Russia's children face homelessness & violence as economy sags FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 4 Nov 1998 13:28:41 -0400


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http://www.phillynews.com:80/inquirer/98/Nov/04/front_page/KIDS04.htm
FWD  Philadelphia Inquirer front page - November 4, 1998

As nation's adults struggle, many young are
neglected, or worse.

CRUEL TIMES FOR RUSSIA'S CHILDREN

By Dave Montgomery
Knight Ridder News Service

MOSCOW -- Her hair shorn for lice, 6-year-old Christina Savinkova casually
explained that the horseshoe-shaped scar on the right side of her head is a
brutal memento of one of her father's drunken rages. He slammed her into a
kitchen radiator when was she was 2, or, as she puts it, "when I was a kid."

Last month, relief workers rescued Christina and her 7-year-old brother,
Roman, from their squalid, overcrowded apartment and placed them in the
temporary refuge of a Red Cross shelter. A fading bruise under Roman's
right eye is evidence of his last beating, just a few weeks ago.

Even before the country's financial crisis, experts called the children of
Russia an endangered species, subject to far more violence, neglect and
homelessness than their contemporaries in Western Europe and North America.
Now, rising unemployment and soaring prices are making life even grimmer
for Russia's children. As parents are devastated by rising unemployment,
alcoholism, drug addiction and runaway violent crime, some children are
living on the streets, others are orphaned, and others are plucked from
abusive homes and placed in shelters.

Studies by UNICEF and other organizations have shown a steady increase in
infant-mortality rates, child abuse, drug addiction and AIDS infections
since the collapse of communism. As many as 40 percent of Russia's children
live in poverty. In 1996, according to one report, 17,000 Russian children
were victims of violent attacks and 2,000 committed suicide. Since 1989,
the suicide rate for teenage boys has doubled and is far higher than that
of Western European
countries.

The number of homeless children has become so large, more than one million
by some estimates, that Russians have resurrected the term besprizorniki,
or neglected ones, that was used to describe the orphans of the civil war
that followed the Bolshevik Revolution.

"In this crisis," said Caroline Hurford of the International Red Cross,
"children are likely to come out worst."

In Moscow and St. Petersburg, legions of underage panhandlers and
pickpockets roam the streets and congregate at subway stops and train
stations, ever vigilant for approaching police. A homeless 8-year-old girl
in Moscow was dubbed "the child of Bucharest" because she got handouts from
sympathetic workers at a store named after the Romanian capital.

"Children are in an especially difficult situation," said Emmanuelle
Tremblay, a Moscow project officer for UNICEF. "Some people are in such a
state of despair. A lot of people with drug problems and alcohol problems
have nowhere to turn, and the economic crisis will reinforce these
problems."

In St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, the number of homeless
children has risen 47 percent and the number of children in shelters has
more than doubled since the economic crisis began in August, according to a
survey by the St. Petersburg Sociology Center. Of 1,000 families surveyed,
895 said they were suffering financial hardship, compared with 250 before
the crisis.

Moscow police believe that more than 130,000 homeless children are
wandering the capital city, finding shelter in abandoned buildings,
underpasses and subway stations. Seryozha, an 11-year-old whose father was
killed three years ago, lives with two dogs, Princess and Malysh, in a
central Moscow underpass near Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's office. He sleeps in
cardboard boxes and begs for donations from passersby.

While the economic crisis has increased the number of children needing
help, it also is ravaging relief agencies and social-service organizations.
Contributions, already meager, have nose-dived since the crisis began, and
social workers complain that the cash-strapped government has made little
or no commitment to help. Some, citing Russia's pervasive corruption, also
suspect that money earmarked for relief programs is siphoned off long
before it reaches its destination.

"There has always been a tradition here to pay too little attention to the
most important thing a society can have -- the health of its children,"
said Bulat Shirgalin, who heads the Russian Charity Fund, which works with
children who have drug and alcohol problems.

In Moscow, a city of more than 10 million, Galina Nikolayevna runs what is
believed to be the city's only soup kitchen for homeless children,
sponsored by the Red Cross. Each day at 3 p.m., about 30 children gather in
the first-floor canteen of a Moscow high-rise, consume a meal that
typically consists of borscht, cabbage salad, meat and rice, and retreat to
the streets.

"I don't know where they all come from and where they all go," Nikolayevna
said. Since the financial crisis, "all our problems doubled," she said, but
the soup kitchen has neither the space nor the money to feed more children.

