Portrait of an SOS family at Children's Village Tomilino, Russia…
This is an interview with SOS Mother Vera Jegorowa, who was born in April 1958, in Russia:
A portrait of an SOS family at Children's Village Tomilino, Russia
This is an interview with SOS Mother Vera Jegorowa, who was born in April 1958, in Russia:
"I always dreamed of having lots of children. I thank fate that women like me can find themselves here. I think the greatest joy in life, for me, is seeing how our children develop." In the end, Vera always comes back to the same topic: her children. There are three girls and three boys in her SOS family at present; four of them are natural siblings. These four have an older sister, who is already married and the mother of one child. So, as Vera proudly tells us, she is already a grandmother. Vera would like to continue working as an SOS mother for many years. She has already informed the village administration that she would like to take in two more children, because her eldest, Sascha, will also soon be standing on his own two feet. What does Vera worry about when she thinks about her future? "How to manage the transition from the extreme-profession of an SOS mother to the life of a pensioner," she replies thoughtfully. Now she is busy with her children around the clock - then suddenly a life of retirement, with none of the commotion? But maybe things will turn out differently. "Who knows, perhaps I'll marry a nice old man, so that I don't get bored!" she laughs. About one thing she is sure, and that is that she wants to remain in touch with all her children, and her "grandchildren" too, of course.
The Story of Her Life "If somebody asks for my help, I help them."
I was born in Moscow on the 28th of April 1958. My father was a car mechanic and my mother worked in a drawing office. My father's mother had a big family. There were at least ten children. They weren't rich, but the atmosphere in this huge family was always warm, and that was the most important thing. After primary school I went to a technical school and afterwards studied applied mathematics. After that I worked in various drawing offices. My mother fell ill in the early 1990's, and that was a difficult time. I had a second job, working for the underground, often at nights, to earn some extra money. Thank God my mother recovered. She's now eighty-six years old. I have a brother who lives with my mother and helps her. Then came the reforms and I, like many others, lost my job. After that I sold computers for a private company. I was married for nine years. My husband was the first man in my life. I was his so-called "girl" and waited for him to come out of the army. We got divorced twelve years ago, because he drank. I tried to stop him from drinking, but he lacked the strength of character. He's a good man, but he's weak. He calls me now and again, on my birthday for instance, but we don't have a close relationship. He has a wonderful family. I still get on well with his parents. They bring us fruit from their garden and presents for the children. We visit them too, and I call them mum and dad.
Is your father still alive? My father died in 1980. I do have a lot of relations, though. They know my children and visit me here. A lot of them work in the educational field. I originally wanted to work in a primary school. Even when I was still quite little, I loved children. I used to play with them and organised a sort of school in our backyard. I always played the teacher and I really enjoyed that. However, my teacher recommended that I study mathematics, so I became a mathematician.
Do you have a good friend that you can talk to? Yes, there's another SOS mother with whom I'm very friendly. I have another friend and we have been friends for twenty years. I tell her my problems and we support each other. She has her own family and we relax together every summer. Sometimes they visit us here in the village and other times they invite us to their house.
Whom do you include in your family? My mother, my brother and my children here in the SOS Children's Village; and my father. Even though he has been dead for a long time, I still feel very close to him. I talk to him in my thoughts and I take the children to visit his grave. They know that their grandfather is buried there.
Is there a person who you consider to be a role-model? I had an aunt who was a paragon of virtue. She was patient and never lost heart, despite all the difficulties she had in her marriage. She was also very warm towards other people. I try to be like her. My mother was also a role-model for me. She was patient, tolerant and forbearing. She always looked after everybody and was always there when she was needed. She never thought about herself and never went on holiday. We had a hard life. First we lived in a communal flat, everybody in one room. That was how it was in those days: because there were too few flats, seven or eight families would live together in one flat. Each family would have one or two rooms. We lived almost down in the cellar. Despite all that, my mother always found time for everybody. I see that as being selfless and a real way of life.
What do you consider to be your own greatest strengths? I would like to be capable of being patient, so that I can help as many people as possible. I don't know if it always works, but I try to live like that. My deepest wish is to be able to help these children, so that they can have a normal family and find their feet in our society. Sometimes it happens to me that I lend somebody some money and never get it back, but that doesn't worry me. I could never say no, if somebody asked me for something. There are, of course, some people who take advantage of you, but if somebody asks for my help, I help them. How can anybody say no, if somebody is begging you? I can't.
