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Problems of Zaporozhye Adult Orphans are not Our Headache, are They?

April 14, 2012, 11:00 2915 Author: Polina Polozhentseva, translated by Yevheniya Devyatkova reporter-ua.com Local officials through their speeches on TV screens keep giving us statistics showing that the majority of local criminals are those labeled as “orphans”. The “ReporterUA” decided to find out why

Photos by the author and the characters of the article

Think about it: why is the main heroine in the Russian folk tales always a poor orphan? It is probably because in this way our ancestors tried to implant in their children from an early age a silent affection and sympathy towards this social group. However, as practice shows, children grow up not to be like those in the kindly tales of their parents. That's why those “humiliated and insulted” often have no place in modern society. Moreover, the obscenity of the modern youth has come to a boil, and many of them allow themselves to speculate about the orphans' wealth and the advisability of the government payments that the fatherless children receive. However, even these riches cannot be long enjoyed. When an orphan turns 18 (or 23 at the very most) his motherland sends him to sail the sea of life, where children of the streets and orphanages usually drown before reaching the middle of the journey. Only the local officials in their speeches on TV screens keep giving us the statistics proving that majority of local criminals are those labeled as “orphans”. The “ReporterUA” decided to find out why.

Vladimir, an orphan, dreams about buying a motorcycle and setting out in search of his brother

Those who have ever been to any one of the Zaporozhye orphanages will never forget the wan look in those children's eyes. This look is especially noticeable in the eyes of those kids who came to that “new home” at the age of reason. So while living the first 18 years of their life on a schedule, orphanage children have these rosy expectations of the “freedom” on the other side of the orphanage walls. However, once they reach the long-cherished goal, a face-to-face meeting with tough outside life ruins all their glamorous dreams in the course of the first few days. And former orphanage students become petrified when facing things that to us seem so simple. For example, they experience difficulties using public transportation because until recently, bus transportation had always been arranged for them by the orphanage administration. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to have places to go to. After graduation only a few lucky ones have a roof over their head, most of the times — thanks to some close relatives.

There is an agency responsible for preserving the orphans' housing in our city - the City Council Board for Children and Youth. Today there are 1,254 orphans and children deprived of parental care on the board's file, and 389 of them have no place they could call home. Nevertheless only 111 of them are waiting in line to receive public housing. This information was provided by Natalya Sivorakhsha, the head of the City Council Board for Children and Youth.

As we see from sad past experience, those waiting in line still have a long time to wait. According to Natalya Sivorakhsha, in 2010 only 5 people in our city received dorm rooms. In 2011 this number became even more meager — only one “chosen one” was given a room, other ones were given just a bed in a room with a roommate.

By all appearances, our local officials seem to be living in some kind of parallel universe because their forecasts for the coming year are quite optimistic. According to the press service of the City Council Board for Children and Youth, in the year 2012 the construction of a social hotel for homeless citizens has already begun. Theoretically it is supposed to become a home for the unfortunate orphans.

However, this might happen in the mythical future. At present these citizens have to win their place in the sun on their own.

Vladimir, a 21-year orphan from Berdyansk, was one of the few who agreed to candidly tell us about his life. He has lived in a rented apartment for several years, and the rent takes a heavy toll on his income. Like many of his fellow orphanage students, back in the day he got a very “popular” profession — tractor driver. The reason behind this choice was simple: orphans can only go to colleges that can provide housing for them and there are few such colleges in Vladimir's hometown.

“We had a house, me and my brothers, but our parents drank it away”, recalls Vladimir sadly. “But I'm not going to wait for any favors from the government — it is now long since I stopped believing anyone. That is why in my future life I will only count upon myself.”

But unlike his scampish peers, Vladimir Andryuschenko has good prospects. Despite his young age, he not only has a regular job in a store, but works part-time as a loader, does tattoos, repairs motorcycles and takes interest in parkour. Besides all this, Vladimir has a dream that gives him additional motivation in life. He wants to take out a driver's license, buy a motorcycle and set out in search of his older brother with whom he was separated 13 years ago after the death of his parents. By the way, Vladimir hasn't seen his younger brother for a long time either, but he doesn't have a lot of reasons to worry about him. Rumor has it that he lives with their grandmother...

