Height a Pain for Ukraine's 'Gulliver'

April 19, 2004 By Anna Melnichuk, Associated Press Writer

PODOLIANTSI, 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.


An unidentified woman, left, tries to measure a height of Leonid Stadnik, Ukrainian veterinarian, said to be the world's tallest man, in the village of Podoliantsy, Ukraine's northwestern Zhytomyr region, 212 kilometers (131.74 miles) west of the capital Kiev, Friday, April 16, 2004. Stadnik, 2.53 meter (8' 4") tall, is still growing up. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A woman touches the fist of Ukrainian veterinarian Leonid Stadnik, said to be the world's tallest man, in the village of Podoliantsi in Ukraine's Zhytomyr regin 210 km (130 miles) west of the capital Kiev on Friday, April 16, 2004. Standik is 2.53 meters tall, his hand is 31 centimeters long, and he does not stop growing. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Leonid Stadnik, 2.53 meters (8' 4") tall, a Ukrainian veterinarian, tries to dial a cell phone in the village of Podoliantsy, Ukraine's northwestern Zhytomyr region, 212 kilometers (132 miles) west of the capital Kiev, Friday, April 16, 2004. Stadnik, 33, said to be the world's tallest man, is still growing up. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Leonid Stadnik, 2.53 meter (8' 4") tall, Ukrainian veterinarian, holds a door as his mother Halyna, left, looks on in the village of Podoliantsy, Ukraine's northwestern Zhytomyr region, 212 kilometers (131.74 miles) west of the capital Kiev, Friday, April 16, 2004. Stadnik, 33, said to be the world's tallest man, is still growing up. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
The Tallest Man in the World Lives in Ukraine

33-year old Leonid Stadnik is 2 meters 55 centimeters tall, and he continues growing

April 29, 2004

Mr. Stadnik surpassed the result registered in Guinness World Records (2 meters 44 centimeters) 3 years ago, and he continues to grow. He is going to be awarded the title "Pride of Ukraine" soon. However, his extraordinary height gives the man more problems than fame. Leonid Stadnik is concerned that if he continues growing, he will have to enter his house on all his fours soon.

The tallest man in the world has to squat and bend while walking not to hit the ceiling with his head. He just hates his height as his cottage rooms were constructed under Soviet standards: in the older part of the cottage the rooms are 2 meter 20 centimeters high, in another part they are 2 meters 60 centimeters high.

Leonid has the biggest palm in the world as well - his palm is 31 centimeters long. Probably for this reason he does not drink alcohol: any glass looks tiny to him.

Unlike other tallest men, he is not well-known because he was born in small village Podolyantsy in Ukraine, near Chernobyl. Because of lack of roads, no vehicle can reach his village, and local residents use horse carts for trips. Radiation might cause wonders in the area: the fattest man in the world (Vasily Yanov, 450 kilograms) lived there as well.

Leonid Stadnik does not consider himself successful. He graduated both from high school and from university with distinction, but cannot work as a vet: cows get scared of the giant man.

Mr. Stadnik blames doctors of his trouble: they removed some tumor from his brain when he was 13, but this affected his hypophysis and he started growing fast. When Leonid was in 9th grade, he became the biggest man among the villagers.

Doctors did not allow Leonid to join the Army because he had flat feet. The man took offence of the doctors, "I don"t go to doctors anymore. They even did not look at me at the military registration and enlistment office. They were only reading their papers. People should not be treated this way".

Leonid tries to avoid seeing himself, he has no mirror in his house. He reconciled with adverse circumstances and enjoys with the little things he has, like a genuine Christian. "I don"t drink spirits and don"t smoke, I haven"t tried beer in my life", says Leonid. "I am OK without over-indulgence".

He has dreamed of seeing the world, but was only in Ukrainian capital Kiev ("they brought me to the Zoo, and I felt myself an exhibit"), and in regional center Zhitomir. The man has big trouble while traveling: no transport fits him. "I can"t enter the motor vehicle. In a bus I have to squat, this embarrasses people. I can"t even enter the tractor, although I know studied tractor-driving before. I can move around only in a horse cart".

However, this 200-kilogram man is too heavy for a horse.

Another problem of the giant man is finding clothes and footwear.

"For 10 years I was chief vet at the farm 7 kilometers away from my village. I went there by horse cart, in winter I got frozen". Leonid says that the farm has "an aggressive environment": the mud ate away his only boots. He received new boots only in 1.5 years - a footwear factory in Zhitomir produced a pair of boots of size 60 for him.

To find socks which could be big enough is another critical problem for Leonid.

The man has no TV set ("I don"t need it, I am too busy working on my farm") and telephone ("I was given a mobile, but it was hard to press its buttons with my fingers").

One day he was lucky to find a big sweater, "I bought the sweater at the second-hand shop, it fits me all right. There are big people somewhere if one can see clothes for them".

Leonid usually wears quilted jacket, clothes for work on a farm and a cap. He has a business suit, but the suit is too small for him now: trousers are 30 centimeters shorter than his leg length. Leonid is not embarrassed that his clothing is not new: he wants to look just like any villager. Recently he was offered to put on white clothes and campaign for some candidate for Ukrainian presidency.

"There are three ways to use my height: repairing roofs (Leonid is able to repair the cottage roofs while standing on the ground), put electric bulbs on the posts and promote some candidates. Nothing of this satisfies me. I"d better earn my living on a farm. Politics is not my area", Leonid says proudly.

Leonid seems to be disappointed about women. He says he "met different ones" at school and university, but "did not find a good one

Nobody laughs at Leonid at his village. The village is small, there are no children there. No mayor, no church.

Leonid eats mainly potatoes and suet. He has no money to buy delicatessen, and also he is afraid to get fat, "My joints don"t keep up with my height, I will have to stay in bed if I get fat".

The giant man refuses to go to the doctor. Ukraine pays him an allowance - $30 per month. Recently the allowance was increased by $1. 

Yanina Sokolovskaya


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