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Family Of Belarusian 'Hero Of Ukraine' Denied Charity At Home

Belarusian Mikhail Zhyzneuski died on Kyiv's Independence Square on Januiary 22.
Belarusian Mikhail Zhyzneuski died on Kyiv's Independence Square on Januiary 22.
Twenty five-year-old Mikhail Zhyzneuski, a native of Belarus, became one of Euromaidan's first victims when he was shot dead in Kyiv two months ago. Now a church congregation in California has collected $1,600 in aid for his grieving family -- but a Belarusian bank has refused to hand over the cash.

The family of one of Euromaidan's first victims, Mikhail Zhyzneuski, says it has been denied access to a charity donation sent by a church congregation in California.

Zhyzneuski, 25, was killed on January 22 when he was shot in the heart by an unknown assailant while providing security for the pro-European protesters at Kyiv's Independence Square. He was buried in the family's hometown of Homel on January 28.

Zhyzneuski's mother, Nina, says a Belarusian parish in California sent the family a donation of $1,600 after hearing about their plight. But she says the state-run Belarusbank has refused to disperse the money, transferred by Western Union, because the official name of the sender is missing from the form.

"Of course, for me it would be a lot of help," said Nina, a retired public sector worker who suffers from diabetes and hypertension, and who underwent heart surgery earlier this month. "My [monthly] pension is very small, just 1,960,000 Belarusian rubles [$200], and all of that goes towards medicine. I depend on my daughter and her husband for food."

Nina's surgery and recuperation prevented her from marking the 40th day after her son's death, a typical commemoration among Orthodox believers. She says many of the hospital's doctors and nurses treated her compassionately, knowing what had happened to her son.

Some of her fellow patients, however, were less kind.

"They noticed my last name and they said I was a whore, that my child should have been taken away from me from the start," she says. "That I was practically an enemy of the people, because Misha ended up in Ukraine and died the way he did."

Other patients, themselves from Homel, came to her defense. "They said, 'Shame on you, you're all women, you have children of your own! ... Today it's her grief, but tomorrow the same thing could happen to any of us.'"

Zhyzneuski's father, Mikhail, says the family's loss has only become more painful as they've watched the Ukrainian death toll mount, culminating in Russia's annexation of Crimea.

"I think Ukraine should be allowed to decide their own affairs, without interference," he says. "People didn't die at Maidan in vain."

Ukraine's Foreign Minister announced last week that it would grant Zhyzneuski, who moved from Belarus to Ukraine in 2005, the posthumous title of Hero of Ukraine.

Written by Daisy Sindelar based on reporting by RFE/RL's Belarus Service
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