“A shy and anxious woman came into my counseling room,” said Victoria Brzhezytska, Director of Life Skills Center. Before long, Iryna Schmidt shared her story of trauma and suffering.

“When I was 16, my mother was paralyzed and I became her caregiver,” said Iryna. “Later, when I married, I continued to care for my mother even as I had three children of my own to take care of.”

After 26 years of caring for her mother and family, Iryna’s husband was diagnosed with a rare illness, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. In a few months, he too was paralyzed. Iryna’s mother died and her husband’s condition got worse.

“When I first met with Victoria for counseling, I believed I couldn’t handle my life anymore. I had no hope. I considered suicide,” Iryna said. Therapy brought a new hope to Iryna’s life. She developed skills to handle the stress in her life.

“There came a time, however, when I no longer had money to pay for therapy. I felt desperate. When Victoria told me that I could continue counseling without money, I began to cry. I couldn’t believe it was true!”

“I am so thankful to Victoria and SMU’s counseling center. Although I am still learning to cope with the challenges of my life and my husband’s disease, I no longer consider suicide. Without this therapy, I would be dead. Instead, I have more strength. I am learning to value each day of my life that my husband is still alive.”

Iryna can’t believe that she now works for SMU as the center’s receptionist. She marvels at the friendly and safe atmosphere. She feels accepted and she is pursuing a dream she has had for more than twenty years: Iryna is going to school to become a psychologist herself!

“Thanks to the counseling center and Victoria, somebody was willing to cover my expenses to go to school. Now I dream of helping others like I have been helped,” said Iryna. “Thank you so much for helping people like me! I am so grateful for the change that has happened in my life through SMU.”

Victoria Brzhezytska, Director of Life Skills Center Iryna Schmidt, Receptionist/Secretary at Zhitomir Samaritan Center