At an overcrowded Red Cross shelter across town, bunks are lined end to end
to accommodate a growing clientele of victimized children, many recounting
stories of abuse and violence. The shelter's director, Irina A.
Lernotchinskaia, herself an orphan, recalls that one family of 10 was so
destitute, the father killed himself after learning that his wife was
pregnant again. The mother later strangled her newborn and poisoned
herself, orphaning her eight surviving children.

Twenty-seven children, ranging from 2 to 14, were housed in the shelter
last week waiting for authorities to decide their future -- more than
likely, placement in an orphanage. White folders titled "History of the
Development of a Child" supposedly chronicled their lives, but many of the
spaces were blank.

A typical case history is that of Leonard, about 4, who was found in the
street near the Belorussky railway station. His folder said simply: "No
documents."

A 10-year-old girl named Nastya witnessed her parents' murder in Rostov,
shelter officials said, and was driven about 600 miles to Moscow by the
killers. She was left on a Moscow street, where she was found by relief
workers.

Christina and Roman were taken to the shelter Oct. 19, after neighbors
called authorities. The children were among three families who shared a
lice-infested three-room apartment. At the shelter, the brother and sister
snatch bread to hide under their pillows at night, said shelter workers,
suggesting they had been deprived of food at home.

"Daddy ate meat and gave macaroni to me," Roman explained. His sister
recalled the time their father pushed her into the radiator. "He was
drunk," she said. "I wanted to play in the kitchen and he said go away."

While many of the children display an exterior toughness, their troubled
backgrounds have left physical and emotional scars.

Some try to mask their past with revisionist retellings of their young lives.

Mila, a 5-year-old charmer who enjoys singing, talked of a tranquil life
with her two parents and a brother. "My mother is at work," she said. "She
will come pick me up."

In truth, Mila was found wandering near the Tsaritsyno subway station. Her
father, a drug addict, was killed, and her mother is in prison. Since she
was brought to the shelter, workers there say, she has been confrontational
with other children, provoking fights and breaking toys.

Still, many of the orphans of Russia's latest storm long to return to their
families, often staring out the windows and waiting for their mothers. Says
shelter worker Galina Shalygina: "The sad thing is that they have no idea
how terrible their lives are because they have nothing to compare it to."

END FORWARD


** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

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http://www.phillynews.com:80/inquirer/98/Nov/04/front_page/KIDS04.htm

FWD  Philadelphia Inquirer front page - November 4, 1998


<paraindent><param>right,left</param>As nation's adults struggle, many
young are

neglected, or worse. 


CRUEL TIMES FOR RUSSIA'S CHILDREN


By Dave Montgomery

Knight Ridder News Service

</paraindent>

MOSCOW -- Her hair shorn for lice, 6-year-old Christina Savinkova
casually explained that the horseshoe-shaped scar on the right side of
her head is a brutal memento of one of her father's drunken rages. He
slammed her into a kitchen radiator when was she was 2, or, as she puts
it, "when I was a kid."


Last month, relief workers rescued Christina and her 7-year-old
brother, Roman, from their squalid, overcrowded apartment and placed
them in the temporary refuge of a Red Cross shelter. A fading bruise
under Roman's right eye is evidence of his last beating, just a few
weeks ago.


Even before the country's financial crisis, experts called the children
of Russia an endangered species, subject to far more violence, neglect
and homelessness than their contemporaries in Western Europe and North
America. Now, rising unemployment and soaring prices are making life
even grimmer for Russia's children. As parents are devastated by rising
unemployment, alcoholism, drug addiction and runaway violent crime,
some children are living on the streets, others are orphaned, and
others are plucked from abusive homes and placed in shelters.


Studies by UNICEF and other organizations have shown a steady increase
in infant-mortality rates, child abuse, drug addiction and AIDS
infections since the collapse of communism. As many as 40 percent of
Russia's children live in poverty. In 1996, according to one report,
17,000 Russian children were victims of violent attacks and 2,000
committed suicide. Since 1989, the suicide rate for teenage boys has
doubled and is far higher than that of Western European

countries.


The number of homeless children has become so large, more than one
million by some estimates, that Russians have resurrected the term
besprizorniki, or neglected ones, that was used to describe the orphans
of the civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution.


"In this crisis," said Caroline Hurford of the International Red Cross,
"children are likely to come out worst."


In Moscow and St. Petersburg, legions of underage panhandlers and
pickpockets roam the streets and congregate at subway stops and train
stations, ever vigilant for approaching police. A homeless 8-year-old
girl in Moscow was dubbed "the child of Bucharest" because she got
handouts from sympathetic workers at a store named after the Romanian
capital.


