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One of the criteria that were used in selecting the orphanages for our second trip “From Heart to Heart” was their remoteness from towns, and being not so well-known to the wide audience. As a result, our choice fell on Kirovskiy children’s orphanage for girls, Chernigovskiy not specialised boarding school/orphanage and children’s orphanage in Kalinovka settlement in Chernigovskiy area of Zhaporoahye Region.
We started to prepare for this trip in the second half of February, 2007. Just like last time, we were not at all sure we would collect the necessary amount of money. Nevertheless, this time, our sponsors enthusiastically responded to our call for help and by the beginning of March, we collected around $2000.
We would like to thank:
- the American with a nickname Kahpo (it means “A bother to all” when translated from American Indian) for donating $850;
- Volodya from Zaporozhye for donating $600;
- American Marino Prozo fro donating $150;
- Irina Fonarev from Chicago for two boxes of footballs and volleyballs;
- Americans Amy and Stephany for donating $550;
- all actors and participants of the trip.
I called orphanages and talked to the directors about our arrival, and Nadya, Olya, Lyuda were in charge of buying presents. A lot of little presents were bought so that each girl would get at least a small present for the Woman’s Day), developing toys, sewing and knitting kits, stationary, sports stuff, 2 TV sets and 3 stereos with FM radio, cassette and MP3/CD players.
The presents at Nadya’s house
However, our aim was not just to give the children presents but to show them a circus performance, to have a chat with them and find out about their life and the orphanages’ needs in more detail. The search for actors practically took the whole week before the trip. I shall not bore the reader with the ups and downs of this search, but mention the most important thing, that on Saturday, 10th March, a clown, a gymnast, a yogi and three dancers were in the minibus with us, ready to show their skills to the children. So the following people took part in the “From Heart to heart –2” trip:
- Nadya Mochalova, a volunteer from the website deti.zp.ua;
- Daisy (Tanya), the artist/photographer;
- Denis, the photographer, Daisy’s friend;
- Volodya, programmer willing to help children;
- Albert Pavlov, the coordinator and administrator of the website www.deti.zp.ua, also the author of this article;
- Lyuda Pavlova, my wife;
- Olga Petrova from the church “The New Generation”;
- Victor, the pastor of the church “The New Generation”;
- Kostya, Victor’s son;
- Sergey, a student from ZNTU, the “The Church and Orphans” www.god.zp.ua site’s administrator;
- Sergey, the clown, yogi, D-J from a circus group DK ZTZ;
- Vika, the gymnast-acrobat from a circus group DK ZTZ;
- Denis, the computer technician, sound engineer, D-J from a circus group DK ZTZ;
- Katya, the clown;
- Dancers from a dance group “Oriental”: Anya, Anya and Tanya;
- Victor, the driver of a VW minibus.
Denis and Sergey from the circus group DK ZTZ
Vika, the acrobat, from the circus group DK ZTZ
The girls from a dance group “Oriental”
"Romashka" (Daisy) at work
Kostya playing the keyboard
The clown “Iriska” (Katya)
The early morning of 10th March, having loaded only the equipment (a computer, 2 speakers, an amplifier, a keyboard), we practically filled the whole of our minibus. It was absolutely unclear where we could place the remaining presents, including the TV sets, stereos and passengers. We had to tie up sacks with presents to the handrails and pile up the boxes in the aisle up to the roof. Finally, having racked our brains a little, we set off on our way at 8.40am, as they say, the more the merrier! On the way, we got to know each other and the actors discussed the performance.
A tight squeeze…
Phew! Let’s go!
So here we are in Kirovo, a settlement 50 km away from Zaporozhye. The local orphanage for girls with severe mental handicap is our first port of call. 107 girls, aged 4 to 18 (sometimes 25) years, live and study here. We were kindly met by Svetlana Aleksandrovna Dondik who is in charge of the children’s department. The yard and most of the internal buildings turned out to be rather cosy and looked after. All the girls were modestly though neatly dressed. To be honest, we expected a lot worse from this institution, and fortunately, our expectations were unfounded.
