LESNOVKA, Crimea — Marina Khodiy, 21, learned to draw early in childhood like most children. The only difference was that she had to do it with her toes, since she was born without arms.

She also learned to use her feet to work on a computer and even to tap out text messages on her cell phone. With her dexterous feet, she can drink a cup of tea and peel potatoes for dinner.

Khodiy lives with her mother in Lesnovka, a village in Crimea, which was part of Ukraine until being annexed by Russia about a year ago.

When Khodiy was born, doctors told her mother that the baby was unlikely to survive and she should give her up. Nataliya Khodiy followed their advice, but a week later she went back to the hospital to bring her daughter home.

As the little girl grew up, she attended regular schools and also took classes in graphic art. "Now when I have an inspiration I can pick up a pencil and start drawing," Marina Khodiy said.

But now her love is singing, and for the past three years she has been taking voice lessons with the hope of one day performing on stage.

"What I like most of all about Marina is her wonderful character," her voice teacher Olga Nikitinskaya said. "Despite how she was born, her heart hasn't hardened. She is very kind and so optimistic, she so believes in the future."