It is a strange and scary thought: Stas is no more. The same table, the same ashtray, the same books in English... but he is not there. And will never be. He has not moved to another city or abroad. He died. Unexpectedly for all of us.
Only forty-two years old. But so much achieved. Great doctor, great researcher, a kind and sympathetic person. Many people grieved over his death. And not only here, in Ukraine. He was known and loved in Holland, America and Great Britain. He, the only one in Ukraine, left dozens of publications in the best journals of the world.
An ordinary, modest doctor. He was a real erudite. Sociologists accepted him in their professional club. Psychologists, the best of them, sought his advice. Patients trusted him, even those who have been unsuccessfully treated before by his officially distinguished colleagues.
He felt lonely in our professional environment in Ukraine. Because he was so much more knowledgeable. I hoped that he would be the first scientist-psychiatrist recognized in Ukraine. He became it though.... But he always remained the same modest and quiet doctor Stanislav Kostyuchenko.
He didn't want to write and defend a thesis. After successful completion of the Ukrainian-American study, of which he was a real academic advisor from the Ukrainian side, I asked him: "Stas, why don't you make a thesis on this unique research? This is really unique, there is nothing like that in any of the post-Soviet republics!" He sadly answered: "I'll never be able to defend a thesis on this material. Our professors will kill me. And I don't want to write something that will be acceptable for them. I just can't. Thanks to you, Semyon, I already know so much more..."
I thought that he was very lonely. But suddenly, after his death we found out how many people sincerely appreciated and loved him. Since 1999 he went to Roman Catholic Alexander Church. There, in that church, the burial service was read over him. It was a bright day, it was a joy to live. But from now on, unfortunately without Stas...
He was buried in Chernigov, where he was born. Well, we will visit him from time to time. Our Stas. Our dearest Stas.
Semyon Gluzman, September 2015
The special adventures of Ramzidim and Radik
Deep into the mountainous heart of Central Asia lies Tajikistan, a poverty-stricken Islamic country with approximately 7,5 million inhabitants. It was part of the Soviet Union and after the collapse of the communist imperium the country sank into a civil war that lasted for five years and cost the lives of some 8 percent of the population. Ramzidin Juraev and Radik Troi live and work in this country. Ramzidin has a physical handicap, Radik a mental one. Radik pushes the wheelchair of Ramzidin and does various odd jobs for him. How they met is a special story.
In 1978, when Ramzidin was about one year of age, he was taken to hospital for an examination. An intern carried out a lumbar punction as a result of which his spinal cord was damaged and he became severely paralyzed. Not long after the mother of Ramzidin dies. According to him this was the result of the stress that was caused by what happened top her son. His father did not want to continue to care for him and brought him to a “dom-internat” (euphemistically called “social care home”). In the time of the Soviet Union some 1500 of these institutions existed in the country, many of them for handicapped children. These “internats” still exist. In the functional Soviet approach a hierarchy existed of “disabled” with a system of various privileges connected to it. At the top were war veterans and model workers who had become disabled during their jobs. At the bottom were those who were considered useless, such as children and adults with a learning disorder. The intelligent Ramzidin lived until his 16th among some 200 mentally handicapped children. The living conditions were horrendous. Callous personnel, lack of food, epidemics of scabies and diphtheria and endless boredom. Of the 200 children only 40 survived. “ It would have been better if you had died,” the doctors said. Regularly Ramzidin was refused food because he would only dirty himself and the caretakers didn’t feel like cleaning him afterwards. In the “internat” he met Radik Tsoi. Radik hardly remembers anything of his own history. His parents are Korean. During the Stalin era some six million people of ethnic minorities, including the Koreans that were living in Russia’s Far East, were deported to distant regions such as Tajikistan. They were called ‘enemies of the people”. Approximately one million and a half of them died in the process. The parents of Radik left him in an “internat” when it became clear that he was mentally handicapped, and they disappeared from his life. Radik helped Ramzidin with eating, going to the toilet, and by pushing his wheelchair. Ramzidin and Radik had no idea of what the world was like outside their “internat”. They never came outside. “Same people. Same doctors. Same food”. That was their life, an anonymous existence on the dustbin of history.
When they turned 18 they were transferred to an institution for adults. In 1995 aid workers of a foreign organization visited this institution and Ramzidin established contact with them. They were surprised by his intelligence and the organization offered him a job. As a result he learned to read and write and, as he calls it himself, “to behave himself”. He developed himself further and eventually earned enough money to leave the “internat” and to establish his own independent life. He took his faithful companion Radik along. By now Ramzidin is married and lives together with his wife, daughter and Radik in the north of Tajikistan. He is the owner of an expanding taxi firm and chairman of a local association for people with a disability. In that capacity he fights for better legislation and protection of people with a disability, and organizes trainings and workshops where people can learn skills such as sewing and other manual professions in order to be able to sustain themselves. His dream is to found a “social club” for people with a disability in the city where he lives. Deeply affected by his history Ramzidin was initially full of resentment and anger after he managed to escape from the inhuman conditions of life in “internats”. His aggression he gradually managed to turn into power to fight on behalf of his peers who continue to lead a marginalized life in poverty.
First winners of the new Jim Birley Scholarships
It is with great pleasure that the Netherlands-based international foundation “Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP” announces the first winners of the new Jim Birley Scholarships. The Scholarship is shared in 2015 between two outstanding advocates for human rights in mental health. The winners of the 2015 Jim Birley Scholarships are Anka Jgenti from Georgia and Charlene Sunkel from South Africa