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My Son Is My Meaning and The Fellowship Is My Hope

Yevgenij, a disabled father from Kiev helped by The Fellowship and JDC (Photo: Vladimir Shraga/JDC)

Ten years ago, Yevgenij, now 39, was in his prime. He had a job, a wife and newborn son. Today, it takes Yevgenij ten minutes just to get from his bed to the door of his apartment to answer the intercom.

Yevgenij was injured while overseeing the construction of the Kiev subway, when a subway tunnel collapsed on him.  Now his hip and spine are twisted, making walking extremely difficult,

“It was a work injury, but the company authorities forced me to say it wasn’t. They helped me at first, with disability pay and damages, but when I developed complications which left me permanently disabled, all of a sudden their assistance disappeared.”

Yevgenij was left with a drastically reduced income and no hope for employment. While Yevgenij would happily work from home, employers are hesitant to hire a person with disabilities.

Tragically, Yevgenij’s own wife was just as prejudiced as his employers and she left him soon after his injury, telling him she couldn’t imagine being married to a man with disabilities. She took their son with her, but neglected him and Yevgenij soon learned that his son was living on the street.

When he heard this, Yevgenij decided to fight for custody. The process was long and drawn out with numerous court hearings. Despite the hardship, Yevgenij attended each hearing, literally dragging himself from his apartment to the courthouse in order to fight for his son.

Yevgenij finally won custody in late 2015. His son, who had been living on the streets, was happy to have a home again and both father and son are grateful the court ruled in their favor.

Today, the two share Yevgenij’s tiny apartment, sleeping head to toe on his single bed. Although Yevgenij barely has enough money to support himself, let alone a growing boy, he tries to provide his son with everything he needs, often sacrificing his own needs.

Yevgenij recently told a visitor that he only eats about three times a week, skipping meals so that his son has sandwiches for school. Yevgenij himself is happy to subsist on a slice of bread and tea. “When my son asks for something tasty, I can’t deprive him of it,” Yevgenij explains, “I want him to have as happy a childhood as I can provide.”

“Raising my son gives meaning to my life,” Yevgenij continues, “He is my meaning and The Fellowship is my hope.”

This hope comes in the form of heating subsidies, monthly hygiene products, and help purchasing food and medicine. Hoping to make Yevgenij’s life more pleasant, The Fellowship recently bought him a special mattress, crutches and a wheelchair, as well as warm clothing for the winter.

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