Igraduated from the Odessa Polytechnical Institute and received my diploma as an engineer. I then worked in the “Stal’kanat” factory in Odessa. During the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the business closed.
I did casual jobs, and then I became friends with people who sold homemade alcohol. My life changed, and I started to use alcohol regularly. After work I went to a café with friends, and we would share a bottle of vodka.
We drank more and more. I would arrive home in a bad state. I constantly argued with my wife in front of our children, Sergei and Oksana, who were afraid and didn’t speak to me.
One day some friends and I were in a café and someone from another table injured our friend. We went outside to talk with them, and they started a fight. When the police arrived only myself and one other person were there, and they started to fight with us. They beat me badly. I was taken to the police office and all the blame for the fight was placed on my shoulders.
I was forced to sign a statement but I still wasn’t sober, so didn’t read it properly. It turned out that as well as the fight, a burglary was being hung on me. My friends refused to help me. All of the money I had, I spent on a lawyer. I was sent to prison for eight years.
After six years I was released for good behavior, but things weren’t well. I contracted tuberculosis in prison, and my wife had left me and had thrown me out of our apartment. I asked for help from close relatives but nobody wanted anything to do with a former prisoner, ill with tuberculosis. I ended up on the street.
In order to get my documents back someone told me to contact the street paper The Way Home. There I found out that there was the possibility to earn money legally selling the newspaper on the streets. I went to the editor to find out if I could sell the paper. I have been selling The Way Home for three years on the streets of Odessa.
I later found a girlfriend, and we moved in together. We live in the suburbs of Odessa, the area of Nerubayskoe. Three times a week I travel into the city and sell the street paper. I don’t drink anymore, [and I] receive treatment at a tuberculosis clinic and have the opportunity to see my children.
Usually I sell beside the market “Privoz,” where there are lots of people.
I enjoy the work: I’m not just selling a newspaper, I’m also meeting homeless people and telling them whether they can receive help. There was a time when I needed this advice myself, therefore it’s good to know what living under the stars is really like.
I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t asked for help at The Way Home. Thanks to the editors of the street paper who believed in me and gave me work.
Now everything is going well for me.