Featured on Entouriste.com

Dear Readers,

I just wanted to make a quick post to announce that my images from Chernobyl are now featured on the travel website Entourist.com! Please do check it out, as it is an excellent travel website 🙂

Additionally, there are 5 1/2 days left to vote for some of my images from Chernobyl and Russia in the One Life photo contest – the more votes I get, the better chances I have at any sort of prizes, so if you would be willing to throw a vote my way, it would be greatly appreciated! Voting can be done here: http://lindzcomer.see.me/onelife2013

Again, many thanks and hope to get another full length blog post about purchasing our dacha in Estonia up soon, but right now I am finally trying to finish my Master’s Thesis by the end of the month…..

Best Wishes,

Lindsay 🙂

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Russian communal banya…..

I was once told that the point of Russian Banya: to achieve true rejuvenation one must experience near fatality. For those of you out there who have ever taken part in a traditional Russian banya, you know what I am talking about…..

My first banya (what we call sauna) experience was many years ago on my first trip to Russia. I was staying at the home of our exchange student and they had a banya in their house. Strangely enough, I never went to the banya the whole year I lived in Saint Petersburg as a student and I regret that now because I discovered a little gem this past June when I was revisiting my favorite city.

For those of you ladies who may be traveling to Saint Petersburg in the near future and want a unique experience that dates back to the era of the Tsars, I give you communal banya! I discovered the Sputnik website last year in December and was happy to find a welcoming list of activities for tourists who want to discover things in Russian cities that are off the beaten path….. one of the excursions was to a communal banya, which immediately sparked my interest. So when we planned our trip to Saint Petersburg for June, I contacted Sasha (Alexandra) and arranged a time to go to the sauna with her.

Russian banya is a longstanding tradition and part of Russian culture. It is a means of socializing with others while enjoying the health benefits associated with banya. Women go to banya with other women and men with men – you can, of course, reserve a private banya for a party or family event, but traditionally it is separated. Sasha told me that she couldn’t understand the Russian male tradition of going to banya and drinking vodka because it seemed a bit counterproductive – not to mention the rise in blood pressure that takes place from the steam room alone. I couldn’t understand the concept of drinking tea (Russians love tea) after a round of banya because you sweat so much in the steam room that all I wanted was water water and more water!

Communal banya differs from private Russian banya in that it is a communal activity with people you don’t know (or perhaps you bring your friends if you want to socialize). Women have their own communal banyas and the men have theirs. Sasha, my wonderful hostess and Saint Petersburg local, discovered communal banya awhile back and became interested in finding all of the communal banyas in Saint Petersburg – there still remains a few. It is not as common as private banya, but it is very inexpensive and was originally created as a means for people to bathe and keep good hygiene during Tsarist times when water was not available in every home. The tradition has continued on and now it offers a very inexpensive way for one to enjoy the health and hygiene benefits of banya without the higher costs of private sauna.

Here’s how communal banya works. The cost is about 150 to 250 rubles (between $4 – $8, depending on the Ruble to dollar value) to enter the sauna and then you will need to purchase your own venik – traditionally they are birch or oak branches used for “massage” in the banya. If you sign up for the tour with Sasha (which I would recommend for any newbie), the venik are included in the price you pay her and then you just need to pay for your entrance. You will need a towel and flip flops (the Russians call them Vietnamki), shampoo, conditioner and soap, and any other toiletries you like to use post bathing. Leave your bathing suits at home, ladies – communal banya is in the nude and there is no shame in that bath house!

