Vitaliy Ivanov was born in 1965 in
the suburbs of Makeyevka where he was to witness his father
stabbed and murdered at just 3 years of age. The first
thing that strikes us as we begin to understand Vitaliy
is what a generous and friendly spirit he is inspite of
some of the tragic circumstances of his life. Delicious
Ukrainian Borsch soup is served to us in his kitchen,
with black bread and a selection of fresh meats and pickled
vegetables. “Want more soup?” he asks as he
finishes topping up our bowls.
An accomplished gymnast and Ukrainian Judo champion,
Vitaliy proudly shows us his trophies and medals. It
was at the peak of his powers as an athlete when he
was cut down by radiation he received in Chernobyl in
“Without my father I felt very bad. I was constantly
ridiculed and beaten in school so I just learnt to protect
myself”. From humble beginnings Vitaliy overthrew
his bullies at school and went on to win third prize
in the national judo championships.
His proudest moment and the peak of his sporting achievements
came in 1985; “I was given the rank of the Master
of Sports of the Soviet Union.” He tells us, and
he leaves the room to fetch the medal to show us. Within
a year his sports career and health was ruined for the
rest of his life” It was the end of my service
that I heard the alarm but it was a different alarm
to normal, we knew this was serious”.
Vitaliy was responsible for assisting the evacuation
of residents from the areas surrounding the power plant
“people were everywhere in buses, cars bikes or
just walking and running. There was panic and confusion
everywhere”. His unit camped in the woods close
to the reactor, his duties lasting 1 week. Days after
his service the first signs of illness appeared; sore
throat, coughing, nausea, and headaches. “I was
examined by the army doctor, he said I was fine and
I would live a good healthy life”. Believing his
doctor Vitaliy tried to shrug off his symptoms and carry
on with his sporting career but within a couple of months
as he was about to begin a judo tournament he fell very
ill and was taken to hospital.
“My sports career had ended but I was determined
to carry on in some capacity”.
By 1994 Vitaliy, despite his high blood pressure and damage
to his internal organs, had become a sports teacher in
a school for children in Donetsk.
At the school we talk to the principle who tells us that
Vitaliy cannot always work; sometimes he needs to take
time off, “but the work he does and the joy he brings
to the children is invaluable in our community”.
There are a number of drugs that Vitaliy needs and
he needs regular blood transfusions. He cannot afford
the treatment he needs and deserves. Despite his invalid
status and Chernobyl pension his teaching merely supplements
his already low income. Not only Vitaliy suffers when
he is ill or if he cannot receive the right treatment,
his community would also lose one of its brightest members.
You can make a difference to Vitaliy’s life and
his family by making a donation to us. Your contribution
will help purchase the drugs and medical treatment Vitaliy