Kitezh, A Fairytale Village For 30 Russian Orphans

An orphanage in Moscow is trying to make life a fairy tale for their young charges. Kitezh is located 190 miles southwest of Moscow. It houses those that have seen way too many horrors for their tender years.

The International Herald Tribune reports:

“If we can, we try to create the atmosphere of a fairy tale,” said Mikhail Shchurav, who has lived at Kitezh for three years and has an adopted son. “Fairy tales help these kids forget what they’ve been through.”

Kitezh has proved to be a successful alternative to institutional care for orphans. The goal of the village is to change the way Russia takes care of their children and be a model of reform for the child welfare system.

The name Kitezh comes from a mythical Russian city that escaped an army by disappearing. It left only the sould of church bells behind for the invading army to find.

In 1992 a former radio talk-show host, Dmitri Morozov founded Kitezh. He hoped to make a different kind of orphanage. Today there are about six homes built in Russian-folk style, a school, a dining hall and a small Orthodox church.

The 30 or so children that reside there eat, work, study and play together. They live in homes with adoptive parents. Those parents are also trained teachers, psychologists and medical personnel.

The director explained his philosophies with IHT:

“We are trying out the latest methods in psychological therapies: play therapy, art therapy, drama therapy,” Shchurav said. “We even play economic games. No one in Russia has tried what we are doing with these children.”

If the 40 children who have graduated from Kitezh are any indication the home is a success. They have all found good jobs with 60 per cent going on to higher education.

Vasily Burdin is one of those graduates. He was just 4 when his parents died from complications of alcoholism. He says that he was treated well but only after leaving Kitezh did he get an understanding of the world.

“I will proceed with law for my business, for my career,” he said. “But after I have stability, I will do something with music — maybe open my studio. It’s a dream.”

The youngest at the village today is 7-year-old Maxim Tarasenko. He describes his life prior to coming to the village as “very bad.” When he first arrived he was a little fighter. After a year though he has become a sweet little social butterfly.

“My parents were very drunk, and didn’t understand anything,” he said. “They didn’t understand that you’re not allowed to drink only vodka and that you’re not allowed to smoke.”

Still the model of Kitezh is not gaining a hold with other orphanages in Russia. Russia though is promoting adoption to ease the strain placed on orphanages.

“Our experience is not being put to use because it requires that adults receive a significant amount of training,” said Morozov, the founder. It also requires a strict allegiance to the collective that can be at odds with Russia’s new materialistic and individualistic ethos.

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