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A Bright Outlook Despite Infirmities

A Bright Outlook Despite Infirmities

 A Bright Outlook Despite Infirmities


When I was born on July 20, 1936, there were no developed bones in my body other than my skull and spine. My entire skeleton was made up of flimsy cartilage no firmer than the cartilage of an adult human’s ear. I weighed less than a pound [half a kilo]. The only signs of life manifest were a weak heartbeat, soft breathing, and a few movements.

I WAS the seventh of nine children in a family that lived in the village of Sara, in Ul’yanovsk Oblast, in the heart of Russia. When I was three weeks old, my parents took me to church to be baptized. The priest hurriedly sprinkled me with water and told my parents to take me home as quickly as possible, since he said I would die in a few hours.

In January 1937, my parents took me to the city of Kazan’, capital of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, to show me to some specialists. By this time I could say “Mama,” “Papa,” and “Babushka” (Grandma), and I knew the names of my brothers. After the doctors examined me, they told my parents that I would die within a year. They recommended that I be put to death and preserved in a glass flask as an exhibit to be used as a visual aid for medical students. How thankful I am to my dear parents that they decisively refused!

A Childhood of Suffering

For as long as I can remember, my body has been constantly racked with pain. Yet, even as a child, I strove to maintain a positive frame of mind and tried to laugh often and enjoy life. This is the disposition that I have maintained. My skeleton gradually got stronger, and I was able to sit up and crawl a little. I did not grow as normal children do and was badly misshapen. But I was a capable student, and by five years of age, I was able to read and write.

In May of 1941, my mother took me to church a second time. There were a number of people there, and all were on their knees praying. A female attendant came up to Mother to inquire why she had not knelt down. When Mother showed me to her, she went to speak with the priest. On returning, the attendant escorted us to the exit and suggested that Mother leave me outside the door and come in alone. She claimed that because of my parents’ sins, I had been given to them by “the unclean one.” Mother returned home with tears in her eyes. I thought about this for a long time. I wondered, ‘Who is this “unclean one”?’

 In 1948, when I was 12, Mother took me to the village of Merenki in the Chuvash Republic, about 50 miles [80 km] from our home. There were medicinal springs there, and Mother hoped that I might be cured by the water. Among the conditions that the priests set for my being cured was that I wasn’t to eat for three days. I also had to receive Communion in the church. Although I didn’t have much trust in the church, I agreed to the conditions. The trip for me was long and arduous, but I endured, trying to occupy myself with the beauty of the landscape.

The church was full of people. While Mother was carrying me through the crowd, an old woman handed me a piece of candy. I took it and put it in my pocket. When my turn came to receive Communion, the old woman cried out: “Father, don’t give Communion to him! He just ate a piece of candy!” I explained that the piece of candy was in my pocket, but the priest shouted: “You insolent freak! Must you lie as well? Remove him from the church!” The next day, however, another priest performed the Communion ritual and washed me with “miraculous” water. Yet, there was no miracle. My infirmities remained.

Intellectual Achievements

Although I was severely handicapped physically, during my teens I pursued many academic and intellectual goals. In 1956, I joined the Komsomol (Young Communist League) and, in time, taught Komsomol history to younger people. I was a member of the Home and Cultural Commission at a home for the disabled, and I also served there as radio director and announcer.

In addition, I was librarian of a mobile library of recorded books for the blind, and I was elected to membership in the Judge’s Commission for the Fight Against Alcohol Abuse. I also participated in an amateur artists’ club, sang, and played several musical instruments.

At the Home for the Disabled

In 1957, when I turned 21, my physical infirmities forced me to enter a home for the disabled. Yet, I wasn’t about to give up. In October of 1963, I left for the Prosthetic Science Research Institute of Moscow. There I eventually underwent 18 operations to straighten my legs.

First, my legs were stretched. Then, after eight days, an operation was performed. Following that, a cast was put on my legs to hold them in place until the next operation. The nurse would cry when she saw how much I was suffering.

During the next four months, I learned to walk with crutches. With crutches I can raise myself up until I am nearly three and a half feet [110 cm] tall. I weigh a little over 60 pounds [25 kg]. Once I mastered walking with the crutches, I returned to the home for the disabled in 1964. Unfortunately, my weak leg bones could not hold up under the weight of my body, and soon I was once again forced to move around by crawling or with the aid of a wheelchair. The wheelchair is my main means of getting around to this day.