You have an hour and a half to be in the banya and once you are in your towel and sauna hat (provided by Sasha), the magic begins. I should add a note of warning: Russian banya is not for the faint of heart – seriously. It starts off easy and progresses to a level of sweat and tears. You go into a large concrete bath room full of stone benches and buckets for the venik. First, you must begin soaking the venik and then you go “relax” in the steam room for a bit (it’s a “dry” heat sauna). There are two sections of the communal sauna room – one is hot but bearable, the other takes your breath away. We began in the bearable half of the sauna and I immediately started sweating – I never cease to be amazed how Russian females rarely sweat when exposed to heat, considering they endure such cold winters….. must be all that dill. Anyhow, after a few minutes of intense dry heat, we left the steam room and went to the pool. The pool is essentially a large tub with a ladder – you climb up and jump into ice cold water to cool yourself off after steaming in the sauna. Then things step up a notch. Next round, you take your venik and go into the sauna, throw some water in the stove and proceed to sit in what feels like a really really hot oven – it’s painful and it stings. I had to cover my face so I could breathe. In the oven, you lie down on one of the benches and beat the other person with the water soaked venik – it feels really really wonderful and excruciatingly unpleasant at the same time. What can I say? Russia is full of paradoxes and banya is no acception.

Sasha was very kind to me – she noticed I was on the verge of passing out after only a few minutes and asked me if I needed a break. Yup! Back into the coolness of the water pool – that beautiful respite where your body revives itself from a point near death! After the extreme heat, a water break was in order. There was no tea drinking for me, just cold hydrating water! Following the water break, we repeated the said process for the next hour, only we didn’t go back to that friendly side of the sauna. We enjoyed regular water breaks and talked about Russian banya and language. There were not too many people in the banya, as it was summer time and communal banya is not as popular in the summer months as in the winter months. At the end of the oven-roasting-cold-water-jumping symphony, you take a shower and tidy up. And that is the Russian communal banya. A place where you check all shame at the doorstep and learn how to sweat like the best of them. It was funny – there was this young girl in the banya with her babushka and she kept showing us her arm muscles….. yeah, she was a tough one to bear with that heat at such a young age!

The whole process of Russian banya leaves you feeling refreshed and ready for a nap! It was such a great cultural experience and well worth every penny. Had I known about communal banya when I was living in Saint Petersburg, I would have gone regularly. If you are looking for a means of engaging with a local and seeing what real Russians do, I highly recommend this little excursion with Sasha – she was a great hostess and made the whole process very easy for me. A word of advice if you do decide to participate in Russian banya, whether communal or private – know your limits! It’s not uncommon for people to pass out in the heat of the sauna, so when your feeling like you just can’t take it any more, that’s probably a good time to beat the heat and jump into that mini pool….. Na zdorov’ye! (to your health!)

For a great Soviet movie featuring the banya: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073179/

Russian Banya (Bathhouse/Spa).

a Russian Banya in a small village outside of Petersburg. (Bathhouse/Spa).

Reaktor No. 4; Chernobyl (and Pripyat), Ukraine.

On April 26th, 1986, the world experienced a nuclear disaster that changed the course of history. Not only did leaders and citizens across the globe become acutely aware of the dangers involved in utilizing nuclear energy, but it is speculated that the Chernobyl catastrophe was one of the primary reasons that the Iron Curtain eventually came down in 1991 after seventy plus years of Communism.

Mikhail Gorbachev comments in 2006:

The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 20 years ago this month, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later. Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was an historic turning point: there was the era before the disaster, and there is the very different era that has followed……The Chernobyl disaster, more than anything else, opened the possibility of much greater freedom of expression, to the point that the system as we knew it could no longer continue.”
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/turning-point-at-chernobyl#9oKyujCku8e0LSx9.99 

Reaktor Number 4.

Reaktor Number 4.

One of the things that makes Chernobyl (and harnessing nuclear energy) so controversial to this day, I believe, is that the Chernobyl disaster is blamed on human error – something which always poses a huge risk. It is accepted that the disaster took place because the proper safety precautions were not accurately followed when the system was undergoing a series of tests. Regardless of the reason why the human error occurred (whether it was due to inadequate understanding, negligence or a lack of supervision), the disaster could have been prevented. Additionally, the secrecy surrounding the situation and lack of communication regarding its seriousness was also called into question. In fact, it wasn’t until Swedish scientists detected a cloud of radiation over Sweden that the outside world came to know of the dangerous event that taken place. The nearby city of Pripyat, where many of the Chernobyl workers and their families lived, had not been immediately notified of the disaster and was not actually evacuated until almost a day and a half later, by which time people had already begun to feel unwell from the radiation fall-out. Finally, an official announcement to the people of the Soviet Union was made, on April 28, 1986.

