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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | EAST COUNTY / THOUSAND OAKS

Benefit to Aid Young Russian Burn Victim

October 30, 1998|ANDREW STEVEN HARRIS

When Buhachev Nikota Viktorovich, known as "Kolja" to his family, was a 9-year-old boy in Russia, he and a friend were throwing rocks at a plastic bottle when it suddenly exploded.

The bottle was filled with sulfuric acid building up pressure in the summer heat.

The spurting acid covered Kolja's face, arms, torso and legs, inflicting burns that outstripped the ability of Russian medicine to treat.

As a result, Kolja has grown up wearing long clothes in the summer, hiding his face in public and lingering near the back of crowds to conceal the extensive scars.

But now, thanks to a Westlake church and other community members, 14-year-old Kolja is being brought to the United States for a year of reconstructive surgery and medical treatment.

"He's a typical burn victim--he wants to hide the physical side of what's happened to him," said Calvary Community Church member Brian Collier, who met Kolja this summer on a mission trip to help build a new church in the teenager's hometown of Ryazan, about five hours southwest of Moscow.

"Around the church, where he was comfortable, he was just like any other kid," Collier said. "But then we had a picnic at the lake, and at that point you could see the way he was in public--embarrassed, afraid for people to see him."

The church is sponsoring a fund-raiser at 6 p.m. Sunday with concert pianist Angela Cholakyan at the Calvary Community Church, 31293 Via Colinas.

The event will include a Marine color guard and two Russian soldiers in uniform. The suggested donation is $10 for individuals or $25 for families, although any contribution will be accepted.

Collier will be traveling to Russia on Nov. 11 to bring Kolja and his mother to the United States.

"He's very nervous, but also a little bit excited," Collier said. "But I'm sure everything is going to work out fine."

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