This is for my friend Oleg Viktorovich Semenko. I'm am writing this from Oleg's bedroom in northern Ukraine where we are seeing each other for the first time in 25 years.
Oleg has kidney failure due to Glomerulonephritis and needs a kidney in order to survive. Oleg and I met in in 1988, in Weimar in the former DDR. He was in the Red army and I was with my classmates from the Junior Year in Heidelberg progam and we met him and a bunch of other soldiers while visiting the various sights of the city. I had just started studying Russian at the University of Heidelberg and Oleg seemed to be the leader of his pack. He was very jolly and kind and we exchanged addresses as I attempted to communicate with my very new and elementary Russian skills. For three years after that we wrote letters back and forth. His were always in Russian, mine were a mixture of Russian and English. In 1991, I received an invitation to visit him and his family in the town of Chernigov, now Chernihiv, in northern Ukraine. I stayed with him for six weeks and he and his family took care of me and helped me with my Russian and I would often read Russian poetry with Oleg's father, Viktor in one of the beautiful parks in Chernihiv. It was an amazing and mind-blowing experience for a kid from a small town in Michigan. Oleg and I developed a deep friendship and I ended up going back the next year to visit again. I was going to school in Germany at the time. In 1994, I left Germany and went back to the States and in 1995, my mother died of lung cancer and that incident and everyday life in general resulted in my contact with Oleg becoming sparser and sparser until we at some point completely lost contact to one another. Cut to over 20 years later, Oleg finds me on Facebook. I was overjoyed because I had been looking for him as well and could not find him or his letters, which I later found buried in my things in the basement of my brother's house. We spent months catching up and the news from his end wasn't so good. He had developed Glomerulonephritis which had led to kidney failure. When he first went to the hospital in Chernihiv, he was actually infected with Hepatitis C IN the hospital which of course made things even worse. In meantime, his father Viktor, who was on the clean-up crew in Chernobyl had had three attacks, the last one of which took his life. That left Oleg and his mother to fend for themselves on their tiny pension which amounts to approximately 100 dollars a month. Oleg has been on dialysis for over ten years now and the prognosis is not good currently. I just arrived back in the Ukraine, where I am now writing this, a few days ago after 25 years, to see Oleg and his mother, who also recently suffered a heart attack. They have never asked me for anything and make do with occasional help from friends which enables them to keep some food on the table. Jobs are scarce in Chernihiv even for those are not sick or disabled. Oleg has an old computer from his healthier days with which he is able to earn a bit of money on the side doing various writing jobs on the internet. It's a bleak situation. There are laws in the Ukraine which prohibit people from receiving transplants from non-family members and so Oleg's only chance is to get to Belorussia where kidney transplants are actually available and where he can be put on a waiting list. This will cost anywhere from 60-80,000. All of the costs for this would have be out of pocket for him, so he currently cannot see any hope for change and is basically sitting around, waiting to die. I want to change this for him. Thank you for your help! Oleg and his mother Valentina thank you as well!