I never went to church again. The claim that I was born of “the unclean one” continued to wound my soul. I loved my father and mother very much, and I just could not accept that they and God were at fault for my condition. I tried to keep my chin up. I wanted to do good to others and, most of all, to prove to myself that even I was capable of doing so.

Living an Independent Life

In 1970, I married Lidia, who has been partially paralyzed since childhood. We acquired a small house, which we lived in for 15 years. During that time we both worked for our living. I learned to repair watches and other small, fine-tuned devices.

For a while I used a trained dog to perform a number of valuable services. In fact,  a dog trainer and I invented a specially constructed harness. I had two dogs—one named Vulkan and the other Palma. Palma was a faithful companion for many years. At the store she would pick up food products for me. The only thing she didn’t like to do was to stand in line when we paid. She would carry my wallet in her teeth, and she had a small hook on her collar for my shopping bag.

In 1973 my mother fell seriously ill. Since I was always at home, my wife and I decided to bring her to live with us. By that time my father and five of my brothers had died, and my other three siblings lived in other parts of Russia. While Mother lived with us, I tried to do what I could for her. Eventually she died at the age of 85.

In 1978, I decided to construct a vehicle for myself. After working on several experimental vehicles, I ended up with a suitable one. The local State Automobile Inspectorate allowed me to take a driving test and to register my vehicle. I named it Osa (Wasp). My wife and I made a small trailer for it that could carry up to 660 pounds [300 kg]. The two of us were able to get around in it and carry things with us. This motorized vehicle served us until 1985.

About this time I went blind in my left eye, and the vision in my right eye began to deteriorate. Then Lidia became ill with heart trouble. In May of 1985, because of our limitations, we were forced to move into a home for the disabled in the city of Dimitrovgrad.

Why My Life Is So Happy Now

In the summer of 1990, Jehovah’s Witnesses visited our home for the disabled. I found what they taught to be very interesting. They showed me the passage in the Gospel of John about the man born blind. Regarding him, Jesus said: “Neither this man sinned nor his parents.” (John 9:1-3) It was explained to me that we have inherited sin and illness from our ancestor Adam.—Romans 5:12.

Most of all, however, I was struck by the fact that eventually God will heal all who attain to life under the Kingdom rule of his Son, Jesus Christ, when Paradise will be restored on earth. (Psalm 37:11, 29; Luke 23:43; Revelation 21:3, 4) Tears of joy streamed down my face, and I whispered: “I have found the truth, the truth, the truth!” I studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses for a year, and in 1991, I underwent water baptism in symbol of my dedication to Jehovah God.

Although I developed a strong desire to serve Jehovah and to preach about his wonderful purposes, I faced a number of obstacles. Previously, I had little need to get around, but now I needed to get out to share my faith with others. My first territory for preaching was our home for the disabled,  where over 300 people lived. So that I would come in contact with as many people as possible, I asked to be assigned to serve in the room for household matters.

Every morning I seated myself at my workplace and took care of my assignments. In the course of my work, I have made many new friends with whom I have interesting discussions on Bible topics. A number of them have accepted books and magazines that have helped them to understand the Bible. Visitors have become used to having me read to them from the Bible and Bible-based publications. At lunchtime, there are often so many people in the room where my wife and I live that at times no one else can enter.

My Christian brothers and sisters from the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses have helped me a lot in the preaching work. They bring me Bible literature and spend time with my wife and me. They also help me to get to the Kingdom Hall for congregation meetings. One Witness bought a motorcycle with a sidecar for the very purpose of carrying me around. Others, who have cars, gladly come and pick me up during the cold winter months.

Thanks to such loving care, I have been able to attend well over a dozen conventions, or educational seminars, of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My first one was the large international convention in Moscow in July 1993, where there was a peak attendance of 23,743, from over 30 countries. For me to attend that gathering meant making a trip of about 650 miles [1,000 km]. Since then I have not missed a convention of Jehovah’s people.

The administration of our home for the disabled has deep respect for me, for which I am very thankful. My spouse, Lidia, with whom I have lived in harmony for 30 years, also supports and helps me, although she does not share my religious views. But most of all, Jehovah supports me with his strong hand and endows me with his magnificent blessings. Not long ago, on September 1, 1997, I was appointed as a pioneer, as full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses are called.

There have been several occasions in my life when my heart could have stopped and I would have died. How happy I am now that that didn’t occur and that I have come to know and to love the Source of life, Jehovah God! I want to continue to serve him along with my spiritual brothers and sisters worldwide as long as my heart continues to beat.

[Picture on page 20]

With my wife, Lidia

[Picture on page 21]

Teaching a student in our home for the disabled