Alexei’s story – light in the darkest corners
Having been a drug user and dealer, Alexei found God while in prison and has turned his life around. He’s now the pastor of a church in Perm, Russia, and leads Light of Life, which is a Tearfund partner supporting people leaving prison, those who are withdrawing from drug addiction and people affected by HIV.
Still bearing the tattoos that mark him out as a former prisoner, Alexei works tirelessly to lead a team that seek to bring hope to some of the most marginalised people in their city.
They are marginalised because drug use is a crime in Russia, and drug users are often vilified and rejected by people in their own communities. Even the medical services are not always fully equipped to support HIV-positive people well. One of the women who is helped by Light of Life says that her doctor refused to take her blood pressure when he found out that she was HIV-positive.
And Alexei still lives with these problems in his own family. His half-sister Irina, 29, is HIV-positive. She cries a lot and worries that she may die, and it is this fear that stops her from seeking medical help.
‘I don’t want to go to the doctors, because I’m afraid of what they will say,’ she says. ‘My friend died, and I’m scared that I will die too.’