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I in December 2014
We all love to dream . . .
When I was four years old, dreaming about searching for buried treasures, creating a super-electro locomotive, becoming a captain on distant voyages or travels, and other such things, it took me a long time to go to sleep.
As I grew older my dreams changed, but they were still linked by an underlying inspiration—to create something new and out of the ordinary, in which the dreams’ potential could be realized to the fullest extent. At seventeen I began to read serious spiritual literature, from which arose the firm conviction that my “life work” should be more than simply a paid job, but should bring blessing to a large number of people.
In 2001 I graduated from the Zaporozhye Engineering Academy, receiving a diploma in computer programming. In addition to work in my specialty, as much as I was able I began to help needy persons (I learned of the needs in articles published in local newspapers.) In 2002 I served in the Ukrainian army in Odessa. It was not the most pleasant period of my life, but at the same time, it was full of spiritual searching and discoveries.
In the fall of 2003, Lyuda and I married, and fortunately, my wife supported all my impulses to reach out to our “neighbors.” A Christian couple, Andrei and Marina, who at the time were working with Zaporozhye orphans, exerted positive influence on us. Together with them we visited Internat No. 3 for the first time.
Soon Lyuda and I began to take orphan kids home with us for the weekend, to organize outings to Chortiza Island, and to teach them how to work on the computer. We became very tired, but at the same time, we received a huge boost of energy from being engaged in truly meaningful work.
Spring 2004 the website www.deti.zp.ua was created, and the first fundraising task was appropriately limited—to equip a computer class at Zaporozhye Internat No. 3. At that point I could not imagine that the project would develop into something much larger and become a lifeline to rescue dozens of children in Zaporozhye Oblast internats and hospitals.
In August 2004 our daughter Masha was born. During the first month of Mashenka’s life she was very sick, and I made a promise to God after our daughter’s recovery to help in a concrete way at least one of the children from the internat by taking him or her into our family. Masha recovered, and in the summer of 2005 twelve-year-old Vitya made his appearance in our family. We assumed guardianship over him (we were not allowed to adopt him on account of our small difference in age). Two years later we took Vitya’s brother, Sasha (two years younger than Vitya), and in the fall of 2009, Vladika (15), and Vitalik (12) in 2013. All the boys had been orphans at Internat No. 3. Then, we took 7 kids from the Dochov family - 6 girls and 1 boy, from 5 to 14 years old. We moved to the village of Ukrainka in Mikhaylovskiy district of Zaporozhye region. Then we took Nelya, 11 years old, and Sasha< 24 years old (young man with mental disability).
So, now (in summer of 2017) we live in the Happy Village in Ukrainka with 12 children, 2 biological and 10 foster.
Naturally, real life with teenage foster children has proved a lot more complicated than mere daydreams. And the kids as well as parents have gradually gotten used to one another, a process that will likely be ongoing. Disagreements crop up, mainly on account of homework. Much of the literature we read on the topic of bringing up foster children has not always helped. Real knowledge, after all, comes only through experience and learning from mistakes!
Sometimes the kids delight us, sometimes they get on our nerves. Nevertheless, my wife and I still share this hope that in a few years our children will be able to form their own families and find their way independently into life. For us that will be the best reward!
My family — 2016
On the press-conference, September 2011
2006 turned out to be a crisis moment for our family. While playing outside, Vitya fell on his back and was unable to stand upright by himself because of the severe pain. X-ray revealed a compression fracture of the spine. But this was only the beginning. Further tests revealed a large tumor around the heart (lymphogranulomatosis with a lesion of the mediastinum). Against this background, the fracture seemed trifling. There followed three operations in Kiev, months of chemotherapy, a trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow for tests. Happily, the treatment turned out to be successful; Vita returned to normal live. In 2009, for example, he made an ascent of Mt. Chatyr-Dag in the Crimea (1527 m.).
In the course of Vitya’s treatment my wife and I had a somber encounter with the problems of children with cancer. Many of the children, with whom we lived on one ward, are no longer among the living. We saw the eyes of the parents full of despair after the loss of a child. It seemed as if the entire universe was turned upside down; our former materialistic values ceased to have meaning for our lives.
We began to place requests for aid for children with cancer on the sites www.donor.org.ua and www.deti.zp.ua. Helping others made it easier for us to get through the illness of our own child. In the summer of 2006 I came to realize that helping children in need was what I felt called to do at this stage in life. I quit my job as programmer at one of the metallurgical industries in Zaporozhye and began to devote all of my time to the development of the website and to the creation of a non-profit charitable fund. Fortunately, several regular sponsors agreed to allocate funds for my salary, and I am able to continue to support my family without a programming job.
Our project began to expand; the volume of donations has grown, and there has been no end of work. Happily, volunteers have come forward who may become employees in the future. Irina Gavrisheva, a survivor of cancer in childhood, has given us a powerful boost of energy. Nadya Mochalova took over coordination of programs for the internats (orphanages) and financial accounting. Soon she became the bookkeeper for our fund. A little later Inna Grigoryeva joined us to work with sick children and the writing of requests, Volodya Kiyanenko, and other volunteers. Our work has become increasingly professional, and the field of activity has expanded significantly.
I am happy that there is now a team of colleagues able to work late and on weekends, forgetting about vacation (may God give their families patience!). For each and everyone of us, our charitable fund is not just a job but a part of a meaningful life.
I am happy that gradually a team of volunteers has formed, a team that day-in-day-out brings positive change to the lives of the most vulnerable children.
I am happy that journalists come entirely free of charge to events organized by us, knowing these events are neither PR stunts nor political actions, but instead the efforts of regular folks who believe they can make a difference!
And, finally, the greatest happiness—to see one’s dream gradually become a reality: bringing good into this world . . .
Our family in September 2015
Date of birth: 12 October 1979, Zaporozhye, Ukraine
Professional Background: Computer programmer, graduate (2001) of Zaporozhye State Engineering Academy, Electronic Engineering Faculty
Family status: wife Lyuda, children (biological and foster)—Vitya ( born 1993), Vladik (born 1994), Sasha (born 1996), Masha (born 2004), Yana (born 2010), Vitalik (2001), Katya (2009), Lyuba (2006), Anya (2005), Nelya (2004), Andrey (2004), Ksyusha (2002), Masha D. (2003), Yana D. (2001). Also living with us cat Alisa, born 2007 and several other dogs and cats.
1) That everything would flourish on earth and everyone would live in joy and harmony;
2) If dream 1 is fulfilled, it would be fun to visit the Himalayas, the South Sea Islands, or another galaxy! . . .
3) Solve the mystery of life . . .
The most memorable events:
1) The birth of our daughter
2) Visit of the school in Beslan
3) Hitchhiking trip to Upper Sveti Mountainous Region (Northwestern Georgia)
4) The rescue and loss of children in the oncology-hematology ward (leukemia)
Hobbies: computer science, traveling (not only by hitchhiking!), changing the world for the better, generating new ideas for an old world, soccer, biking, good music, picnicking outdoors
Favorite film(s): "Titanic", "Solaris (the 1972 Russian version, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky), «The Island» (2006; starring Peter Mamonov), films of Vasily Shukshin (1929-1974)
Favorite book(s) and authors: the Bible, Hermann Hesse’s “The Glass Bead Game", Àndrei Platonov, Yevtushenko, Tolstoy, Gerald Durrell, Osho, Og Mandino, Richard Bach, Nicholas Roerich, Gogol
Tel. +38 066 513-34-35, +3 8 093 125 52 08 (mobile/cell)