Additionally, the total number of lives whose health has been directly affected by the Chernobyl disaster is still a subject of controversy. The number of cases of adolescent thyroid cancer have been on the rise in the years following the melt down, as well as an increase in psychological issues and trauma for many of the people who were directly impacted by the event. However, the total overall numbers affected by the radiation fall-out and its future implications remains somewhat unclear (this will also likely be the case with the more recent Fukushima nuclear disaster). The first responders following the initial steam explosions (primarily firefighters) went into to control the situation under the assumption that they were dealing with an electrical fire, seemingly unaware of the dangers that the radiation posed – all of them died of acute radiation sickness in the following weeks.

A second round of volunteers were called to the Reaktor site to stop a subsequent potential steam explosion from the molten radioactive liquid that was in danger of seeping through the ground level of the reaktor into the pool of water below….. our tour guide told us that this second round of volunteers (which he described as many – Wikipedia only lists three names, all of whom died shortly after their efforts) knew the risks of the radiation exposure they were facing in trying to stop another catastrophe, but gave their lives to try and halt the potential explosion, which would have been far more severe for everyone across the globe. When we were visiting my Russian friend in Bryansk, she showed us the monument in the center of the city for the Chernobyl heroes – many volunteered from that region of Russia and her father said that many of them, if they did not die shortly thereafter, died in later years from health issues associated with the radiation exposure. Hence the monument also in Chernobyl, dedicated to those who risked their lives in stopping the disaster from being more tragic for the rest of the world:

a monument  to the volunteers and firefighters who stopped the Chernobyl disaster from becoming worse.

a monument <To those who saved the world> for the volunteers and firefighters who stopped the Chernobyl disaster from becoming worse.

If you find yourself in Kiev in the future and you have the time, I highly suggest visiting the Chernobyl Museum – my husband and I went there two years ago on our first visit to Kiev; it gives you a chilling sense of the aftermath for many who were directly affected by the Chernobyl disaster. It is one of the most interesting museums and very well composed. For more information on the events of the Chernobyl disaster and it’s continuing implications, there is much to be found on Wikipedia and the linked articles, as well as some documentary accounts of this devastating piece of history.

Inside the Chernobyl Museum; Kiev, Ukraine.

Inside the Chernobyl Museum; Kiev, Ukraine.

Inside the Chernobyl Museum; Kiev, Ukraine.

Inside the Chernobyl Museum; Kiev, Ukraine.

Here is our experience touring the city of Chernobyl:

I first became interested in visiting Chernobyl years ago when I developed a love for photography and (like all photographers) a fascination for photographing abandoned places and the stories these images tell….. I remember watching a documentary about Chernobyl with my husband and being captivated by the photographs of Pripyat; for my husband, it has been one of his lifelong dreams to visit Chernobyl, having read about it when he was a child who was fascinated by all things nuclear.

This past week, as I was sorting through photographs from our trip in June, I kept going through images from Chernobyl and I cannot believe we were actually there (albeit for only a few hours, but still…..) For me, the whole process of going was a bit overwhelming because I had been reading about the dangers of radiation exposure recently and I found myself feeling very uneasy about traipsing across some of the most radioactive terrain on the planet (a little bit silly on my part, but true, nonetheless). But, I put on my brave suit and decided it was worth the risk. I’ve since learned that the radiation exposure at Chernobyl is either not really that bad, or x-rays are terrible (44 days of moderate radiation exposure at Chernobyl is the equivalent of one chest x-ray)….. I’m inclined to believe the latter, but that’s just me. Please refer to Ray Peat’s articles if you want to learn a different perspective about the dangers of radiation exposure (www.raypeat.com). For those of you who have any interest in taking a tour to Chernobyl in the future, here is how it works…..