A room in Kirovo’s orphanage
A classroom in Kirovo
Several minutes after our arrival, the assembly hall was filled up by the pupils.
Iriska, the clown
The clown “Iriska”, Katya, was welcomed by a loud round of applause. The long-awaited performance started. With thrilled looks, the girls (the orphans) were looking at the performers, and Daisy managed to take several wonderful photos that showed the atmosphere in the assembly hall. Many details are erased from our memory but the skill of a photographer allows to see things that we usually don’t notice in life’s constant hustle and bustle. Let’s have a closer look at these faces… Let’s understand these children…
Our group together with the children from the Kirov orphanage
After Vika’s gymnastic performance, several girls volunteered to show off their skills. They did handstands, cartwheels, and showed other acrobatic feats right in front of the stage. Then there were contests, games and a short disco, followed by giving the children presents, and multiple photos to preserve the memory, and words of gratitude that we came to visit the orphanage. We wanted to stay longer but we had to be in another orphanage in an hour’s time. We are saying goodbye to Svetlana Aleksandrovna and her wards, and I come to a decision that next time we are going to dedicate a whole a day to one orphanage so we wouldn’t have to rush…
Orphanage in Chernigovka
Our next stop is Chernigovskiy boarding school/orphanage. There are 250 children in this orphanage. Half of them are orphans, and the others are children from poor families. We were about an hour and a half late when we arrived in Chernigovka. The director, Bekhter Alexander Pavlovich, left without having waited for us and without his presence, the staff were unsure whether to let us in or not, for some reason. Â ×åðíèãîâêó ìû îïîçäàëè ÷àñà íà ïîëòîðà. So they had to call the director. Alexander Pavlovich arrived and it took him quite a while to understand who we were and what organisation we belonged to. Finally, were were allowed in.
The children outside Chernigovskiy orphanage
To be honest, I didn’t expect to see such a small assembly hall in such a big orphanage. Size wise, it was slightly bigger than any classroom. Naturally, not all could fit into it as most children were sitting and standing in the aisle. Well, we’ll have to get used to such conditions. Our girls from the dance group “Oriental” performed fabulous oriental dancing. Kostya played some tunes on the keyboard, and, like in the other orphanage, the gymnast, Vika Maslova, showed her skill. To round it off, Sergey and Denis did a performance called “A old woman and a weight lifter” which made the kids crack up laughing.
Our photographer, Daisy, wasn’t wasting time during the performance and made several wonderful children’s portraits.
Vika Maslova performing on stage
Children’s faces unusually beautiful and filled with meaning… (Photo by Daisy)
It was clear that Chernigovskiy orphanage wasn’t spoilt by sponsors attention, there weren’t any PVC windows, and neither was their lino in the corridors. It is understandable as it is far from the town and sponsors find it easier to take presents somewhere closer, and it is more convenient for TV companies to show orphanages in cities. Also we were surprised that the doors in the orphanage got locked from time to time. They say there are lots of “run-aways” so the staff have to take precautionary measures. Naturally, as a result of this the atmosphere here isn’t very friendly. Not many would like to be locked away. I’ll stress again that we simply didn’t have much time to learn more about this place as we were going to be late for Kalinovskiy children’s orphanage.
We are giving out presents to the children
We are giving the children presents and are hoping to return to Chernigovka once more, but this time for a whole day
A boy is showing a received present to the director of Chernigovskiy orphanage
A photo to preserve the memory taken before leaving Chernigovka
We didn’t manage to find Kalinovka straight away. The thing is, we found two Kalinovkas which were 20 km away from each other. Both of these Kalinovkas are tiny settlements with a couple of dozens of houses.
