks the fault is on herself: "I didn't care enough about myself, and I'm sure this resulted in my disease".
Kramarenko couple
Both of them are disabled since childhood. Both can barely walk. They met each other several decades ago, gave birth to a daughter, despite being discouraged from doing so by family and community. Now their daughter is 18, she takes care of the parents and is making her career in teaching disabled children. Spouses Kramarenko made their family an absolute center of their lives.
Masha and her mother
Large family
A year ago X. had an attempted suicide episode and now busy "doing nothing" as he defines it himself. All the family, regardless of his gruffness, treats him warmly, with a great love, especially Z. who all the time hangs on him like a little monkey.
Kharkov. Day care center for children with disabilities
// The picture is taken on assignment for "Joint" charity organization (www.jdc.org) which provides funding for the day care center for children with disabilities from disadvantaged families
Kharkov. Day care center for children with disabilities
// The picture is taken on assignment for "Joint" charity organization (www.jdc.org) which provides funding for the day care center for children with disabilities from disadvantaged families
Riga. Nelli and her homecare worker
After Nelli has lost vision her life would be impossible without homecare worker provided by charity organization. This homecare worker soon became Nelli's closest friend. Nelli is far from being an easy-going person, and she knows it, that's why she highly appreciates patience and true care of the homecare worker.
Semen-Daniil
Semen-Daniel suffers from autism. His mother is involved in a profession antipodal to this disease: she is an actor. She charges her son with love, compassion and frankness.
Vilnius. Sonja with son
Dima is 50, he suffers from Down syndrome. His mother raised him alone.
Kherson. Dima with his father
Dima was absolutely healthy until the age of 3 when a routine immunization at a kindergarten has brought an infection which made Dima disabled. Epilepsy developed, with severe leg pains and seizures. His condition kept worsening all the time. By the age of 30 he could not even sit up on his bed, he spent his days lying and listening to the radio. He became so weak that he couldn't even speak, short of answering “yes” or “no” when his father addresses to him. His mother died of cancer when he was 30, and only his father remained to take care of him. The father was only showing his true love and admiration to Dima, hiding away his tears, fear and depression. He is visually impaired himself, with his own health deteriorating with years and constant stress. He was afraid most of passing away, which would leave Dima all alone. This didn't happen. Dima was first to pass away, at the age of 32.
Kherson. Dima
Dima was absolutely healthy until the age of 3 when a routine immunization at a kindergarten has brought an infection which made Dima disabled. Epilepsy developed, with severe leg pains and seizures. His condition kept worsening all the time. By the age of 31 he could not even sit up on his bed, he spent his days lying and listening to the radio. He became so weak that he couldn't even speak, short of answering “yes” or “no” when his father addresses to him. His mother died of cancer when he was in his late 20s, and only his father remained to take care of him. The father was only showing his true love and admiration to Dima, hiding away his tears, fear and depression. He is visually impaired himself, with his own health deteriorating with years and constant stress. He was afraid most of passing away, which would leave Dima all alone. This didn't happen. Dima was first to pass away, at the age of 32.
Chishinau. Vova and his mom
Vova is often gets sick. He is afraid of people coming to his house thinking that they’re either doctors or people who can infect him.
Almaty. Fanja
Fanya is 90 and she's got a handsome boyfriend which makes her great-granddaughters experience envy.
Almaty. Artem and his grandfather
Artem's grandfather is bed bound and last 9 years he is being taken care of by his grandson. All these years Artem's mother was around but never cared of neither her dad nor her son. Afterwards she died of alcohol abuse.
Victor and his mother Sheiva
Sheiva lives with her son who suffers from a severe form of diabetes and can’t live on his own. He is nervous and constantly hesitates, being afraid to make something wrong. He never had an own family and has always been highly dependant on his mother, both materially and emotionally. Sheiva can hardly see and can’t hear. But she can tell stories. She revealed for me a secrets of her gefilte-fish: “Never ever put beet into it!” whispers Sheiva as if it were a secret of happiness...
Ilya suffering from severe form of autism, and his father
Ilya suffers from severe form of autism. He doesn't tolerate any changes. For decades he keeps sitting in the same worn-out armchair in the very corner of the living room. He throws away through the window any new items he notices, sometimes these include food. It is extremely difficult to keep him calm, and only total and unconditional love of his father can make it. They live alone, two men, in a flat where everything is in stasis for over 30 years.
2013. Ukraine, Odessa. Lera and her mother
Lera's life which began as a disaster gets constantly saved by people who love her. She was born deaf, and doctors didn't see any chances for improvement. Thanks to efforts of her family and financial support of JDC she got a high-end hearing device and special training from a speech specialist. Now she is not just capable of hearing and speaking but she studies at a regular school, acts at a theatre and often gets all sorts of awards for her numerous talents. In 2013 a tiny flat where Lera lives with her family caught on fire. Her father was severely injured, and the flat became unsuitable for residing in it. See next picture to know how the situation changed in 3 years after that.
2016. Ukraine, Odessa. Lera and her mother
I revisited Lera three years after I first met her. The family is doing great. JDC helped to renovate the flat, Lera's father recovered from his burns, and Lera is flourishing at school and at a theatre studio. The atmosphere was the opposite to the one of 2013. Now there was a lot of laughs, hopes, conversations about the future and dreams. Laughing, Lera's mother remembers the moment when I came in 3 years ago: it was right after the fire happened, and she was completely disoriented and her life seemed to be a mess. "The fire happened late at night, and in the morning I didn't find anything better than to go to work, as if nothing happened". She works a nurse at a children's hospital. "Only when colleagues noticed a smell of smoke coming from my clothes they wondered what happened. They told me to go home and take care of the situation. But how was I supposed to take care of it? Where to run, where to live, what exactly to do? I had no idea". And in this situation again good people were able to help: so long as it was impossible to live in their flat, she was offered to stay for free at a hostel belonging to the hospital she was working at.