First of all, you must apply to go with a touring agency at LEAST two weeks in advance – a registered tour agency is the only way the Ukrainian gov’t now allows tours to Chernobyl, so don’t bother shopping around for better prices. We used Solo East (http://www.tourkiev.com/chernobyltour/). It’s quite expensive and I must say, if I were to do it over again (which I’m not against!), I would absolutely save the extra money and pay for a private tour. We chose the less expensive option of going on a group tour – it was very rushed and people kept running around with the geiger counter and getting in the way of amazing photo opportunities – not my cup of tea. However, we did have some nice conversations with some of the tourists while riding on the bus and during our lunch at the end of the tour, so I guess I should not be such a grouch!

The tours depart from the center of Kiev on a moderately air conditioned bus – ours didn’t always work. During the 3 hour bus ride to Chernobyl from Kiev, you get to watch a really interesting documentary about the nuclear disaster and it’s really worth not sleeping through (which almost everyone on the tour bus did), if you can manage. Also, if you go in the summer time, it is hot and the mosquitos at Chernobyl seemed unaffected by our good chemical bug spray (must be because they are used to radiation!) You are required to wear pants, close toed shoes and a long sleeve shirt. I would also advise wearing something to cover your face (such as a hospital mask) in case it is windy – you don’t want to be inhaling radioactive dust particles. There was no wind the day we went, but I had a mask just in case. Our tour guide was very funny and spoke excellent English – he also had the bus stop for all prime photo opportunities. We were able to go into a small abandoned children’s school (the only building that people are now allowed to enter on a tour), have our photo taken in front of Reaktor Number 4 (tourists are only allowed 15 minutes at the Reaktor site, as there are higher radiation levels there), and walk around the city of Pripyat.

The entrance sign to Pripyat.

The entrance sign to Pripyat.

For those of you who are not familiar with Pripyat, it was the nearby “nuclear” city where the people who worked in Chernobyl lived with their families. When we visited the Chernobyl museum in Kiev in 2012, I got the impression that Pripyat was suppose to be this sort of modern Soviet paradise – it was home to about 50,000 people at the time of the nuclear catastrophe. Now it is a ghost town and you can hardly see most of the buildings as the plant life has flourished, growing heavily up and around the old apartment buildings. The whole experience was very surreal and we were only allowed to spend about 45 minutes on the premise.

After Pripyat, you are taken to the local canteen (where the Chernobyl workers are fed) for lunch – it was more like an early dinner by the time we arrived. Be forewarned, the courses are seemingly unending (lots of food!), but it was all quite tasty! My husband and I had no need to eat dinner later that evening when we returned to our apartment in Kiev.

All in all, I’m very thankful we chose to go on the tour to Chernobyl and I would highly recommend it for anyone who is fascinated by the former Soviet Union and the events of Chernobyl. And I’m not going to lie, being there and seeing the abandoned facilities and learning more about the negative consequences that resulted in this historic event (and also bearing in mind the more recent Fukushima disaster and its future global impact) did change my opinions regarding the use of nuclear (and radiation) technology somewhat….. If anything, it made me want to become more educated about the effects of even small doses (such as x-rays, body scanners at the airports, contaminated produce and soil, etc.) of radiation on the human body and the environment – this coming from someone crazy enough to even step foot on Chernobyl grounds 😉 But the tour was well worth the experience – the feelings, the photographs and the sense of reality it gave me  to see this place where the course of history was transformed for so many – that, is priceless.

If you like my photographs, please consider voting for my entry of Chernobyl & Russia images in the One Life 2013 photo competition – you may vote via this link: http://lindzcomer.see.me/onelife2013

For a great apartment rental when visiting Kiev, here is where we stayed: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/645325

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This translates something like “the palace of culture” – Energy.
Chernobyl welcome sign.

Chernobyl welcome sign.

the long road leading to Chernobyl - it was like driving three hours into the middle of nowhere.

the long road leading to Chernobyl – it was like driving three hours into the middle of nowhere.

abandoned house within city limits.

an abandoned house within the city limits.

an abandoned house within the city limits.

an abandoned house within the city limits.

a road/road sign in city limits.

a road/road sign in city limits.

cool Ukrainian car by the police check point (which we were not allowed to photograph).

cool Ukrainian car by the police check point (which we were not allowed to photograph).

