Today we went to a local orphanage, and what an experience that was.
Thinking about a Russian orphanage one might recall images from a modern-day horror. Children starved in primitive living conditions, daily, even hourly corporal punishment, sexual abuse, dead presence and desperation throughout. Ok, I exaggerate a bit, but you see my point. At the end, this is what we learn from the news. If for some reason Russian orphanages appear on CNN, that's probably because of some terrible tragedy.
Well, tales aside, having no family nowadays is just as dreadful as in Cosettes, Gavrosh, Oliver Twist, Therese Raquin's and various others "classic" orphans or abandoned children/young adults experiences in the previous eras.
Life can be tough for middle class American kids with two loving parents, who can't even leave the house, because things like student depths and lack of adequate jobs to pay them. What about a child, in Russia, that has no one, but the government taking care of them.
I had ideas about how things were with Russian orphans and they turned out to be completely wrong. I though I had "realistic" picture. I knew things were not as horrible as that one bad example, but it wasn't a very positive one either.
Reality had a date with me in a village about 300 km north of Moscow, where modern day "Cossets and Olivers" live. It was organized by hubby's work. To say that it was all glam out there, it was not. But the truth is, they had pretty much anything one could wish: safe and pretty well maintained living area, a gym, a library, a media room, qualified, energetic and interested teachers, adequate cloths, big yard to run around. Besides those "basics", the biggest revelation was, they were cheerful, genuine, confident kids, as much as teens can be. In the games we played, I learned that they knew about team work and sharing more than lots of "privileged" kids would ever learn, including myself at their age.
It was a gloomy day, the grass was covered with slush, sky was grey, just a typical Russian "Spring". The mood of everyone however, both our visitors group and the kids, were up and warm as summer in the Mediterranean. Sometimes it just works that way.
We were handed some print outs and engaged in something I would describe as running with questionable purpose. The teachers were the judges, "hiding" in one of the buildings and we had to "find" them and perform some singing, clapping, dancing etc for which we got points.
At the start, we were teamed up with the older kids age 14 to 16, but after a few minutes the younger boys and girls woke up from nap and one of them, Katya, grabbed by hand asking if she can join us, to which saying "no" was simply not an option. Not that I tried, but if my hand got free from the firm grip, so that I could clap or so, Katya was patiently waiting for me to finish and then slided her hand right back into mine. Moving experience.
I wish we get to spend more time in the orphanage. I will surely repeat the visit.
I hope for all the kids, and especially the ones that are graduating now, is that they will find their way, which is the hardest thing for a young man or woman no matter the circumstances. Offering them their first job, will probably have the greatest impact on their lives than any other support.