A new life without violence
By Yelena Andreyeva
Many children find safety from violence at UNICEF supported shelters in Russia
Lots of children in Russia suffer violence in the home. Many, unable to endure the daily beating and humiliation, run away from home to the streets where they find consolation in drugs and alcohol. Others prefer to bear the punishments and, aside from the physical harm, suffer the inevitable psychological consequences of their childhood trauma. However, some of these children try to start a new life, a new life where they are not victims anymore…
Natasha* was thirteen when the trouble came to her family. It was then that her uncle moved into her parents’ apartment, bringing a lifestyle of heavy drinking and violence. He regularly beat his niece. Her parents, often drinking too, were too frightened to intervene. Having suffered a brutal assault, Natasha eventually ran away from home. However unlike many other teenagers she didn’t stay on the street but turned to the police for help. That is how she found herself in Dom Trudolyubiya, a UNICEF-supported shelter for under-age girls in St. Petersburg.
At first, it was not easy for Natasha to positively change her life. Now she is embarrassed to recall aspects of her past. Natasha says that she used to drink, was a difficult teenager, went around with bad guys and even ran away from the shelter twice but little by little got accustomed to her new home.
In the Dom Trudolyubiya shelter, where children not only get a roof over their head and food but also psychological support, Natasha regularly met the psychologist, Irina Istomina. Like many other children who faced home violence, Natasha had developed a guilt complex about leaving her parents. When Natasha’s father died and the parental rights of her mother were terminated, Irina and the shelter’s warm-heartened tutors helped her to overcome her deep psychological crisis, supporting her move to an apartment shared with other young people and a carer. The problems didn’t break Natasha, she chose instead to take control of her life, to develop her outstanding strength of mind and a will to live.
Now Natasha is fifteen-years old and has a very active life. She is the lead on various theatre comedy shows, likes to dance and sing karaoke. This autumn, Natasha moved into a boarding school although she continues to meet with her friends from the shelter and with Irina who taught Natasha to think positively and how to change her life.
The girl is full of plans for the future. A diligent student, she dreams of becoming a psychologist to work with teenagers and help them as Irina helped her.