Some of us have to cope with difficulties, make our own choices, and take on adult responsibilities at a very young age because life forces us to grow up too quickly. Others are lucky enough to have a real childhood; still others are raised by parents who want their children to stay kids as long as possible. And there are always people who are too frightened to deal with adult responsibilities and make decisions.
Well, Valentin Gudimenko is quite a different kind of person. His father walked out on the family four years ago, when his mother Irina got pregnant for the second time. Unfortunately, Irina turned out to be a bit immature. She gave up her leading role and so her son had to take it on. Thus, a ten-year-old boy became an adult and started taking care of everything. Since then he has been responsible for daily meals, grocery shopping, cleaning up the flat, playing with his little sister Elizaveta, and taking care of her. Though Elizaveta is 3 years old now and Irina is not so busy any more, Valentin still does everything about the house and keeps an eye on his sister. The young MAN is also there to give emotional support and advice to his mother. He continues to take care of his family, no matter what.
The family lives in a two-room flat in an old five-storey building. The furniture is very modest but the flat is neat and tidy.
Despite these hardships, Valentin is still a child. He is very active, curious and open-hearted. He had been going to a kids’ boxing club for a few months, but he had to quit due to sharp stomach pain and gastritis. It is not surprising at all, as the family income is about $100 a month, which makes it virtually impossible to afford healthy food or other basic necessities. Even though the family gets considerable support from the JFS (the supermarket program, humanitarian aid, preparation for school support, etc.), life is still very hard. At the moment Valentin goes to a day camp, organized by the military commissariat. Children like it because they can take part in military activities, which they enjoy, and work. They also go hiking, roller-skating and skateboarding there. Valentin loves roller-skating, but his family cannot afford to buy roller skates. His mother has just found a job, so it is just a cherished dream. Maybe when he gets them, it will be a turning point for the better in his life.
We will definitely see this family again at community meetings and programs, and during JFS events in September. Valentin will join “Meretz” club meetings and is very likely to become a young Jewish community leader with exceptional qualities in the future.