Lessons for life
Ten years have passed like a moment for 17-year-old Katya, a lot of things have changed and she has gained a lot. "I have learned lessons, which will be useful for me in future," she says.
"I came here 10 years ago; I was shy, had short hair, and looked more like a boy," Katya remembers. "I was offered the chance to choose in which house I would live, I chose the third one. It's my lucky number and my luck has not failed me - I'm happy."
She had used to living with grandma, and it was difficult to accept the new home, but she adopted quickly.
"I enjoy living here - children are friendly and mother is preparing us for the independent life".
When Katya came to the village she was the youngest, but this has now changed - she is now the oldest. "Time has flown. I didn't even notice it - when I came I was in grade one and now in grade 11."
The ones, who were in the house when Katya came, are now in the youth house or even living independently, and the house is now full of younger children. Being eldest is of course not always easy - it means more responsibilities, helping mother and mother's assistant.
"It means to cook, accompany younger ones from school to home and then help them to study. It's not that easy, especially when I have exams coming. So it's much more complicated than it used to be, but I take it as a lesson for life - to be able to do everything at home and also at school. It feels a bit like running in a wheel, but that's exactly how I like it."
The girl is quite philosophical about the lessons for life she is having at the moment. "Well, I take it as a preparation for life. When I have my own children, I already know how to deal with them, how to educate them and how to be successful also outside of home. I think it's very important. It's even more important considering that I am planning to become a teacher - so my life will be anyway connected to children and you could say that I'm already practicing. But it's nothing unusual - I think it would be the same in any family. That's life."
Life has been busy and quick, ten years have flown away, Katya has noticed. "I have also changed, I have become more serious: it's not anymore a child's view, but almost an adult's - you start thinking about future, profession, housing. No more ball games outside, but studying for exams. Childhood has flied away quickly, although I would not like to return to my childhood," she drops hint that this is something she would prefer not to re-live.
Instead, she wants to talk about the things her SOS mother has taught her - understanding and ability to value things you have. "If a child lives in a regular family, not all the parents would teach a child to value what he/she has, but here we value more simple things. That we have a place to live, that we have been taken care of. Everything is more valuable than in a regular family, I think."
"This leads to a better readiness for life - I've heard that in orphanages children go to school, they are fed and cleaned, and when they go out to independent life and earn some money, they have no idea how to spend it reasonably. Here, on contrary, I have learned to be independent - mother doesn't do everything for me, but I do myself. I go to policlinic myself; if needed, also take a younger sibling with me. I work in summers and spend the money not on me, but first on family - either on SOS family or on my ill grandma; and then on me. It makes sense - once grandma spent her money on me, now I'm grown and has to help her."
Katya is not as serious as it sounds - life takes care of that too. "In the house fun is constant - younger children do and says funny things. It's blessing to have so many friends and people around you."
Nonetheless, she has to be serious too, because she has to take soon the exams which will be decisive for her life. "Exams are the most important. Not because I have to, but I think it's important for me. For me it's important to prepare myself properly, so I could go later to the school that I like, not the one where I could go with my marks. I want to study social work or something connected with psychology and education, because I like communicating with children and help them. I love people and I want to help. I want to do many things, I can't stay still. I have to move. It may be tiring, but I cannot live without it."
Katya's most important exams will be in June: Math and Russian plus one subject according to the wishes of the next university.
Katya doesn't have dreams, she has goals. "Dreams are the ones which will never become reality," she explains. "I want to go to university, to work, to travel - these are all goals. To learn how to fly, that's a dream. My only dream is that my grandma would never die.
I am happy that I came here, I can't imagine myself in an orphanage - I would not know how to deal with my future. Here I have learned a lot, and it's very important. My SOS mother is like my own mother. And the siblings - after so many years living together I think of them as my family, we have lived through so many things. After all, I have lived here most of my life.