Misha is 18 years old and profoundly disabled. His family, like thousands, was relocated to Minsk in Belarus from their home in the exclusion zone. The zone demarcates the large area of the country heavily contaminated by the radioactive cloud produced when there was an accident in a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986.
Misha’s father was one of the many men who, without adequate if any protection, were sent to clean up the area. This exposure to such high levels of radiation has had severe and long lasting implications for the whole family.
Misha is one of twin boys. Volodya, his brother, was born profoundly deaf but it soon became apparent that Misha had much more severe disabilities. He will never walk as his lower limbs are small and weak and he has hydrocephalus with associated learning difficulties. The family live in a cramped tenth floor apartment.
The state had only one type of help to offer - put Misha into a home for ‘defectives’ where he would be separated from his family forever. Nadya, the twins’ mother, refused and has since cared for him herself at home. The stigma attached to disability is huge and the family is isolated from their local community. Despite the enormous difficulties, Misha is an integral and much loved member of his family but they were desperate for some help. They recently heard about the Belarusian Children’s Hospice and approached them to ask if anything could be done. The hospice has changed their lives.
We met Misha and Nadya at the hospice while they were enjoying respite care.
Nadya told us, ‘Thanks to the Belarusian Children’s Hospice, my son and I have rediscovered our human dignity. At last we have found people who love and respect my son as a human being and do not regard us a social nuisance to be swept under the carpet. The care and attention we receive here has saved us.’
(Photo - Nadya - Misha's mother)