Artem: A Widower Raises His Disabled Son with Help from Hesed.
Raising a disabled child is never easy, but few people have faced as much adversity as Artem Kenzler, who lives in Rustavi, Georgia, and takes care of his 17-year-old son, also named Artem. He works when he can to support himself and his son, who has Down Syndrome. The two of them have lived alone since a fire destroyed their home and their family.
Artem met his wife while working as a tank crewman, and married her soon afterwards. In 1984 their daughter Elya was born. In 1992, when their son was born with Down Syndrome, the doctors suggested that Artem and his wife leave the newborn at the hospital so he could be sent to a home for disabled children. They brought their son home instead. Raising a disabled child was a constant struggle. Young Artem didn’t walk until he was eight years old, and he’s still unable to speak.
One day while Artem and his children were visiting his mother and his wife was home alone, a hot plate in the kitchen caught fire, and a can of gasoline standing next to it burst into flames. By the time the firefighters arrived at the house, it had been badly damaged and Artem’s wife was severely burned. “She needed transplants and operations, but there was no money and we couldn’t save her,” Artem said. He brought her home, and she passed away a month later.
A few years have passed, but Artem has not been able to fully repair his home. He doesn’t have the money to pay for the supplies and help he needs. With assistance from his neighbor, he fixes it up little by little when he can.
Every month the government sends young Artem a disability check for $65, but it’s not enough for the two of them to survive on. Artem has struggled to find a full-time job, but it is particularly difficult because he can’t leave his son alone. However, the Hesed program in his town has helped Artem and his son get by, giving them food and clothing while also helping them get involved in the community. Artem is very grateful for their contributions. “I’m very thankful that they work in this way,” Artem says. “No other community helps each other like the Jews.” Hesed is a JDC program that receives significant funding from the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign.
Life is still difficult, but thanks to Hesed, Artem has been able to move on. “You can’t walk around sad with your head hung down all the time. So I take Artem to the movies, for a walk in the park, to ride the carousel. You somehow have to live joyfully.”