Recently, our team visited Pskov. In just one day we visited the Bobrovsky orphanage for mentally retarded children and held a round table on the results of the second pilot Portage project in the Center for Curative Pedagogy and Differential Learning (CCP) of the Pskov Region. We have already told you about the round table, and now we are ready to tell you about the trip to the Bobrovsky orphanage. So as not to make the story boring, we have divided it. In the first part of our report, we are going to tell you about the road to Pskov and the acquaintance with the orphanage.
Road to Pskov
Our train from Moscow arrived in Pskov at 8.30 am. The city has greeted us with the pouring rain. Our small team that includes the head of the foundation Elena Volodina, a recent graduate of the university, trainee Elizaveta and me, PR specialist of the foundation Inna Obraztsova, descended to the low platform. A man was walking towards us ang greeted us with: “Hello, I am a driver from the Bobrovsky orphanage. Let me help you!” He took our heaviest bags and led us to the car to the station square. On our way to the car, we met Svetlana Nazarkina, a certified Portage coach from Pskov. Svetlana came to greet us. We hugged and discussed our plans. In the first half of the day, we were going to visit Bobrovsky orphanage, and after the noon we should be returning to Pskov and held a round table with experts from practicing and pilot Portage teams. In addition, I have a dream of seeing Lake Bobrovskoye, that is located near the Bobrovsky orphanage. For me, this lake is a symbol of the hope and freedom of children, for whom it may someday become accessible. This lake would expand kids’ horizons and open something new for them.
We would see if my dream came true. It depends on people, our free time, and the weather. To the Bobrovsky orphanage children, it also the matter of time and people to see the lake next to which they live. Children need the Portage specialists which can lend a helping hand, and, fortunately, there are some in the Bobrovsky orphanage.
The driver put things in the trunk. We said goodbye to Svetlana and got into the car. The rain is still pouring. Following the Moscow habit, we are turning the navigator app on. It is about 70 km which is 1 hour 15 minutes to our destination. There are traffic jams in the city; it is a weekday, and people have to go to work.
It is warm in the car. All around us, in the misted and rain-drenched windows we see lime and birch city alleys showered with golden leaves, we see renovated merchant houses, Stalinist houses. Liza and me, we are in Pskov for the first time. We are trying to see and remember the city through wet glass. Elena A. Volodina is already familiar with Pskov. It is her third visit to the city since the beginning of the year.
Our car drives onto the highway. The driver kindly gives us a road tour; it turns out that we are driving along the absolutely straight Pskov-Riga highway towards the Estonian border. The highway makes the only one turn, which is an accidental mistake, a technical miscalculation. At this turn – the so-called “crooked mile” – according to legend, the engineer who had made this miscalculation, committed suicide as he could not forgive himself a professional mistake. Here is to make a dig at perfectionism.
However, the road of the poor engineer is beautiful. To the right and to the left it is framed by gold birches mixed with flaming crimson maples, and far away on the horizon line, the road is reducing to a single point. The rain is still pouring; it blurs the views behind the glass and turns them into the works of the impressionists. Halfway is behind us. The driver asks us if we wanted to stop at a burial of the World War II. He says that there buried captured Soviet soldiers who was forced to build a railway for the Nazis. We see 7 obelisks, it is 16 – 40 names on each. On the sides of the pathway to the central obelisk there are two lone apple trees, two memorable boulders, two wooden arbors, and behind them is an alley of tall fir trees, in the shade of which the soldiers are sleeping forever. Heavy raindrops glisten like tears. Deathly silence. Fresh air. May your sleep be peaceful, our heroes. We remember to whom we owe this silence, this peace, and our freedom.
We are returning to the car. Several large boletuses are waiting for us on the grass right by the road. We are taking these gifts of nature with us. It seems that people are not frequent guests here. But we are glad that we were touching history.
After a few kilometers we can see a barrier. The orphanage is in the border area, and entry is limited. A man in military uniform asks the driver where we are going to. The “Orphanage” is a magic word that makes the barrier opened. A few more minutes we are driving on a smooth asphalt road, and then we are driving down to the dirt road. Now it is 7 kilometers to the orphanage. This road is ideal for rallies, which are carried out here by young people from time to time: there are ups, downs, pits, turns on it. Since 1962, as long as the Bobrovsky orphanage has existed, there has always been a dirt road. Trainee Lisa is surprised that the orphanage is located so far from civilization, on the outskirts of the Pskov region, on the outskirts of the whole country. The road to special children should be more accessible, so that, the ambulance can reach faster, and relatives and volunteers can come, and so that children can travel to cultural events and communicate with world.
Our foundation is not the only one that helps Bobrovsky orphanage. Thanks to all the good and kind people, the world of the children is becoming brighter. But there could have been more kind people, and it would have been easier to help if the road were better. A dirt road is a barrier to help. But who will be able to build the new one…? All we know that Bobrovsky orphanage just will be not able to do it by itself.
It is 10 am on the clock, and we are entering the gates of the Bobrovsky orphanage. The rain does not stop, and the playground and flower beds outside the building look very bright against the gray day. The orphanage is a neat white brick building with a small, landscaped area. It was constructed in 1999. Before this modern construction, the orphanage was located the same place – the former farm territory – but in several wooden buildings. We put on our masks and get out of the car. The orphanage was waiting for us: the health worker measures the temperature with a non-contact thermometer (and we are perfectly fine), and directs us to Olga Ermel, the senior orphanage teacher and the head of the pilot Portage team of Bobrovsky orphanage. The head of the orphanage, Alexander V. Stepanov, unfortunately is now on a business trip in Moscow. The orphanage is growing, and there are a lot of upcoming changes that require discussions, approvals, and a lot of work. With the arrival of the new director, the living conditions of children and the quality of social care have improved significantly, and we hope that positive changes will continue!
Olga invites us to have some tea and relax after the 14-hour journey. The plan is as follows: after tea we will meet and talk with the specialists of the pilot Portage team, then we will have lunch and at 1 pm, which is 3 hours after arrival, we will be heading to Pskov with the pilot team for a round-table discussion.
In the building where we have tea, there is a training apartment that is a space for accompanied accommodation. There are two rooms here. In first one, manual labor classes are held. The second one is actually a studio with a bathroom and a kitchen with household appliances so that the kids can learn to use them. There is a washing machine, refrigerator, stove, microwave oven, electric kettle, multicooker, and iron. As for the furniture, there is a cozy sofa, two spacious armchairs and a large dining table. The renovation was made by volunteers from Ireland. The design is nice and functional. Tamara, the teacher responsible for this household, tell us that the children here are doing a lot of things for the first time. For example, with some help from adults, kids are trying to wash the dishes, they are learning how to cut bread. These new skills make children very happy. When the program of accompanied accommodation starts in the orphanage, mentors will set an example for the children.
I look at my watch. It is eleven o’clock. I wonder if it will work out with my lake dream. It is still raining.
After resting from the road, we go to take a look at the space where it is planned to install a salt cave, that our foundation (with the great help of the benefactors) will create in the second orphanage.
To be continued.
In the second part of the report, we will tell you how the children of Bobrovsky orphanage participating in the Portage project have changed, and about the Lake of Hope.