Seven years after falling victim to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Ukrainian cancer patient Tatiana Belick became a victim again.
This time to a thief.
Tatiana, 15, who was flown to California from her rural village of Gordenka so doctors could assess the extent of her thyroid cancer, had stepped away from her room at the Good Night Inn in Calabasas when a burglar broke in Friday night, Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials said.
The thief took all Tatiana's luggage, including her shoes, passport, and a new set of clothes that volunteers with the Thousand Oaks Ukrainian Community Center had bought for her--the first new clothes she had ever owned, deputies said Saturday.
"She's holding up pretty well," said Lev Leznick, whose Calabasas-based Help the Children Foundation brought Tatiana to Los Angeles. "She insists it could happen to anybody anywhere."
Tatiana and three other ill Ukrainian children arrived in Los Angeles last week to see Dr. Robert Peter Gale, a UCLA physician who led an international rescue team to help Chernobyl victims after the April, 1986, disaster, Leznick said.
She was brought to Los Angeles because crowded hospitals in the Ukraine make it difficult to get regular evaluations of cancer patients, Leznick said.
Leznick said the burglar who entered Tatiana's room took the $6 her father had saved and provided her before the trip, as well as $20 in pocket money Leznick had given her.
Although Ukrainian officials in the United States told Tatiana they could provide paperwork that would let her return home, she worried that the loss of the document would delay her April 5 departure. Leznick said delays in getting a new passport might interfere with return trips to Los Angeles for follow-up treatment.