Kateryna and Costantino
My name is Kateryna Aksenchuk and I am 19 years old. I was born in Ukraine and moved to Canada when I was eight. It was at my new school that I had first become interested in individuals with intellectual (dis)abilities. I had a friend whose brother had autism and we would oftentimes spend lunch time playing with him. I was way too young to understand what autism was or why kids were mean to him; I was simply spending time with my friends.
I was first introduced to Best Buddies in high school. Throughout my four years, I had three best buddies in total and with each one I had a very strong bond. When I graduated and went on to university, I was worried that I would not be able to be part of Best Buddies anymore or that I would not have enough time for a buddy.
It was at Ryerson that I met Costantino. I’ll remember that day as if it was yesterday. It was a sunny, crisp fall afternoon; the leaves were falling from the trees and first year of my university life was just beginning. It was also the day of our Best Buddies information booth. As one of the Campus Coordinators, I was eagerly trying to recruit students to join this outstanding program.
Costantino had come to be the buddy representative and help entice students to become part of our Best Buddies chapter. We hit it off right from the start. From the initial hello, I knew I wanted to be friends with him and get to know him more. He had a big smile on for two hours straight. I was just in awe of how someone can be so happy. He shared aspects of my personality and it was hard saying good bye. I wanted to spend more and more time with him.
Our friendship has been growing with each passing day. Costantino is 40 years old and has a very sad history. When he was a teenager he was suffering from seizures and one day he had had a seizure so severe that it had left his brain without oxygen for a small fraction of time, but enough to do permanent damage. He was also born with left sided weakness and has no use of his left arm and limps with his left leg.
It took some time and many endless phone calls and emails, but we finally officially became a best buddies pair and little did I know that my life, and Constantino’s, would be changed forever. Our friendship began in a special way, has continued like that for the last two years, and will go on for the rest of our lives. We have been nothing but inseparable. We can’t go two days without talking to each other. We talk on the phone more than I talk to any of my school friends or sometimes even my sister. He knows me better than anyone else and brings the best in me. We see each other at least every two weeks, if not every week.
I call him my personal Coco Chanel and he calls me his Strawberry Shortcake. There have been moments in my life where I had been sad and periods were I was too sick to get out of bed, but Costantino had always been there for me. It’s like we could feel when the other is hurting or in pain and immediately work to comfort each other. I have learned so much from him and taught him things he didn’t know, but always wanted to try.
Some of the things we have done together:
Baking banana bread and eating the entire loaf ourselves
Escaping to Centre Island to spend some time on the beach with a Frisbee and getting lost in a maze
Staying in and watching movies
Taking the bus and going to the Exhibition Place
Being on a television show called “The Next Star”
Using the last pennies we have to rent Wii games and losing track of time playing them
Dashing through the rain to get to the Science Centre and see all the exhibits
Darts, bowling, cards….Costantino always wins
Interviewed for a master’s thesis and appearing on CTV news
Entertaining fellow buddy pairs during karaoke
Shopping, eating out at restaurants and sitting at cafes
One evening Constantino was telling me all the stories of how he was made fun of in high school and how he didn’t have many friends. He spent most of his free time sitting at home in his room watching television day after day. He was bored of life and wished every day that he would have someone to hang out with. His mom had tried everything. He told me that the day he met me he was worried to start yet another friendship that might end up like his others in the past, but that he couldn’t stay away from me. He had said and I quote, “Kateryna, for once in my life I am happy. I have never been as happy as I am with you. You, you, you are my best buddy, Kateryna, you are my truest, bestest friend. I hope we never stop being friends. You are special to me.” From that moment on, with tears in my eyes and a strong hug I knew that no matter where my life will take me or where in the world I will end up, Costantino will always be my best friend, my soul mate, my brother.
“Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
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