This article is one of four vignettes about my week-long stay at Romaniv Disabled Boys Orphanage. 
Click here to get the full story.

Vignette 2: Misha

Ah, Misha.

Just thinking about him brings a smile to my face.  Misha has got to be one of the sweetest young men on the planet.

Whenever I smile at him, he always smiles back.  His big grin (3 parts happy, 2 parts bashful, 1 part mischievous) is one of a kind.

Misha, with his happy, bashful, mischievous smile.

Towards the end of my time at Romaniv, he and I started a goofy little tradition.  Whenever we saw each other, we would squint our eyes and wag our fingers at each other as if to say, “Oh, you little rascal…”

Walking past Misha’s dorm and seeing him shaking his finger at me from the window quickly became the highlight of my day.

But of course, all of this sweetness is tainted by bitterness as well.

You see, Misha has a speech impediment that makes it very hard for him to communicate. From what I understand, it’s a treatable speech impediment. With the proper surgery, he could talk perfectly fine.

Vasiliy Leonidivich, director of Romaniv Orphanage.

But 19-year-old Misha has lived at Romaniv for the last ten years and nobody could afford (or would afford) to pay for the operation.


His story is all too common at this orphanage. The previous administrator (the one who put bars on the windows and had the walls painted black) put only the bare minimum into caring for the health of the boys.

For decades, the boys lived in filthy, squalid conditions, and froze in the winter without the proper cold-weather clothing.  Every year, 8-9 boys would die, most from treatable diseases.

This neglect is visible in the way these boys have developed.

One day after lunch I was hanging out with a few of the older boys. As we talked, I noticed something so obvious that it shocked me I hadn’t seen it before. Every one of them stood only shoulder high.  Not a single one broke five feet in height.

I had read about stunted growth happening to children who suffer trauma in their developmental years, but an entire orphanage full of them?  It broke my heart.

Turning Tides

Thankfully, the tides have turned in a big way at Romaniv.  The old (and in my opinion, evil) administrator has been replaced by a kind, tenderhearted man named Vasiliy Leonidivich.

A before and after picture of the boys’ shower room. Talk about a transformation!

He truly cares about the boys.  Inspired by the change he’s seen in them through the classes of Mission to Ukraine, Vasiliy has made significant investments in their health.

Beautiful new showers, proper winter clothing, a five person medical staff and new hygiene standards have made Romaniv a vastly healthier place to live.

When I asked Vasiliy why he would invest so much time, energy and money in all of this when his predecessor did none of it, he responded, “I couldn’t just sit by and watch what was going on… Mission to Ukraine pushed us to look at caring for the children with different eyes.”

Today, the boys get plenty to eat, they have designated outdoor play areas for exercise, and the administration partners with local hospitals to give the boys care beyond the scope of the orphanage clinic.

Today, the death of the boys is rare.

On top of all of this, Romaniv Orphanage now has its very own sensory room… a place to nurture the most severely disabled boys and help their physical, emotional and mental wounds to heal.  Take a look:

The journey from neglect to nurture has begun!

A Direct Investment

As you can see, some phenomenal changes are taking place at Romaniv.  It is frankly stunning to see how far it’s come in just a few years.

Misha (left), looking out the window of his dorm.

And it is exciting to know that you and I can be a part of the continuing development of this place.  Through MTU’s brand new sponsorship program, we can invest directly in the lives of these boys.

If we sign on as sponsors, we’ll be giving Romaniv the opportunity to continue to grow and develop by leaps and bounds. Medical supplies, teaching resources, even better food… Our resources can be the tools that give these boys the lives they deserve.

In fact, as of the moment I’m writing this, Misha is one of the boys still needing a sponsor.  Maybe you can be the one to sponsor him!

So take a look, consider being a part, and know that the kingdom of God is growing!


Click here to read Vignette 3

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Next Steps
    • One of the best ways to get plugged in with what is happening at Romaniv is to begin a monthly sponsorship of one of the orphans there. Take a look and Hands of Hope’s website to see which boys you could start sponsoring today!
    • Do you feel at all compelled to help cover the cost of Misha’s surgery? I don’t know all the details, but shoot me an email if this is something you’d be interested in learning more about.
    • As always, the most powerful way for all of us to act is to lift up these young men in prayer. Pray that God would continue his powerful work at Romaniv!
    Next Steps

About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. Dave Rodriguez said... 


    November 20th, 2012 at 3:28 pm  

    So, I’ve seen that video maybe 5 times now and I always break out in tears as I watch him smile. I wonder if God smiles or tears up when he sees it? It is pure Kingdom joy.

  2. Linda Pritz said... 


    November 20th, 2012 at 5:04 pm  

    Love the gentleness of her hands on his face in the video. Beautiful …

  3. Emily Wallace said... 


    November 20th, 2012 at 7:37 pm  

    Barry – my heart is leaping and bounding. Seeing Romaniv’s sensory room….watching Angela breathe life into Vova’s hands as a bona fide therapist…. I am overwhelmed with honor and praise that I can play a small part in God’s work at Romaniv. Thank you, a million times, for sharing this with the world.

  4. Danni said... 


    November 27th, 2012 at 10:32 am  

    Thank you for helping these boys! You are truly an angel!

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