A former drug addict and a woman with a dark past are not exactly the kind of people one would look up to. However, Evgheni and Svetlana Isaev have shown that the past does not prevent anyone from completely changing their lives and becoming the pride of a nation.
Fun was Evgheni’s sole goal. He wasted his life partying with dubious friends and heroin. He was just 19 years old when he had to faced the consequences of his lifestyle. He thought he had pneumonia when he was hospitalized with a high fever, but tests showed he was infected with HIV.
Svetlana never used drugs, nor did she have a drinking problem, and she finished college with flying colors. Along the way, however, things went downhill and her youth turned out to be neither beautiful, nor peaceful.
In a Christian detox center, the only one willing to admit him despite him having AIDS, Evgheni got acquainted with the Bible. He began to seek God, feeling that he could receive peace and healing from Him. His heart was filled with divine love and he began a new life. He met Svetlana in church, but the idea of marriage was ruled out by everyone around him because of his illness. Not only was she at high risk of becoming ill, but their children could suffer as well. Nevertheless, they stepped forward, convinced that God had not brought them together by accident.
Just one day after the wedding, Svetlana got fired from the café she was working for, because the manager had learned that her husband had HIV. A few months later, their family underwent a much more difficult test. The happiness of waiting for two healthy twins was overshadowed by one of them being stillborn.
The long time she spent in the hospital gave Svetlana the opportunity to hear all kinds of stories, one sadder than the other. She saw there an HIV-positive mother and her baby, also infected, who was about to be put up for adoption. She later learned that no family in Ukraine had ever adopted an HIV-infected child. She talked to Evgheni and together they decided to adopt an HIV-positive boy.
Their gesture was unique in Ukraine. Soon, they adopted another boy, who was also infected, and who begged them to take him out of the orphanage. The Isaev family was now complete, or so Svetlana and Evgheni thought. However, they could not say “no” when asked to adopt two other HIV-positive sisters. Over time, the family grew even larger. Today, they have no less than 11 children: two biological girls, both healthy, and nine adopted HIV-positive children.
In April 2012, the Isaev family received the Nation’s Pride Award at a televised annual gala that brings together the most important people in Ukraine. Their impressive story motivated other families to follow their example. Although those having the courage to adopt HIV-infected children are not many, the number of adoptions has increased in Ukraine.
In 2014, the conflict in the east of the country affected the Isaev family terribly. The house in Donetsk that they had managed to buy for their children with the help of donations was bombed and completely destroyed. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Once again, the family had to take the hard road from the beginning. It’s not easy for them at all, but they have each other. Above all, they trust that God is always present in their lives.