Spring is approaching and soon we will be celebrating Easter with our families and friends. Yet during this time of joy and rebirth most of us are keenly aware that for many children in Russia these remain difficult times — but they are not without hope.
The story of children’s orphanages under the auspices of monasteries in Russia is embedded in a tradition that stretches across centuries. The Solba orphanage for the girls is run by the Nikolo-Solbinsky convent and is a sparkling example of this tradition. The shelter has been open for almost 10 years and today houses 49 girls between the ages of 4 and 18.
The girls receive a well-rounded secondary education in all subjects. Further, the curriculum implemented by the Nikolo-Solbinsky convent broadens the children’s inner world and allows them to evolve spiritually, intellectually and physically through music, singing, drawing, sculpture, pottery, mosaic, and other classes rooted in the arts. The girls also hone their skills in a choir that performs everywhere from sleepy rural villages to the Kremlin. Last year, the girls’ choir sang at a gala held by the Spivakov Foundation and the group has released a number of recordings. They are always eager to perform and excited to accept invitations to events where they can entertain guests with their beautiful singing.
All of the girls in the monastery are brought up to value discipline, whether it be with regards to academics, cleanliness and person hygiene or cooking and maintaining a household. As orphans, they experienced unspeakably sad living conditions, abuse, or cruel neglect. When surrounded with love and care, they blossom and quickly learn what it is to experience happiness and laughter. The nuns compare the process of raising these girls to cultivating gemstones. By giving them hope and encouraging their spiritual growth, the girls develop a strong identity with the confidence to eventually live independently.
Diana, now 15, was 2 years old when her mother abandoned her and left her to drift from orphanage to orphanage. Her grandmother took her to Solba when she was 9, at which point Diana was illiterate, had developed a smoking habit, and was exhibiting troublesome psychological symptoms. Today, she is in ninth grade and has proven to be a dedicated pianist as well as a successful student.
Anastasia’s mom had her when she was only 14 and was imprisoned shortly thereafter. Anastasia was twice taken by a foster family and twice returned to the orphanage because she was uncontrollable and aggressive. At 13 years of age, she found herself at Solba and is now finishing 11th grade. She is uniquely tenacious, determined, and shows a commitment to helping the younger girls. She sees her future in a profession in the medical field.
Four of the orphanage’s graduates are now studying at prestigious universities thanks to the RCWS scholarship program and are pursuing majors in History, Literature, Business Management, and Law. All of the past orphanage graduates have successfully assimilated into society and are on career-driven paths.
Ludmilla Koroleva, RCWS Moscow Director describes the head of the organization’s Mother Irotiida: "I was impressed with her world-class managerial and analytical skill set, not to mention her heart of gold and profound spirituality. Under her leadership, a new school building is currently under construction. Next to the monastery walls, there are plans to erect an educational center with a kindergarten, school, arts complex, hospital, and hotel. I believe that this project will come to fruition because, in the ten years of working with Solba, I have witnessed how it has grown from a humble idea to a preeminent orphanage. The visitors I have seen come and go have all been charmed by the positive and delightful environment of Solba. Similarly, Solba’s graduates leave and bring to the world their open hearts, unique spirituality, and internal fortitude in the face of any situation."
Over last five years, RCWS provided $193,000 to support programs at the Solba orphanage thanks to donors like you.
The Board of Directors of the Russian Children’s Welfare Society thanks you for your kindness, generosity, and support, and we urge you to continue supporting RCWS charitable programs such as Solba.
Beatrice M. Fekula