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Letter from Maria at the Shirokolanovka Orphanage, 28 February 2001

(former German village of Landau, Beresan District)


Children at the Shirokolanovaka Orphanage (Landau, Beresan District) with their new winter jackets purchased from private donations to the Germans from Russia Cultural Preservation Foundation (http://www.grculture.org).
Dear Bettsy!

I've received the translation of your letter from 28.02.2001 and your card from Arizona. I'm sincerely grateful for everything. All the orphanage saw the card, and we were pleasantly impressed that the card was partly written in Russian, so that our children could read it.

We have received a large sum of money, and unfortunately, we haven't made use of it yet, although we're trying to do everything possible to make good purchases. It's unpleasant for me to write about it, but our newly baked businessmen are still very stingy. We want to buy winter jackets with this money for the children who still don't have them, as well as summer clothes and shoes for the children who will stay with us in summer. It's always painful to us when we bring the children to a summer camp for a rest and our children look very poorly dressed.

We are looking for clothes. We feel like buying more and for this the clothes should be cheaper. But the businessmen are very unwilling to give us a discount. Last time when we were buying jackets there appeared a good man who gave us a very significant discount, and we could buy good and cheap things. Now we have to ask our friends from tax administration to find us yielding businessmen. I believe we could make purchases within a week or two, but for now the money is in the bank.

You want me to make an order for the presents for the children. I believe it's not modest, and I feel a bit awkward, but still I'd like to do it, because I'm doing it for the destitute children. We have heaps of problems, we lack many things. Last year for instance, we bought towels for the children with your money. But there's only one per child. The towels need to be washed from time to time, and as we have no laundry dryers, there isn't enough time for the towels to become dry, and so we are forced to give wet towels to the children. It would be good if they had another one for a change.

Last year you brought warm hats. But not every child has one. We keep them not for wearing every day but let the children put them on only when they travel somewhere or go visit somebody. To wear every day, the children have very old hats that have faded with the time and lost their attractive look.

Another difficulty with children's underwear has arisen. Now the elder girls are cutting out and sewing underpants for boys and girls.

I'm aware of my "large-scaled" wishes and that I'm imposing a lot of our problems on you. But if the tour members could bring something of the above-mentioned things, the children would be very glad.

Now I tell you how we divided the quilts. At a general children's meeting they decided to give the quilts to the orphan girls. They are many and the quilts are only 4. We held a draw in order to make sure no one felt injured. But still children stay children and there were tears, because everybody wanted to have a quilt but not everyone got one. We were trying to comfort them and explained that we'll be given more some time.

I've written a lot about sad things, and I'm afraid you'll get the impression we became pessimists. That's not true. Those problems are the concern of us adults. We're trying to do our best for the children to lead a joyful life.

The very first our joy is we have lived through the winter, and that's we've survived. How can one be sad in spring? Many troubles are just falling off. And we have a lot of work to do that brings joy. Now the children are working outside with great pleasure: they're digging, cleaning up the orphanage territory, planting and sowing flowers. We had a very warm winter and an early spring this year. The grass becomes green, and the weather is just wonderful. The boys are playing soccer with pleasure. Thanks to you they have balls now.

Our children like it very much to be actors. We celebrate the month of March as the month of books and theater. Every class prepares their show, the younger children stage different fairy tales, the elder show the dramatization of literary works. The children will be glad to present their entertainment program when Michael Miller comes.

The children are also preparing presents for their benefactors: they can make pictures from straw and are now preparing different compositions. They can also make cards. In general they are able to do a lot of things with their own hands and like it very much to work. A farmer from the village brought planks and the elder boys make of them benches for the dining hall. It's good when they have the material to make something. It's a pleasant thing to look at something made with one's own hands.

The tour's visit last year was a good blessing for us. After your visit, we've got kind friends ready to help us to survive. The poor nourishment and misery undermined the health of our children. This year, when we could organize medical examinations, we received very unconsoling results. 57 children had positive Mantu reaction, which is they were in a pre-TB condition. We were lucky to find generous people and to cure these children. Now this is OK. We constantly medically check the children. We received aid to buy necessary materials for the dentists care. The children were examined by an oculist, and we're now searching for money to buy spectacles for the children.

So, the living conditions of our children are improving. The main thing is of course the improvement of their nutrition, which means their health. It's very important for us.

Bettsy, I was amazed by your suggestion to write a story or a book. To be honest, I've never thought of it. It seems to me that this is the job of only famous and talented people. I've never found what I do is something significant. I was just trying to live according to the principle "Love and conscience rule the world" and taught my own children and my pupils to live like this. That's all.

You are the first person who made me consider that every man is a part of history, and everyone is contributing his part to its development. And the things which are now regarded as trivial or insignificant might be interesting for somebody to read about in several decades. But I'm not sure if I can manage to do this, if I will have enough ability for this. I will just try to write more often and detailed about our life.

With my very best regards and affection,

Maria

18.03.2001.

P.S.: Before I have sent this letter. Today we received two phone calls from two firms making clothes. Tetyana is going tomorrow to solve this matter.

19.03.2001.

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