Two captive brothers held like animals for almost 15 years
At first glance there's nothing unusual about this neighborhood in the Ukrainian city of Lviv. Quiet, narrow streets are lined with perfectly regular houses for the area. In districts like this, neighbors don't often keep secrets from each other. But one family was hiding something sinister — for 15 years. People on the street knew the Kuchumovs and had only good things to say about the couple. That is, until their inconceivably dark actions came to light.
The discovery began with an anonymous call to the police in July of 2013. The voice said that two children were locked up in that house. So the police, together with social workers, paid a visit to the Kuchumovs. The mother, Natalya, refused to allow them in but they forced her to open the door. What confronted them within those walls was unforgettably dreadful.
The interior was so dark and squalid that the workers could hardly believe a family lived in it. But the worst was when they found two children. One boy lay in a corner on a filthy mattress. He hardly looked human and when he thought they were trying to corner him, he panicked and tried to hide under a rag that served as his only blanket.
They would later discover that the boy was named Lubomir Jr. and was 14 years old.
In another corner the horrors continued: here they found six-year-old Yuriy. This boy was extremely malnourished, soiled, and so neglected that he didn't have the wherewithal to speak.
The boys were immediately removed from the house and brought to the hospital. Their mother stunned the social workers and police by simply standing by and watching impassively. She was completely calm and didn't seem to understand why the visitors were so shocked. She explained to police that she sometimes "opened the window" so that the boys always had "enough air."
Doctors at the hospital were also aghast when Lubomir and Yuriy arrived. Neither of the children could speak, walk, or even hold utensils to eat. The boys moved by crawling. Their whole bodies were covered with sores and scrapes.
It was later established that Lubomir had only been outside the house three times in his life and that, in his six years, Yuriy had never once seen daylight. Both had been kept in the house like dogs and were even forced to eat from a dish on the ground.
The parents were swiftly arrested and indicted on charges of neglect and abuse. The mother was declared psychologically unfit and sentenced to therapy but the father, Lubomir Sr., was sent to prison for two years.
No one in the neighborhood had ever guessed what was going on behind the door to that house. Occasionally some neighbors, who knew they had children, had asked why the boys didn't play outside, but the parents always had plausible excuses. Lubomir's colleague's were astounded when they learned about the children. They'd always considered him an ordinary, quiet man.
Even now, neither parent acknowledges that they neglected their children: both are seemingly convinced that it was sufficient to protect them from freezing or starving.
Meanwhile Yuriy and Lubomir were brought to a home for mentally-disabled children where they're making huge progress, though poor Lubomir still can't walk. His muscles had atrophied so badly and he had been deprived of proper medical attention for so long that it's not clear he can fully recover. But today he no longer has panic-stricken fear of other people, he's curious about the other children, and he's finding ways to communicate with them.
Yuriy is still very shy but he's slowly developing the inquisitiveness typical of a nine-year-old. Even though he looks much younger, he's clearly vastly healthier than the day the officers first found him.
It still seems unbelievable that this played out in the middle of a big city — that in a place full of doctors and teachers and neighbors, two little boys could be raised, completely hidden, in the most horrible conditions.
As much as the boys are slowly recovering, the extraordinary cruelty of their parents will follow them for the rest of their lives. Let's hope they continue to receive the best possible support and care so that, whatever their potential is, they are able to exceed it and get much, much more out of life than their early childhood promised!
Here's the moving Ukrainian report, where we originally heard about this story (in Ukrainian):