The tragic story of a mother with 1-year-old triplets who lost the husband she cared so much for06 june 2012, 15:56
Leonid and Yuliya Orobinski wanted children so much that when doctors said Leonid needed fertility treatments, the Astana couple set out to raise the thousands of dollars necessary.
Leonid, a construction-site electrician, was unable to find a moonlighting opportunity. But Yuliya worked a double shift as a primary-school teacher from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. five days a week.
The $7,000 that the fertility treatments cost – a small fortune for an average wage-earning couple in Kazakhstan – paid off on May 10 of last year. Yuliya gave birth to triplets Victoria, Constantine and Georgi.
One of the ironies of many fertility treatments is that parents often go from being unable to have even one child to multiple births.
The much larger Orobinski family settled into a happy routine of Leonid working, Yuliya taking care of the triplets and the whole brood going to the country together on Leonid’s days off to picnic and fish.
Seven months after the babies were born, Leonid felt pain in his abdomen. He was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer.
He died at 34 on February 21 of this year, robbing 30-year-old Yuliya of the man she had adored for seven years and leaving her facing an uncertain future.
She couldn’t even say goodbye to him, Yuliya said, because “the last day I came to him, he was unconscious.”
I learned about Yuliya and the triplets from a friend who asked if I could help the family.
Yuliya told me her story through a translator over dinner at the Corso Coffee shop on Imanova Street.
There was no mistaking her sadness when she began talking about losing Leonid.
She was an only child, she said, so he had been everything to her – lover, brother and best friend rolled into one.
“He was a great husband, a very caring person – and so good with the children,” she said. “He loved being around them so much that we even talked about him taking a parental leave to care for them while I worked.”
Although “house husbands” are becoming more common in the West, they are unusual in the former Soviet Union, which suggests the kind of nurturing man that Leonid was. “He was even a good cook,” Yuliya said.
I needed background about Leonid to tell Yuliya’s story as a journalist, but her melancholy was so palpable that I switched the subject to the triplets as soon as I could.
At that point Yuliya brightened for the first time in our conversation.
She told me about the joy of going on country outings with her husband and the children.
“The kids were only 1 ½ months old when we first took them to nature,” she said.
She recalled with a smile that, for some reason, Leonid’s best luck fishing was when she was holding Georgi.
In fact, “one time he hooked a fish while I was holding one of the other triplets – and the fish slipped off the hook,” she said.
At one point in our chat, Yuliya sighed that Leonid’s loss was so devastating that “if I didn’t have the children, I wouldn’t want to live.”
Yuliya Orobinski with triplets, from left, Victoria, Georgi and Constantine. Photo courtesy of Yuliya Orobinski
The possibility that some day she would need help raising the triplets never entered her mind -- or Leonid’s, she said. “We always thought we would have no trouble raising the kids by ourselves,” she said.
Her main challenge at the moment is financial, she said.
When the children were born, the government began giving the family 32,000 tenge a month per triplet under a program to encourage births in a country that has only 17 million people.
That amounted to 96,000 tenge a month, or about $650.
The government program was good for only a year, so when the babies became 1 year old on May 10, the support ended.
That means Yuliya is down to 24,500 tenge a month in survivor’s benefits – money the government is giving her for Leonid’s loss. It’s only about $165 a month.
Yuliya has been living with her parents since Leonid’s death, but both are pensioners and her mother’s heart problems require health-care expenditures– so her mother and father can offer Yuliya little financial support.
Three weeks before the end of the government birth-subsidy payments, Yuilya told me that when it ended, “there won’t be enough money” for their needs, including basics such as nourishing food.
“Everything is so expensive,” she noted. “A lot of the money goes just to diapers.”
If Yuliya’s parents were younger, they might be able to care for the children while she worked.
But at her parents’ ages, triplets are a daunting challenge, she said.
Her mother’s condition prevents her from lifting more than three kilograms – about 7 pounds – so Grandma can’t hold even one of the triplets.
That means Yuliya must figure out a way to care for the triplets during the important nurturing period between 1 and 3 years old.
The question is how the family can make enough money to survive if she is raising the children rather than working.
That’s why my friend contacted me about Yuliya’s plight.
The friend knew I had helped 19-year-old Kazakh twins graduate from Almaty State University, or Agu, after their father died of a heart attack and their mother had a stroke.
It took three years, and a lot of money, for the twins to graduate and get good jobs, but it was worth it.
Helping Yuliya and her triplets will be a lot more difficult than helping the twins, so I’ve already begun casting about for support.
Friends who work with private charitable organizations or who have information about government services have called Yuliya.
If any of you loyal readers have ideas, please let me know in the Comments section of my blog.
Let’s hope that our combined efforts can generate the resources Yuliya needs to be successful in bringing up those precious babies.