Supermodel's post on disabled sister being thrown out of cafe goes viral

Russian model Natalia Vodianova hosting the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Russian model Natalia Vodianova hosting the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.AFP

A Facebook post from Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova has gone viral after her sister was verbally abused and kicked out of a cafe for being disabled.

Sister Oksana, 27, who has autism and cerebral palsy, went to a cafe with her carer on a hot day in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod, according to a BBC report.

But the cafe owner did not take kindly to Oksana, who he allegedly said was "scaring all the customers away".

According to Vodianova's Facebook post, the owner demanded that both women leave immediately. 

"Leave. You're scaring all our customers away. Go and get medical help for you and your child. And then go out in public," he apparently said.

After the carer tried to explain that Oksana (above right, with her sister) had special needs, the owner apparently called security guards to force the two women out.

"Leave, or we'll call a nuthouse, and an ambulance, and will lock you in a cellar," Vodianova quoted one of the guards as saying in her Facebook post.

Natalia and Oksana's mother Larisa was called, and the women were all taken to the police on suspicion of "minor hooliganism".

Natalia Vodianova, who has appeared on the cover of Vogue and fronted campaigns for Calvin Klein, took to Facebook to share her sister's story late on Aug 12.

Within a day, the Facebook post had 80,000 likes and over 4,700 comments.

The story made it onto major TV channels.

No charges were brought against the women, and instead the attention prompted a criminal investigation into whether there had been "humiliation of human dignity" by the cafe owners.

The owners defended their actions, however, said the BBC. They said Oksana was behaving "strangely".

"She was sitting on the pavement for an hour. She hit her head against the wall," Anar Bayramov, the owner's son, told the state-owned Rossiya 1 TV channel.

Online, some agreed with the owners.

"The look of a sick person does not improve your appetite," said a comment on VKontakte, Russia's answer to Facebook.

But many more Russians sided with Oksana online, and condemned the cafe owner's actions.

"These people are sick, they are an embarrassment for humanity," wrote Sarmad Akram on Vodianova's Facebook page.

Prominent Russians joined in the criticism.

"I will never set foot in the Flamingo cafe and I hope you will support me," editor-in-chief of The New Times magazine Yevgeniya Albats tweeted.

Other Russians questioned Vodianova's motives, saying she was seeking media attention.

"The disabled have nothing to do with it, Vodianova has inflated her PR Western-style," one person tweeted.

"Ms Vodianova, since you have so much money, why haven't you provided your sister with a life in some proper health centre for sick people by the sea, for instance?" a VKontakte user asked.

According to disability experts, the situation with Vodianova's sister is "typical" for Russia, and "every family with such a child" faces similar situations.

Irina Dolotova of Road to World - a Russian charity for children with special needs - told BBC Trending that Russia was just "at the beginning of the path" in terms of disability rights protection.

"This situation is new. Until the 1990s it wasn't considered acceptable to show such children, there are a lot of superstitious beliefs, and there's little awareness in society," she said.