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“No one is forgotten; Nothing is forgotten.”

monument outside the abandoned children's school.

monument outside the abandoned children’s school.

an old doll on the ground outside the abandoned children's school.

an old doll on the ground outside the abandoned children’s school.

old toy oven outside the abandoned children's school.

old toy oven outside the abandoned children’s school.

inside the abandoned children's school.....

inside the abandoned children’s school…..

inside the abandoned children's school.....

inside the abandoned children’s school…..

inside the abandoned children's school.....

inside the abandoned children’s school…..

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inside the abandoned children’s school…..

inside the abandoned children's school.....

inside the abandoned children’s school…..

peeling paint.

peeling paint.

on the window sill - inside the abandoned children's school.....

on the window sill – inside the abandoned children’s school…..

inside the abandoned children's school.....

inside the abandoned children’s school…..

inside the abandoned children's school.....

inside the abandoned children’s school…..

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inside the abandoned children’s school…..

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inside the abandoned children’s school…..

Reaktor Number 4.

Reaktor Number 4.

the road leading to Reaktor Number 4.

the road leading to Reaktor Number 4.

Radiation Sign.

Radiation Sign.

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Reaktor Number 4.

Reaktor Number 4.

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monument in front of the Reaktor.

a monument in front of the Reaktor.

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this structure will be going over the reaktor when finished.

this structure will be going over the reaktor when finished.

the road to Pripyat.....

the road to Pripyat…..

the sign for Pripyat.

the sign for Pripyat.

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Hotel Polissiya

Hotel Polissiya

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the most iconic of Pripyat Images.....

the most iconic of Pripyat Images…..

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flowers growing everywhere.

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and the iconic bumper car images…..

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Restaurant.

Restaurant.

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graffiti on the wall – a child at play.

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empty block-style housing.

empty block-style housing.

old steam stack.

an old cooling tower.

Chernobyl town.

Chernobyl town – a magazine (like a small grocery store).

inhabited apt. buildings in Chernobyl town.

inhabited apt. buildings in Chernobyl town.

the Chernobyl canteen - where we ate the lunch at the end of the tour.

the Chernobyl canteen – where we ate the lunch at the end of the tour.

translation: "Have a nice trip"

translation: “Have a nice trip”

Asking for your votes once again…..

Dear Blog Followers,

If I may, I would like to ask for your votes once more in another photo competition – it seems to be that time of year when I need to submit images everywhere 🙂

This year, I decided to enter the One Life photo competition with a series from Chernobyl. I hope to get another blog post up in the next few days with an account of our visit to Chernobyl and accompanying photos, but if you want a sneak peak at some really interesting images from a small abandoned children’s school in Chernobyl, please visit this link to my entry in the One Life photo competition and you can see some of the Chernobyl images and vote! (Note: the photos at the bottom of the link are not from Chernobyl, but I wanted to include them in the competition nonetheless)

http://lindzcomer.see.me/onelife2013#.Uc7cHf31qYM.facebook

Thank you, anyone who chooses to vote for my images, and stayed tuned for more to come on Chernobyl!

Best wishes,

Lindsay Comer

Inside the abandoned children's school in Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Inside the abandoned children’s school in Chernobyl, Ukraine.

the orphanage in Pavlovsk…..

When I first moved to Russia in 2011 during the depths of winter, it became incredibly apparent to me that life in Russia is not for the faint of heart. Perhaps it is because I arrived at the end of January when there were twelve foot snow piles and twelve inches of ice covering the sidewalks; killer icicles hung from the buildings, bitter cold temperatures pierced through every layer of clothing, and dark overcast days seemed in abundance. There were days when I would wake up ready for a warm shower only to find that the hot water was off, again, and it was -30°C outside. Over time, you begin to see how incredibly difficult life can be for many Russian people and it is not uncommon for one’s skin to thicken in response. Russian people are very tough and if you do not toughen up yourself while living there, it is not always easy to get by.

