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Marian Kurtovic: "I was really lucky: all things I lacked, things that could give meaning to the rest of my life – happened here» © RIA Novosti. Alexander Utkin
Marian Kurtovic, a chef and a former restaurant-keeper, cooks free of charge for children with cancer in a Moscow hospital. In 2007, he lost his business and decided to start a whole new life. Together with his wife and three children Kurtovic moved to Moscow from Kazakhstan and became a volunteer in the children’s hematology. For three years he cooked for young patients who previously could refuse to eat for days. During this time Kurtovic realized that the existing nutrition standards of children with cancer need to change radically.
- What did you do before?
- In Kazakhstan, at different times I had a seafood restaurant, billiard room, pastry-shop, canteen, and bakery. In 2007, I pledged it all for the construction of a four-stored restaurant complex, but the building stood, money and deposit were folded up. I paid off the banks and in 2011 came to Russia. I didn’t know why I went – I just took the family and drove off. Something possessed me. Being in Kazakhstan I felt the desire for doing something for sick children, so when I arrived, I immediately contacted the "Give Life" Foundation and began to help the hospital.
Friends offered me a job at the supermarket chain, and for a while I worked there with food technologies. But once my wife told me, «Don’t do anything - feed the kids! » Then I gave up, sent my family to relatives in Kazakhstan and began to work only with our young patients. I live and buy food for the hospital thanks to the help of my friends.
- What is the main issue of hospital food?
- The fact is that all patients are not fed individually but from common pot. Chemotherapy, which our children take, damages internal organs, children lose their appetite, their taste preferences are changing. In this situation, no nutrition unit can solve the problem of how to feed the child. They do not eat three times a day only when food is brought! If the child said that he wanted to eat at 2 a.m., his mother woke up hastily and ran to cook, because he did not eat five, six, ten days until then. Each of our child needs an individual nutritional support - under the supervision of a doctor, considering the current clinical condition and taken drugs.
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- Can mothers handle it by themselves?
- Not all moms know how to please a child. Sometimes, he wants to eat something that is not included in the list of authorized products. I can resort to all sorts of technological tricks, replace some products for others and make it so that the child would eat what he wanted, but his mother could not cook it.
I always advise parents, contact with them by phone, Internet, and one of the goals of my project is to create for them an informational website and collection of recipes. It will be itemized with detailed recipes for children with different diagnoses and diets, considering clinical conditions and taken drugs.
- What else are you going to do according to this project?
- First of all, one needs to replan and refit one of the premises in our department into a kitchen; to put manufacturing refrigerators, modern stoves, to buy blenders, mixers and so on. Then it is necessary to attach an individual cook and a nutritionist to the department. A nutritionist and a chef in conjunction with an attending doctor must be in charge of the child from admission to discharge. The cook must be a person who gives his whole heart to the child during the illness.
Our maximum task is to move this system to other departments and hospitals that this positive experience can help to change the standards of hospital supply throughout Russia. But for this it is necessary to set an example.
- How will you collect the money for the project?
- Now I'm preparing to establish a special fund to allow people to transfer the money to me legally. Everything should be transparent and correctly executed so that people had no doubt about fifty, a hundred or five hundred thousand rubles.
© RIA Novosti. Alexander Utkin
- Can you tell us about some little patients?
- I had a girl of 13 years - she stopped eating at all. Doctors asked me to talk to her and make sure that she begins to eat again. I went to her and said: "You know that I live with a desire to carry out my project. And you'll be the first in it: if you eat well, it will allow other children to read about you and understand that through proper nutrition it is possible to recover. Do you want to help me?" She says:" I do, I will eat." I fed her a week, and then I was forced to abyss - and after a week of my disappearance she was connected with probe. I betrayed her. And when I returned, she did not even say hello to me. Then we made peace.
Dima was the first child, whom I fed. Until the last day he was with me in the kitchen - what a chef he was. He wanted to be an ichthyologist, and for his sake, I met with Ivan Zatevakhin - he was then an anchorman of the telecast «Dialogues about fishing». I brought Zatevakhin in hospital, it was very interesting... Unfortunately, Dima left us two years ago.
- Do you talk to little patients as adults, as equals?
- We can speak with them about very serious things, our children grow up quickly. I realized how insignificant all my spiritual achievements are on the background of their wisdom, power and kindness. We have a child with Down syndrome. And all the other children, regardless of age and condition, communicate with him as if they were psychologists with twenty years of experience and a huge heart, who specialize in children with Down's syndrome. We can learn a lot of things from them. So I’m really lucky: all things I lacked, things that could give meaning to the rest of my life - happened here.