Evgeni didn't have to be encouraged. He had always been captivated by hockey. When he was a toddler, Natalia once visited his bed and saw him sleeping in a goalie mask. At 11, he broke his leg during the summer and was on crutches. Vladimir assumed that meant Evgeni would not play in the first hockey tournaments of the fall, and he was shocked when a friend asked him why he wasn't at the game that day to see Evgeni play. "The coach tried to stop Evgeni," Vladimir says, "but it was impossible."
The game brought joy to Evgeni, but it did not solve everything. His parents still would not let him get a dog. "He asked very often," Natalia says, "even wrote a school essay that said "My mother does not allow me to get a dog.' "
J. Brady McCollough gives the readers a glimpse at Evgeni's city, history, and his parents beyond the couple at the Consol. I still can't fathom Evgeni's leaving in 2006 and how that was for him and family. Buy a paper copy!
So happy that Geno's story has a rewarding ending, and that he is able to provide for his parents and make a life for himself in the USA. However, if things didn't work out, I think that he would have been the funniest guy working down at the steel plant in Magnitogorsk.
This is the most impressive part of the story for me. Geno's generosity.
But how does he show his appreciation? Ivan Semochkin, his former youth teammate, can tell you more than most. In November, Semochkin's wife, Larisa, was diagnosed with blood cancer. She went to Germany for tests, and to have the treatments she needed would cost 150,000 euros (about $205,000). Ivan went to work in Magnitogorsk, putting out feelers all over town. The team and the factory were willing to help, but time was running out, and the Semochkins still needed $1 million rubles (about $30,000).
Semochkin had heard that Evgeni was very generous with people back home. He had not spoken to Evgeni in nearly a decade, but he did not know where else to turn. He got Evgeni's cell phone number and texted him the story. With two days remaining before Larisa would have to return to Russia without having the surgery she needed, putting her life in danger, Ivan got a text message from Evgeni.
"Check bank account," it said. The money was all there.