Has there been a particularly good moment and a particularly hard one in your life? The worst thing that happened to me in my life was the death of my father. And the best thing has been that I can live here, in this house with these children. I thank fate, God and also Hermann Gmeiner that women like me can find themselves here. I think the greatest joy in life, for me, is seeing how our children develop. To begin with they are totally withdrawn, afraid and can't believe that anything good is going to happen to them here. They think that they are totally lost in this world. But the children begin slowly, step by step, to open up like flowers. They blossom from the warmth, the mother, the love, the house, the surroundings and the brothers and sisters. They become entirely different people. Of course, it doesn't always run that smoothly, because each child has its good and bad characteristics, but the positive side outweighs the rest.
What do you like to do in your free time? I hardly have any free time, because I have a mother who is ill and I dedicate my spare time to her. I like to meet my friends in the few spare hours that I do have. I'm hardly ever on my own when I'm on holiday either. Last time little Wowa came with me, or I take three or four of the children to my friends who have a house on the Volga. To be quite honest, I never feel like going on my own. The children are totally different when they're on holiday. They have their family here with all their duties, such as school, cleaning-up, etc., but there they can really let off steam. We go for walks, go swimming, pick mushrooms, and we're happy there. It's not always like that at home, because the children have to do things they don't want to do, although they do make an effort to help me and are always happy if I'm smiling. They always want me to be in a good mood and try to make my life easier. I like to read occasionally, but not heavy literature. I like to read detective stories as a distraction.
Motivation for Her Choice of Profession "My dream has always been to be surrounded by lots of children." One morning I was reading the newspaper on the underground. There was a short article with a brief questionnaire and the question: "Do you want to be an SOS mother?" I immediately bought an envelope, answered the questions and sent the form off. A few days later, I was invited to come in for an informative chat and was told all about Hermann Gmeiner and the SOS Children's Village model. Everything I heard there was new to me. I couldn't believe that such wonderful conditions were going to be created for our poor children, because I knew how badly-off our orphans were in the state-run orphanages. I thought it was probably all just advertising and far too good to be true. But my dream has always been to be surrounded by lots of children. That gave me the momentum I needed and it didn't matter whether I believed it or not. I wanted to fulfil myself as a mother.
How did the people around you, your family and your friends, react to that? To start with, everybody was restrained and careful. A lot of them thought, "You are going to give up your private life, and you want to live like a nun!" They thought I was going to live a typical life of sacrifice, and they felt sorry for me. But when my friends and relations saw me doing my training and then working the first year, they understood that it wasn't the end of my private life, but a continuation of it. They see how I live, because our house is always open to them.
Experiences as an SOS Mother "I really have become a mother." There were no children here at the very beginning. The houses had been completed, and we bought all the crockery, cutlery, curtains, sheets and carpets ourselves. All the SOS mothers made a great effort to furnish the children's rooms so that they would really like them. I had to wait a long time. After six months, all the other SOS mothers had children, but I still didn't. Their grandmother was in a quandary as to whether she really had to give up the children. I knew that this family ought to be coming to me, and I saw the children's faces in my dreams. I nearly went out of my mind waiting for them. Then the big moment came. The children were there. All five at once! The door opened and there they stood. The social worker introduced us, "Children, this is your mother. Mother, these are your children." In the first instant, everything was new and everybody was scared. I can still remember how everything was reflected in those children's eyes: fear and uncertainty, but most of all hope and willingness to love me. I could feel that. Yes, it's a wonderful thing to be called "mother" or "mum". It makes you so happy. The little ones called me mum right from the start. They wanted that and so did I. As soon as they had uttered that word, the healing process began. In the beginning, the children were afraid that they wouldn't be allowed to stay very long. They tried hard to behave themselves and smiled all the time. We often sit together and look at the photos we took then, on the first day. They can remember exactly how they called me mother that day. It was a big moment for them. In the early days, they never asked me what my expectations had been. It was only years later that they asked, "Mother, had you been waiting for us? Tell us what it was like!" I have never asked them about their experiences and relationships within their natural families. I always thought that they would tell me if they wanted to, and if they didn't, what was the point in asking them?
Portrait of a SOS Children's Village Hohenau, Paraguay
This photograph shows the beautiful landscapes of SOS Children's Village Hohenau, Paraguay.