“Annushka” and War
Fort Russ, September 11th, 2016
When I was twelve, the local small kids used to follow me around. My mom had to repel hordes storming our home: “Duuunyaaaa, Duuuuunyaaaaa!” The roar would never cease.
As soon as I passed the gate, I would be surrounded: “Just one story, pleeeeze!”
Next thing I know, I am sitting with them on top of my head and telling them about “Zuvembi” and how they “chopped everyone to bits.”
And I can’t even describe what happened on the beach: “Teach us how to dive! Get a crawfish! Slide!”
I get swarmed by kids, like flies, in every orphanage. It’s probably due to them not getting enough attention. But every kid who hugs me sends me back into my own childhood – when I shivered cold on the stones, catching crawfish for my little “sidekicks” till I turned blue.
“Annushka” in Antratsit has been a “care center” for about 2-3 years. It used to be a “shelter” before then, which meant “a place that can temporarily accommodate kids, for no more than 3 months”. Now, as a “center”, it’s a more advanced organization, since it tries to help its charges (psychological rehabilitation, etc.), and kids can stay here for about 9 months. We wrote about a similar institution in Stakhanov earlier.
About 3 thousand kids, aged 3 through 18, passed through “Annushka”. It defies imagination.
The director, Anna Nikolayevna Stetsenko (hence “Annushka”), is a stocky and unusual woman. She told us how they survived the most difficult period, the summer of 2014. Even though there was little warfare in Antratsit (compared to Gorlovka), the kids remember it just the same. The neighboring Solnechnaya street was hit by two shells which failed to explode. Sabotage groups ran into the building and shot out one of the windows. The building itself was built in 1938, and the staff feared it will collapse.
“When the shelling was severe, we’d take the kids home with us and stayed in the cellars.”
The kids in the center usually have problems. Some are nearly normal and their “unusualness” amounts to lack of social adaptation. But others have more serious issues. The center has a whole crew of specialists, including psychologists, speech therapists, diagnosticians, etc. The kids are mostly from Antratsit and surrounding areas.
I can say kids here are different from the ones in Stakhanov. Half of the Stakhanov center kids are from Pervomaysk – which was a meatgrinder. Many kids there lost relatives, some right before their eyes. Nearly all the kids spent up to half a year in bomb shelters and many were virtually starving since the city was under “blockade”. Many were left completely homeless.
Antratsit, by comparison, did not experience the war.
The kids at the Stakhanov center almost did not smile, in spite of the amazing staff there. The staff there said that when Grandfather Frost came with the presents, kids started crying. That’s the level of stress the kids experienced.
In “Annushka”, on the other hand, the kids are smiling and open. They did not hesitate to take our Zhenya and Seryozha by the hand and take them around to show the just-blooming flowers.
Some of the kids simply would not let go of me–they would keep on hugging and holding.
Like the neighborhood kids back in the day, standing right under our windows. But these kids have nobody…
Our humanitarian aid. We visited in April. There were 15 people at the center then. The whole budget is only 34 thousand rubles ($550 per month – ed.). Therefore they have to rely heavily on humanitarian aid and philanthropy. The staff was particularly glad to receive cleaning supplies, fruit, and butter – they can rarely afford those things.
Thanks to all who pitched in!