While I consider thickening of the skin a good thing at times, it can also have it’s negative aspects as well. For instance, in winter time, it is not uncommon to see homeless or severely drunken people lying on the sidewalks and, as a foreigner, not knowing if there was something you should do about it. And there are numerous veterans of war wandering the streets asking for money, many of them missing arms and legs and rolling around on little roller boards (even on the metro), and you just wonder how they manage to get by on peoples’ loose change. After time, it is not uncommon to feel a bit jaded by the difficulties of daily life (especially in winter!), to the point where you can seriously lose any empathetic spirit you might have once possessed.

But for all the harshness one might see and find in Russia, the people are always willing to be generous, helpful and kind. If you don’t pay attention to these moments, you will truly miss out on a whole other aspect of the Russian people. For all the cold faces you will come across, for all the hardship and suspicion, you will also find a large number of people who light up at the littlest things, like a sunny day and a bouquet of flowers. And for all the melancholy hours, days and months of winter, the summer is full of joy and life!

This being said, on our recent trip to Saint Petersburg we were invited by a Russian friend to visit an orphanage for handicapped and developmentally disabled children in Pavlovsk, Russia. Not far from one of the pristine palace parks outside of Saint Petersburg is a childrens’ home for about 300 – 400 orphaned children with developmental and physical disabilities. I must confess, it was not an easy visit, but I’m very glad we ventured out – in fact, it is one of the highlights for me of our recent trip, because it was very interesting to observe. I genuinely thank our friend for asking us to join her! Bolshoe spacibo ;)!

The orphanage was yet another reminder of how Russia is a land primarily for the capable….. it doesn’t take one long to notice the lack of public access for handicapped people in Russian cities (and from what I gather, this is common in many post-Soviet states); in fact, in 2011 handicapped people were actually banned from using the metro in Saint Petersburg altogether, and it’s the second largest city in Russia! It is a rare occasion when I have actually seen a developmentally or physically disabled person out in public and every time I have, my heart always felt heavy, imagining how difficult it must be for them to survive in Russian society.

Seeing the orphanage was another reality check. My husband and I were actually relieved to find better facilities than we were expecting, but seeing the existence of many of the children was heart-wrenching. While the facilities were quite clean and in good condition for old buildings, the smell walking into the orphanage was similar to that of walking into a nursing home in the U.S. – the kind that gives you a sense that life inside is declining. When we went to see the upstairs rooms of the orphanage, we found large rooms filled with numerous cribs – lying in the cribs were some of the most developmentally handicapped children I have ever seen….. one of the volunteers there spoke to me in English, as we stood by a little girl trying to make her smile, and she said that they can feel things like we do, but they do not know how to communicate their feelings to us. In another corner of the same room was a boy who appeared to be in his early teens – he was lying in a crib playing with a tambourine and he was wearing a diaper.

In order to not get my facts misunderstood or lost in translation, I did read a couple of scholarly articles written about Children with disabilities in Russia. According to the authors, and in line with what the volunteers at the orphanage told me, many of the children end up at the orphanage because it is too difficult for families, both socially and economically, to raise these children in Russian society and the only seemingly viable option for many of them is to institutionalize them at some point, giving them up to the state. This was so different to me, because in the U.S. I am so accustomed to seeing children with disabilities able to survive within the family and be integrated into society. Many of them can even hold jobs and be contributing members once they reach adulthood. And we have handicap access everywhere in the U.S.. My husband regularly took pictures of the handicapped ramps on his first visit to Russia because he couldn’t believe they could ever serve any viable purpose (although we did see someone pushing a stroller up one once…..)

One of the volunteers at the orphanage asked me about the United States – did we have “Detskiye doma” (children’s homes) there and what was it like for orphans. Not knowing much of the terminology in Russian, I tried to explain to her our system of foster care – how children will often live with one family (or a series of families), with the end goal being eventual adoption. But in Russia, it is a bit different. Many of these children will spend their adolescence in institutional care lacking the special attention that might help them develop and become integral members of a community. And many of them will not live to be adults. Another volunteer told me that, on average, one child in the orphanage dies every month. There was one “little” guy there who looked no older than a four year old – but it turns out he is eighteen and is suppose to be moved to the adult home because he is “technically” deemed an adult….. however, there may not be enough proper care and attention for him there, with only two nurses on staff for the seventy adults residing in the home.

