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Ukrainian Gulliver- Huge man in a tiny village

Sunday, April 18, 2004

PODOLIANTSY, Ukraine -- At age 33, Leonid Stadnik wishes he would stop growing.

He's already 8 feet, 4 inches.

Recent measurements show that Stadnik is already 7 inches taller than Radhouane Charbib of Tunisia, listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest living man. He's also gaining on the 8-11 Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in history.

Yet for Stadnik, the prospect of becoming a record-holder would be little comfort.

"My two-year-old suit's sleeves and pants are now 30 centimeters (12 inches) shorter than I need," said Stadnik. "My height is God's punishment. My life has no sense."

Stadnik's height keeps him confined to this tiny village 130 miles west of the capital, Kiev.

"Taking a public bus for me is the same as getting into a car's trunk for a normal person," he said.

Stadnik's unusual growth began after a brain operation at age 14, which is believed to have stimulated his pituitary gland. Since then, life just keeps getting harder.

Although he once was able to work as a veterinarian at a cattle farm, he had to quit three years ago after his feet were frostbitten because he wasn't able to afford proper shoes for his 17-inch feet.

This month, he finally got a good pair, paid for by some local businessmen. Their $200 cost was the equivalent of about seven months' worth of the tiny pension that Stadnik receives in the economically struggling country.

Stadnik sleeps on two beds joined lengthwise and moves in a crouch through the small one-story house that he shares with his mother, Halyna.

His weight of about 440 pounds aggravates a recently broken leg, and he suffers from constant knee pain.

Despite his aches, he tries to keep himself busy with the usual routine of country life. He works in the garden, tends the family's cows and pigs, and helps neighbors with their animals.

To relax, he cultivates exotic plants and pampers his tiny, blue and yellow pet parakeet with his huge hands.

Bronyslav, a neighbor who refused to give his last name, described Stadnik as the "most unselfish, diligent man of a pure soul."

His friends, in turn, treat him with the same sort of soft good humor. They're trying to organize a trip for him to the Carpathian Mountains to show him that "there's something in the world taller than you," Bronyslav said.


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