NYC Russian Community Supports Baby's Fight for Life

Baby Iolanta Mamatkazina was diagnosed with Stage 4 Retinal cancer in March and is being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering

By Andrew Siff
|  Friday, Sep 7, 2012  |  Updated 7:52 AM EDT
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Russian Community Supports Baby's Fight

Baby Iolanta and her mom, Katerina

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New York's Russian community is sending financial and emotional support to a 15-month-old girl who traveled to the city to receive life-saving cancer treatment.

Baby Iolanta Mamatkazina was diagnosed with Stage 4 Retinal cancer in March.

She received treatment in Moscow, but her mother, Katerina, said the "costly and negligent" treatment left her daughter blind.

Katerina traveled to New York, where doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center think there's still hope to treat her cancer.

After selling everything they had, the mother and daughter traveled to the United States on a visitor's visa.

This has left the family with expenses, from medical bills to travel, of close to $55,000, and the treatment has only just begun. Doctors say Iolanta needs two years of treatment to have a chance of regaining her sight.

"It's very hard to explain her emotions," Katerina's translator, Yanina Tabachnikova, told NBC 4 New York. "Her whole world fell apart and she did not know what to do."

The Mamatkazinas are staying at the Ronald McDonald House on the Upper East Side while Iolanta receives treatement.

And thanks to some social media outreach, run by a team of friends and supporters, close to $10,000 has already been raised to pay for some expenses.

Strangers have posted messages of support, in both English and Russian, on her Facebook page.

And members of the close-knit Russian community have also sent money through an online donation site.

"She's sincerely thankful to everyone who reached out. There are so many people on that page," Tabachnikova said.

Her mother's hope, now shared by so many people she's never met, is that one day baby Iolanta will learn of her family's journey to save her life.

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