Moscow — Supermodel Natalia Vodianova received overwhelming support from different groups and individuals from all around the globe after she posted on her Facebook page about an incident wherein her sister was kicked out of a local cafe due to her disability.
Natalia’s sister, Oksana, was diagnosed with both cerebral palsy and autism.
In a Facebook post on Aug. 17, Vodianova wrote about the incident wherein her sister, together with her caregiver, went inside the local Nizhny Novgorod cafe to seek respite from the heat outside.
But not long after Oksana’s caregiver ordered a snack for her, the owner of the cafe allegedly approached them and told them:
“Why don’t you leave? You’re scaring away all of our customers. Go get medical help for you and your child. And then go out in public.”
Natalia’s mother rushed to the cafe to help her sister, and it was then that a security guard from the cafe threatened that he would call what he described as the “crazy house”, presumably referring to a mental institution, saying that they would be ‘locked in a cellar’ once he did so.
After the confrontation, Oksana, her mother, and her caregiver left the cafe only to be confronted by the local police and told that they will be arrested for a “minor hooliganism”.
The Russian Federal Investigative Committee, however, condemned the cafe owner and the guard in a statement released on Aug. 13. According to Spokesman Vladimir Markin:
“Without any legal reason, the cafe director not only asked the unwelcome guests to leave the establishment but called for support from employees of a private security firm.”
Markin added that what he referred to as the ‘loyal guards’ have “rudely violated legislation protecting human rights”. He also said that both the cafe owner and the guards could face prosecution for “insulting human dignity”, a criminal charge punishable by imprisonment of up to five years.
According to Markin:
“[The Russian authorities] will always respond instantaneously to such unlawfulness and use every opportunity to hold culprits criminally responsible so that others would not even think of doing the same.”
Vodianova’s Facebook post shone light on the living conditions of individuals with disabilities in the Russian society, where the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said around 30 percent of disabled Russian children are separated from their parents and are forced to live in orphanages where they are often neglected, and sometimes exposed to violence.
According to the HRW report by Andrea Mazzarino:
“In Russia, when a child is born with a disability, parents face pressure from doctors to give their children up. Children end up in orphanages, where they may face serious abuse and neglect.”
But the New York-based organization did recognize that the country has made improvements in their efforts to help disabled children.
Vodianova, who is now based in Paris, runs charities that help disabled and underprivileged children in Russia.
She said that what drove her to speak out about the incident is knowing that many are still being discriminated against, and knowing that what happened to her sister was not an isolated incident. She wrote:
“Unfortunately, this is the reality experienced by all families raising children with special needs. It’s difficult for me to discuss this, but I understand that this is an alarm bell for society that must be heard.”
Source: Carl Schreck: RadioFreeEurope: Supermodel Vodianova Ignites Firestorm After Russian Cafe Boots Disabled Sister RadioFreeEurope