We saw quite a few dwellings of this sort on our way
We only had to guess what we could see in a remote orphanage for the children with severe mental handicap, cerebral palsy, and other serious illnesses. Haven’t driven on country roads trying to find the place for about an hour, we reached the orphanage at twilight. For some reason, the situation and the surroundings caused some alarm: the white building with glowing lights in the windows with the navy-blue sky in the background, with a chimney nearby that was belching black smoke. Practically no trees around which makes you somehow terrified…
At the entrance to the building, we were met by the director of this orphanage, Slavov Nikolay Viktorovich. He explained to us that the terrifying building was a building for fifty bedridden children, whereas the “walking ones” were in the other building waiting for us for a couple of hours. Very rarely anyone visits this place so such excitement about our arrival can easily be understood. For example, when we asked about the orphanage in the first house we found in a little village, 12 km from Kalinovka, we were told that they had been waiting for us for a while (in the orphanage).
We drove to the other building. Unloading the sound system in the canteen. By a coincidence, as we arrived here, the lights had gone out in the building, only some torches were lit. The girls-dancers were tired and scared a little, let's say the surroundings aren't really something we are used to. In the canteen, we are trying to see who there is in the audience. There are children…and …adults. No, don’t be surprised, although this is a children’s orphanage, there are quite a few adults aged 20, 25, 35… The performance starts and when Daisy’s camera flashes, for some reason, our audience make strange gasps. After each performance, the applause is so loud that we get almost deafened.
At the concert in Kalinovka
Everyone wants to shake Iriska’s hand
So the concert is over and the presents are handed over to the orphanage. We are talking to the director. Nikolay Viktorovich has been working here for only half a year. According to what he says, the children here are provided for quite well. There isn’t anybody who is sponsoring the orphanage, but in terms of food and clothing, everything is OK. He’s complaining that lots of money goes to pay for the heating as there is no gas in the village so they have to use heating oil and coal. In only February they have “burned” 100,000 Griven on heating.
Presents and photo to preserve the memory
Finally, several people from our team decided to visit the building where the bedridden children were, in that same terrifying white building. Here we really did experience a total shock, which we still haven’t come to terms with.
There are things in this life which sometimes seem like something from another world. If you dig deeper, all of them are connected with death, illness or evil in all its manifestations… Had there been none of this, we’d be living in paradise. Some forms of evil, like wars, murder, etc., are caused by the actions of people, the other ones, on the other hand, like illnesses, natural disasters, more often have hidden reasons which mankind have been trying to comprehend for thousands of years.
In Kalinovka, we came across with the second manifestation of the evil, in all its shocking form. We nearly cried when we were walking around the rooms where the bedridden children were lying… If you see one child like this, you don’t feel at ease. If there are fifty of them, and they are all collected in one place, it is simply unbearable. We were walking there, asking ourselves: “God, why is this? What are you doing it for?”
In each room there are about six children. Some of them can hardly move. And only two or three lucky children in the whole building can move a little by themselves. We still remember Katya. A very emotional girl. She burst into tears as soon as she saw us coming. When were walked up to her, she calmed down and started to smile. She started to call Daisy her mother for some reason, and also one carer. I asked her how old she was. I thought she was eight or nine. Turned out to be already 16.
We were walking and handing out presents but some children weren’t really aware of it. In one of the rooms, a boy not only got interested in the received building blocks that he made a house out of them in a second. I asked him his name and he replied: “Alyosha.” The carer said that previously Alyosha lived in the building with the walking children, but fell ill and was transferred here – into the room with five motionless neighbours and white walls. Here he spends all his time, though the children are taken out for a walk in the summer, but not often and not all of them.
Next to Alesha, there was a guy sitting on his bed. He was sitting all hunched up, as if he was thinking about something, not noticing our presence. As if he was solving an endless mathematical problem. Noone could say how old he was, but it was assumed that he was about thirty. All in all, noone seems to be bothered by how old he is and when his birthday is.