Makar family
The children's mother was deprived of parental rights and disappeared. The grandmother took over. She shares her only tiny, dark room located on a basement floor. Although it's now too packed, the grandmother is happy to take care of the kids.
Minsk. Andrey and Maxim
Cheljabinsk. Yulia and her mother
Yulia's mother tells: "When Yulia was born with severe cerebral palsy, the hospital staff as well as my own parents were trying to convince me that I should abandon her, since she has no chances to recover anyway. I couldn't imagine myself enjoying life knowing that I've abandoned my baby. How would I even have tasty meals knowing that she's somewhere with strangers? I kept Yulia with me, and now enjoying my life with her. Afterwards I gave birth to 2 more kids, who are healthy and who truly love their elder sister. Surprisingly, also my husband and his parents turned out to be much more understanding and supportive than my own mom and dad. I live with my in-laws, and they help me a lot".
Kiev. Doba with her homecare worker
Lvov
When Alla, mother of 2, was a kid, she survived a fire which disfeatured her hands and made her disabled for the rest of her life.
Lvov. Vera with her mother
Vera and her mother ran away from Lugansk in 2014. The family splitted because of politics: Vera's father shared pro-Russian ideas, and Vera's mother could not accept it. In Lvov they didn't have any family by Lena managed to find a job at a local Hesed. Her family broke apart and she has no her own home anymore but she is happy to start a new life with her little talented and much loved Vera.
Chelyabinsk. Danilov family
The whole family keeps up due to the efforts of Lilia, a woman of seemingly unlimited capabilities. Mother of 3, she deals with numerous and hard problems. Lilia's husband is a bed-bound with severe diseases. He bedwets and refuses from any diapers and even specialized bedsheets because they hurt. Lilia's daughter was born with the defects of urogenital system and with mental retardation. Her bladder was absent, she underwent several surgeries and lived first 2.5 years with open pelvic cavity. She's doing her best to help her mother but she needs a lot of attention herself. One of Lilia’s sons has mental problems which don't let him stay any long period of time at any job. "He has only half of his brain after he was assaulted," she tells. Besides that Lilia's got a cousin residing in another town, some 20 km away from Chelyabinsk, who is lonely and also got sick and requires attention and assistance, so she rushes to him several days a week.
Kiev. Tanya with her mother
Tanya was born with cerebral palsy and lives in one tiny room with her lonely mother. The two couldn't live without each other.
Dnepropetrovsk
Kharkov. Andrey with his son
Looking at kind, joyful, full of energy face of Andrey it’s hard to imagine that this young guy suffers all the time from pain in his spine and bands. He was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in childhood. The only way of treatment in his case is receiving painkillers daily. Without these medicines he’s unable to move. Being dependant on the medicines Andrey was heavily affected by recession in Ukraine which led to dramatic prices rise. Some medicines now cost 2-10 times as much as they used to before the crisis. Andrey can work only part-time, as a network administrator, and gets salary of around 40 USD per month. Another 30 USD he gets as a state disability allowance. With this money he is supposed to support himself and his family which includes wife and 6 years old kid.
Kharkov. Bobrov family
After the house caught on fire several years ago the family literally lost roof above their heads. Only thanks to Hesed it was possible to renovate the house.
Zhitomir. Perel and her homecare worker
There's no running water in Perel's house, and her homecare worker is forced to get water in buckets from a distant well. Perel is absolutely alone. There's no one around to take care of her, except Hesed homecare worker.
Cheljabinsk. Tolya with his family
Tolya is surrounded with love and care provided by 2 women: his mom and granny. He's got a classical Jewish grandmother who says "But I poorly sustain flights!" when I suggest that maybe some day Tolya will participate in Na'ale or some other educational program in Israel. She can't imagine even a day without her sweet grandson. Tolya has no father or grandfather. He adequately responds to care and love by being attentive and tender child. He used to study at a Jewish school and was among its best students, the rabbi has personally installed mezuzot in his flat. Sadly, the school was closed down last year and he had to change comfortable environment of a small class of Jewish mates for a standard class of a standard school. Surprisingly, it didn't cause problems. Tolya is still one the best students and he still feels comfortable with his new classmates.
Tbilisi. Danya
Danya resides with his mother and grandmother in a tiny former summer kitchen of their former summer house. The house itself is located 20 meters away but it is sold for debts. Nothing can fit into this shed but Danya's mother couldn't give up a piano...
Yekaterinburg. Vladimir and his mother
At the age of 13 Vladimir became disabled after a car ran over him. His self-service abilities are seriously reduced. So are his mother's. The two live together and take care of each other. One couldn't live without the other.
Zaporozhje. Katya and her grandmother
Katya is being raised by 2 her grandmothers. Her life is divided between two her grannies' houses. She spend 2 weeks at each.
Riga. Nevler family
There are 10 children in Nevler family, 3 of them are adopted, and 10 grandchildren. S., Joint client, grew up in a disadvantaged family but after he married R., he was accepted in her big and friendly family, along with his younger brother and sister.
Tbilisi. Gvanza and Beka
For 1,5 years Gvanza (6) and Beka (4) lived with their parents outdoors, under a self-made tent. The family was not only freezing and feeling everyday discomfort but was also attacked by officials who demanded to dismount the tent because it can be seen from a touristic route. The family neither has an own place to live nor money to pay the rent, so they moved into someone's abandoned house.
Riga. Nevler family
There are 10 children in Nevler family, 3 of them adopted, and 10 grandchildren