Never Down for the Count

Kyril Mali, 13
Artom Mali, 10
Galina Mali, 2
Kherson, Ukraine

Young and in love, Irena Mali married a non-Jewish man, who promised to take care of her forever.  However, after Irena gave birth to two sons, Kyril and Artom, her husband became disillusioned with family life and abandoned them, leaving them without money for housing or basic living expenses.  Unable to fend for herself, Irina took her two young sons and moved in with her elderly father.  Enveloped in the warmth of familial support, Kyril and Artom thrived, and Irena was happy, for a while. 

After several years, Irena’s father passed away, and she found solace in the arms of another non-Jewish suitor who promised to take care of them.  Irena married him and soon thereafter became pregnant with her third child, Galina.  But before Galina was born, Irena’s second husband abandoned the family, leaving them to fend for themselves once again.

With limited options, Irena moved her family into a drafty and dimly lit shack with leaks in the ceiling and walls.  Unable to find employment, Irena could not afford to feed her children every day, so Kyril, Artom and Galina became sickly and malnourished.  Angry about their living conditions and jealous of their schoolmates with loving fathers, decent clothes, and plentiful food, Kyril and Artom fought constantly, using their fists to release their frustrations.  The local Jewish community in Kherson found out about the Mali family’s dreadful living conditions and called on LifeChanger FSU for assistance.

The area’s LifeChanger FSU coordinator immediately went to work, leveraging local resources to provide Irena and her children with more comfortable living arrangements, new clothing, and a stipend for groceries and basic household items.  In addition to arranging psychological treatment for Kyril and Artom, LifeChanger FSU also signed them up for boxing classes, a healthy outlet for their pent-up anger.  Both Kyril and Artom excelled in the new athletic framework, building muscle mass and self-esteem, while learning discipline and how to support each other.  In the months that followed, Kyril and Artom, closer than ever before, won first and second places respectively in a local boxing competition.

Irena also began seeing a private psychologist regularly and received guidance from an employment coach regarding the development of her marketable skills. Within a few months, Irena found gainful employment and was able to take control of her life.

Two year-old Galina was diagnosed with an orthopedic issue that negatively impacted her ability to walk, so she began seeing a physical therapist to correct the issue.  Galina was also enrolled in the local Jewish preschool, a warm and loving environment in which to learn and grow while Irena is at work.

Thanks to LifeChanger FSU, the Mali family has moved beyond the tragic cycle of poverty.  No longer living in a shack or haunted by feelings of anger and abandonment, Irena and her children are now a cohesive family unit, a tight-knit team determined to succeed on their own.