Tanya’s 12th-floor apartment can only be accessed by one of the two building elevators, both of which smell strongly of urine. This makes things difficult for Tanya, 8, who was born with severe cerebral palsy and cannot walk or speak. Tanya’s wheelchair can barely fit into the elevators.
“I must position the wheelchair sideways to fit,” explains Sveta, Tanya’s mother. “I have to hold my breath to fit in, and also to avoid the elevator’s horrible smell.”
Even with her disabilities, Tanya is friendly and happy, reaching out her arms to visitors, and nearly toppling over the crib she sleeps in to greet the Fellowship volunteers.
While Sveta hopes that one day doctors will discover treatments or medicine to help her daughter’s condition, Sveta knows this probably won’t happen. “Unfortunately, with the medical system in Ukraine, it’s possible that Tanya’s condition will get worse instead of better,” says Sveta. “It’s scary.”
Because Tanya is so unstable physically, Sveta will not leave Tanya alone for a minute. She even puts Tanya in her wheelchair and brings her into the kitchen when she cooks. The kitchen is so small that Tanya can reach both the refrigerator and stove from her wheelchair and often knocks down pots and pans.
Putting Tanya to sleep is another challenge for Sveta. Tanya’s wheelchair doesn’t fit in the apartment’s bedrooms, so Sveta carries her daughter to bed each night. As Tanya grows older, and heavier, Sveta struggles to carry her daughter.
Additionally, Sveta receives no support from Tanya’s father, so she must support Tanya both financially and emotionally all on her own. As Tanya requires constant care, Sveta cannot work, and the family struggles to survive on Tanya’s small state disability allowance.
Sveta cannot even afford her own apartment. Instead, she and Tanya live in one room of Sveta’s uncle’s apartment. Her uncle and his son live in the apartment’s other rooms, and the two families share the tiny kitchen.
Thankfully, Sveta and Tanya receive assistance from The Fellowship. We provide Tanya with food packages, adult diapers, and medicine. “We feel very lucky,” says Sveta. “It’s hard to imagine how we would survive without The Fellowship’s help. Our lives would be a disaster.”