My purpose in writing this post, however, is really to give everyone who follows my blog (and any new readers) a glimpse into the lives of some of Russia’s unseen people. I had trouble taking photographs at first – I didn’t want to feel like I was making a spectacle out of these children and adults. But my friend reassured me that it was okay (and there were others at the day’s event taking photos) and now I am so thankful to have these images – both as a memory for myself and so that I may share them with others. And I do have to say that I was wowed by the number of volunteers who regularly come to take these children out for walks on the weekend – one of the few chances these children have to socially interact with outsiders and get some fresh air (for those children who are healthy enough to go out in the open air, that is). Additionally, the day we visited the orphanage was a very special day which happens once per year – the children and adults (from a nearby home for adults with developmental and physical disabilities) are given a summer party of sorts, with many fun activities and a live band. It was truly heartwarming to see – the faces of both adults and children were lit up as they were given such personal attention from so many volunteers! Even entire families came out with their children (and dogs) to participate in the festivities!

That being said, here are some of the children we saw at the orphanage  and summer event in Pavlovsk that day. I’m so sorry – I only remember one child’s name, as I am terrible with names and even more so when not in my native language! Vova (which is short for Vladimir)- I have one picture of him in here 🙂

Resources:

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4065169?uid=2134&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21102423156311

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3347014?uid=2134&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21102423156311

inside the orphanage. the cribs where many children spend a good part of their days.

inside the orphanage. the cribs where many children spend a good part of their days.

this photo is so hard for me to look at. but I did take it right before I got this girl to give me a good smile.

this photo is so hard for me to look at for many reasons. but I did take it right before I got this girl to give me a really good smile!

this little man is actually eighteen years old. technically old enough for the adult home, but he requires more care than they can likely give him there.

this little man is actually eighteen years old. technically old enough for the adult home, but he requires more care than they can likely give him there.

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one of the female volunteers and a man from the adult home - he was so full of life!

one of the female volunteers and a man from the adult home – he was so full of life!

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this guy was happily dancing to the band's music.

this guy was happily dancing to the band’s music.

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making pizza, but trying to eat the ingredients first ;)

making pizza, but trying to eat the ingredients first 😉

happy moment with a volunteer.

happy moment with a volunteer.

making pizzas.

making pizzas.

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this is Vova! I remembered his name because I asked his volunteer and so it stuck with me :)

this is Vova! I remembered his name because I asked the volunteer he was with, and so it stuck with me 🙂

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this guy gave me a real good smile when he saw me taking his photo!

this guy purposely gave me a real good smile when he saw me taking his photo!

this little girl LOVED this dog! I think she followed him around for the better part of an hour!

this little girl LOVED this dog! I think she followed him around for the better part of an hour!

what a good dog!

what a good dog!

she loved that doggy!

the doggie made her super happy!

playing dress up.

playing dress up.

another great smile!

another great smile!

learning how to juggle :)

learning how to juggle 🙂

this photo makes my heart so happy! playing dress up :)

this photo makes my heart so happy!

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two volunteers with three of the children!

volunteers and children!

please be a bit patient with me…..

Dear Blog Followers,

I have been in the post-Soviet space for almost one month now and I must apologize for only making one blog post. My time here has been very VERY busy – in one week’s time, my husband and I traveled about 60 hours on buses and trains to and from Estonia, Kiev, Chernobyl, Bryansk, Moscow and Saint Petersburg. We have visited an orphanage for handicapped and developmentally disabled children (which I will dedicate an entire post to), are in the process of buying a small property in Estonia (probably another small post), went to Chernobyl and Pripyat (again, another whole post), spent time with a dear friend/sister in Bryansk, Russia (let’s make a post!), etc. etc. etc. Please bear with me as I return home and actually have the time and energy to provide you with solid accounts of our travels (which have been amazing and exhausting!) I am leaving Russia on Monday morning and already know I will miss it dearly here….. so I leave you this one photo in the meantime and hope you will enjoy our tales to come!

