A three-year-old girl born with only half a face was disowned by most of her family for her disfigured appearance.
Darina has no lips or chin but mother Elena Shpengler says most of her family have disowned the child because they are ashamed of her.
The 46-year-old has given up her job to care for the girl who is now undergoing long, complex and expensive treatment which will take years.
The heartbreaking prejudice against the child has been so severe that she and husband Yury have moved from their own village to avoid family and former friends.
Elena, from the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia, said: “Darina does not have lips. Her mouth is constantly open and all the time in blood.
“Only my sister supported me, all other relatives just stopped any communication with us.
“My brothers, their children, my husband’s mother – nobody wanted to accept Darina.”But the mum refuses to hide Darina away, just as she rejected advice from medics at her maternity hospital to quietly give up the child who would then disappear into Russia’s grim orphanage system,
“We do not hide Darina from people,” she said defiantly.
“We take her everywhere with us. Can you imagine, we go into the shop, see our own relatives, and they immediately go out, asking their children not to look at us?”
Their relatives even informed police she and her husband had damaged Darina’s mouth themselves.
“I got a call from the police. They demanded explanations.
“Our surgeons were shocked to hear all this. Of course, it will be sorted very soon but we are so nervous.
“And we need all our powers to help Darina.
“We need to raise and support her, she has a lot to overcome.”
Surgeon Orest Topolnitsky, who operated on Darina, condemned the heartless attitudes.
“This girl is now in our hospital. It is a very rare case,” he said.
“Many charity funds refused to help saying that she would die soon anyway. We took a risk and operated her as a part of the free government insurance.
“But the girl needs more surgeries. We have done the first and the most difficult one.
“It was risky because the child is very small, any bleeding is a threat for her. We know that this family has problems with relatives who have not loved this girl from the very beginning.
“Some people have no hearts, it is so shocking.”
Elena admitted that when Darina was born early, at seven months, she was so shocked that she lost consciousness.
“I soon realised that something was wrong,” she recalls of the moments after she gave birth.
“The doctors were worried and started calling somewhere. The baby was wrapped and I did not see her properly.
“A bit later I begged them to to show me my daughter. The nurse looked at me and asked – ‘Are you ready to see it? She is in an incubator.’
“I went close and looked – and saw this wide open mouth. I fell into darkness – and lost consciousness. I was taken to intensive care where the doctors suggested I leave the baby in the hospital. But I strongly refused.”