"Children are in an especially difficult situation," said Emmanuelle
Tremblay, a Moscow project officer for UNICEF. "Some people are in such
a state of despair. A lot of people with drug problems and alcohol
problems have nowhere to turn, and the economic crisis will reinforce
these problems."


In St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, the number of homeless
children has risen 47 percent and the number of children in shelters
has more than doubled since the economic crisis began in August,
according to a survey by the St. Petersburg Sociology Center. Of 1,000
families surveyed, 895 said they were suffering financial hardship,
compared with 250 before the crisis.


Moscow police believe that more than 130,000 homeless children are
wandering the capital city, finding shelter in abandoned buildings,
underpasses and subway stations. Seryozha, an 11-year-old whose father
was killed three years ago, lives with two dogs, Princess and Malysh,
in a central Moscow underpass near Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's office. He
sleeps in cardboard boxes and begs for donations from passersby.


While the economic crisis has increased the number of children needing
help, it also is ravaging relief agencies and social-service
organizations. Contributions, already meager, have nose-dived since the
crisis began, and social workers complain that the cash-strapped
government has made little or no commitment to help. Some, citing
Russia's pervasive corruption, also suspect that money earmarked for
relief programs is siphoned off long before it reaches its
destination.


"There has always been a tradition here to pay too little attention to
the most important thing a society can have -- the health of its
children," said Bulat Shirgalin, who heads the Russian Charity Fund,
which works with children who have drug and alcohol problems.


In Moscow, a city of more than 10 million, Galina Nikolayevna runs what
is believed to be the city's only soup kitchen for homeless children,
sponsored by the Red Cross. Each day at 3 p.m., about 30 children
gather in the first-floor canteen of a Moscow high-rise, consume a meal
that typically consists of borscht, cabbage salad, meat and rice, and
retreat to the streets.


"I don't know where they all come from and where they all go,"
Nikolayevna said. Since the financial crisis, "all our problems
doubled," she said, but the soup kitchen has neither the space nor the
money to feed more children.


At an overcrowded Red Cross shelter across town, bunks are lined end to
end to accommodate a growing clientele of victimized children, many
recounting stories of abuse and violence. The shelter's director, Irina
A. Lernotchinskaia, herself an orphan, recalls that one family of 10
was so destitute, the father killed himself after learning that his
wife was pregnant again. The mother later strangled her newborn and
poisoned herself, orphaning her eight surviving children.


Twenty-seven children, ranging from 2 to 14, were housed in the shelter
last week waiting for authorities to decide their future -- more than
likely, placement in an orphanage. White folders titled "History of the
Development of a Child" supposedly chronicled their lives, but many of
the spaces were blank.


A typical case history is that of Leonard, about 4, who was found in
the street near the Belorussky railway station. His folder said simply:
"No documents." 


A 10-year-old girl named Nastya witnessed her parents' murder in
Rostov, shelter officials said, and was driven about 600 miles to
Moscow by the killers. She was left on a Moscow street, where she was
found by relief workers.


Christina and Roman were taken to the shelter Oct. 19, after neighbors
called authorities. The children were among three families who shared a
lice-infested three-room apartment. At the shelter, the brother and
sister snatch bread to hide under their pillows at night, said shelter
workers, suggesting they had been deprived of food at home.


"Daddy ate meat and gave macaroni to me," Roman explained. His sister
recalled the time their father pushed her into the radiator. "He was
drunk," she said. "I wanted to play in the kitchen and he said go
away."


While many of the children display an exterior toughness, their
troubled backgrounds have left physical and emotional scars.


Some try to mask their past with revisionist retellings of their young
lives.


Mila, a 5-year-old charmer who enjoys singing, talked of a tranquil
life with her two parents and a brother. "My mother is at work," she
said. "She will come pick me up."


In truth, Mila was found wandering near the Tsaritsyno subway station.
Her father, a drug addict, was killed, and her mother is in prison.
Since she was brought to the shelter, workers there say, she has been
confrontational with other children, provoking fights and breaking
toys.


Still, many of the orphans of Russia's latest storm long to return to
their families, often staring out the windows and waiting for their
mothers. Says shelter worker Galina Shalygina: "The sad thing is that
they have no idea how terrible their lives are because they have
nothing to compare it to."


END FORWARD

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

--============_-1301921966==_ma============--