A guy next to Alyosha
We have talked to some carers. Working here is very hard but they seem to manage somehow. They come from nearby villages and even other regions. One carer/nanny serves 12 children. She can’t always physically do all that is necessary, for example, to bathe them, change the bed linen, etc. Hence the smell when you enter the building. They don’t have sufficient amounts of nappies/incontinence pads, and they need about 150 a day, sizes from 3 and above. This is an extra 8,000 Griven a month. In order to manage everything, you need to twice the staff. Our state does not need additional expenses especially for such children.
I have enquired if psychologists come here at all to help the staff and the children. I was told that nobody comes. I was also surprised to hear that many children in the orphanage, from what the staff had said, come from wealthy families. The usual stereotype that exists in the society is that these are the children of drug addicts, hobos and alcoholics.
Having said that, the staff working in this orphanage are, actually, the only people that dedicate themselves to these children. The rest of the population doesn’t know and don’t want to know about the existence of such places as the orphanage in Kalinovka.
It’s already nine in the evening and we are on our way home. One part of our team, the young ones, are noisy and happily discusses the day. They are lucky as they didn’t go to the “bedridden” building. Those who were there are engrossed into their thought. Visiting Kalinovka has overshadowed today’s other events. What can we do for these children? How can we understand their wishes, emotions, suffering? There must be some methods/approaches in the West that help such children develop in some way, and not to degrade and die slowly. There are also loads of questions left without answers, like whose fault is it that these children are punished? Is there fairness in this world?
Nevertheless, having see so many manifestations of evil, you want to do more good. We have all understood how trifle our everyday problems are. These children helped us see what is the most important and what is less important in our lives. We have started to build plans, i.e. to get back to Kalinovka in a month’s time and bring nappies/incontinence pads, toys, and the most important is to try to obey the main commandment: “Love your neighbour as you would love yourself.” I would like to add – love your neighbour the way he is…
The addresses and the needs of the orphanages:
Kirovskiy orphanage for girls with severe mental handicap:
107 girls, 4-25 years old (attached to Kirovskiy Home for the handicapped)
The address is Orekhovskiy Area, s. Kirovo (“s.” stands for settlement), Sovetskaya Street, house 42, tel. +3 8 06141 47-243, 47-205, 47-263, 47-298 The person in charge of the department - Dondik Svetlana Aleksandrovna +3 8 06141 47-243. Director of the Home to the Handicapped is Mikhailov Nikolay Mikhailovich +3 8 06141 47-205.
- mosaics, lotto, embroidery thread, wool (girls like to knit);
- dolls, soft toys;
- a music centre;
- TV sets.
Chernigovskaya boarding school/orphanage
71510, pgt. Chernigovka, ul. Lenina, 409
265 children. About half of them are orphans, the rest are from poor families.
Director – Bekhter Aleksandr Pavlovich. Tel.+3 8 06140 9-12-89, +3 8 066 213 65 78.
1) football balls, volleyball balls, basketball balls, tennis rackets and shuttlecocks;
3) soft toys (new);
4) toy cars, dolls;
5) Lego, table games (chess, backgammon, football, hockey, “Monopoly”, etc.)
6) exercise-books, notepads for drawing, pens, felt-tip pens and other stationary;
7) Electric kettle;
8) TV sets, DVD players, music centres;
10) toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, washing powder).
Chernigovskiy children’s boarding school/orphanage (in Kalinovka village)
Chernigovskiy area, s. Kalinovka (45 km from Chernigovskiy administrative centre)
153 children (mostly handicapped children with severe mental handicap, cerebral palsy and other illnesses). 30 girls. 50 bedridden children. Age - 4-18 (sometimes up to 25) years of age. Tel. +380 6140 9-87-49
Director – Slavov Nikolay Viktorovich (mobile phone) +3 8 066 9770501
- big, solid toys, building blocks;
- sports goods;
- nappies (150 a day, sizes 3 - 5, and also incontinence pads)