The heartbreaking story of Matvey Zakharenko

When little Matvey Zakharenko came into the world on November 16th, 2014, no one knew that his life would soon take a terrible turn.

The boy was born in Tula, two hours south of the Russian capital Moscow.

He appeared healthy, a joyful little boy – but after a couple of days the doctors noticed that he was suffering from something quite common: jaundice.

Jaundice makes the skin and eye whites of a victim turn yellow. For most babies, it goes away by itself within a couple of weeks, but some children need treatment. Matvey was one of those.

Doctors immediately prescribed light therapy for the little boy, which means that Matvey had to lie under a special lamp for a few hours a day. This type of treatment is completely harmless and does not cause any side effects.

Flickr / Dave Herholz

However, it is important that there is always someone supervising the baby during the treatment – something that unfortunately would become very evident in the case of Matvey.

One day, when the boy was being treated under the lamp, tragedy struck. When a nurse left the room, the light bulb exploded and caught fire. The panicking nurse rushed back into the room and tried make up for her mistake.

She threw a diaper over the lamp to extinguish the fire, but the lamp exploded again and the burning pieces from the diaper fell over Matvey. Unfortunately, the result of the hospital’s mistake was disastrous.

Matvey, who was just three days old, suffered burns to 75% of his body – his small organs were severely damaged.

But that was just the beginning of Matvey’s hell.

When his 19-year-old mother found out what had happened, she made an unimaginable decision. Matvey’s mother no longer wanted him when she realized that the boy would need specialist care.

She realized many expensive treatments lay ahead and that Matvey would never fully recover from his injuries. When she understood the extent of the responsibility it would mean to take care of the burnt boy, she abandoned him.

This was almost more shocking than the accident – how could a mother just abandon her injured child?

The terrible story soon hit the media. Several newspapers in Russia began to write about Matvey’s fate and before long the whole country had heard the boy’s story. One director at the hospital, Galina Sundeeva, was sentenced to three-and-a-half months in prison.

At the same time hospitals, volunteers, human rights activists, and other families offered their help.

Matvey was adopted by a kind woman named Svetlana. Unfortunately, the adoption was completed after a trying legal process that took almost two months, according to In fact, several women fought to adopt Matvey, some just because of the media attention. Matvey’s biological mom also showed up and tried to claim her son now that he had become famous all over Russia..

But the court weighed that Svetlana was the best option. As opposed to the other candidates, she had tried her utmost to avoid the spotlight during the legal process.

When all the papers were in order and the court had announced its verdict, Svetlana started blogging about her and Matvey’s life. She knew that thousands of people had followed Matvey’s story and many wanted to know how things were going for him.

“It’s time to write and tell you how we’re doing. The adoption process is complete. Matvey is now officially a member of our family, but that was just a formality. We’ve already loved him for a long time,” Svetlana wrote.

Since the adoption, Matvey has undergone several surgeries. Thankfully he’s recovering according to plan and the little fighter has made fantastic progress.

However, Matvey still has a long journey ahead of him. The doctors have not yet managed to recover his nose, so Matvey wears a prosthesis. He will need more surgeries in the future, but despite all the challenges he faces, he loves to smile and play, just like all kids his age.

When Matthew celebrated his 4th birthday, his mom updated the blog:

”Thanks everyone for your congratulations. Time flies so unnoticed. We enjoy every day, learning new skills, new sounds and words. Matvey amazes everyone around, it’s impossible to be sad around him. His love and smile are enough for everyone. He works hard, learns new things everyday and tries to repeat everything. He loves to draw, loves music and travel”, she wrote.

At the young age of six, he has already experienced more pain than most people suffer in a lifetime.

But his courage, strength and fighting spirit is truly inspirational. Hopefully, he can look forward to a life full of love and happiness with his adoptive family.

Stay strong, Matvey, and keep smiling!

I get very sad when I read Matvey’s story; it should never have happened from the beginning. The mistake at the hospital is unacceptable and then being left by your own mother … I can’t find any words for that!

But Matvey’s story is also one of hope, courage and the strength of life – something I take with me. I’m happy to share his story on Facebook, hoping that all my friends can be inspired by this little warrior

Join me in praying for this precious baby!