In her first three months in America, 32-year-old Soviet visitor Luda Ziouzina felt blessed with good fortune despite having nowhere to live except her brother-in-law’s crowded Glendale apartment.
Her happiness was for her 3-year-old daughter Anna. Stricken with leukemia and apparently certain to die without adequate treatment in the Soviet Union, Anna had been brought to the United States for help. Under a program of chemotherapy at City of Hope in Duarte since May, she is making great strides toward recovery.
But events are again weighing on Ziouzina this week.
Ziouzina’s six-month visa and her money are both running out, dimming her hopes that she will be able to stay in the United States long enough to see Anna through her lifesaving treatment.
On top of that, the landlord has warned her brother-in-law that there are too many people living in his two-bedroom apartment on Alameda Avenue, so she and Anna must find another place to live.
And, if that isn’t enough, she now fears that her husband, Voskan, may be caught in the civil strife back home. He returned to their home in Volgograd two months ago, hoping to extend the family’s visas. She has not been able to talk to him since the Soviet Union was thrown into turmoil Sunday by the removal of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and the show of military force on the streets of Moscow. She said Wednesday, speaking through an interpreter, that she doesn’t know how the strife will affect his return.
Throughout Tuesday, she said, she had been “watching the television all day without translation. . . . I’m calling everyone to ask what’s going on.”
Ziouzina’s mounting worries have brought the Glendale-Crescenta Valley chapter of the American Red Cross to her rescue. The organization had helped bring the Ziouzinas to America for Anna’s treatment. Now, with her gains in jeopardy, it has launched a new campaign to aid the family.
The Red Cross has taken in $700 in donations for Anna and is soliciting more, to help the family get through the coming weeks. It is also trying to solve the Ziouzinas’ problems more permanently by finding them a stable home and employment.
Luda Ziouzina, who was a bookkeeper in the Soviet Union, said her family does not want to depend on charity. “I want to be able to work here,” she said. “I want to be able to do it myself. . . . I want to find a job working with children, so that Anna can be with me.”
However, Norge Seward, emergency services director for the Red Cross chapter, said Anna’s parents cannot work in the United States under the terms of their visas.
Seward said she is helping the Ziouzinas apply for resident alien status, which would allow Anna’s parents to seek work.
“I’m really impressed with what the Red Cross has done,” said Marine Agazaryan, a cousin who lives in Glendale and has been helping the Ziouzinas. “I didn’t think this could be done.”
Ziouzina’s greatest fear now is that the family will be to forced to return to the Soviet Union with Anna’s treatment incomplete.
Since Anna arrived, she has been going to the City of Hope three times a week to receive the intravenous chemotherapy. The treatment causes mild discomfort and some hair loss, Seward said.
Anna has improved dramatically since her arrival. “Her mom had to carry her--she could barely stand for any length of time,” Seward said. “Now she’s walking. She runs.”
The Red Cross official said Anna’s physicians believe she has a 60% chance of recovery but that her prospects for conquering the leukemia will dim if she does not continue to receive treatment over a three-year period.
The girl, who has blond hair, blue eyes and a wide smile, has captured the hearts of Red Cross staff members, Seward said.
But, unless Seward is successful in securing them resident status, the Ziouzinas’ current visas will expire Nov. 25.
The Ziouzina’s have discussed leaving their daughter with Luda’s brother-in-law, Albert Kazaryan, if they have to leave, but only as a painful last resort.
“I want the whole family to be able to stay here because of her,” Luda Ziouzina said. “Before coming here, we didn’t have any hope for our daughter.”
Anna’s trip to America was arranged by Kazaryan, who immigrated to the United States about a year ago.
He decided to seek help after he learned that the leukemia treatment being given to Anna in her homeland was inadequate. He turned to Glendale’s Red Cross chapter in March, remembering its parent organization had provided relief during the earthquake that rocked Soviet Armenia in 1988.
“I said to him, ‘I’m sorry, this is not what we do,’ ” Seward recalled. “But he looked so sad. I said, ‘Let me see what I can do.’ ”
Seward obtained Anna’s Soviet medical records, and Robert Rosen, a physician at the City of Hope agreed to treat her if the girl could come to the United States.
The family sold virtually all its belongings to pay the air fare, Seward said, and arrived in New York on May 25 with six-month visas. By naming Kazaryan as her guardian, the Ziouzinas were able to arrange for Medi-Cal to pay for her treatment, she said. Anna’s chemotherapy began May 30.
Ziouzina and her daughter have continued to live with Kazaryan, who has a wife and two children of his own. A mechanic and cook who speaks limited English, he has been out of work, and the two families have had to get by on his welfare checks, Seward said.
“What I would really like is for someone who may have a guest house to let the mother do domestic work and maybe let the father do landscaping in exchange for room and board,” Seward said.