In 2001 we brought several children with disabilitie, from Zhuravichi Children’s Home to spend time in Devon and West Wales. They developed so dramatically during their stay in Britain, that it was simply not appropriate to let them return to the orphanage and we were determined to find an alternative home for them.
We decided to create a small home for these young children, so they could live in a family environment, and in July 2002 we found a suitable house in Rogachev. This was the ideal location as we knew we would receive a great deal of support from the Association of Families with Children with Disabilities, from the Social Centre, the Education Department and the Town Council. KeyMed provided the funds for us to buy and renovate the house. It was renovated during the Autumn and in January 2003 the children moved in.
Anton is blind and when he came from Zhuravichi we were told that he had cerebral palsy. He came to Devon initially, and then after a few months at the Rehabilitation Centre in Minsk, Anton returned to Britain to spend six months in Wales with Sarah Grenfell of our Teifi Valley group. His physical inability and much of his autistic type behaviour were due to years of neglect, first by his mother and then at Zhuravichi. He is an active little boy who has many problems because of the emotional damage he has suffered. He needs a lot of love and attention in a stable, secure environment.
Ira, who is now ten years old, was living in the Home for Abandoned Babies in Gomel. She was born with fingers missing and with severe deformities of the feet and lower legs. She is a very bright child who has become fluent in English in the time she has spent in Devon. In June 2003 she had an operation at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital to remove her feet and in November that year she came back to Britain to have prosthetic limbs fitted and learn to walk. She astonished the physiotherapists with the speed with which she adapted to her new legs. Ira has continued to spend a lot of time in Britain having check ups, and new legs fitted, but we now hope that much of her future care can be carried out in Minsk. For the first couple of years she always stayed with Marion Clitheroe, and Ira now stays with Barbara and Andy Marshall when she is in Devon.
In 2008 Ira was re-united with her birth family. After meeting her mum Oksana, dad Nikolai and little sister Lilia in January, she was anxious to spend as much time with them as possible and when the summer holidays began she moved in with them. Oxana and Lilia joined Ira for a holiday in Devon during the summer and at Christmas the whole family came to stay with Barbara and Andy.
Anya has cerebral palsy and when she lived at Zhuravichi she did not move and spent most of her time in a cot. Whilst living in Devon with Joan Edwards and her family she learned to crawl all over the house and to walk in a special frame, and she comes to stay with Joan’s family twice a year. She understands a great deal of English and her happy smile makes her a hit with eveyone she meets.
Stas is thirteen and has mild cerebral palsy, sight problems and when he first came from Zhuravichi quite significant behavioural problems. He has made great improvements and goes to a special school in Rogachev. Stas loves to try to find out how things work and his favourite toy is a drill! He also adores water. He has spent a number of holidays in Devon shared between the homes of Shirley Rainey and Sue and Brian Carlyon.
Nazar at fifteen is the oldest child in the house. He has very severe cerebral palsy with displaced hips, and extremely limited eyesight. But he is a lively, chatty boy with a great sense of humour. He was the last to leave Zhuravichi when he spent a few weeks with Linda Walker and family before moving into the house and he comes back to Glossop every Christmas.
Sergei Gryn, a long standing member of the Rogachev Families Association, helped to renovate the house and then agreed to become foster father to the children. Sergei and a team of five carers, or aunties, give the children wonderful care and they are supported by regular visits from a teacher and a physiotherapist. The physio has done a great deal to improve the children’s mobility, especially Nazar who has learned to crawl despite having his legs permanently crossed.
As the children grow, the house is becoming too small for them. We are currently building an extension which should give them all the space they need for this to be their home for many years to come.
Click here for more pictures from Rodni Kut.