Bolshoe Spacibo! (thank you very much!)

Lindsay Comer

a babushka playing a domra on the sidewalk in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

a babushka playing a domra on the sidewalk in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

back in Saint Petersburg…..

Dear Saint Petersburg,

We are united at last! I find you both overwhelming and endearing….. a chapter of my life never forgotten, but seemingly still unfinished. I drift swiftly down your streets, feeling very much at home – and yet, utterly confused by how you have changed while I’ve been away……

one of the babushkas on Vladimirskiy Prospekt.

one of the babushkas on Vladimirskiy Prospekt.

One week ago today I arrived in Saint Petersburg and have spent the past week reuniting with friends and the city which I love so much. The days and nights are a blur as the white nights approach – and there is always the opportunity to retreat to the countryside where one may find silence, solitude, nature and mosquitoes. Yes, I forgot about the mosquitoes – they are seemingly everywhere and on the prowl! Women here continue to waltz down the street in high heels with ease, bikes have taken to the streets – defying the crazy rush of Ladas, Mercedes and BMW’s – and fruit stands and babushkas selling flowers can be found in abundance. It is summer – glorious summer! – when the people can put behind the depressive winter months and be warmed by long sunny days and seemingly sleepless nights.

Without further ado, here is my first blog post upon returning to Russia – a snippet of my time here….. the calm before my husband arrives and our traveling storm begins next week! I give you a bit of Saint Petersburg in summer.

my welcome back gift to myself - tulips from one of the babushkas at Ploshchad Vosstaniya.

my welcome back gift to myself – tulips from one of the babushkas at Ploshchad Vosstaniya.

a man sketching in the Summer Garden.

a man sketching in the Summer Garden.

alley to a dvor, in city center.

alley to a dvor, in city center.

the alley cats.

the alley cats.

women "tending" the grass in the Summer Garden.

women “tending” to the grass in the Summer Garden.

an ambulance of sorts.

a medical service vehicle of sorts.

garden decorations, Summer Garden.

garden decorations, Summer Garden.

mirror art - the sad face.

mirror art – reflections of the sad face.

window inside a dvor.

window inside a dvor.

at Pavlovsk park - the palace.

at Pavlovsk park – the palace.

Pavlovsk Park.

Pavlovsk Park.

the palace at Pavlovsk.

the palace at Pavlovsk.

Pavlovsk Park.

Pavlovsk Park.

babushka walking through Pavlovsk Park.

babushka walking through Pavlovsk Park.

Pavlovsk Park.

Pavlovsk Park.

Pavlovsk Park.

Pavlovsk Park.

the little girl feeding the squirrel at Pavlovsk Park.

the little girl feeding the squirrel at Pavlovsk Park.

the squirrel at Pavlovsk Park.

the squirrel at Pavlovsk Park.

the woman painting at Pavlovsk Park.

the woman painting at Pavlovsk Park.

the woman painting at Pavlovsk Park.

the woman painting at Pavlovsk Park.

the little girl having her photo taken in front of a statue at Pavlovsk Park.

the little girl having her photo taken in front of a statue at Pavlovsk Park.

Pavlovsk Park.

Pavlovsk Park.

bicycling in Pavlovsk Park.

riding through Pavlovsk Park.

feeding the birds, Pavlovsk Park.

feeding the birds, Pavlovsk Park.

Pavlovsk Park.

Pavlovsk Park.

the woman selling flowers on Vladimirskiy Prospekt.

the woman selling radishes and flowers on Vladimirskiy Prospekt.

window decoration, city center.

window decoration, city center.

parking propaganda sign. "Are you parked correctly?"

parking propaganda sign. “Are you parked correctly?”

the common produkti - on ulitsa Gorokhovaya.

the common produkti – on ulitsa Gorokhovaya.

scooter in a dvor off ulitsa Gorokhovaya.

scooter in a dvor off ulitsa Gorokhovaya.

on ulitsa Gorokhovaya

on ulitsa Gorokhovaya