Natalia Vodianova has expressed her anger and disappoint on Facebook, after her autistic sister was asked to leave a cafe in Russia for supposedly "scaring" other customers. The model described the incident, which happened in her home town of Nizhny Novgorod, in great detail online to her 325,000 plus followers.
Natalia's younger sister Oksana, who has cerebral palsy, went for a walk in the park with her carer when the pair decided to stop at the Flamingo cafe to rest. The waiter immediately went up to them and said they couldn't just sit there and had to order something, so the carer bought Oksana some chocolate.
The manager then approached them and told them to leave, despite there being only one other customer in the cafe as it was a week day. "You're scaring away all our customers," he said. "Go get your child treated before you come out in public."
Natalia Vodianova's sister Oksana is autistic and has cerebral palsy
The carer apologised and explained that 27-year-old Oksana has special needs, and should rest before she resumed her walk.
Meanwhile she called Oksana's mother and when she arrived, the mum overheard the manager reinforcing his message. "Go away, otherwise we'll call the mental hospital and ambulance and lock you in a basement," he said.
By this point three policemen had arrived and took Oksana's mum to the local station, where both the mum and the manager filed complaints against each other.
The model set up the Naked Heart Foundation, which helps disabled children and their families
"I am very sorry for my mother and for Oksana and for our nanny," wrote Natalia, 33, at the end of her Facebook post.
"I want to appeal to every one of us, let's help people with disabilities and their families to be happy," she added. "Let us help non-profit organisations and charities who are working daily to build an inclusive society in Russia, to live in an equal society."
Natalia decided to go public with the incident because it was not an "isolated" case, she explained, and is a reality experienced by many families. According to the Human Rights Watch, 30 per cent of children with disabilities in Russia are given up by their families to state orphanages.
Natalia said that her sister's incident was not an "isolated" case in Russia
Natalia grew up in a poor Russian neighbourhood with her mum and younger sister, and as a teenager used to work on a fruit stand. The Calvin Klein model has cited Oksana as her inspiration to go out and pursue a career on the runway, so that she could support her family.
By the age of 17, she had signed with Viva Models and moved to Paris, where she was snapped up by Chanel, Gucci, Versace and Yves Saint Laurent among other fashion houses.
Natalia has always championed the need to help disabled children and their families and in 2004 she set up the Naked Heart Foundation, whose mission is to ensure that every child has the two things they need for a happy, fulfilling childhood – a loving family and a safe and stimulating place to play.