August 2002, Two Boys – One World
The window pane like a blank wall separated two boys looking at each other. Dima is an operator from the Bishkek CNN Students’ Bureau and Andrey is a street boy who has just found a safe place to have a nap under a branchy bush. They are almost the same age but they have nothing in common. There seems to be an unbridgeable gap between them.
Dima’s idea to produce a film on ‘Children from the Underground’ was deadlocked. Children were reluctant to let anybody into their inner world. Every time he met street children, they all began to play strange roles, making faces to the camera. It is understandable. The more people get used to them, automatically throwing a coin into dirty small hands, the more they tried to hide their vulnerable hearts.
Dima decided just to take some shots of Andrey for his film and leave the boy alone. Andrey was just under the lens, half-asleep. To his surprise, Andrey did not pay any attention to the camera and with closed eyes answered questions in a simple, natural way. As the talk went on, he was getting more and more lively. He wanted to pour out his heart; the heart that bore too much for a child only 13 years old.
Eight weeks ago he arrived in Bishkek a small village around 100 km away. “My father often came home drunk and beat my Mom and me. I ran off several times. Last time, I ran away with my Mom. I lost her and could not find her again. You know I miss her. I dreamt of her last night and the night before. Then, I was taken to Bishkek Children’s Detention Center. It was awful and they beat us there. There are many children in the Centre and often they have no place to go. I was told that the only way to escape was to cut the veins. Then, they put you in a hospital without bars and it’s easy to run away.” This is how he found himself in Bishkek in front of CNN Student Bureau.
When he was invited to the Bureau, he looked around with a mixture of childish curiosity and mature dignity. His eyes glued to the window, he could see his ragged blanket on the grass from the other side of the window.
Lying there, he had not even bothered to think what it would be like inside. Now he was in the CNN Student Bureau that was opened in March 2001 with the support of UNICEF. CNN provided equipment and young people from Bishkek began to learn about filmmaking. In the past year, they have developed 12 stories and 4 films in English for CNN education network which is broadcast from Atlanta.
Andrey could not speak English but he knew where Atlanta was. He attended school and passed four grades. Then, he had to drop out of school to help his mother earn their living.
Andrey became a frequent visitor of the Bureau. He dropped in to talk about his day, his new acquaintances and things that interest him. One day, he invited Dima and some other operators to places he knows. He begged for food in the market. Some
sellers got used to him and gave him something to eat. Kind people? Not really. “You know, this bread is not fresh anymore so I would have to throw it away anyway” – said one of benefactors. From the market, Andrey took the CNN operators to the fountain in the center of the city. He swam for about an hour and looked really happy.
But what impressed and shocked Dima most of all was a visit to Andrey’s “home”. An underground room in an apartment house. Empty, just some rugs on the ground, a big old map and pictures on the wall drawn with coal. This room was a “home’ for 5 children: two girls and three boys. Here they slept, smoked and ate. In front of the camera, the dwellers proudly displayed a cassette recorder, some cassettes and a plug set – all drawn on the wall. Is a cassette recorder the only dream of these children? No, not at all. The girls wished they had lime to whiten the walls. Boys dreamt to have a happy family and all of them would like to watch cartoons and eat ice-cream. Andrey wanted to see his Mummy and his little sister.
The CNN Student Bureau operators decided to organize a car to bring him home. Andrey got so excited he was counting days then hours. He spent the last night before the trip home in front of the Bureau as he was afraid to be late. Soon, he saw his Mummy and little sister…
Unfortunately, the story does not have an entirely happy ending. Andrey returned to the same street environment and the same attitude of society. But there is now one important difference. He has friends, children like him who understand him, who care what happens to him. The world has changed a little bit for Andrey. It has been changed by children through understanding. In fact, it is much more than taking deprived children to the mountains for a day or sponsoring one or two trips abroad.
The world has also widened for Dima and his friends: “We should not let people get used to street children and put them into a special category. We are all the same with the same dreams and the same rights. Through our film and volunteer work, we want to show our children to our children and change the world together”.