He is called Mowgli, or 'The Dog Boy'. When people found the boy, thirteen year old Zhenya Barsukov could only say the words 'yes' or 'no' and ate with his hands or from the floor.
Found at his house in Nizhny Novgorod, northeast of Moscow, he was covered in bruises, infested with lice and struggling to survive, while barely noticed by his alcoholic parents.
“We gave his mother anti-lice medicine and she promised to treat her boy. But how can you believe her? These drunkards never do anything,” local resident Lydmila Eksevna told RT.
However, three years ago the story was very different. Despite having epilepsy and severe learning difficulties, Zhenya was able to write and talk. The only figure providing care for him was his grandmother, Luba.
But when she died, the boy's nightmare began.
“Three days… three days beside a corpse. The grandmother had died and they did not call anyone. So he slept next to her for three days. They did not do anything,” remembers Nina Nikolayevna, a local resident.
Zhenya stopped going to school or even leaving the house. He stopped talking and barely ate or drank. His parents hardly washed or tended to him and spent his grandmother's savings and his disability allowance on alcohol.
Now some serious questions are being asked, and not only of the boy's parents.
Local social services reportedly ignored repeated complaints from neighbors and teachers visiting the house.
One neighbor reported offering the child some fruit, which he naively tried to eat with the skin on.
Aleksey Grabinsky, Director of Social Services, says the agencies “that were supposed to take preventive measures to protect the child’s rights failed to do so efficiently despite the fact that they had been informed of the violations.”
They were only stirred to action when Zhenya appeared on local television. Now six social service workers have been reprimanded and their boss is under investigation for negligence, as are the boy's parents.
However Lyubov Barsukova, Zhenya's mother, wants her son returned to her.
“Please let him come back home, I will do everything for him, give him everything. He will feel better at home than anywhere else. Everything will be just like before.”
All of those found responsible may face up to a year of community labor.
Zhenya is now being treated at the children's department of a local psychiatric hospital. But though he's safe, it’s a long road ahead on the way back to a normal life.
And the fear remains that more mistakes like those made by this local authority might leave other children in Russia far from help.
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