About Alevtina, an orphan who nearly had her baby taken away from her

If you are an orphan, finding a place to live after graduation is only one problem from a long, long list. Some ordinary routines can be very challenging too — for example, paying for housing and communal services, and buying groceries. Many orphanages do have social adaptation programs for their students, but seeing once is better than hearing twice. This principle has become a guideline for the volunteers from the charity organization Cultural and educational center “New Hope”. Even though their limited resources allow them to receive only 20 orphans at a time, the volunteers often joke that they still should have enough chairs for 70 guests.

- We have come up with a program called “a family dinner”, - Maksim Oliferovskiy, the head of the organization, shares a secret. - Boys and girls are given realistic tasks there. For example, they have to spend 100 hryvnas (12 US dollars) on food and then use this food to cook meals for 15 people. The recipes we choose for these dinners are usually simple, so that they can cook them afterwards.

There are also computers in the Center that college students (nearly half of the guests there go to colleges) can use to do their homework.

Maksim Oliferovskiy and his wife also take an active part in an experiment that allows you to invite a kid from an orphanage to stay with you for the weekend. This option is only available for conscientious teenagers. For little children this could result in great stress.

But even without leaving the orphanage walls, orphans do not know how to behave in society, so they often have conflicts at work. As it turned out, this behavioural model forms in early childhood.

- By the time they are taken into families, the children have already lived for a while in the wrong environment or in the orphanage; initially, they behave quietly and gently. But after they sense trust coming from those around them, their conduct becomes more assertive, - says Viktoriya Mochalova, the coordinator of the orphans family placement branch of the Happy Child foundation's activities. - This happens because orphans live in a constant state of alert. These children are always expecting to be abandoned.

And those children who haven't had a chance to enjoy family life, often build child-parent-type relationships with their future friends and colleagues. That's why even at the age of 20 or 30 years they still behave the way they used to when their parents abandoned them.

As for the notorious life of crime mentioned above, orphans tend to choose it for the sense of association it provides. Since their early years, orphanage students get used to living in groups. In many such institutions bedrooms hold beds for 8 or so children. And where can one find such a company “on the loose”? That's right, in criminal gangs. Notably, at first many orphans get involved with them not because of their own depravation, but by mere chance. For example, if they owe someone a big sum of money.

In fact, this is a topic in its own right. Many college teachers complain that the orphans' maintenance allowance exceeds their wages, but no one bothers to teach them how to manage their means wisely. That's why, when the orphaned teenagers receive a sum from the government, they usually spend it to buy snacks and coke, and in a week or two they are out of money. And that's when they start thinking about surviving.

In case of Alevtina, orphan from from Zaporozhye, two lives are at stake: her own and her little daughter's.

Alevtina gave birth to her daughter when she was a student of one of local colleges. But the dorm she lived in could not provide the necessary conditions for an infant. That's why the college board at first showed some support, but later began persuading the girl to give her newborn daughter to an orphanage. Despite all this pressure, Alevtina utterly refused to part with Patrisia (her daughter) and with the help of a charity foundation moved to a rented apartment. Actually, as one of the volunteers told us, Alevtina had had enough money to do this from the beginning. She just couldn't come up with the idea of moving away by herself.

- In adult life many orphanage graduates often feel abashed, - added up Viktoriya. - Because the very place they used to live is very disorienting. None of us ever have several moms and dads. But orphans do — as many as there are teachers and caregivers concerned with the little orphans' upbringing.

The only way out of this situation, according to Viktoriya Mochalova, is to change the whole system. She thinks that municipal social services have to use every effort to save biological families before they reach the social bottom. In reality, however, they start working with people who have tough life circumstances a lot later, when nothing can be done any more.

Another problem is with orphanages that are being filled with the children from poor families. For example, when a child became sick, his mother was given an unpaid leave. When all the money was spent, the mother decided to send her other son to an orphanage. Such situations are numerous...

In our country these situations form a labyrinth with, at best, only one way out, which no one can see...

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Polina Belogurova

Cerebral palsy, spastic diplegia

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