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A girl loses her arms but not hope


When a person who is physically handicapped, challenges the cruel fate instead of passively submitting to it, and achieves a success, such a person earns a lot of respect and admiration. Lyubov Mashlevska, 19, who has lost her both arms, rose to the challenge.


Lyuba (pet name for Lyubov; the Ukrainian word lyubov means love) started having health problems at a very early age. She had a severe case of lupus which modern medicine still has no effective remedy for. The girl spent most of her time in hospitals.

The girl lived in constant pain; when the despair seemed to overwhelm her, thoughts of suicide as an escape from misery, began to haunt her. There seemed to be no future for her other than never-ending medical treatment. At one of the hospitals, Okhmadyt (Okhorona materi i dytyny  Health Protection of Mother and Child  is the central hospital for children in Kyiv), Lyuba met a woman whose daughter was also hospitalized there. The woman, a Ukrainian from Western Ukraine, was allowed to stay at the hospital to look after her child. As there were interminable hours of waiting, she filled them with needlework  and she did it with great mastery.

Lyuba was so much impressed by the beauty of the embroidery that she asked the woman to teach her to do embroideries too. Her arms and hands were bandaged but the tips of the fingers could be used for holding the needle. Lyuba proved to be a fast and determined learner. Her strong desire to find an occupation that would distract her and give her hope for at least a small achievement, and her evidently inbred talent produced a miracle  her embroidery quickly progressed to such a level that it could be called art. Her parents and her doctors and nurses were overjoyed to see the girl happy with what she was doing. Lyuba was given copies of do-it-yourself magazine devoted to embroidery. She kept perfecting her work and produced at least 40 works which were worthy to be shown at an exhibition.

And then a further tragedy struck  her arms had to be amputated to save her life. It seemed to be the end of hope. But once again there appeared in her life a person who gave her hope back. This person was Alla Horbunova, president of the tourist company Soul and head of the Patriotic Union of Ukrainians Sonyashnyk (Sunflower); she is also president of the International Charity Fund Sonyashnyk. When she, a person of great empathy, learnt of Lyubas tragic plight, Ms Horbunova gave the girl all the encouragement she could. Ms Horbunova regularly visited Lyuba in hospital, or telephoned her to cheer her up.

The Sonyashnyk Fund is planning to organize exhibitions of Lyubas works at the foreign embassies in Kyiv, at the Institute of International Relations, at the Institute of Tourism and at art galleries not only in Kyiv but in other cities of Ukraine. An auction of Lyubas works may be the next logical step. According to Ms Horbunova, these exhibitions will encourage those who face similar handicapping problems not to give up, and will also provide a lesson in empathy to the able-bodied  and of course, these exhibitions will give everybody a chance to enjoy Lyubas works of decorative art.

Lyuba says that she is eager to learn how to use the computer and surf the Internet  she says it will open a way to contacts with many more people; also, she wants to go to a college and study psychology so that she would be able to help others deal with their psychological problems caused by severe illness or physical handicaps. The Sonyashnyk Fund says it will surely help.

The Sonyashnyk Fund welcomes everyone who would like to help to join this noble mission.

Call (044) 278 3943 for further details.


Photos are from

Lyuba MASHLEVSKAs archive








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