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I began to coordinate the Chernigov Childre’s Home in a distant village of Kalinovka in March last year. I was then just a volunteer. My volunteer’s life started with translating articles about the Children's Home in Kalinovka. Later in February I visited this faraway place together with the Happy Child’s director Albert Pavlov. The only thing which daunted me there was an unpleasant smell in the rooms of the Children's Home. When I was accompanying the orphans from Kalinovka to the “Golden Key” musical in March last year – this specific smell made me feel disgusted again.
Since that time I have occasionally stayed at the Children's Home in Kalinovka for a week. Sometimes on my way back home it strikes me that most people I see on public transport have a slight touch of insanity. I couldn’t agree more with those doctors who say that some so-called “healthy” people are just not fully diagnosed. When from time to time some of disabled children or grownups drive me mad I can lose my patience and explode with “are you crazy, or what?” That’s exactly the same what I’d tell any of my family members or friends who are considered to be mentally healthy.
To be absolutely honest with you, I used not to care a thing about people with disabilities before I joined the Happy Child charity foundation. I saw disabled people but I never really thought of them. Nowadays my attention is glued to wheelchair users or people with Down syndrome. I am interested in their basic needs and daily issues. And I consider them to be “absolutely” equal to me. I must be a silly dreamer because the reality is much more complicated.
On November 16th twenty dwellers of the Chernigov Children's Home in Kalinovka went to the theater for young spectators in Zaporizhzhia. The theater “welcomed” our big company with ten concrete steps which seemed to emphasise the fact that wheelchair users are prohibited there. I remember how our late city mayor Mr. Polyak obliged all the local businessmen to slab the pavement in front of all the shops, cafes and kiosks. Perhaps our current government will kindly oblige at least some state institutions to install ramps for those people whose only difference is using a wheelchair. The fact is no one really knows how one will have to move tomorrow.
The children and grownups from Kalinovka came to see “The Joyful Family” play which ideally matched their mental development. The start of our theater day looked quite promising before the moment when a senior lady with a wig fearfully asked me if “such” children and grownups wouldn’t spoil the play. She also added that “there are special plays for such people”. I’m afraid to imagine what sort of “plays” the theater has for people with disabilities.
Ultimately “leprous” children and grownups from Kalinovka behaved in a much more disciplined way than I could ever imagine. In the meantime “normal” children were screaming, running around the hall whereas their “normal” parents from the beginning of the play started to rustle with packages of food. They surely had no time and place for Saturday lunch but during the theater performance…
The end of “our performance” was pretty pathetic. The same old lady in a wig wished every child and grownup from Kalinovka the speediest recovery as if they were all terminally sick. As a matter of fact they all know they are not that sick at all.
This lady, however, doesn’t have a clue at all. This lady is likely to be someone’s granny and mom who probably spreads an insane idea that “such abnormal” people are not welcome in the theater.
Speaking about the theater play I underestimated my friends from Kalinovka. Children who have been living in the Happy Home adaptation group found “The Joyful Family” rather boring. The same was true for some grownups. Yura tried to cheer everyone up by clapping. Some guys were sure they were enjoying the Christmas party at the end of which they were going to receive gifts. Everything has its season, though.
The eighteen to forty year old guys from Kalinovka were probably the only ones who truly enjoyed the play. They hardly ever go out anywhere, so they were beside themselves with delight about the play. They often raised their thumbs up which was an obvious sign that they were having the time of their lives.
This two-ways trip for orphans from Kalinovka cost us 1,600 hryvnyas (195 US dollars) which is the price for an opportunity of special people to show us, “normal” people, that they are just like us. We are not really different. Not more, not less.
I really hope that in the near future the Theater of Young Spectators in Zaporizhzhia will have a ramp as well as plays for all kinds of people. Special and ordinary.
Many thanks to everyone who financially supported our trip. We’re grateful to volunteers Masha, Nastia, Stas and the Children’s Home staff for making this trip possible and for their prompt response. I’m sure it won't be the last trip for little and big orphans from Kalinovka. Believe me – they really cherish your care. Without any unnecessary words. Thank you!
P.S. When I finished writing this article I received a phone call from a religious organization who offered to visit the Children’s Home. Their first question was if “healthy” children wouldn’t by chance be scared by those special kids in Kalinovka. This weird question means our society should urgently be treated…
P.S.s. The son of one of our sponsors from England replied to the question what he thought of Alyosha (an adopted boy who has no limbs) this way “He has a funny T-shirt”. In Ukraine some people would become scared. There’s certainly something wrong in our heads here, from generation to generation…The fact is you never know how able you will be tomorrow. Just think it over and then speak with your children…
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Kalinovka orphanage (Chernigovka district) Travel, hikes and camping trips with orphans Publications of HappyChild foundation Only good news! Tourist events, organized by the Happy Child foundation Excursions to other cities with children Publications made by Happy Child, Ukraine